Lillian Lane

Vocalist Lillian Lane sang with several name bands in the 1940s but never managed to successfully break out on her own. An experienced group vocalist, Lane also worked in four vocal combos during that decade. She vanishes from the press as the 1950s began.

Lane began singing at the age of seven as part of a trio with her two sisters. In 1940, while working as a stenographer at local Fort Wayne, Indiana, radio station WOWO, she had her own fifteen-minute sustaining program which was broadcast across the country on NBC. Her big break came when Claude Thornhill heard her on the radio and hired her for his orchestra in 1941. She made her debut with Thornhill’s band in August and quickly caused a sensation, singing both solo and as a member of the orchestra’s vocal quartet, originally called A Pair of Pairs but later known as the Snowflakes, which was an amalgam of all four Thornhill vocalists. She appeared with the band in a 1942 soundie, America, I Love You, released by Minoco.[1]

In October 1942, Thornhill received his draft notice and disbanded, and at the beginning of 1943 Lane found herself in Jerry Wald’s band, where she replaced Anita Boyer. She stayed with Wald until May 1943 when she left to become a member of George Olsen’s orchestra. By July, though, she was singing solo at Charlie’s Tavern in New York, and in late 1943 she became part of the vocal group “Escorts and Betty” on Kate Smith’s CBS radio program. In March 1944, she was working as a regular on Arthur Godfrey’s show.

Lane joined Gene Krupa’s new band in June 1944, singing both solo and as part of the G-Noters vocal quartet. According to Billboard, she left Krupa in May 1945 for Artie Shaw, though it is unverified if she actually sang for Shaw at this point, as Shaw still had vocalist Imogene Lynn and Lane isn’t mentioned elsewhere as being part of Shaw’s group. In October, Lane joined Randy Brooks, replacing Fran Warren.

In January 1946, conflicting reports in the same week named Lane as leaving Brooks to join Tony Pastor’s band and Tex Beneke’s Glenn Miller orchestra. It was with Beneke she sang for most of 1946, however, joining the band for its debut on January 24 and appearing in two musical shorts with them. Her popularity soared during her time with Beneke, and she earned sixth place in Down Beat magazine’s annual reader poll that year for best girl singer with a band.

Lane left Beneke in October to pursue a solo career, and in November she signed with the Musicraft label to appear as featured vocalist on Artie Shaw recordings. That month she also sang with the new Stardusters orchestra during their debut at the Trianon in Hollywood.[2] 1947 saw Lane pursuing various endeavors. In the early part of the year, she recorded with Benny Goodman, and in July she was appearing as a regular on Dorothy Lamour’s radio program. Later that year, she recorded with Bill Millner’s new orchestra on the United Artist label and Jerry Brent’s combo on Modern. She also signed as a solo artist to the small, independent Hucksters label.

In 1948, Lane recorded with the Page Cavanaugh Trio on Victor, and in the later part of that year she appeared on Mark Warnow’s Sound Off radio program on CBS. In 1949, she was a member of the Town Criers vocal group, leaving in late summer to return to solo work. After that, Lane disappears into the mists of history.


  1. Lane was said to be 19 years old in October 1941. An April 1942 newspaper article gave her age as 20, indicating a birth date of either late 1921 or early 1922. ↩︎

  2. The Stardusters orchestra, not to be confused with the more famous vocal group, was an offshoot of the juvenile Teen-Agers band featured on Hoagy Carmichael’s radio program. The Stardusters played adult night spots, while the Teen-Agers booked school dances and other one-nighters aimed at young audiences. ↩︎


  1. “Lillian Lane.” IMDb. Accessed 13 Nov. 2015.
  2. “Mirror's Radio Programs.” The Altoona Mirror [Altoona, Pennsylvania] 4 Sep. 1940: 12.
  3. “For Local Radio Listeners.” The North Adams Transcript [North Adams, Massachusetts] 26 Sep. 1940: 17.
  4. Bley, Ann. “Carley, Childs-Hoff Affair, Awaits Army.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1941: 23.
  5. “Thornhill's New Girl, New Arranger, Create Big Stir in New York.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1941: 6.
  6. “On the Records.” Billboard 10 Jan. 1942: 66.
  7. “Vaudeville Reviews: Earle, Philadelphia.” Billboard 24 Jan. 1942: 22.
  8. “Thornhill's 'Pair of Pairs.'” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1942: 12.
  9. “Mil Ball Vocalist Began Career at Seven.” The Daily Illini [Urbana-Champaign, Illinois] 8 Apr. 1942: 1.
  10. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 18 Apr. 1942: 78.
  11. “Claude's Singer.” Down Beat 15 May 1942: 3.
  12. “Wald to Take Thornhill Spot.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1942: 13.
  13. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 12 Dec. 1942: 23.
  14. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 27 Feb. 1943: 16.
  15. “Betty Bonney Goes to Wald.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1943: 5.
  16. “Geo. Olsen Coming to Vogue Terrace.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 16 Sep. 1943: n.p.
  17. Advertisement. “Arthur Godfrey.” The Washington Evening Star [Washington, DC] 22 Mar. 1944: B-23.
  18. “New Krupa Ork Hits 31G in Hot First Date at Boston.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1944: 28.
  19. “Lillian Lane in Vocal Group.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1944: 11.
  20. “Drum Snags Top Sidemen.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1944: 1.
  21. “Krupa Gets New Drummer.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1944: 13.
  22. Stacy, Frank. “Everybody Gets Into The Act At Charlie's.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1944: 4.
  23. “Music As Written.” Billboard 26 May 1945: 20.
  24. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 14 Jan. 1946: 1.
  25. “Music As Written.” Billboard 19 Jan. 1946: 18.
  26. “26G Monthly Nut.” Billboard 19 Jan. 1946: 35.
  27. “New Beneke Crew Has Miller Name And Book.” Down Beat 28 Jan. 1946: 3.
  28. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 31 May 1946: 34.
  29. “Music As Written.” Billboard 16 Nov. 1946: 31.
  30. “New Ork Goes Into Trianon.” Down Beat 18 Nov. 1946: 6.
  31. “1946 Band Poll Winners: Girl Singer (With Band).” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1947: 20.
  32. “Radio Spotlight.” The La Crosse Tribune [La Crosse, Wisconsin] 11 Jul. 1947: 7.
  33. “West Coast Activity.” Billboard 25 Oct. 1947: 34.
  34. “Hucksters Revived.” Billboard 29 Nov. 1947: 34.
  35. “Brent Records for Modern.” Down Beat 3 Dec. 1947: 13.
  36. “Diggin' the Discs.” Down Beat 3 Dec. 1947: 19.
  37. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 14 Aug. 1948: 34.
  38. “Take Their Chance To Sound Off.” Down Beat 6 Oct. 1948: 2.
  39. “Record Reviews: Page Cavanaugh Trio.” Down Beat 20 Oct. 1948: 15.
  40. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 23 Sep. 1949: 5.