Marilyn Duke

Photo of Marilyn Duke
  • Born

    October 3, 1916
    Jackson, Georgia
  • Died

    August 7, 1995 (age 78)
    Clayton County, Georgia
  • Orchestras

    Jolly Coburn
    Shep Fields
    Mannie Gates
    Vaughn Monroe
    Will Osborne

Singer Marilyn Duke is best remembered today as vocalist for Vaughn Monroe’s orchestra in the early 1940s. Not much is known about her life. Duke appeared on her own fifteen-minute radio program on the Mutual network in 1935 and 1936. She sang with both Shep Fields and Jolly Coburn in 1937 and with Mannie Gates in 1938 before joining Monroe in January 1941, where she helped shape the band’s early sound. When she left Monroe in May 1943, her press agent sent out notices that she had joined the Women’s Army Air Corps, which many newspapers printed. Duke was actually in New York, trying her hand as a single.

In August 1943, Duke joined Will Osborne, where she remained until June 1944 when she started a ten-week solo appearance in Boston. She was back with Monroe the following month however. In November 1944, she provided vocals on Monroe’s first number one hit, “The Trolley Song,” which was also the first song recorded by Victor after the end of the American Federation of Musician’s recording ban that month. Duke was gone from Monroe’s orchestra at the first of 1945.

In September 1944, Duke married Boston amusement park owner Peter Brien.[1] That same year, she also co-wrote the song “I’ll Love You Forever” with Teri Josefovits. Duke then vanished from the public record, only turning up again briefly in 1955 as a performer in Las Vegas.

Marilyn Duke passed away in 1995 at age 78.


  1. Duke was active on the Boston music scene throughout much of her career. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 10 Aug. 2016.
  3. “Radio Programs.” Chester Times [Chester, Pennsylvania] 9 Aug. 1935: 7.
  4. “Radio News and Programs.” The Findlay Republican-Courier [Findlay, Ohio] 29 Jul. 1936: 4.
  5. Callahan, Robert. “Tabloid.” The Boston College Heights 23 Apr. 1937: 2.
  6. “Night Club Reviews: Royal Palm Club, Miami.” Billboard 7 Aug. 1938: 12.
  7. “Vaughn Monroe Adds New Girl Vocalist.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1941: 10.
  8. “In the Middle of 6 Sides.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1941: 15.
  9. “Orchestra Personnels: Vaughn Monroe.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1941: 17.
  10. Gum, Coburn. “On the Records.” St. Petersburg Times 11 May 1941: 10.
  11. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1943: 11.
  12. “Phyllis Lynne with Vaughn Monroe Ork.” Billboard 7 Aug. 1943: 12.
  13. “New Osborne Chirp.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1943: 6.
  14. Bliss, Helen. “Here's News Capsule of Highlighted Happenings Of Music World In 1943.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1944: 3.
  15. “Music Grapevine.” Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 13.
  16. “Marilyn Duke as Single.” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1944: 5.
  17. “Music Grapevine.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1944: 23.
  18. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1944: 5.
  19. “Music Grapevine.” Billboard 9 Sep. 1944: 17.
  20. Winchell, Walter. “Walter Winchell.” The Sunday Spartansburg Herald-Journal 1 Oct. 1944: 4.
  21. “Trolley Song No. 1.” Billboard 18 Nov. 1944: 63.
  22. Mitchell, Jay Florian. Film negative portraits of Marilyn Duke at the Moulin Rouge, June 5, 1955. 1955, photograph, University of Las Vegas Nevada, Digital Collection, Las Vegas.