Paula Kelly

Photo of Paula Kelly

Big band singer Paula Kelly be­gan her pro­fes­sional ca­reer as part of the Kelly Sisters trio, singing on Pittsburgh ra­dio sta­tion KDKA. They later worked with the Hal Thomas or­ches­tra and toured for fif­teen months with Major Bowes be­fore dis­band­ing. Kelly joined Dick Stabile’s or­ches­tra as a soloist on her six­teenth birth­day in 1935, stay­ing with the sax­o­phon­ist un­til February 1938, when she left to join Al Donahue the fol­low­ing month. In 1939, she met and mar­ried singer Hal Dickinson, of the Modernaires vo­cal group. They cou­ple re­mained to­gether un­til his death in 1970.

In early 1941, Kelly joined Glenn Miller, where she was brought in to re­place Dorothy Claire. Claire her­self had re­placed Marion Hutton, who was on leave of ab­sence, but had­n’t work out. Kelly ap­peared with the or­ches­tra in their 1941 film Sun Valley Serenade and of­ten sang ac­com­pa­ni­ment with her hus­band’s vo­cal group. Hutton re­turned and re­placed Kelly in August of that year.

Kelly was a fairly pop­u­lar vo­cal­ist, fin­ish­ing as tenth fa­vorite fe­male band vo­cal­ist in Billboard mag­a­zine’s 1941 col­lege poll and twelfth in 1942. After leav­ing Miller, she sang with Artie Shaws band un­til early 1942 and then joined Bob Allen in March 1943, re­plac­ing Lynn Gardner. Touring Army bases with Allen, Kelly once gave a solo show in an Army prison, ac­com­pa­nied by an in­mate who pre­vi­ously had been a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian she had known while with Shaw’s band.

In August 1943, Kelly subbed for an ail­ing Helen Ward dur­ing Hal McIntyres tour of the Canadian mar­itime provinces but soon re­joined with the Modernaires that same month af­ter Hutton left their com­bined Glenn Miller Singers act to go solo.[1] Kelly be­came an ad­junct mem­ber of the group, which toured and recorded un­der the name Modernaires with Paula Kelly. She also con­tin­ued to sing and record in­de­pen­dently from the Modernaires.

From 1951 to 1955, Kelly ap­peared with the Modernaires on Bob Crosbys pop­u­lar CBS day­time tele­vi­sion pro­gram. She stayed in as­so­ci­a­tion with the vo­cal group un­til her re­tire­ment in 1978, re­placed by her daugh­ter, Paula Kelly Jr.

Paula Kelly passed away in 1992, age 72, af­ter a long ill­ness.

Notes

  1. Later sources of­ten give Kelly’s start date with the Modernaires as 1942. Sources at the time, how­ever, clearly show oth­er­wise.

Music

Previous <<
Play > Pause ||
Next >>
0:00 / 0:00
Select a song to play
Play All
  • Jeepers Creepers
    Al Donahue (Paula Kelly), Vocalion (1938)
  • Lost and Found
    Dick Stabile (Paula Kelly), Bluebird (1938)
  • My Heart Is Taking Lessons
    Dick Stabile (Paula Kelly), Bluebird (1938)
  • I Know Why
    Glenn Miller (Paula Kelly), Bluebird (1941)
  • Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat
    Artie Shaw (Paula Kelly), Victor (1941)
  • Connecticut
    Modernaires with Paula Kelly, Columbia (1946)
  • Sunshine Cake
    Frank Sinatra and Paula Kelly, Columbia (1950)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Films

Select a video to play
  • Screenshot
    "Chattanooga Choo Choo"
    Glenn Miller (Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, Modernaires)
    from Sun Valley Serenade, 20th Century Fox (1941)
  • Screenshot
    Bob Crosby Show - 2 May 1955
    Bob Crosby, Modernaires, Paula Kelly, Joanie O'Brien, Carol Richards, Johnny Mercer
    CBS (1955)

We embed media from YouTube and the Internet Archive. Items may disappear on those services without notice. If you run across something that's no longer available, please let us know so we can remove the embed.

Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Sources

  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  3. “Paula and Dick Part.” The Pittsburgh Press 19 Mar. 1938: 6.
  4. King, John Paul. “The Radio Mail Box.” The Milwaukee Journal 24 Aug. 1941: 11.
  5. “On the Records.” Billboard 24 Jan. 1942: 61.
  6. “Campus Picks Top Chirps.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 19.
  7. “Bob Allen Signed for Penn, Capitol.” Billboard 20 Mar. 1943: 26.
  8. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 7 Aug. 1943: 15.
  9. “Hal McIntyre, First. U.S. Ork to Hit Maritime Provinces in Four Years, Scores Big Success.” Billboard 14 Aug. 1943: 16.
  10. Steinhauser, Si. “Opens Mouth Silently, Draws Breath and Pay.” The Pittsburgh Press 19 Aug. 1943: 31.
  11. Kilgallen, Dorothy. “The Voice of Broadway.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 Feb. 1944: 10.
  12. “Versatile Modernaires Have Varied Musical Backgrounds.” Wilmington Sunday Star 20 Sep. 1953: 12.
  13. Wolf, William. “Like Mother, Like Daughter.” The Pittsburgh Press 14 May 1967: n. pag.