Virginia Maxey

Photo of Virginia Maxey

Singer Virginia Maxey worked with multiple orchestras in the 1940s, including several name bands. Maxey reached the peak of her fame in 1948, appearing that year in film and on network radio, but by the 1950s she had faded from the limelight. On the bandstand, she was known for bouncing up and down while she sang.

An Indianapolis native, Maxey worked with Dee Peterson’s territory orchestra in mid-1942 before receiving her big break with Bobby Byrne’s band in October, where she replaced Dorothy Claire. It’s unsure how long she remained with Byrne. Byrne entered the service in spring 1943, with fellow trombonist Jack Jenney taking over his orchestra.

In June 1943, Maxey joined Bob Allen’s band, replacing Paula Kelly. She stayed with Allen until August, when she left for Charlie Barnet. She and Barnet “fell out” in November, and by January 1944 she was with Tony Pastor, where she quickly began to make a name for herself, attracting the attention of Hollywood. That summer she signed a seven-year contract with MGM, though nothing seemed to come of it. Rumors early in 1944 had her secretly married to Boyd Raeburn trombonist Bob Swift, which she denied.

Maxey remained with Pastor through at least October 1944. At the first of 1945, she joined George Paxton’s band but was released in February when Paxton was forced to cut expenses. By February 1946, she had rejoined Pastor, where she stayed through at least May and likely until late that year.[1]

In February 1947, Maxey appeared in the Sensations of '47 at the Elks Lodge in Charleston, West Virginia. By mid-March, she had joined Ziggy Elman’s band. Mid-year she subbed for Paula Kelly with the Modernaires when Kelly took time off to have a child. Upon Kelly’s return in late September, Maxey went out solo again. Her star brightened when Columbia Pictures signed her in December for the lead in the musical western Streets of Laredo. Paramount then signed her in early 1948, using her in two musical featurette productions, Big Sister Blues and Catalina Interlude, the latter with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. Down Beat magazine reported that she sang with Dorsey’s band in the 1948 Monogram picture Music Man, but if true her scenes were cut.

A film starlet now, Maxey attracted the attention of Bob Hope’s radio show, where she made several appearances starting in May. Touring the West Coast, Maxey was billed as “Cute as a Kitten” and Hope’s “new singing discovery.” In mid-1948, she became part of Mel Tormé’s NBC summer television program, singing with the Mel-Tones. Later that year, she appeared on Abbott and Costello’s radio show.

Maxey continued to work as a single until early 1949 when she joined Georgie Auld’s new nine-piece band. By spring, Auld’s group had broken up. Maxey’s star had begun to fade by that point, and she spent the rest of 1949 performing in such inauspicious venues as a Rotary Club event in Long Beach, California, and the infamous Corn Palace in South Dakota. In early 1950, she joined the Pied Pipers vocal group after June Hutton quit to go solo. Unfortunately, Maxey barely had time to say hello to the boys and take a promo picture before the Pipers broke up. Also in 1950, MGM Records released previously held 1947 Ziggy Elman masters on which Maxey had sung. In 1951, she appeared with Bobby Troup’s trio in a television soundie, singing “Daddy.”

In 1953, Maxey married singer, pianist and comedian Matt Dennis, who was then appearing on Ernie Kovac’s daily NBC television program. She worked with Dennis throughout the rest of the 1950s, appearing as part of his lounge act and on his television show.

Described as petite and baby-faced, Maxey reportedly won more than a dozen beauty contests. Virginia Maxey passed away in 2016 at age 92.


  1. A newspaper ad in February 1947 lists Maxey as Pastor’s vocalist, though it’s uncertain that she was with the band during that month, as she was appearing elsewhere in February. There are no press mentions of Maxey between April 1946 and February 1947, so her exact whereabouts are unknown. Pastor began using the Clooney Sisters in late 1946. It’s probable that Maxey appeared with Pastor until the end of 1946 and the newspaper ad had been sent out in advance. ↩︎


  1. Advertisement. “The Deck.” The Biloxi Daily Herald [Biloxi, Alabama] 10 Jun. 1942: 10.
  2. “Bobby Byrne Is Confronted With Tour Headaches.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1942: 3.
  3. “Night Clubs-Vaudeville.” Billboard 12 Jun. 1943: 16.
  4. “Virginia Maxey Joins Bob Allen.” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1943: 1.
  5. “Mad Mab Gets Virginia Maxey.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1943: 1.
  6. “Virginia Maxey Shows How War Influences a Band Vocalist's Routine.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1943: 2.
  7. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1943: 5.
  8. “After Dark.” The Washington, D.C., Evening Star 11 Jan. 1944: B-4.
  9. “On the Stand: Tony Pastor.” Billboard 26 Feb. 1944: 16.
  10. Kilgallen, Dorothy. “Dorothy Kilgallen.” The Lowell Sun [Lowell, Massachusetts] 27 Mar. 1944: 13.
  11. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 May 1944: 5.
  12. “Vocalist To Kleigs.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1944: 6.
  13. Advertisement. “Danceland.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette 21 Oct. 1944: 3.
  14. “Danceland Presents Tony Pastor Band.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette 22 Oct. 1944: 9.
  15. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1945: 5.
  16. “Strings, Chirp Get Paxton Axe.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1945: 1.
  17. “George Paxton Shows Trials And Tribulations Of A Band Leader.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1945: 2.
  18. “Pastor Ork, Barton Okay 19G in Philly.” Billboard 26 Feb. 1946: 26.
  19. “On the Stand: Tony Pastor.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1946: 37,42.
  20. Advertisement. “Ritz.” The Brewster Standard [Brewster, New York] 13 Feb. 1947: 8.
  21. “Elks Show Star.” The Charleston Daily Mail [Charleston, West Virginia] 16 Feb. 1947: 15.
  22. “Elman and Orchestra To Play For Trenton Dance.” The Bristol Courier [Bristol, Pennsylvania] 11 Mar. 1947: 6.
  23. “Modernaires.” Down Beat 18 Jun. 1947: 2.
  24. “Record Reviews: Ziggy Elman.” Billboard 26 Jul. 1947: 32.
  25. “Sheils Leaves Haynes.” Billboard 4 Oct. 1947: 20.
  26. “Lonesome.” Down Beat 5 Nov. 1947: 2.
  27. “Long Band Needs Only An Identifying Style.” Down Beat 3 Dec. 1947: 16.
  28. “Music as Written.” Billboard 27 Dec. 1947: 21.
  29. “Maxey Solos At Maxie's.” Down Beat 31 Dec. 1947: 9.
  30. Ronan, Eddie. “On the Sunset Vine.” Down Beat 25 Feb. 1948: 9.
  31. “In Short.” Billboard 6 Mar. 1948: 43.
  32. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 24 Mar. 1948: 13.
  33. “Radio Program: On the Air Tonight.” The Washington, D.C., Evening Star 11 May 1948: B-15.
  34. Advertisement. “Crystal Inn.” Down Beat 25 Jun. 1948: 12.
  35. “Fever Beds Mel.” Down Beat 30 Jun. 1948: 1.
  36. “Movie Music.” Down Beat 30 Jun. 1948: 8.
  37. “Mel Torme's New NBC Rates Raves.” Down Beat 28 Jul. 1948: 9.
  38. “Serenade to a Songstress.” Endicott Daily Bulletin [Endicott, New York] 27 Nov. 1948: 7.
  39. Ronan, Eddie. “On the Sunset Vine.” Down Beat 10 Dec. 1948: 9.
  40. Ronan, Eddie. “On the Sunset Vine.” Down Beat 28 Jan. 1949: 9.
  41. “Uncovering Of New Auld Band Provides A Welcome Surprise.” Down Beat 25 Feb. 1949: 2.
  42. “Star Program Lined Up For Rotary.” The Long Beach Independent 12 Jun. 1949: 30.
  43. Advertisement. “Corn Palace.” The Huron Huronite and The Daily Plainsman [Huron, South Dakota] 18 Sep. 1949: n.p.
  44. “New Piper.” Down Beat 24 Feb. 1950: 3.
  45. “Record Review: Ziggy Elman.” Down Beat 16 Jun. 1950: 15.
  46. Harris, Pat. “Here's News Capsule Of Music World For 1950.” Down Beat 26 Jan. 1951: 2.
  47. Advertisement. “Sky Room.” Nevada State Journal [Reno, Nevada] 8 Oct. 1953: 2.