Tenderly:Rosemary Clooney©2001JCMarion


Rosemary Clooney was born in Maysville, Kentucky, and by the time she was a teenager her family had moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. She often performed together with her sister Betty (two years her junior) in amateur shows and contests. The sisters talent led them to radio station WLW where they had their own show called "Moon River Serenade" and soon found a spot with local band led by Barney Rapp (the same path followed a few years earlier by Doris Day). In 1947 the sisters joined the band of Tony Pastor and became featured vocalists on a number of recordings on the Columbia label including "Tira Lira Li" (#37839), "The Secretary Song" (#38068), "The Chowder Social" (#38355), and "Saturday Night Mood" (#38383). During the latter part of 1948 Rosemary made her first appearance on the pop charts with "You Started Something" on #38297. Continuing in 1949 with the Pastor band "It's Like Taking Candy From A Baby" (#38355) and "Grieving For You" (#38383) both charted. The last recording with Tony Pastor that hit the charts was "A You're Adorable" (#38449) with sister Betty. In late 1949 Rosemary went out as a solo performer and in a few months began a recording career also on the Columbia label and landed a spot on an early Steve Allen television show called "Songs For Sale" for CBS.

In late 1950 Rosemary recorded a duet with Guy Mitchell that featured a song from the Broadway musical "Call Me Madam" which was called "You're Just In Love" and in early 1951 became her first charted record (#39052). In March her record of "Beautiful Brown Eyes" with Mitch Miller on #39212 was a substantial hit, and by that summer went to the top of the pop charts with a song from a forgettable Broadway musical called "The Son" - the song was "Come On-A My House" (#39467) written by William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian (who became famous as David Seville of Alvin & The Chipmunks). The up tempo novelty with Stan Freeman on harpsichord was a mainstay on the best sellers for five months, a solid two months straight as the number one record in the country and was a million seller. Now recognized as one of the hottest new talents in the music business, Clooney was in great demand for in person appearances, and guest spots on the rapidly fading medium of network radio, and the equally rapidly rising move of television. After the tremendous success of "House", it would be a while before Rosemary could duplicate the feat on record. "Mixed Emotions" (#39333), "I'm Waiting Just For You" / "If Teardrops Were Pennies" (#39535), "I Wish I Wuz" (#39536) and "Be My Life's Companion" (#39631) all barely charted during the rest of the year. The next recording was her version of a tune that has become one of the music world's great standards - "Tenderly". The song written by Jack Lawrence and Walter Gross in 1946 on Columbia #39648, was not a blockbuster seller but did get into the top twenty initially. The unique treatment of the tune did not go unnoticed by music critics and fans alike. It eventually sold more than one million copies and is often recognized as a singular achievement in American popular standards.

Following on the heels of "Tenderly", came two more deserving hits and million sellers. The first was a country tune written by Curley Williams called "Half As Much" and was further proof of the touch of Mitch Miller, A & R head of Columbia Records, in finding songs for the performers on his label from a wide variety of sources. The record on #39710 remained on the charts for seven months and held the number one position for three weeks. Right on the heels of that record came an Italian song Anglicized into "Botch-A-Me" (#39767) which got as high as the number two slot, which it held for three weeks. That made three consecutive million sellers for Rosemary in 1952 and the year was only half over! The rest of the year featured two duets - the first with Marlene Dietrich on the novelty tune "Too Old To Cut The Mustard" on #39812, and the seasonal "Night Before Christmas Song" performed with the singing cowboy himself, Gene Autry on #39876. The following year of 1953 did not provide the recording fireworks that had been the norm during the first half of 1952, but by this time Hollywood had come calling. In 1953 two rather lightweight film musicals were produced - "The Stars Are Singing" and "Here Come The Girls." The recorded output for the year that made their place on the best seller charts were "Blues In The Night" / "Who Kissed Me Last Night" (#39813), "You'll Never Know" with the Harry James Orchestra from the motion picture "Hello Frisco, Hello" (#39905), "If I Had A Penny" with Percy Faith (#39910), and a duet with young singer Jimmy Boyd on "Dennis The Menace" on #39988. A seasonal song called "Happy Christmas Little Friend" which was the official song of the Christmas Seals campaign, was recorded with the Paul Weston Orchestra on #40102.

In 1954 two more motion pictures were produced featuring the talents of Rosemary Clooney : "Red Garters" and the holiday offering of "White Christmas" starring Bing Crosby. After an absence from the best seller charts that lasted for the first six months of 1954, Rosemary Clooney recorded the biggest smash hit of her career. The hit Broadway show "The Pajama Game" yielded the great song "Hey There", and this tune was coupled with a bouncy song which was originally a country hit for Stuart Hamblen called "This Old House" (on #40266). This two sided hit was such a big seller that both sides individually hit the top spot on the pop charts. "Hey There" was the number one seller for six weeks while "House" was the top of the pops for three weeks. Both sides together kept the Columbia record on the charts for seven months. While this two sided smash just kept on selling, three more Columbia sides were issued and charted in 1954. A duet with sister Betty named appropriately enough "Sisters" on #40305, "Mambo Italiano" a top ten seller on #40361, and a tune from the film "White Christmas" called "Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep" with The Mellomen on #40370. A marriage to film and stage actor Jose Ferrer (who had a hit record out of left field called "Woman Uh Huh" for Columbia) and a movie role in 1955's "Deep In My Heart" occupied much of her time as rock 'n roll took over the music scene in the mid fifties. Clooney then was featured on her own syndicated television show with The Hi-Los and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in 1956. A tune from the film "The Benny Goodman Story", "Memories Of You" performed with the Benny Goodman Trio on #40616 briefly made the charts during the year.

The year 1957 provided a surprise hit named "Mangos" on #40835 which was a top ten seller. Rosemary also began a second television show, this time for the NBC network which featured The Modernaires and Paula Kelly, and the orchestra of Frank DeVol. Working with The Hi-Los on her first TV show, resulted in a best selling LP album called "Now Hear This" on Columbia #1023. Other LP's recorded by Clooney during this time were the soundtrack from "Red garters" (#6282), "Ring Around Rosie" with The Hi-Los (#1006), "Blue Rose" with Duke Ellington (#872), "Rosie's Greatest Hits" (#1230), "Fancy Meeting You Here" with Bing Crosby on RCA Victor #1854, and in the 1960's for Reprise - "Love" on #6088, and "Thanks For Nothing" on #6108. Beginning in the late 1960's Rosemary Clooney became inactive in show business and battled a series of personal problems that left her out of the mainstream of the entertainment scene. By the mid eighties however, Clooney returned to great acclaim and once again became a rewarding in person performer and made "Tenderly" her personal signature song.

Rosemary Clooney could be said to have owned the early fifties as a female pop music performer. In the space of three years she placed twenty four records on the top sellers charts, seven in the top ten, four number ones, and five million sellers. That is quite a legacy of dominance in the field of American popular music, one that has made Rosie one of the truly major performers of the Interlude Era.

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