Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928 – June 29, 2002) was an American singer and actress. She came to prominence in the early 1950s with the novelty hit “Come On-a My House“, which was followed by other pop numbers such as “Botch-a-Me” (a cover version of the Italian song Ba-Ba-Baciami Piccina by Alberto Rabagliati), “Mambo Italiano“, “Tenderly“, “Half as Much“, “Hey There” and “This Ole House,” though she would go on to success as a jazz vocalist.

Clooney’s career languished in the 1960s, partly due to problems related to depression and drug addiction, but revived in 1974, when her White Christmas co-star Bing Crosby asked her to appear with him at a show marking his 50th anniversary in show business. She continued recording until her death in 2002.

Clooney’s first recordings, in May 1946, were for Columbia Records. She sang with Tony Pastor‘s big band. Clooney continued working with the Pastor band until 1949, making her last recording with the band in May of that year and her first as a solo artist a month later, still for Columbia.

In 1951, her record of “Come On-a My House” became a hit. It was her first of many singles to hit the charts—despite the fact that Clooney hated the song passionately. She had been told by Columbia Records to record the song, and that she would be in violation of her contract if she did not do so.

Around 1952, Rosemary recorded several duets with Marlene Dietrich.

In 1954, she starred, along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen, in the movie White Christmas. In later years, Clooney would often appear with Crosby on television, such as in the 1957 special The Edsel Show, and the two friends made a concert tour of Ireland together. Crosby opined that Clooney was “the best in the business.”[citation needed] In 1960, she and Crosby co-starred in a 20-minute CBS radio show that went to air before the midday news every weekday.

She starred, in 1956, in a half-hour syndicated television musical-variety show The Rosemary Clooney Show. The show featured The Hi-Lo’s singing group and Nelson Riddle‘s orchestra. The following year, the show moved to NBC prime time as The Lux Show Starring Rosemary Clooney but only lasted one season. The new show featured the The Modernaires singing group and Frank DeVol‘s orchestra.

Clooney left Columbia Records in 1958, doing a number of recordings for MGM Records and then some for Coral Records. Finally, toward the end of 1958, she signed with RCA Victor Records, where she stayed until 1963. In 1964, she went to Reprise Records, and in 1965 to Dot Records. She moved to United Artists Records in 1966.

Beginning in 1977, she recorded an album a year for the Concord Jazz record label,[1] which continued until her death. This was in contrast to most of her generation of singers who had long since stopped recording regularly by then.

In the late-1970s and early-1980s, Clooney did television commericals for Coronet brand paper towels, during which she sang a memorable jingle that goes, “Extra value is what you get, when you buy Coro-net.” Jim Belushi later parodied Clooney and the commercial while as a cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.

In 1982, Sondra Locke portrayed Rosemary Clooney in the television movie Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story based on Clooney’s autobiography, This for Remembrance.[2] The movie won a Primetime Emmy.

Clooney sang a duet with Wild Man Fischer on “It’s a Hard Business” in 1986, and in 1994 she sang a duet of Green Eyes with Barry Manilow in his 1994 album, Singin’ with the Big Bands.

She guest-starred in the NBC television medical drama ER (starring her nephew, George Clooney) in 1995; she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

On January 27, 1996, Clooney appeared on Garrison Keillor‘s Prairie Home Companion radio program. She sang When October Goes — lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Barry Manilow (after Mercer’s death) — from Manilow’s 1984 album 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, and discussed what an excellent musician Manilow was.[3]

In 1999, Clooney founded the Rosemary Clooney Music Festival, held annually in Maysville, her hometown.[4] She performed at the festival every year until her death. Proceeds benefit the restoration of the Russell Theater in Maysville, where Clooney’s first film, The Stars are Singing, premiered in 1953.

She received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

I first met Rosie while I was performing at Ted Hook’s, Backstage in 1981. I had always loved listening to her. Her ability to interpret a song and infuse a lifetime of emotion into one word accounts for, in part, her success as a musician. She also had an engaging personality that left you feeling like you were part of the “Clooney Clan.” On one of her birthdays, she invited me to sit with her family to enjoy some birthday cake. I told Rosie that I always tell people if they were considering trading in their own mother for someone new, they should look no further than Rosemary Clooney. She blushed and told me that I was very sweet. Some years later, I sent her a Steuben Crystal Penguin as a birthday gift, (she loved penguins). In 1990, after I had relocated to San Francisco, she appeared in the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel. Each time I took a break from singing, I peaked in on the show. She was in great voice. She and her companion, Dante invited me to breakfast in the hotel the next morning. I recall a funny story she told me. She was part of a nostalgia tour that included band leader, Artie Shaw. She said that he was really getting on in years and in between each number, he would tell the audience when the song was first recorded, how he chose the tune, who was playing in the band, etc. She said he would go on endlessly with people in the audience literally fading. On one occasion the stage manager knocked on Rosie’s door to make sure she was ready to go on. Rosie answered the door, but had not finished getting dressed or putting on her makeup. The stage manager, frantically, said, “Rosie, get ready! You’re about to go on!.” Rosie said to the stage manager, “tell me exactly what is happening on stage right now.” The stage manager replied, “Artie Shaw is talking with the audience about the next tune he and the band are about to play.” Rosie replied, “Oh -what are you worried about then? We have a least another half hour to go!”

Through the years, many of my musician friends and colleagues had worked in the studio with Rosie on her recordings. They all said that she was a pleasure to work with and in a casual way, a true professional. I had heard more than once that it was common for her to be smoking a cigarette in the sound both at the same time that she was recording. I can picture her doing that! No doubt smoking contributed to Rosie’s poor health, but it also contributed to the raspy quality in her voice that made her so distinguishable.

Rosie singing, “Mambo Italiano”

Rosie in Japan. 1983, with Les Brown’s Band, “Tenderly”

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, First Hand Account

Hit Singles

Year Single Chart positions
US US
AC
UK
1948 “You Started Something”(with Tony Pastor) 16
1949 “It’s Like Taking Candy From a Baby”(with Tony Pastor) 21
“Grieving For You”(with Tony Pastor) 11
“A You’re Adorable”(with Betty Clooney & Tony Pastor) 12
1951 “You’re Just In Love”(with Guy Mitchell) 24
“Beautiful Brown Eyes” 11
Come On-a My House 1
“Mixed Emotions” 22
“I’m Waiting Just For You” 21
“If Teardrops Were Pennies” 24
“I Wish I Wuz” 27
1952 “Be My Life’s Companion” 18
“Tenderly” 17
“Half As Much” 1 3
“Botch-a-Me” 2
“Too Old To Cut the Mustard”(with Marlene Dietrich) 12
“Blues In the Night” 17
“The Night Before Christmas Song”(with Gene Autry) 9
1953 “Who Kissed Me Last Night?” 23
“You’ll Never Know”(with Harry James) 18
“If I Had a Penny” 26
“Dennis the Menace”(with Jimmy Boyd) 23
1954 “Happy Christmas, Little Friend” 30
“Man (Uh-huh)” 7
“Hey There” 1 4
“This Ole House” 1 1
“Sisters”(with Betty Clooney) 30
“Mambo Italiano” 10 1
“Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” 27
1955 “Where Will the Dimple Be?” 6
“Pet Me, Poppa” 62
1956 “The Key To My Heart” 82
“Memories of You”(with Benny Goodman) 20
“I Could Have Danced All Night” 49
“I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face” 70
1957 “Mangos” 10 17
1960 “Many a Wonderful Moment” 84
1961 “Give Myself a Party” 108
1968 “One Less Bell To Answer” 34

LPs

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2 Comments

  1. One of my all time favorites. She was my Dad’s favorite too. Saw her perform many times, and she always gave her all.

  2. Another wonderful addition. You’ve put together an awesome collection of artists. I’m so looking forward to what’s in store. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!


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