Dinah Shore (born Frances Rose Shore; February 29, 1916 – February 24, 1994) was an American singer, actress, and television personality. She was most popular during the Big Band era of the 1940s and 1950s.
After failing singing auditions for the bands of Benny Goodman and both Jimmy Dorsey and his brother Tommy Dorsey, Shore struck out on her own to become the first singer of her era to achieve huge solo success. She had a string of 80 charted popular hits, lasting from 1940 into the late ’50s, and after appearing in a handful of films went on to a four-decade career in American television, starring in her own music and variety shows in the ’50s and ’60s and hosting two talk shows in the ’70s. TV Guide magazine ranked her at #16 on their list of the top fifty television stars of all time. Stylistically, Dinah Shore was compared to two singers who followed her in the mid-to-late ’40s and early ’50s, Doris Day and Patti Page.
Born to Solomon and Anna Stein Shore, Jewish immigrants from Russia, young Frances Rose was born and lived in Winchester, Tennessee. When she was two years old, she was stricken with polio (infantile paralysis), a disease that was not preventable at the time, and for which treatment was limited to bedrest. Her parents provided intensive care for her and she recovered. She continued, however, to have a deformed foot and limp, which did not physically impede her. As a small child she loved to sing, encouraged by her mother, a contralto with operatic aspirations. Her father would often take her to his store where she would perform impromptu songs for the customers. She had a childhood recollection of her normally restrained father’s exasperated reaction one evening when the Ku Klux Klan paraded in Winchester; despite the hoods the marchers were wearing, Solomon Shore, a dry goods merchant, recognized some of his customers by their shoes and gaits. In 1924 the Shore family (which included Dinah’s only sibling, older sister Bessie) moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, where her father had opened a department store. Although shy because of her limp, she became actively involved in sports and was a cheerleader at Hume-Fogg High School and involved in other activities. At 14, Shore debuted as a torch singer at a Nashville night club only to find her parents sitting ringside, having been tipped off to their daughter’s performance ahead of time. They allowed her to finish, but put her professional career on hold. She was paid $10.
When Shore was 16, her mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and Shore decided to pursue her education. She went to Vanderbilt University, where she participated in many events and activities, including the Chi chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. She graduated from the university in 1938 with a degree in sociology. She also visited the Grand Ole Opry and made her radio debut on Nashville’s WSM (AM) radio station in these years. She decided to return to pursuing her career in singing, so she went to New York City to audition for orchestras and radio stations, first on a summer break from Vanderbilt, and after graduation, for good. In many of her auditions, she sang the popular song “Dinah.” When disc jockey Martin Block could not remember her name, he called her the “Dinah girl,” and soon after the name stuck, becoming her stage name. She eventually was hired as a vocalist at radio station WNEW, where she sang with Frank Sinatra. She recorded and performed with the Xavier Cugat orchestra. She signed a recording contract with RCA Victor records in 1940.
Dinah and Ella together!
In March 1939, Shore debuted on national radio on the Sunday afternoon CBS radio program, Ben Bernie’s Orchestra. In February 1940, she became a featured vocalist on the NBC Radio program The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, a showcase for traditional Dixieland and Blues songs. With Shore, the program became so popular that it was moved from 4:30 Sunday afternoon to a 9:00 Monday night time slot in September. In her prime-time debut for “the music of the Three Bs, Barrelhouse, Boogie-woogie and the Blues”, she was introduced as “Mademoiselle Dinah ‘Diva’ Shore, who starts a fire by rubbing two notes together!” She recorded with the two Basin Street bands for RCA Victor; one of her records was the eponymous “Dinah’s Blues.”
Shore’s singing came to the attention of Eddie Cantor. He signed her as a regular on his radio show, Time to Smile, in 1940. Shore credits him for teaching her self-confidence, comedic timing, and the ways of connecting with an audience. Cantor bought the rights to an adapted Ukrainian folk song with new lyrics by Jack Lawrence for Shore to record for RCA Victor’s Bluebird label. This song, “Yes, My Darling Daughter,” became her first major hit, selling 500,000 copies in weeks, which was unusual for that time.
Frank Sinatra with Dinah Shore.
Shore soon became a successful singing star with her own radio show in 1943, Call to Music. Also in 1943, she appeared in her first movie, Thank Your Lucky Stars, starring Cantor. She soon went to another radio show, Paul Whiteman Presents. During this time, the United States was involved in World War II and Shore became a favorite with the troops. She had hits, including “Blues In the Night”, “Jim”, “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, and “I’ll Walk Alone”, the first of her number-one hits. To support the troops overseas, she participated in USO tours to Europe. She met George Montgomery, a young actor ready to go into military service. They married on December 3, 1943, shortly before he went into service. When he returned, they settled in San Fernando, California. In 1948, their first child was born, a daughter named Melissa Ann, and they adopted a son in 1954 named John David before moving to Beverly Hills.
Shore continued appearing in radio shows throughout the 1940s, including Birds Eye-Open House and Ford Radio Show. In early 1946, she moved to another label, Columbia Records. At Columbia, Shore enjoyed the greatest commercial success of her recording career, starting with her first Columbia single release, “Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy”, and peaking with the most popular song of 1948, “Buttons and Bows”, which was number one for ten weeks. Other number one hits at Columbia included “The Gypsy” and “The Anniversary Song”. One of her most popular recordings was the holiday perennial “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Buddy Clark from 1949. The song was covered by many other artists, Ella Fitzgerald, for example. Other hits during her four years at Columbia included “Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)”, “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So”, “I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)”, “Doin’ What Comes Naturally”, and “Dear Hearts And Gentle People”. She was a regular with Jack Smith on his quarter-hour radio show on CBS. Shore acted in films such as Follow the Boys and Up in Arms (both in 1944), Belle of the Yukon (1945), and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). She lent her musical voice to two Disney films: Make Mine Music (1946) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947). Her last starring film role was for Paramount Pictures in Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952), co-starring Alan Young and Metropolitan Opera star Robert Merrill.
Dinah with Peggy Lee -“I’ve Got Rhythm”
In 1950, Shore went back to RCA with a deal to record 100 sides for $1,000,000. The hits kept coming, but with less frequency, and were not charting as high as in the ’40s. Dinah’s biggest hits of this era were “My Heart Cries for You” and “Sweet Violets”, both peaking at number three in 1951. Several duets with Tony Martin did well, with “A Penny A Kiss” being the most popular, reaching number eight. “Blue Canary” was a 1953 hit and her covers of “Changing Partners” and “If I Give My Heart To You” were popular top twenty hits. “Love and Marriage” and “Whatever Lola Wants” were top twenty hits from 1955. “Chantez, Chantez” was her last top twenty hit, staying on the charts for over twenty weeks in 1957. Shore stayed with RCA until 1959, and during that time released albums including Bouquet of Blues, Once in a While, and Vivacious, which were collections of singles with different orchestras and conductors such as Frank DeVol and Hugo Winterhalter. Moments Like These, a studio album from 1958, recorded in stereo, with orchestra under the musical direction of Harry Zimmerman, who performed the same duties on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, being the exception.
Two of NBC-TV’s most enduring hosts, Perry Como & Dinah Shore, join forces on “They Can’t Take That Away” & “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby.”
In 1959 Dinah was wooed from RCA by Capitol Records. She recorded only one “almost” hit for her new label, I Ain’t Down Yet, which “bubbled under the hot 100” on Billboard‘s pop chart, peaking at 102 in 1960. However, she recorded six albums which remain her strongest recording legacy. These were carefully considered “theme albums” that paired Dinah with arranger Nelson Riddle (Dinah, Yes Indeed!) conductor and accompanist Andre Previn (Somebody Loves Me and Dinah Sings, Previn Plays) and jazz’s Red Norvo (Dinah Sings Some Blues With Red). Her final two albums for Capitol at this time were Dinah, Down Home and The Fabulous Hits (Newly Recorded).
Shore left Capitol in 1962 and recorded only a handful of albums over the next two decades, including Lower Basin Street Revisited for friend Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label in 1965,Songs For Sometime Losers (Project 3, 1967), Country Feelin’ (Decca, 1969), and Once Upon A Summertime (Stanyan, 1975). Her final studio album was released in 1979, Dinah! Visits Sesame Street, for the Children’s Television Workshop. In 2006, DRG released For The Good Times, a CD reissue of “DINAH!,” an album recorded for Capitol that had a limited Reader’s Digest release in 1976. Shore recorded this album at the height of her talk show fame, and it featured her take on contemporary hits such as 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, The Hungry Years, and Do You Know Where You’re Going To (Theme from “Mahogany”).
Chevy Commercial from 1959
Soon after she arrived in New York in 1937, Shore made her first television appearances on experimental broadcasts for NBC. Twelve years later, In 1949 she made her official television show debut on the Ed Wynn Show and also made a guest appearance on Bob Hope‘s first television show in 1950. After being on many other people’s television shows, she got her own, The Dinah Shore Show in 1951. Vic Schoen was her musical director from 1951-54, and also arranged music for her on the Colgate Comedy Hour (1954). She did two 15-minute shows a week for NBC. She won her first of many Emmy awards for the show in 1955. The show was sponsored by Chevrolet. The sponsor’s theme song (“See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet“) became the singer’s signature piece.
“Skylark” transferred from a 78 recording. Charming!
In 1956 she hosted a monthly series of one-hour full-color spectaculars as part of NBC’s “Chevy Show” series. These proved so popular that the show was renamed “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” the following season, with Dinah becoming the full-time host, helming three out of four weeks in the month. Broadcast live and in NBC’s famous “Living Color,” this variety show was one of the most popular of the 1950s and early 1960s and featured the television debuts of stars of the era, such as Yves Montand and Maureen O’Hara, and featured Dinah in performances alongside Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Pearl Bailey. “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” ran through the 1960-61 season, after which Chevrolet dropped sponsorship and the show continued for two more seasons as a series of monthly broadcasts sponsored by “The American Dairy Association” and “Green Stamps.” Simply called “The Dinah Shore Show,” Dinah’s guests included Nat “King” Cole, Bing Crosby, Jack Lemmon, and a very young Barbra Streisand. Over twelve seasons, from 1951 to 1963, Dinah Shore made 125 hour-long programs and 444 fifteen-minute shows.
Shore ended her televised programs by throwing an enthusiastic kiss directly to the cameras (and viewers) and exclaiming “MWAH!” to the audience. It was said by Frank Sinatra that “Dinah blows the best kisses!”
From 1970 through 1980, Shore hosted two daytime programs, Dinah’s Place (1970–1974) on NBC and Dinah! (later Dinah and Friends) in syndication from 1974 through 1980 and a third cable program from 1989–1992.
“Dinah’s Place”, primarily sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive (which later sponsored her women’s golf tournament), was a 30-minute Monday through Friday program broadcast at 10:00am(et) over NBC, her network home since 1939. Shore described this show as a “Do-Show” as opposed to a chat show because she would have her guests demonstrate an unexpected skill, for example Frank Sinatra sharing his spaghetti sauce recipe, Spiro Agnew playing keyboard accompanying Dinah on “Sophisticated Lady”, or Ginger Rogers showing Shore how to throw a clay pot on a potter’s wheel. Though “Dinah’s Place” featured famous guest stars, often Shore grilled lesser-known lifestyle experts on nutrition, exercise or homemaking. Despite being one of the more popular programs in NBC’s morning lineup, this show left the air in 1974 after NBC sent a telegram to Dinah congratulating her on her Emmy win — at the same time informing her the show was canceled, because it broke up a “game show programming block”. Thus ended the network’s 35-year association with Shore.
“Buttons and Bows”
She returned that fall with “Dinah!” a syndicated 90 minute daily talk show (also seen in a 60 minute version on some stations) that put the focus on top guest stars and entertainment. This show was competition for Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin, whose shows had been on the air for 10 years when “Dinah!” debuted. Frequent guests included show-biz Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and James Stewart as well as regular contributors including lifestyle guru Dr. Wayne Dyer. There were unexpected rock music performances, among them David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Shore had the misfortune of interviewing the comedian Andy Kaufman in his Tony Clifton guise on this show. He took deliberate offense at her questions and eventually tipped a pan of eggs over her head. This program was taped live in front of a studio audience and the “Egg” segment was never aired; it is believed that the offending footage was destroyed. Shore’s producers superimposed titles such as “This is a put on” over the footage that was eventually aired, including an uncomfortable duet between Shore and a belligerent Tony of “Anything You Can Do”, and his solo of “On The Street Where You Live.” Shooting was stopped and Kaufman was escorted out of the studio.
What’s my Line? Dinah Shore & George Montgomery
Shore, with her Dixie drawl and demure manner, was identified with the South, and guests on her shows often commented on it. She spoofed this image by playing Melanie in Went with the Wind, the famous Gone with the Wind parody for The Carol Burnett Show. In the summer of 1976, Shore hosted “Dinah and her New Best Friends“, an eight-week summer replacement series for The Carol Burnett Show that featured a cast of young hopefuls such as Diana Canova and Gary Muledeer along with guests such as CBS stars Jean Stapleton and Linda Lavin.
Shore guest starred on Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, calling Pee-wee on his picturephone and singing The 12 Days of Christmas. Throughout the special, Pee-wee walks past the picturephone, only to hear her going past the original 12 days (“…on the 500th day of Christmas…”)
Shore finished her television career hosting “A Conversation with Dinah” from 1989–1992 on the cable network TNN (The Nashville Network). This half-hour show consisted of one-on-one interviews with (Bob Hope), former boyfriends (Burt Reynolds in a special one-hour episode) and political figures (President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty.) In a coup, Dinah got former First Lady Nancy Reagan‘s first post-White House interview for this show. At around this time, she gained a contract as television spokeswoman for Holly Farms chicken. Her last television special, “Dinah Comes Home,” (TNN 1991) brought Dinah Shore’s career full circle, taking her back to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, which she first visited some 60 years earlier.
In her early career, while in New York, Dinah Shore was briefly involved with drummer Gene Krupa. After Dinah relocated to Hollywood she became involved with James Stewart and it was rumored that a Las Vegas, Nevada, elopement was aborted en route. Shore’s flirtation with General George Patton was commented on when he escorted her for a portion of her tour to entertain the troops in England and France during World War II.
Shore was married to actor George Montgomery from 1943 to 1962. Shore gave birth to daughter Melissa Ann, now known as Melissa Montgomery-Hime, in January 1948. She later adopted her son, John “Jody” David Montgomery. In the book “Mr. S,” the author, Frank Sinatra’s longtime valet George Jacobs, alleged that Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra had a long-standing affair in the 1950s. After her divorce from Montgomery, she briefly married Maurice Smith. Romances of the later 1960s involved comedian Dick Martin, singer Eddie Fisher, and actor Rod Taylor.
“Shoo-Fly Pie” 1946
In the early 1970s, Shore had a long and happy public romance with actor Burt Reynolds, who was 20 years her junior. The relationship gave Shore an updated, sexy image, and took some of the pressure off Reynolds in maintaining his image as a ladies’ man. The couple was featured in the tabloids and after the relationship cooled, the tabloids paired Shore with other younger men, from Wayne Rogers, Andy Williams, and “Tarzan” Ron Ely, to others such as novelist Sidney Sheldon, Dean Martin, and former New York Governor Hugh Carey.
Shore, who played golf herself, was a longtime supporter of women’s professional golf. In 1972, she helped found the Colgate Dinah Shore golf tournament, which today, now known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, remains as one of the four major golf tournaments on the LPGA Tour. The tournament is held each spring near Shore’s former home in Rancho Mirage, California.
Shore was the first female member of the famed Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles.
In acknowledgment of her contributions to golf, Shore was made an honorary member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1994. She also received the 1993 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, GCSAA’s highest honor.
Dinah Shore died February 24, 1994, in Beverly Hills, California, of ovarian cancer five days before her 78th birthday. Her ashes were divided and she has two burial sites. Half were interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California, and the other half interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near her beloved second home in Palm Springs, California.
Shore has a legacy posthumously, with a 1998 album featuring the arrangement skills of Andre Previn combined with the re-releasing of some of her recordings like April in Paris, and My Funny Valentine, garnering moderate success.
Dinah’s daughter, Melissa Montgomery, is the owner of the rights to most of Shore’s television series. In March 2003, PBS presented “MWAH! The Best of The Dinah Shore Show 1956–1963,” an hour-long special of early color videotape footage of Dinah in duets with guests Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Pearl Bailey, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Peggy Lee, and Mahalia Jackson.
In her birthplace of Winchester, TN, Dinah Shore Boulevard is named after her.
Quick Bio Facts:
Dinah Shore AKA Frances Rose Shore
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: See the U-S-A in a Chev-ro-let
Father: Solomon A. Shore
Mother: Anna Stein
Husband: George Montgomery (actor, m. 5-Dec-1943, div. 9-May-1963, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Melissa Ann (“Melissa Montgomery-Hine”, b. 3-Jan-1948)
Son: John David (adopted, b. 3-Mar-1954)
Husband: Maurice F. Smith (m. 26-May-1963, div. 1964)
Boyfriend: Burt Reynolds (actor, long term relationship)
High School: Hume-Fogg High School, Nashville, TN
University: BA Sociology, Vanderbilt University (1938)
Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame
Emmy 1955 Best Female Singer
Emmy 1956 Best Female Singer
Emmy 1957 Best Female Personality
Emmy 1958 for The Dinah Shore Show
Emmy 1959 for The Dinah Shore Show
Emmy 1973 for Dinah’s Place
Daytime Emmy 1974 for Dinah’s Place
Daytime Emmy 1976 for Dinah!
Golden Globe 1956 for Disneyland (single episode)
World Golf Hall of Fame 1994
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6914 Hollywood Blvd.
Endorsement of General Electric 1945
Risk Factors: Polio
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse (1988) Herself
HealtH (12-Sep-1980) Herself
Oh, God! (7-Oct-1977) Herself
Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1-Apr-1952)
Fun and Fancy Free (27-Sep-1947) [VOICE]
Till the Clouds Roll By (5-Dec-1946)
Make Mine Music (20-Apr-1946) [VOICE]
Belle of the Yukon (26-Dec-1944)
Up in Arms (17-Feb-1944)
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1-Oct-1943) Herself
Author of books:
Someone’s in the Kitchen With Dinah (1971, cookbook)
The Dinah Shore Cook Book (1983, cookbook)
The Dinah Shore American Kitchen: Homestyle Cooking With Flair (1990, cookbook)
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