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 bed rest. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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").