The distinctively unpretentious, deep, rich, and smooth voice of Rosemary Clooney has earned her recognition as one of America’s premiere pop and jazz singers. According to Clooney’s record company press biography, Life magazine, in a tribute to America’s “girl singers” named her one of “six preeminent singers… whose performances are living displays of a precious national treasure... their recordings a preservation of jewels.” First-class crooner Frank Sinatra stated, as was also reprinted in Clooney’s press biography, “Rosemary Clooney has that great talent which exudes warmth and feeling in every song she sings. She’s a symbol of good modern American music.”
The singer noted for her decades-long mastery of American popular song started life amid the poverty of small-town Maysville, Kentucky. Her childhood was a difficult one; Clooney and younger siblings Betty and Nick were shuttled among their alcoholic father, Andy, their mother, Frances—who traveled constantly for her work with a chain of dress shops—and relatives, who would take turns raising the children. When Clooney was 13 her mother moved to California to marry a sailor, taking Nick with her but leaving the girls behind. Her father tried to care for Rosemary and Betty, working steadily at a defense plant, but he left one night to celebrate the end of World War II—taking the household money with him—and never returned.
A Difficult Childhood
As Clooney described in her autobiography, This for Remembrance, she and Betty were left to fend for themselves. They collected soda bottles and bought meals at school with the refund money. The phone had been disconnected, the utilities were about to be turned off, and the rent was overdue when Rosemary and Betty won an open singing audition at a Cincinnati radio station. The girls were so impressive, in fact, that they were hired for a regular late-night spot at $20 a week each. “The Clooney Sisters,” as they became known, began their singing career in 1945 on WLW in Cincinnati.
This work brought them to the attention of bandleader Tony Pastor, who happened to be passing through Ohio. In 1945 The Clooney Sisters joined Pastor’s orchestra. They toured with Pastor as featured singers until 1948, at which point Betty decided to return to Cincinnati and her radio career. Rosemary continued as a solo vocalist with Tony Pastor for another year. Then, in 1949, deciding she needed to expand her
For the Record…
Born May 23, 1928, in Maysville, KY; daughter of Andrew (a defense plant worker and house painter) and Frances (an employee of a dress-shop chain; maiden name, Guilfoyle) Clooney; married Jose Ferrer (an actor), 1953 (divorced, 1961), remarried Ferrer (divorced, 1967); children: Miguel Jose, Maria Providencia, Gabriel Vincente, Monsita, Rafael.
Formed duet with sister Betty and performed on radio station WLW, Cincinnati; as “The Clooney Sisters,” duet toured the U.S. with the Tony Pastor orchestra, 1945-48; performed with Pastor as solo artist, 1948-49; signed with Columbia Records, 1950, and recorded “Come On-a My House,” 1951; performed with Bing Crosby on CBS Radio songfest show, early 1950s; under contract to Paramount Pictures, 1953-54; film roles include The Stars Are Singing and Here Come the Girls, both 1953, and White Christmas, Red Garters, and Deep in My Heart, all 1954; appeared in television programs the Rosemary Clooney Show, KKTV, WRCA-TV, WPIX, 1956-57, and Lux Music Hall, NBC-TV, 1957; appeared with Bing Crosby on his 50th anniversary tour, 1976; signed with Concord Jazz, 1977. Author of autobiography This for Remembrance, Playboy Press, 1977.
Awards: Gold records for “Come On-a My House, 1951,” “Tenderly,” 1952, “Botcha Me,” 1953, “Half as Much,” 1953, and “Hey There,” 1954; special award from Look magazine, 1954; James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, 1992, for contribution to American arts.
Addresses: Record company —Concord Jazz, Inc., P.O. Box 845, Concord, CA 94522.
professional career, she left the band; at age 21 Clooney struck out on her own and headed for New York City.
Enlistment in World War II and the draft drastically depleted the personnel of most bands, creating the need for orchestras to highlight a charismatic singer. After the war, singers who had stolen the limelight from bands became even more indispensable as audiences increasingly came to demand them. Leaders of popular bands discovered and nurtured singers like Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington and became associated in the public eye with their finds. Clooney’s arrival in New York was perfectly timed with the rage for orchestra-backed singers; she was immediately signed to a recording contract with Columbia Records. By then “girl singers,” as they came to be known—Kay Starr, Day, and Lee—were emerging as recording stars.
“Come On-a My House”
It was at Columbia that Clooney began an important association with Mitch Miller, one of the company’s A&R [Artists and Repertoire] representatives and top entertainers. In 1951 Miller convinced Clooney to record an oddball song, “Come On-a My House,” written by Ross Bagdasarian with lyrics by William Saroyan. When Miller first suggested the song, Clooney was highly skeptical, insisting the song was not her kind of material. She felt it was silly and demeaning; she believed the double-entendres were a cheap lyrical device and felt uncomfortable putting on an Italian accent. But Miller was persistent and finally persuaded Clooney to record “Come On-a My House.” He conceived a novel instrumental effect utilizing a harpsichord to accompany Clooney. Much to her surprise, the song was an immediate and enormous success, topping the charts to become a gold record. “Come On-a My House” made Rosemary Clooney a star. A household name, she became known simply as “Rosie.”
In the early 1950s radio made a strong bid to issue a challenge to the growing magnetism of television. Star-studded variety programs were created, and week after week Hollywood studios offered musical programs by big names. Clooney was signed to co-host, with beloved vocalist Bing Crosby, a songfest radio show, which aired every weekday morning on CBS radio. Film roles abounded; Clooney’s appearance in White Christmas was generally credited with the film’s enormous success, which made it the top grosser of 1954. Co-starring with hot properties Bob Hope and Crosby and accompanied by the music of Irving Berlin, Clooney was lauded for her performance, in which she sang the ballad “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me.”
The Hollywood Life
As her popularity swelled, Clooney began a romance with dancer Dante Di Paolo, her co-star in the films Here Come the Girls and Red Garters.Nonetheless, to her friends’ and the public’s amazement, Clooney eloped in the summer of 1953 with Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer, 16 years her senior. “Rosie” and her whirlwind marriage became a favorite topic of the tabloid journals. Clooney and Ferrer moved into a glamorous Beverly Hills home once owned by composer George Gershwin and entertained with lavish pool-side parties attended by the toast of Hollywood. Their first child was born in 1955 and by 1960, the family had grown to seven.
Clooney became the star of her own television series in 1956. The Rosemary Clooney Show, which ran through 1957, was syndicated to more than one hundred television stations. But by that time, Clooney had begun to feel the strain of stardom and her relentlessly hectic schedule. The pressure of raising five children while pursuing careers as a television, movie, radio, and recording star, coupled with the deteriorating state of her marriage, soon took its toll. Clooney developed an addiction to tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Although her life appeared idyllic to the public, the singer’s addiction to drugs worsened. Clooney and Ferrer divorced in 1961, reconciled for a few years, then divorced again in 1967. Recalling in her autobiography how she fell prey to “the ’50s myth of family and career,” the singer confessed, “I just did it all because I thought that I could, it certainly wasn’t easy.”
For Clooney, the world came crashing down in 1968. She was standing only yards away when her close friend Bobby Kennedy, then campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, was assassinated in Los Angeles at the Ambassador Hotel. The tragedy, compounded with her drug addiction, triggered a public mental collapse: At a Reno engagement she cursed at her audience and stalked off the stage. She later called a press conference to announce her retirement at which she sobbed incoherently. When a doctor was summoned, Clooney fled and was eventually found driving on the wrong side of a dangerous mountain road. Soon thereafter she admitted herself to the psychiatric ward of Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Clooney remained in therapy for many years. She worked when she could—at Holiday Inns and small hotels like the Ventura and the Hawthorne and selling paper towels in television commercials.
In 1976 Clooney’s old friend Bing Crosby asked her to join him on his 50th anniversary tour. It would be Crosby’s final tour and Clooney’s comeback event. The highlight of the show came when Clooney joined Crosby in a duet of “On a Slow Boat to China.” The next year, Clooney signed a recording contract with Concord Jazz, taking the next step on her comeback trail—one that would produce a string of more than a dozen successful recordings, inaugurated with Everything’s Coming Up Rosie.
Salvation Through Singing
“I’ll keep working as long as I live,” Clooney vowed in an interview with Lear’s magazine, “because singing has taken on the feeling of joy that I had when I started, when my only responsibility was to sing well. It’s even better now… I can even pick the songs. The arranger says to me, ’How do you want it? How do you see it?’ Nobody ever asked me that before.”
Along with her renewed recording efforts, Clooney created a living memorial to her sister Betty, who died in 1976 from a brain aneurysm: the Betty Clooney Center in Long Beach, California, a facility for brain-injured young adults. The first of its kind in the U.S., the center is supported by grants and donations as well as the annual star-splashed benefit concert that Clooney hosts. After receiving the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in 1992 in recognition of her contribution to American music, Clooney told the Washington Post, “It’s for showing up day after day, for small increments of time and achievement.” Claiming that singing has become her salvation, Clooney added, “I’m the only instrument that’s got the words, so I’ve got to be able to get that across.” As her top-selling jazz albums indicated, Clooney was still able to mesmerize audiences with her warmth, depth of feeling, honesty, and unsurpassed craft.
Children’s Favorites, 1956.
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie, Concord, 1977.
Rosie Sings Bing, Concord, 1978.
Here’s to My Lady, Concord, 1979.
Rosemary Clooney Sings Ira Gershwin Lyrics, Concord, 1980.
With Love, Concord, 1981.
Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Cole Porter, Concord, 1982.
Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Harold Arlen, Concord, 1983.
(With Woody Herman) My Buddy, Concord, 1983.
Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Irving Berlin, Concord, 1984.
Rosemary Clooney Sings Ballads, Concord, 1985.
Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Jimmy VanHeusen, Concord, 1986.
Rosemary Clooney Sings the Lyrics of Johnny Mercer, Concord, 1987.
Show Tunes, Concord, 1989.
Rosemary Clooney Sings Rodgers, Hart & Hammerstein, Concord, 1990.
For the Duration, Concord, 1991.
Girl Singer, Concord, 1992.
Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Harold Allen, Concord, 1992.
Do You Miss New York? Concord, 1993.
Clooney, Rosemary, This for Remembrance, Playboy Press, 1977.
Ewen, David, All the Years of American Popular Music, Prentice-Hall, 1977.
Lear’s, February 1990.
Newsweek, March 9, 1992.
New York Times, February 9, 1992.
Stereo Review, June 1991.
Variety, October 28, 1991.
Village Voice, October 16, 1991.
Washington Post, March 28, 1992.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from Concord Jazz, Inc., press materials, 1992.
In 1951 American singer-actor Rosemary Clooney (1928–2002) rose to prominence when Columbia Records issued "Come On-a My House," her first single to sell a million copies. She also starred in one of the most beloved holiday movies, White Christmas, with Bing Crosby in 1954. The pressures of fame, however, led to drug addiction and mental breakdown during the 1960s. By the mid-1970s, Clooney had overcome her personal demons and returned to performing, eventually receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2002.
Emerged From Troubled Childhood
Born on May 23, 1928 in Maysville, Kentucky, Clooney had a turbulent childhood. Her father, Andrew Clooney, was an alcoholic and seldom at home, while her mother, Frances Guilfoyle, often worked away from home. The young Clooneys, Rosemary, Betty, and Nicky, lived with various relatives. "I don't remember all of us living together under the same roof for more than a few weeks at a time," recalled Clooney in her book, Girl Singer: An Autobiography. "Sometimes I was with an uncle or an aunt, sometimes at Grandma Guilfoyle's, sometimes with my Clooney grandparents." Because of the turmoil, Clooney learned to fend for herself and look after her younger siblings.
Clooney was surrounded by music from an early age. She sang on stage for the first time at three, performing "When Your Hair Has Turned to Silver (I Will Love You Just the Same)" at the downtown movie house, the Russell Theater. Her Aunt Olivette had led her own band, and Clooney listened to the jazz combos and big band groups on the powerful WLW radio station in Cincinnati. At the age of 17, she and her sister were abandoned once again by their father, and after they ran out of money they gathered and returned pop bottles to collect the deposits. Desperate and unwilling to contact family for help, the Clooney sisters auditioned on the local radio station WLW and were offered a job. "I began singing for a living in April 1945," recalled Clooney. "I was sixteen; Betty was thirteen. The Clooney sisters were paid $20 a week. Apiece."
During the summer the Clooney sisters performed on two programs, the "Crossroads Café" in the afternoons and "Moon River" at night. In the fall, after returning to school at Our Lady of Mercy, they sang afternoons and evenings. They also sang with a combo at high school dances on Saturday nights, and worked with local bandleader Barney Rapp in Cincinnati. In the summer of 1946 the sisters auditioned for Tony Pastor, another big band leader with a national reputation. Before the Clooney sisters could begin their new career, however, they were faced with an obstacle: both were underage and would require a chaperone. Finally, their uncle George Guilfoyle agreed. "Within a year," wrote Clooney, "we'd gone from schoolgirls in knee socks to big band singers in nylons—with contracts. It was almost too much to take in, an overflow of good luck."
Established Solo Career
For the next three years, Clooney and her sister crisscrossed the United States with Pastor's band, playing one-night stands, traveling in a bus, and sleeping when they could. They performed at nightclubs, fairs, schools, and parks, and each sister received $125 per week, minus hotel and eating expenses (and expenses for Uncle George). The pace was grueling, but fronting a large band trained Rosemary Clooney in diction, delivery, and volume. "Three years is a long time to be on the road," wrote Clooney, "living out of a bus, ironing clothes on hotel room floors, away from people you love."
During this time, the sisters also recorded with Pastor's band on Columbia Records. Critics singled out Clooney's whispery version of "I'm Sorry I Didn't Say I'm Sorry When I Made You Cry Last Night," and eventually she was offered a solo contract with Columbia and the backing of Joe Shribman, an agent in New York City. While she felt conflicted over leaving both Uncle George and her sister behind, her sister had tired of the road and was happy to return home.
Despite her new contract, Clooney was one of many young talents hoping to launch a solo career with hit records. "The competition was tough; I'd landed in the big pond now, and so many people were after the same thing that I couldn't be sure how far I would go." She leased an apartment in New York City and signed with Columbia on her 21st birthday, a contract that paid $50 per recording and paid royalties after the costs of the recording had been covered (about $5,000). In the fall of 1949 Clooney made her television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing "Boy Wanted," and she also appeared on the radio program Camel Caravan. She had only been in New York City for a year when Frank Sinatra, one of her idols, asked her to sing on "Peachtree Street."
"Come On-A My House" Topped Charts
Clooney's career advanced slowly at first. She recorded "Beautiful Brown Eyes" in January of 1951 and it became her first hit, eventually selling 400,000 copies. Her royalty rate increased, from 3% to 5%, and she was guaranteed $250,000 over the next five years. She also appeared on the cover of the jazz magazine Downbeat. "But one magazine cover and one hit record didn't change my professional life overnight," wrote Clooney.
Clooney's professional life was about to change, however, thanks to a nonsensical song written by William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian, the team who had created the Chipmunks. "Come On-a My House" was based on an Armenian folk tune and suggested by arranger Mitch Miller, but Clooney resisted recording what she considered a silly and suggestive song. Even after Miller persuaded her to record it and had 100,000 copies pressed, she still believed the song would flop. "Come On-a My House" had an unusual arrangement featuring harpsichord, further underlining the nonsensical nature of the song. Returning to New York City following a short trip to Havana, Clooney heard "Come On-a My House" pouring out of every record shop along the street. The song, eventually selling over a million copies, established the young singer as an up-and-coming star, and paved the way for other hits including "Batch-a-Me," "Tenderly," "This Ole House," "Hey There," and "Suzy Snowflake."
Soon after, Clooney made her first appearance in Las Vegas, a date that had been booked before her hit. One of her shows was attended by a Hollywood agent, and she soon signed a contract with Paramount. Clooney landed her first role in The Stars are Singing, and returned to her home town in Maysville for the film's opening in January of 1953. Her next outing was Here Come the Girls with Bob Hope, followed by Red Garters (1953), an imaginative Western that mingled songs and satire. On February 23, 1953, Clooney appeared on the cover of Time. In the summer of 1953 she teamed with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen in White Christmas (1954), a movie that has remained a perennial holiday favorite. "Singing together," noted Clooney of singing with Crosby, "came as naturally to each of us as breathing."
Joined Hollywood Jet Set
Clooney moved to Beverly Hills in the early 1950s and married actor Jose Ferrer on July 13, 1953. The couple had their first child, Miguel José Ferrer, on February 7, 1955, and would have four more children by 1960. Clooney's half-sister, Gail, also became part of the household. In Beverly Hills, Clooney immersed herself in the Hollywood lifestyle, associating with noted stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Crosby, and attending lavish parties. She returned to working at the Sans in Las Vegas for $20,000 a week, only six weeks after her first child was born, and shortly thereafter signed a contract for 39 half-hour episodes of The Rosemary Clooney Show. During this time, she also recorded duets with her husband, "Man (Uh-Huh)" and "Woman (Uh-Huh)," and with Dietrich, "Dots Nice Donna Fight."
The Rosemary Clooney Show began in May of 1956, and featured Nelson Riddle's Orchestra and the Hi-Los. In 1957 she fronted the The Lux Show Starring Rosemary Clooney, and also appeared in the award-winning The Edsel Show with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. In 1958 Clooney, six months pregnant, recorded Fancy Meeting You Here with Crosby.
The non-stop activity exacted its toll on the development of Clooney's career. Her film roles came to an abrupt halt in December of 1955 when Paramount released her from her contract due to her current pregnancy. The Lux Show was canceled for the same reason. She was also released from Columbia Records, partly due to a conflict between her husband and producer Mitch Miller. "I still thought I could do it all," wrote Clooney. "I would continue to be the perfect wife…. I would sign for another television series. I would become pregnant again. I would do it all."
Underwent Personal Crisis and Breakdown
For much of the 1960s, Clooney was plagued by relationship, money, and drug problems. She and Ferrer divorced in 1961, remarried the same year, and divorced again for good in 1967. She also had an on-again/off-again relationship with Nelson Riddle. Clooney became interested in politics in 1960 and made appearances for Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy. She continued to record for Coral, MGM, and RCA, but her classic style, like Sinatra's and Crosby's, became less popular following the advent of rock-n-roll. Clooney's personal life was also complicated by her addiction to sleeping pills.
In 1968 Clooney had a nervous breakdown. She had continued to work in Democratic politics, and had befriended Robert F. Kennedy. She worked with his campaign during the Democratic primary during the summer, and was in attendance at the Ambassador Hotel following the California primary. Clooney had also brought two of her children, and they were standing only a few yards from Kennedy when he was shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan. From that point, her life spiraled quickly into chaos. In Reno for a show, Clooney announced her retirement at an impromptu news conference, then broke down during a show, berating the audience. She later admitted herself to the psychiatric ward at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, and entered therapy.
Re-Established Singing and Recording Career
During the mid-to-late 1970s Clooney returned to performing, slowly rebuilding her career at small venues like Holiday Inns. While far from the glamour of her Reno and Hollywood days, she considered herself lucky to be working at all. Her old friend Merv Griffin invited her to make a number of appearances on his television show. In March of 1976 she joined Bing Crosby during his 50th anniversary tour, including an appearance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. "Bing's invitation to work with him was a breakthrough both personal and professional, like an apostolic blessing," wrote Clooney.
Clooney recorded her first album for Concord Records in 1977, leading to numerous albums including Everything's Coming Up Rosie (1977), Show Tunes (1989), and Do You Miss New York? (1993). Bob Harrington wrote in Back Stage, of a live show in 1992, "What's remarkable is that Clooney, of those singers who are highly musical, sacrifices not a bit of her emotional wallop to achieve her musical feel." In 1995 Clooney received ASCAP's Pied Piper Award, the premier award for performing artists, and an Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on ER.
Clooney's sister Betty died of an aneurysm in 1976, eventually leading Rosemary to found the Betty Clooney Center in Long Beach, California. In 1997 Clooney married Dante DiPaolo, a dancer with whom she had been involved during the time of her first marriage in 1953. In 2001 she was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Because of her surgery, Clooney was unable to attend the Grammy ceremony to receive her Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Clooney died from complications six months later on June 29, 2002, at the age of 74. "For over 50 years she has brightened our lives with the richness of her personality and her voice," Daily Variety quoted Dolores Hope [Bob Hope's spouse]. "Her courage and love have been an inspiration to all who called her friend."
Clooney, Rosemary, Girl Singer: An Autobiography, Doubleday, 1999.
Backstage, February, 14, 1992.
Daily Variety, July 1, 2002.
Entertainment Weekly, July 12, 2002.
People, October 15, 1990.
Born: Maysville, Kentucky, 23 May 1928; died Beverly Hills, California, 29 June 2002
Best-selling album since 1990: Mothers and Daughters (1996)
One of the most distinctive vocal stylists of the twentieth century, Rosemary Clooney enjoyed a highly successful career, even though her periods of greatest success were spaced decades apart. Beginning in 1950, she released a long string of hits for Columbia Records, where her work often fell under the guidance of pop producer Mitch Miller. Her hits of this period are composed largely of light-hearted "novelty" numbers such as "Come On-a My House" (1951) and "Mambo Italiano" (1954). Beginning in the late 1970s, however, after suffering a harrowing emotional breakdown, Clooney returned to the scene as a sensitive, intelligent jazz interpreter, imbued with a subtle sense of swing and a dry, textured voice. Clooney earned her greatest critical attention during this period—the late 1970s through the early 2000s—when she issued a series of strong albums for the small Concord Jazz label. Always working with excellent supporting musicians, she performed continuously until six months before her death.
Born in Maysville, Kentucky, in 1928, Clooney was raised in an unstable, shifting home. After moving several times, the family settled in Cincinnati, where Clooney and her sister, Betty, found steady work during the early 1940s singing for radio stations. In the mid-1940s she performed as lead vocalist for bandleader Tony Pastor, signing with Pastor's label, Columbia, as a solo artist in 1950. At Columbia, her recordings were overseen by Miller, whose work is often derided by modern jazz critics for its lowbrow pop leanings. Although Clooney recorded some fine jazz work at Columbia, she became a star on the basis of novelty numbers such as "Come Ona My House"—a song she initially did not want to record. Sustaining her stardom throughout the 1950s, Clooney acted in films such as White Christmas and Red Garters (both 1954). By the late 1960s, however, Clooney's life and career had unraveled. In 1968, addicted to pills, distraught over her failed marriage to actor Jose Ferrer and the assassination of her friend Senator Robert Kennedy (Clooney was present when Kennedy was killed), Clooney broke down after ranting at an audience during a performance. Released from a psychiatric ward after a four-week stay, Clooney worked to rebuild her career with the help of her friend, legendary vocalist Bing Crosby. By the late 1970s, she had re-emerged as a jazz stylist of the first rank.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Clooney, under contract to the Concord Jazz label, recorded many fine albums, often presented as "songbooks" honoring a particular composer. While critics and fans observed that her voice no longer possessed the suppleness of its youth, all agreed that her skills as an interpreter had sharpened. On songs such as "We'll Be Together Again" (from the album Do You Miss New York? ), she underscores her performance with a rich yet subtle current of emotion, extending words with a smoky vibrato and then cutting them off for dramatic emphasis. Like pop legend Frank Sinatra, Clooney never allows emotion to push a song out of control; instead, she plumbs depths of feeling through quiet power.
Another highlight of the 1990s was Dedicated to Nelson (1995), an album tribute to gifted 1950s arranger Nelson Riddle, with whom Clooney worked and, at one point, shared a romantic relationship. Backed by re-creations of Riddle's original arrangements, Clooney applies her finely shaded voice and astute rhythmic sense to classic songs such as "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." Demi-Centennial (1995), an album of new performances celebrating Clooney's fifty years as a singer, ranks with her finest recordings. Here, delivering songs associated with various periods in her life, Clooney captures an honesty and warmth rare in contemporary music.
In November 2001, Clooney gave her final performance at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu, Hawaii. The recording of the evening, released after her death as The Last Concert (2002), is notable for Clooney's voice—shakier and less potent than it had been in the 1980s and 1990s, but still impressive—and undiminished sense of timing. On "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe," first performed by the legendary entertainer Ethel Waters in the 1943 film Cabin in the Sky, Clooney distills romantic affection with sincerity and directness. After a long battle with lung cancer, Clooney died in June 2002.
Infusing her performances with honesty and emotional commitment, Clooney became one of the most beloved American vocalists, her consistency and taste rivaled only by her tenacity. Overcoming personal conflicts after her initial popularity declined, Clooney returned in the late 1970s with renewed force, giving listeners impeccable jazz recordings for the next two decades.
Rosemary Clooney with Harry James (Columbia, 1952); Clap Hands! Here Comes Rosie! (RCA Victor, 1960); Love (Reprise, 1963); Here's to My Lady (Concord Jazz, 1978); Sings the Music of Cole Porter (Concord Jazz, 1982); Do You Miss New York? (Concord Jazz, 1993); Demi-Centennial (Concord Jazz, 1995); Dedicated to Nelson (Concord Jazz, 1995); Mothers & Daughters (Concord Jazz, 1996); Sentimental Journey (Concord Jazz, 2001); The Last Concert (Concord Jazz, 2002).
Clooney, Rosemary, American singer; b. Mays-ville, Ky, May 23, 1928. Among the finest jazz-influenced popular singers of the post-World War II era, she is a masterful interpreter of the American songbook. Though she rose to popularity singing novelty tunes, she has always possessed a warm, husky voice and the gift, like all great singers, to emotionally inhabit her material. She broke into show business singing on the radio in Cincinnati with her sister Betty. Local gigs brought them to the attention of band leader Tony Pastor, and in 1947 the Clooney Sisters made their debut in Atlantic City. After two years on the road, Betty returned to Cincinnati and Rosemary went to N.Y., where she was quickly signed by Columbia Records. Beginning in the early 1950s, she scored a series of hits produced by Mitch Miller, starting with “Come on-a My House.” Her fame increased when she moved to Hollywood, married actor Jose Ferrer, and began appearing in movies, including Here Come the Girls, The Stars and Singing, and White Christmas, which began her long association with Bing Crosby. She maintained her jazz credentials through her recordings with the Benny Goodman Sextet, Woody Herman and the Hi-Lo’s, and her classic album with Duke Ellington and Billy Stray-horn, Blue Rose. Prescription drug abuse and emotional problems sidelined her in the late 1960s, but she began performing again in the mid-1970s and by the end of the decade had begun her remarkable series of albums for the Concord label. Working with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, cornetist Warren Vache Jr., and other musicians from the Concord roster, she has recorded nearly two dozen albums, often focusing on the work of one composer, or lyricist, or song-writing team.
Blue Rose (1956); Love (1963); Everything’s Coming up Rosie (1977); Rosie Sings Bing (1978); Sings the Music of Cole Porter (1982); Sings the Music of Harold Arlen (1983); Sings the Music of Irving Berlin (1984); Sings the Music of Jimmy Van Heusen (1986); Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin (1987); Sings the Lyrics of Johnny Mercer (1987); Sings Rodgers, Hart, and Hammerstein (1990); For the Duration (1991); Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz with Guest Rosemary Clooney (1992); Girl Singer (1992); Do You Miss New York? (1993); Blue Rose; Still on the Road (1994); Dedicated to Nelson (1996).