Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 1 May '07, Greenville AL; d June '86, Raleigh NC) Singer with good soprano voice, popular from mid-'20s into '70s. Was training as a nurse, but quit to sing; known as 'The Songbird of the South', worked her way to NYC in vaudeville, Broadway musical Honeymoon Lane '26. Her first hit record was 'One Sweet Letter From You' '27 with Red Nichols, then a 15-minute radio show several nights a week made her an institution '31: second hit 'When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain' that year became her theme, eventually said to have sold 19 million copies; second no. 1 was 'River, Stay 'Way From My Door' '32 (with Guy Lombardo, as was top ten 'Too Late' same year). Radio greeting 'Hello everybody!' and closing 'Thanks for listenin'' were famous; she appeared in film The Big Broadcast '32, starred in Hello, Everybody! '33. Her voice and personality were a comfort and a source of optimism during the Great Depression; later she raised $600 million for GIs during WWII. Various radio shows through '30s; late in decade she gave boost to Abbott and Costello comedy team. Twenty-four hits '27- -46 were almost all on Columbia, but she happened to be recording for Victor when she sang 'God Bless America' on the radio: Irving Berlin had written it for a patriotic show '18, decided it was over the top, but gave it to her '38; within a year it was an unofficial national anthem: the Victor record with 'Star Spangled Banner' on the other side was no. 10 '39, no. 4 '40 (before Pearl Harbor), no. 25 '42. She had sole performing rights to the song, but proceeds went to the Boy Scouts. Appeared in film This Is The Army '43 (co-star Ronald Reagan); recorded for MGM from late '40s, had afternoon TV show '51--4. Ted Collins was her manager since '31; when he died '54 she retired, but came back for guest spots, had her own show again for a while. Always a large lady, she suffered from diabetes in later life. Her rather straight style was not influential, but her voice had many fans; RCA LPs incl. At Carnegie Hall (later on Special Music CD), compilation CDs on RCA and Columbia Legacy, plus Best Of/God Bless America on Curb/WB. Some radio shows were once issued on Sunbeam LPs.