Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


CLOONEY, Rosemary

(b 23 May '28, Maysville KY; d 29 June 2002, Beverly Hills CA, of lung cancer) Singer. Moved to Cincinnati; while in high school she entered amateur events etc with sister Betty (b 12 April c'30; d '76); they worked on local radio mid-'40s; joined the Tony Pastor band as a vocal duo for two years. Rosemary went solo, had TV spot on Songs For Sale, then a Columbia contract, soon hit with 'You're Just In Love' (duet with Guy Mitchell) no. 29, 'Beautiful Brown Eyes' no. 11, also duets with Frank Sinatra; then 'Come On-A My House' was no. 1 for six weeks (see David Seville): the bouncy arrangement featured an amplified harpsichord played by Stan Freeman and Clooney's sexy, warm, very musical voice in semi-dialect; she didn't think much of it and was astonished by its success, and the public had decided that they loved Rosie. Thirteen top 40 hits '51-4 included 'Tenderly', Hank Williams's 'Half As Much', another dialect song 'Botch-A-Me' (if producer Mitch Miller had one hit with a dialect, song, why, better try another), duet with Marlene Dietrich 'Too Old To Cut The Mustard', no. 1 hits with 'Hey There' (from the Richard Adler/Jerry Ross show Pajama Game) and 'This Ole House' (revived '81 by Shakin' Stevens in UK). Lesser hits included 'Pet Me, Poppa' from Guys And Dolls, then 'Mangos' '57. She also made albums with the Benny Goodman sextet, the Hi-Lo's vocal quartet (Ring Around Rosie), Duke Ellington (Blue Rose). Her own Columbia albums included While We're Young. Films included The Stars Are Singing and Here Come The Girls '53, White Christmas (with Bing Crosby) and Red Garters '54 (latter soundtrack on LP), Deep In My Heart '54 (Sigmund Romberg biopic with José Ferrer, whom she married). She switched to RCA, had a minor hit '60, made highly praised LP with Crosby Fancy Meeting You Here. Also on RCA: Clap Hands (Here Comes Rosie), Rosie Solves The Swingin' Riddle; switched to Coral for Swing Around Rosie with Buddy Cole trio and Sweetest Sounds with Les Brown; on Reprise: Love '61 with Nelson Riddle and Thanks For Nothing; on Capitol with Crosby: That Travelin' Two-Beat.

She had problems with alcohol and pills and with Ferrer: the marriage was not easy and ended in divorce. She had a breakdown in 1968. Semi-retired, she raised five children; fans kept their fingers crossed and she started a new career on Concord Jazz in the '80s: Everything's Coming Up Rosie, Rosie Sings Bing, Here's To My Lady (two-LP set), With Love; For The Duration '91, Tribute To Billie Holiday and Do You Miss New York? '92; plus 'songbooks' included Sings Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer. She shared album Tribute To Duke Ellington with Tony Bennett, Crosby and Woody Herman. Small-group backing on all these usually included Nat Pierce, piano; Jake Hanna, drums (b 4 April '31, Roxbury MA), sometimes Cal Tjader, guitarist Ed Bickert (b 29 Nov. '32, Manitoba; has own LPs on Concord), Scott Hamilton etc. Big-band stuff included My Buddy '83 with Herman; Girl Singer '91, Still On The Road '93 and Demi-Centennial '94 with studio bands; and Dedicated To Nelson '95, arrangements resurrected from Riddle's work for her TV show of yore, the result described by Cadence as pure enchantment. Her nephew George Clooney was a star of TV's ER; she played a cameo in two episodes. Come On-A My House '97 was a seven-CD set on Bear Family, the first of three sets compiling the complete Columbia recordings.

In a touring Christmas show in December 1990 she appeared in Minneapolis with her vocalist daughter-in-law, numerous children and the entire Minnesota Orchestra (formerly the Minnesota S.O.); it was the first time this writer had ever seen her live: she had more stage presence and better phrasing than everybody else in the room put together. She published two autobiographies: This For Remembrance '77 and Girl Singer '99.