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 enjoyed a long string of over 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 often compared to two popular singers who followed her in the mid-to-late '40s and early '50s, Doris Day and Patti Page.
Childhood and rise to success
Born to Solomon and Anna Stein Shore, Jewish immigrants from Russia, young Frances Rose 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 and overcame the disease. She continued, however, to have a slightly 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, an insightful merchant of dry goods, had 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 many 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 also recorded and performed with the Xavier Cugat orchestra. She signed a recording contract with RCA Victor records in 1940.
The 1940s and 1950s
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 popular 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 Russian 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 a matter of 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 major record 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, who liked her singing, 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 also 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, Dinah 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 reported deal to record 100 sides for $1,000,000. The hits kept coming, but with less frequency, and weren't 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 several 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 solely under the musical direction of Harry Zimmerman, who performed the same duties on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, being the exception.
Recording career after the 1950s
In 1959 Dinah was successfully wooed away 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 classic albums which remain her strongest recording legacy. These were carefully thought out "theme albums" that paired Dinah with master arranger Nelson Riddle (Dinah, Yes Indeed!) gifted conductor and sensitive accompanist Andre Previn (Somebody Loves Me and Dinah Sings, Previn Plays) and Jazz great 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).
Dinah Shore left Capitol in 1962 and recorded only a handful of albums over the next two decades, including Lower Basin Street Revisited for pal 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 very limited Reader's Digest release in 1976. Dinah 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").
Early television career
Dinah Shore singing "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet" in a television advertisement.Soon after she arrived in New York in 1937, Dinah 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. 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.
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 classic variety show was one of the most honored and popular of the 1950s and early 1960s and featured the television debuts of many great stars of the era, such as Yves Montand and Maureen O'Hara, and featured Dinah in now-classic 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.
Dinah famously ended her televised programs by throwing an enthusiastic kiss directly to the cameras (and viewers) and exclaiming "MWAH!" to the audience as if to be extending a kiss to everyone in gratitude for being with her. It was always said by Frank Sinatra that "Dinah blows the best kisses!"
Later television career
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. Dinah described this show as a "Do-Show" as opposed to a chat show because she would always have her guest show off an unexpected skill, whether it be Frank Sinatra sharing his spaghetti sauce recipe, Spiro Agnew showing off his keyboard chops by accompanying Dinah on "Sophisticated Lady," or Ginger Rogers showing Dinah how to throw a clay pot on a potter's wheel. Though "Dinah's Place" featured famous guest stars, just as often you would find Dinah grilling lesser-known lifestyle experts on nutrition, exercise or "homemaking." Despite being one of the more popular programs in NBC's morning lineup, this show famously 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 ending the network's 35-year association with Miss Shore.
Dinah bounced back 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 clearly on top guest stars and entertainment. This show was strong competition for both Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin, whose shows had both been on the air for over 10 years when "Dinah!" debuted. Frequent guests included show-biz greats Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and James Stewart as well as regular contributors like lifestyle guru Dr. Wayne Dyer. There were unexpected rock music performances on this show, the most famous being the appearances of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Shore also 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 and it's 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 a game Dinah 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.
Dinah Shore at the Miami Book Fair International of 1990Shore, with her Dixie drawl and demure manner, was always identified with the South, and guests on her shows often commented on it. She famously 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, Dinah 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...")
Dinah 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 showbiz greats (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. 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.
Shore won nine Emmys, a Peabody Award and a Golden Globe.
In her early career, while in New York, Dinah Shore was briefly involved with famed 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. Dinah's flirtation with General George Patton was much 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.
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 were often featured in the tabloids and after the relationship cooled, the tabloids often paired Dinah with other younger men, from Wayne Rogers, Andy Williams, and "Tarzan" Ron Ely, to other gentlemen 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 also 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.
Death and legacy
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's legacy resonates posthumously, with a 1998 album featuring the arrangement skills of Andre Previn combined with the re-releasing of some of her classic 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 consisting of rare, early color videotape footage of Dinah in full duets with guests Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Pearl Bailey, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Peggy Lee, and Mahalia Jackson. It was rumored that this was an attempt to persuade PBS to broadcast full episodes of the classic series.
In Cathedral City, CA, near Palm Springs there is a street named after her.
In her birthplace of Winchester, TN, Dinah Shore Boulevard is named after her.
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" (Duet with Buddy Clark)
"Blues in the Night"
"The Breeze and I" (her first recording, as a vocalist with Xavier Cugat's orchestra)
"Buttons and Bows"
"The Cattle Call"
"Dear Hearts and Gentle People" (also done by Bing Crosby)
"The Gypsy" (also done by The Ink Spots, originally done by Dorothy Squires)
"I Could Have Danced All Night"
"I'll Never Say Never Again Again"
"I'll Walk Alone"
"It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House"
"Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside"
"Love and Marriage"
"Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy"
"Whatever Lola Wants"
"You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To"
Albums (partial list)
Holding Hands at Midnight (1955, RCA)
I'm Your Girl (1955, RCA Camden)
Bouquet of Blues (1956, RCA)
Moments Like These (1958, RCA)
Dinah, Yes Indeed! (1959, Capitol)
Dinah Sings, Previn Plays (1960, Capitol)
Somebody Loves Me (1960, Capitol)
Dinah Sings Some Blues with Red (1960, Capitol)
The Fabulous Hits of Dinah Shore (1962, Capitol)
Dinah Down Home! (1962, Capitol)
Lower Basin Street Revisited (1965, Reprise)
Songs for Sometime Losers (1967, Project 3)
Country Feelin' (1969, Decca)
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
Up in Arms (1944)
Follow the Boys (1944)
Belle of the Yukon (1944)
Make Mine Music (1946) (voice)
Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)
Fun and Fancy Free (1947) (voice)
Bongo (1947) (short subject) (voice)
Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952)
A Great New Star (1952) (short subject)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Stars on Parade (1954) (short subject)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Small Fry (1956) (short subject)
Premier Khrushchev in the USA (1959) (documentary)
Oh, God! (1977) (Cameo)
HealtH (1980) (Cameo)
The Dinah Shore Show (1951-1956)
The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1956-1963)
Dinah's Place (1970-1974)
Hold That Pose (1971) (canceled after a few weeks)
Dinah Shore: In Search of the Ideal Man (1973)
Dinah and Her New Best Friends (1976 summer series)
The Carol Burnett Show, Episode 1002 (guest star, Aired: November 13, 1976)
Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (guest star 1988)
Murder She Wrote (episode: "Alma Murder"; 1989) (as Emily Dyers)
Conversations with Dinah (1989-1991)
1.^ "Dinah Shore Fan Club Website". http://www.dinahshorefanclub.com/dsbio2.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
2.^ G. Michael Sims (2009 Fall). "Best all-around girl: How a small-town Tennessee girl sang her way to stardom". Vanderbilt Magazine. p. 18. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/magazines/vanderbilt-magazine/2009/11/best-all-around-girl/. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
3.^ "Chamber Music Society", TIME Magazine, September 23, 1940
4.^ "Dinah Shore Fan Club". http://www.dinahshorefanclub.com/dsbio2.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
5.^ Dinah Shore - Biography
Forest Lawn Cemetery Cathedral City
near Palm Springs, California
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