Born on May 23, 1928, Rosemary Clooney originally came from Maysville, Kentucky, and grew up with four siblings within a Catholic household. When she was fifteen years old, she accompanied her mother and brother, Nick Clooney, to California. Meanwhile, her sister, Betty Clooney, and her father stayed behind in Kentucky. Of the five Clooney children, it would be Betty and Rosemary who grew up to become entertainers while their brother, Nick, became a newsman and television broadcaster. This is the same family that has spawned Miguel Ferrer and George Clooney, both of who became respected entertainers in their own right.
In 1945, Betty and Rosemary Clooney won a spot as singers for the radio station, WLW of Cincinnati where the two sang in a duo together. It didn’t take long before Rosemary Clooney signed up with Columbia Records, singing with Tony Pastor’s big band from 1946 until 1949. While still with Columbia, Clooney appeared as a regular from 1950 until 1951 on radio and television, performing CBS’s Songs For Sale. It would be 1951 she and producer, Mitch Miller, released her first hit, Come On-a My House, a song she personally hated but was contractually obliged to perform.
Throughout Clooney’s career, she performed many duets with different artists, namely Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Godfrey, and Bing Crosby, whether it be on the radio, movies, television, or studio recordings. This includes collaborating with other artists on her own variety program, The Rosemary Clooney Show. Despite the show’s success, it was moved to NBC prime with a new title, The Lux Show Starring Rosemary Clooney.
After Columbia Records
In 1958, Rosemary Clooney left Columbia Records and signed up with MGM Records, doing a number of recorded performances with that label before moving onto Coral Records to do the same. Finally, in 1958, she signed up with RCA Victor where she continued to record until 1963. Afterward, Clooney had recorded for Reprise Records, Dot Records, United Artist Records, and Concord Jazz. With Concord Jazz, she recorded music for that label each year from 1977 until the year of her death in 2002.
In addition to her prolific recording career, Rosemary Clooney continued to make appearances on television, including a guest-starring role with her nephew, George Clooney while he was still with the NBC drama series, ER. Her performance on one of its episodes won her a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In 1998, Clooney was awarded the Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award. Starting in 1999 in her hometown of Maysville, Kentucky, her Rosemary Clooney Music Festival has run annually, even after the year of her passing in 2002. Before her death, Clooney sang at the festival each year without fail. It would be this same year she would earn the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
For Rosemary Clooney, not only did she personally make an everlasting impression as an actress, singer, and songwriter but as an individual whose son, Miguel Ferrer, followed in his mother’s footsteps as an entertainer himself. On two separate occasions, Rosemary Clooney and Miguel’s father, Jose Ferrer, married and divorced. Clooney was also close friends with Robert F. Kennedy and was instrumental in her support of John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. She was present when the June 5, 1968 assassination took place as she heard the shots that were fired that killed her close friend. A month after the incident, she experienced a nervous breakdown while performing in Reno, Nevada. She would disappear from the spotlight for eight years, undergoing therapy. When she returned to the spotlight, it was a struggle for Clooney to keep herself together as she had become reliant on prescriptions and antidepressants. In 2001, she was diagnosed with lung cancer that later claimed her life on June 29, 2002.
In total, there are sixty-six albums to Rosemary Clooney’s credit. Most of these studio recordings come in the form of two-song forty-fives. There are also seventy-seven singles the artist has recorded and released between her humble 1948 beginnings and 1976. Although she has no registered singles since 1976, she has consistently released at least one recording per year until 2002.
Top 10 Rosemary Clooney Songs
#10 – Where Will the Dimple Be? (featuring Thurl Ravenscroft)
1955’s single, “Where Will the Dimple Be?,” featured the backup performance of Buddy Cole Quartet, The Mellomen, and the bass solo of Thurl Ravenscroft. Rosemary Clooney’s vocals lyrically ask where an unborn child’s dimple location would be. She recorded this song in January 1955, just weeks prior to the birth of her son, Miguel Ferrer on February 7, 1955. While Clooney’s version did not reach the USA Billboard charts it was very popular in the UK as it peaked at number six on its singles chart in 1955. It remained on that chart for a total of fifteen weeks due to its popularity. It also appealed to the European audience, thanks to the Italiano flair of the instrumental performance that seemed to dance alongside Clooney’s playful lyrics.
#9 – A’ You’re Adorable (as Tony Pastor Orchestra and the Clooney Sisters)
Originally, “A’ You’re Adorable” was a song published in 1948 and made most famous by Perry Como and The Fontaine Sisters in 1949. Also in 1949, Tony Pastor, along with Betty and Rosemary Clooney, recorded and released an orchestrated version of this song that peaked at number twelve on the US Billboard Hot 100. Reciting the alphabet in song format has never been as entertaining as it was when A’ You’re Adorable reached the listening audience for the first time.
#8 – Beautiful Brown Eyes
Originally written and performed as a country song by Alton Delmore, “Beautiful Brown Eyes” revolved around his oldest daughter. He, along with Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, performed the best-known version of this song in 1951 that earned Delmore awards and critical acclaim. As for Rosemary Clooney’s ballad-style version, which was also recorded in 1951, it peaked at number eleven on the US Billboard Hot 100. Beautiful Brown Eyes has been covered many times over by a number of artists, making this song one of the most iconic and favored in the music industry, regardless of genre.
#7 – Mangos
In 1956, “Mangos” was written and composed that was first introduced in the Ziegfeld Follies 1957 musical revue. It served as the follow-up song for Come On-a My House, which picked up where the first of these two songs left off. On the US Billboard Hot 100, Mangos peaked at number ten and was a number seventeen hit on the UK Singles Chart. Since then, there were three cover versions of the song, including the French version, Papaye by another songstress legend, Petula Clark. With the list of different food groups sung out by Rosemary Clooney, listening to this single on an empty stomach may cause the urge to dance over to the kitchen and find out what’s in the fridge.
#6 – Mambo Italiano
On the UK Singles Chart, “Mambo Italiano” peaked at number one in 1954 and was charted as high as number ten on the US Billboard Hot 100. “Mambo Italiano,” also appeared on France’s singles chart as high as number eight, which is credited to the endearing quality of Clooney’s lyrical performance along with the song’s composition style. The song was hastily written down on a napkin at an Italian restaurant located in New York City.
The melody, rhythm, and lyrics were dictated by the sound of payphones, which were handed to the studio pianist. “Mambo Italiano,” served as a parody to genuine mambo music, which cashed in on the genre craze that orchestrated the Big Apple’s music scene. The mix of jazz, mambo, and pop was brilliant enough as an instrumental number in its own right, but the Italiano lyrical style Rosemary Clooney put into it demonstrated the woman’s true talent as a vocal artist. Among the Italian-American culture at the time, Mambo Italiano became their personal favorite.
It is also one of the most enduring songs ever produced by Clooney, which has inspired a large number of cover versions recorded by top talents around the world, including Dean Martin. Mambo Italiano has also been featured in a number of commercials and films over the stretch of time, usually using either Clooney’s original version or Dean Martin’s cover version.
#5 – Bolch-a-Me
Ba-Ba-Baciami Piccina was the original, Italian title to “Botch-a-Me,” which was first performed by Alberto Rabagliati in 1940. The English title and lyrics were written by Eddie Stanley, which saw this version popularized by Rosemary Clooney in 1952. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Bloch-a-Mee,” peaked at number two and remained in the charts for a total of seventeen weeks. The whimsical performance by Clooney’s vocals made the song yet another Italiano-Americana mix that served as a sound style that was so popular during the 1950s, especially in New York.
#4 – Half as Much
First recorded by Hank Williams, “Half as Much” started off as a country and western hit that peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Country Singles chart in 1952. The release of his recording was put on hold until March 28, 1952, as the original writer and performer of this classic, Curley Williams, had it released on November 2, 1951. Although Curley recorded two months after Hank did, because the song was originally his, the industry saw to it he was released first before allowing Hank’s version to make its run.
Right on the heels of Hank Williams’s version, came Rosemary Clooney’s, which became a number one hit for the pop music genre. Half as Much peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was a number three hit on the UK Singles Chart. Since then, this song has become a pop standard song, which has been recorded by a number of artists over the years.
#3 – Hey There
The single, “Hey There,” was a show tune derived from the 1954 musical play, The Pajama Game, and performed by John Raitt. In the movie, the main character sings to Hey there to a recording device, calling himself foolish for pursuing his love interest, then plays the tape back and responds to his own comments. It was a song where he performed with himself to make it a duet. For Rosemary Clooney, her 1954 version of this song became her second single to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked as high as number four on the UK Singles Chart.
#2 – This Ole House (featuring Thurl Ravenscroft)
“This Ole House” was originally written and published by Stuart Hamblen in 1954, which became a US Billboard Country & Western favorite when it peaked at number two on what is now known as the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The inspiration for this song came to Hamblen after embarking on a hunting expedition with the legendary John Wayne that had the two men encounter a small old hut in the mountains. The story has it an old man’s body was found there, along with his dog who was guarding it.
For Rosemary Clooney, her bubbly toe-tapping coverage of this classic favorite featured the performance of Buddy Cole & His Orchestra was paired up with the bass vocals of Thurl Ravenscroft. Together, the two performed a duet version of this song that served as a cult favorite. It topped the US Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart, which is now referred to as the US Billboard Hot 100. Titled as This Old House, this single also topped the US Singles Chart.
#1 – Come On-a My House
In 1951, Rosemary Clooney performed the single, “Come On-a My House,” and it was a number one hit. The song was written by Ross Bagdasarian and William Saroyan. Saroyan is the very same author who won an Armenian-American Pulitzer prize for his dramatic writing in 1940. The inspiration behind the song came from an Armenian folk song referencing its customs that included its culinary traditions. Originally, this song was performed in 1950 as an off-Broadway production, The Son.
However, it did not become a hit until Rosemary Clooney’s version was recorded and released. Although this was Clooney’s first major hit as it reached the top of the US Billboard charts, a few have since become clustered as the US Billboard Hot 100, the singer admitted she hated the song. She also admitted when she was forced to sing Come On-a My House, the anger she felt poured through her vocals as she performed it. In 1953, when she performed the song in The Stars Are Singing, she even mocked the song with the remark nobody would listen to it. Not only did fans listen to it, but regarded this as her signature song.
“Come On-a My House,” was Clooney’s first number-one single and the most memorable. Although she personally hated the song, Clooney continued to perform it as a courtesy to her fans, plus to fulfill contract obligations. Whether she cared for the happy-go-lucky song or not, it wasn’t just the music fans that loved it. Come On-a My House inspired artists from various music genres to perform their own versions of it, as well as parodies, that not only immortalized this song, but Rosemary Clooney as well.