Dolly Dawn is one of my favorite singers from my favorite decade. She had such a powerful voice with a spirited personality, and was one of the few women to lead a band during the era. A few years ago the radio played Shine which is bound to cheer anyone up if they’re not already happy, and ever since then I’ve loved her songs. I’ve gathered some of my favorites to share, but if you’re unfamiliar with her music the best place to begin is with her story.
She was determined she’d sing with George Hall’s orchestra, even before the bandleader knew it himself. In a 2001 radio interview, Therese Anna Maria Stabile (b. 1916) remembered listening to the radio broadcasts and learning the songs. In 1934 she went with her mom to the Taft Hotel in New York where the orchestra performed. Radio Mirror in November 1941 said she had previously won first place in Hall’s amateur contest. Now she was eager to be the replacement for Loretta Lee who was leaving for another radio show. Boldly she approached George Hall and he thought she was “only a little girl”. She remembered replying, “That doesn’t make any difference to me. I can sing.” After an audition Hall felt she was talented, but needed training. Emerging as Dolly Dawn–given to her by a newspaperwoman Radio Guide on January 30, 1937 quoted had said, “She’s as fresh as the dawn and as dimpled as a doll”–she became the lead singer in 1935. Still a teenager, Dawn was allowed in venues only for broadcasts.
On July 4, 1941, George Hall gifted the band to her. Dawn recalled in 2001 it came from a suggestion by the Music Corporation of America. The same issue of Radio Mirror said it was decided 2 years prior when Dawn stepped in as the conductor, while Hall took time off after the death of his wife. By then he had taught Dawn conducting, provided voice study and she could play the piano in order to join the musician’s union 802. George Hall became the manager of the officially renamed Dolly Dawn and her Dawn Patrol. (Their Bluebird records were already listed as such in the mid 30s.) The two were close like family until Hall’s death, since she was adopted by the Halls, although she kept in touch with her biological parents. Dolly Dawn toured ballrooms and theaters, as well as made records until 1942 when World War II drafted the band members. She performed solo for many years and died on December 11, 2002. The New York Times wrote that Dawn never married and that she said her music was her husband and her children.
Wake Up and Sing
Georgia Rockin’ Chair
Moon Over Miami
Better Get Off Your High Horse
My Cabin of Dreams
You’re a Sweetheart
I Found My Yellow Basket (cover of her close friend Ella Fitzgerald’s composition)
At a Little Hot Dog Stand
Do you like Dolly Dawn? Who is one of your favorite singers or orchestras from the 1930s?