SHORE, DINAH

U.S. Musical Performer

Dinah Shore ranks as one of the important on-air musical stars of the first two decades of television in the United States. Indeed from 1956 through 1963 there were few more well-known TV personalities. More than any song she sang, Dinah Shore symbolized cheery optimism and southern charm, most remembered for blowing a big kiss to viewers at the end of her 1950s variety show. As hostess, she sometimes danced and frequently participated in comedy skits, but was best loved as a smooth vocalist reminiscent of a style associated with the 1940s.

Shore pioneered the prime-time color variety show when The Dinah Shore Chevy Show started in October 1956 on NBC and ran on Sunday nights until the end of the 1963 season. Sponsored by General Motors, then the largest corporation in the world, Dinah Shore helped make the low-priced Chevrolet automobile the most widely selling car up to that point in history.

Shore represented a rare woman able to achieve major success hosting a TV variety show. In the late 1950s her enthusiasm and lack of pretension proved so popular that she was four times named to the list of the "most admired woman in the world". Her desire to please showed in her singing style, which some purists dismissed as sentimental, but through her recording career she did earn nine gold records. Shore made listeners and later viewers feel good, and so beginning with her first broadcasts on radio in the late 1930s and then on television, she was able to remain a constant presence in American broadcasting for more than 50 years.

When Fanny Rose Shore was old enough to go to school, in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, she found herself taunted for being Jewish in a decidedly non?Jewish world of a segregated Deep South. Undeterred, Shore logged experience on Nashville radio while in college, on her hometown's WSM-AM, best known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Shore was no hillbilly singer, no typical Southern belle. She took a degree in sociology at Vanderbilt University, putting herself through college with her radio earnings. Her show's theme song was the Ethel Waters blues-inspired "Dinah," and Shore changed her name accordingly. The success of local radio's Our Little Cheerleader of Song enabled Shore to move to New York City to try to make it in Tin Pan Alley, then the center of the world of pop music.

Shore, by her own admission, did not have the vocal equipment of Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday, and never chose to reveal much of herself in music as did her other idol, Peggy Lee. However, she was persistent. During the late 1930s, having auditioned unsuccessfully for such band leaders as Benny Goodman and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Shore finally hooked up with the Xavier Cugat band. Through the 1940s she sold one million copies of "Yes, My Darling Daughter," and that recording success was followed quickly by hits such as "Blues in the Night," "Shoo Fly Pie," "Buttons and Bows," "Dear Hearts and Gentle People," and "It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House." During the World War II, Shore sang these for the troops in Normandy and for shows at other Allied bases in Europe.

In 1950 Dinah Shore made a guest appearance on Bob Hope's first NBC television special. A year later NBC assigned her a regular TV series which ran until 1956 on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:30-7:45 P.M., Eastern time, following 15 minutes of network news. This led, in time, to her Sunday night series. RCA and NBC corporate chief David Sarnoff loved Shore's conservative vocal choices and middlebrow sensibilities. In retrospect, Shore's famed signature theme song, the catchy Chevrolet jingle, "See the USA in your Chevrolet," accompanied by the sweeping smooch to the audience, were so theatrically commercial they made Ed Sullivan seem subversive and Pat Boone look like a rock star. Shore did best when she played the safe 1950s non-threatening "girl next door," with no blond (she was born a brunette) hair out of place, no note, no joke offensive to anyone. The outcast of Nashville finally fit in.

The Dinah Shore Chevy Show rarely entered the top 20 ratings against CBS's General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan which regularly won the time slot. Reagan had a better lead-in from Ed Sullivan. Still, Shore won Emmy Awards for Best Female Singer (1954?55), Best Female Personality (1956?57), and Best Actress in a Musical or Variety Series (1959).

After the Chevy Show, Shore went on host three daytime television programs: the 90?minute talk show Dinah! (1974 to 1980), Dinah's Place (1970 to 1974), and Dinah and Friends (1979 to 1984). Her TV career ended in 1991 on cable TV's The Nashville Network as A Conversation with Dinah. By then she was better known as Hollywood heart throb Burt Reynolds' "older" girl friend, and sponsor of a major golf tournament for women.

-Douglas Gomery

 


Dinah Shore

DINAH SHORE. Born Frances Rose Shore in Winchester, Tennessee, U.S.A., 1 March 1917. Educated at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, B.A. 1939. Married: 1) George Montgomery, 1943 (divorced, 1962); one daughter and one son; 2) Maurice Fabian Smith, 1963 (divorced, 1964). Singer, WNEW, New York, 1938; sustaining singer, NBC, 1938; signed contract with RCA-Victor, 1940; starred in Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, NBC radio program, 1940; joined Eddie Cantor radio program, 1941; starred in own radio program for General Foods, 1943; entertained American troops in European Theater of operations, 1944; hosted radio program for Procter & Gamble; starred in TV show for Chevrolet, 1956-63; hosted numerous variety and talk shows. Recipient: Emmy Awards, 1956, 1957, 1973, 1974, and 1976. Died in Beverly Hills, California, 24 February 1994.

TELEVISION SERIES

1951-57 The Dinah Shore Show
1956-63 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show
1970-74 Dinah
1974-79 Dinah's Place
1976 Dinah and Her New Best Friends
1979-84 Dinah and Friends
1989-91 A Conversation With Dinah

FILMS

Thank Your Lucky Stars, 1943; Up In Arms, 1944; Belle of the Yukon, 1944; Follow the Boys, 1944; Make Mine Music (voice only), 1946; Till the Clouds Roll By, 1946; Fun and Fancy Free (voice only), 1947; Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, 1952; Oh God!, 1977.

PUBLICATION

Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971.

 

See also Dinah Shore Chevy Show