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Helen O'Connell

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Biography

Helen O'Connell, who had a fairly long career, will always be best remembered for her squeals on "Green Eyes" and her work with Jimmy Dorsey. She originally left her native Toledo with Jimmy Richards' nine-piece group, gigging and touring for a year and a half. O'Connell appeared on a regular radio show in St. Louis until she agreed to tour with Larry Funk's band (which was billed as "Band of a Thousand Melodies"). After the outfit started working in New York, she was discovered and quickly signed up by Jimmy Dorsey in 1938. O'Connell soon had a hit rendition of "All of Me," which was followed by popular recordings of "Embraceable You," "Brazil," "Jim." and "When the Sun Comes Out" (which she introduced). However, it was in December 1940, when she started sharing recordings with ballad singer Bob Eberly, that O'Connell for a time became a household name. Eberly generally took a slow chorus, Jimmy Dorsey would have a brief instrumental interlude, and then O'Connell would finish up the record with a swinging chorus. This combination worked very well on hit versions of "Amapola," "Yours," "Green Eyes" and "Tangerine." After appearing in the 1943 movie I Dood It with Dorsey (singing "Star Eyes"), O'Connell retired to get married; she would eventually have four daughters. In 1950 she began a successful solo career, making occasional records, appearing regularly on television (she spent a period as co-host of The Today Show), toured as part of Four Girls Four (which also included Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney and Rose Marie) and made guest appearances with the Jimmy Dorsey ghost band, singing in an unchanged style. Although her voice was limited, she made her deficiencies into assets and carved out her own place in musical history. Helen O'Connell was active up until shortly before her death from cancer. ~ Scott Yanow
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