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Affectionately known as the "champagne of big-band singers," Dolly Dawn (born Theresa Anna Maria Stabile) was one of the most successful vocalists of the late '30s and '40s. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Dawn was a teenager when she began appearing on a local weekend radio show under the alias "Billie Starr." Her permanent stage name, Dolly Dawn, was bestowed upon her by New York Journal-American columnist Harriet Mencken.
A member of George Hall's Hotel Taft Orchestra, Dawn appeared daily on CBS radio broadcasts from the Grill Room of the Hotel Taft. Best remembered for her passionate delivery of ballads, she was featured on such hits as "Every Minute of the Hour," "When the Poppies Bloom Again," "Oh! Ma Ma (The Butcher Boy)," "Says My Heart," "My Yellow Basket," and "My Own." At one point, she was the only pop artist with two contracts simultaneously with two rival record labels. She appeared on RCA's Bluebird subsidiary with the George Hall Orchestra, and on Vocalion as Dolly Dawn & Her Dawn Patrol. Influential columnist Walter Winchell claimed that she sang "like a canary," while vocalist Ella Fitzgerald credited her as a major influence.
Dawn enjoyed a revival of her career after RCA released a two-disc compilation of her recordings with the George Hall Orchestra in 1975. This led to a series of performances at jazz and cabaret clubs in New York. In 1980, Larry Taylor of the Chelsea Music Society booked her to perform at Caroline's, the Latin Quarter, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The success of these shows led her to record two new albums, Smooth as Silk and Memories of You on the Audiophile label. Dawn's most successful tune, "You're a Sweetheart," was the most popular song in the U.S. in early 1938. In addition to appearing in numerous musical shorts, she composed more than 400 tunes. Assuming leadership of her group during a ceremony at New York's Roseland Ballroom on July 4, 1941, she led the band until most members were drafted into the military and the group disbanded in 1942. Dawn continued to record into the '50s, scoring her final hit with "The Same Old Cry," recorded with the Danny Mendelsohn Orchestra. She recorded her final album, Memories of You, in September 1981.
On February 4, 1998, Dawn was inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame during a ceremony in West Palm Beach, FL. She succumbed to kidney failure on December 11, 2002.