Paula Kelly (April 6, 1919 - April 2, 1992) was an American big band singer, mainly remembered as being a member of The Modernaires.
Born in Pennsylvania, in her early career, she initially sang with her two sisters, Martha and Judith, all daughters of Grove City dentist Dr. Herbert Augustus Kelly and his wife, Julia. Nicknamed "Pepper," Paula was an accomplished musician. She played violin and had perfect pitch, but excelled at singing.(Photo of The Kelly Sisters - Martha, Paula and Judy)
Her mother entered the Sisters in Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They won the contest and went on the road. Martha and Judith soon tired of show business, and Paula went solo. She worked with several orchestras, including Dick Stabile, Artie Shaw, and Al Donahue, before joining Glenn Miller, where she was brought in to replace Dorothy Claire in early 1941. Claire herself had been brought in to replace Marion Hutton, who was on leave of absence, but hadn't work out.
Kelly originally performed solo, but also soon became the female lead of The Modernaires, originally a male trio, then a quartet, resulting in the group becoming a quintet of four male singers and herself. Paula married Hal Dickinson, one of the original members of the Modernaires, shortly after joining the group on New Year’s Eve 1939.
(Photo from top: L to R Hal Dickinson, John Drake, Fran Scott, Paula Kelly & Ralph Brewster.) Hutton also briefly became part of the ensemble upon her return to Miller in August 1941, though Kelly remained the female. When Miss Hutton returned to the band, Miss Kelly briefly joined Artie Shaw, recording "Make Love to Me" and "I Don't Want to Walk Without You."
After appearing in the movie Sun Valley Serenade with Miller's orchestra in 1941, they had ten chart hits that year. Songs made popular by Miller and The Modernaires included "Perfidia", "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", with Tex Beneke (the first-ever "gold record" with over one million copies sold), "I Know Why", "Elmer's Tune", "Serenade In Blue", and "Kalamazoo", with Beneke, among others. In 1945, "There! I've Said It Again" became The Modernaire's first top-twenty hit.
In 1942, Glenn Miller went into World War II military service and his band broke up. The Modernaires, without Hutton, continued performing and recording material with Kelly as lead singer, often with Tex Beneke, who formed a post-war Miller tribute orchestra. Johnny Drake replaced Chuck Goldstein (who left the Modernaires the day after the Miller band broke up in 1942) and Fran Scott replaced Bill Conway. The Modernaires started performing on their own as the Glenn Miller Singers, before reverting to the Modernaires. Several members came and went, the most notable replacement being Allan Copeland, who wrote and arranged for Count Basie, Les Brown, Sarah Vaughn and others.
The Modernaires found success recording on their own and backing Doris Day and Sinatra. They appeared in movies such as "The Glenn Miller Story," "Orchestra Wives" and "Sun Valley Serenade," and on Bob Crosby’s radio program, "Club 15," which evolved into television’s "The Bob Crosby Show." The Modernaires were regulars on Crosby’s ventures. (Photo of Kelly and the Modernaires when they were regulars on the CBS radio program Club 15, 1951.)
For the next few decades they
travelled the world many times over making history with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. They continued with Kelly as lead singer until 1978, when she retired in favour of her daughter, who performed as Paula Kelly Jr.(died 26 April 2012). She had two other daughters, Martha (died 22 March 2006) and Juliann.
In 1976 she married Richard Turner to whom she was married until her death and lived in a fashionable Laguna Beach home. Paula died in a Costa Mesa convalescent home on April 2, 1992 after a long illness, four days before her 73rd birthday. (Info edited from Wikipedia , Solid! and The Herald, Pennsylvania)
Sun Valley Serenade is the first of the only two movies featuring The Glenn Miller Orchestra (the other is 1942's Orchestra Wives). Besides "Chattanooga Choo Choo", other Glenn Miller tunes in the film are "Moonlight Serenade", "It Happened in Sun Valley", "I Know Why (and So Do You)", and "In the Mood". Featuring Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly and The Modernaires.