Shay was born Dorothy Sims in Jacksonville, Florida. When she began her career as a 'straight' singer, she took vocal lessons to lose her Southern accent. She sang for the USO during World War II. Dorothy changed her name to "Shay" in order to not be confused with Ginny Simms, another performer of the day, choosing "Shay" to honour her mentor Betty Shay (Betty Shay later became Betty Corday when she married Ted Corday, producer of Days of our Lives) While performing with Morton Gould and his orchestra, she performed an encore, "Uncle Fud," a hayseed novelty number that became very popular and launched her solo singing career.
She signed with Columbia Records and recorded a series of hit records. Her biggest hit was "Feudin' And Fightin'" in 1947. With the chart success of her record Dorothy Shay was destined to continue to perform songs in a similar style and found it difficult to escape the association with country music for the remainder of her professional life. In her singing engagements, she performed dressed as a sophisticated urbanite while talking like a rural Southerner.
She was popular in clubs, radio and television. She also played a nightclub singer, also named Dorothy, in the 1951 Abbott and Costello movie Comin' Round The Mountain. She performed at Dwight D. Eisenhower's Inaugural Ball in 1953. When long playing records came into being Shay recorded a couple of ten inch LPs. One long player which had titles such as Sagebrush Sadie and Howlinest, Hootinest Gal stayed in the familiar country music territory.
However the second Capitol LP had the advantage of that creative genius Billy May in charge of the music and these sessions, mainly show songs, gave her the opportunity to divert from the cornfields and show the more sophisticated style she was so obviously capable of portraying. Although the 'Western' theme is present with music from Annie Get Your Gun and Oklahoma!, Shay proves a versatile and confident performer of Broadway standards such as Take Back Your Mink and Always True To You In My Fashion. She also recorded for Imperial Records where she recorded a rockabilly song titled "Hunky Dory".
She was married briefly to Dick Looman in 1958. After a period of inactivity in the 1960s, she returned to show business as a character actress in the 1970s. She had a recurring role as Thelma in the TV series The Waltons.
She died of a heart attack on October 22, 1978 in Santa Monica, California. Upon her death, the writers of The Waltons wrote her character off, with the mention that she sold the Dew Drop Inn and moved to California. (info mainlyWikipedia)