Jill's First Review
On October 17, 1953, just fifteen days after Jill made her debut on the
Dave Garroway Show on NBC television, the following lengthy
article by television and radio columnist Jack O'Brian appeared in the
New York Journal-American, one of New York City's leading
newspapers of the day.
Is Racing Up the Hill to Catch a Pail of Stardust
JILL COREY was 18 just two months ago. She's a starry-eyed, shiny-faced
kid with a nice sad-sweet, straight forward gaze that reminds folks of
Judy Garland's face. No resemblance otherwise. She sings like
a warm-hearted little angel uttering a personal message in only your ear,
even when singing to millions on TV. We've heard her new recordings
(sorry, sworn to secrecy, Tin Pan Alley being like that, competitive) and
they're darned near as good as her noisiest employers insist. Odd
thing, everyone who has met this youngster has been smitten.
Before we get too far along in our own admiration, let's explain that Jill
Corey sings on the Dave Garroway Show, Fridays, NBC. She's
the kind of kid Garroway can sidle up next to, put his arm around and no
one suspects it is anything but a fatherly or, anyway, brotherly gesture.
Jill's that sort of young lady.
She's a little breathless, of course, at her brand new stardom. There
really wasn't much story to it, and that's the story in itself. No
futile knocking on Tin Pan Alley doors.
Her happy story started only six weeks ago. Already she's been heralded
by TV fans and critics as something really special.
Movie offers await. Magazines are scurrying to interview her.
LIFE may put her on the cover. Everyone concerned insists
that no doubt exists that Jill will, as they say in the trade, "make it."
We asked Mitch Miller, boss of Columbia Records, if he thought Jill
would "make it." His one-word reply:
right; let's back up six weeks:
Jill has been singing for several years as a part-time vocalist with Johnny
Murphy's band, a bunch of eager kids who played around Pittsburgh.
"Like Guy Lombardo, or Sammy Kaye," Jill said.
"A very good band," she insisted. Proms, school dances, informal
stuff. Jill was paid six dollars a night, several evenings a week.
One day she got up courage and walked into radio station WAKU in
Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She knew a fellow there, Warren Koreble, and
asked if she might make a tape of her voice. She didn't even use
a piano accompaniment. She selected a couple of standard tunes, "Since
My Lover Has Gone" and "I Only Have Eyes for You."
Fate speeded things a little when Koreble started the now madly expanding
parade of Corey zealots. He rushed the tape forthwith to Jim Winston,
Columbia Records' Pittsburgh distributor. He, too, impressed, shipped
the tape to Mitch Miller, the eccentric genius who wears a goatee, plays
oboe in Carnegie Hall with the finest chamber music groups and on the side
turns Johnnie Ray and Rosemary Clooney into stars overnight by his strange
genius with the dizziest modern popular songs.
As Mitch harkened to the tape, his strange musical sixth sense started
to explode. He telephoned Jill on the spot. Come quick to New
York. Let's hear you with a band, see if you look better than a gargoyle.
Jill couldn't come alone. Sister had to stand by. Big city
"All right, bring her too," Mitch said. So Jill and sis scooted into
town. Mitch saw, liked, heard, gloated. Then: How would
Jill look on TV? This was solved immediately. They hustled
the amazed and somewhat frightened youngster to NBC. Someone knew about
an NBC show that came in two parts with a 15-minute interruption wherein
the cameras have to be in focus and manned. They pushed Jill in front
of the camera, dashed into the control room to see how she registered.
They almost swooned.
Jill looked even better on TV, a strange gadget which sometimes distorts
an attractive person into a beast, a beast into a Barrymore.
of Columbia Records' enthusiasts was Lloyd Leipzig, who knows Charlie Andrews,
producer-writer of the Garroway Show. They talked, Jill walked, sang
and again everyone swooned. It didn't take long for Jill to feel
certain it was all a dream. Too short a time for so many daydreams
to come true - but, they had.
Back to her hometown of Avonmore, Pennsylvania, pack for more than a two-day
visit this time. Kissed her older brother and three sisters so-long
(She's the baby; her mother's been dead since she was four.) and shuffled
off to Brooklyn to stay with an aunt for several days, then, like any good
career girl, into the Barbizon Hotel for Women.
On her first Garroway show Jill was terribly nervous. Charlie Andrews
wondered if she mightn't be calmer with a prop to lean on. "What
sort of a prop?" Garroway asked. "You," Andrews said. And that's
how it came about that Jill leaned on Dave when she started, who stayed
close by as she sang and gave her the fatherly (Oh, all right, brotherly)
We wrote this before last night's Garroway show, so if you've missed seeing
Jill Corey until now, make a date with yourself for next Friday.
Be among the first to see a bright little star aborning.
Although there are minor factual errors
in Mr. O'Brian's piece, the essence of the review accurately reflects Jill's
whirlwind discovery, audition and debut on national television. The
LIFE cover to which Mr. O'Brian alludes as a possibility
did, in fact, materialize, as shown below. Inside the issue was a
full seven-page feature story about Jill and the loving family of which
she was the product. That Mr. O'Brian was right on target in his
initial assessment of Jill's talents and her potential for success is confirmed
by yet another quote, cited below, from Silver Screen magazine
some five years later.