Those who remember Your Hit Parade from 1950s TV will also recall that it featured an ensemble cast, but there’s little doubt that the heart and soul of the show was Dorothy Collins. In addition to being the spokesperson for sponsor Lucky Strike cigarettes, she was front and center on many of the best songs, and — probably not incidentally — was also married to the show’s musical director, Raymond Scott.
Canadian born, she began life as Marjorie Chandler of Windsor, just across the river from Detroit, where she first began to attract some attention in the late 1930s as a precocious pre-teen singer. She soon became a regular on Detroit radio, and by her mid-teens had also attracted the attention of relentless musical explorer Raymond Scott, who was always looking for new talent to fold into his latest experimental jazz groups.
Scott became her mentor, grooming the young singer for success by providing coaching and further training, and during the war years she appeared regularly with his various musical combos. When Scott was later hired as musical director of the long-running radio program Your Hit Parade*, which then made the move to TV, it didn’t take long for Dorothy Collins to became one of the stars. A little later, she also became the wife of the much-older Scott.
For several years things went pretty well. With Scott’s help, Collins was able to expand her horizons by making some pretty good records on the side, mostly ballads. Ironically, her highest-charted solo record — 1955’s “My Boy, Flat Top” — was something very different, and was probably an attempt to reach out to fans of rock and roll. A lot of performers did the same in that era.
In any case, she left the TV show in 1957 and divorced Scott a few years later. Although she found some success in subsequent years, including numerous TV appearances and a Tony nomination on Broadway, her lifelong battle with asthma started to wear her down and by the late 1970s she was mostly retired from performing. She died in 1994 at age 67.
* Occasionally referred to as Lucky Strike’s Your Hit Parade.