I would imagine that most of us remember “This Ole House,” a song that was a chart-topper for Rosemary Clooney — and one she apparently didn’t hate. (An earlier ‘house’ hit — “Come On-a My House”– was notoriously NOT her favorite song.) But even if you remember Rosie’s classic, did you know that British singer Billie Anthony also had a big hit with her version of the song?
Scottish-born Philomena McGeachie Levy was exposed to show business from an early age. Her mother was a professional dancer, and young ‘Phil’ became accustomed to the life while growing up in the years before and during World War II. She started her own career as a dancer when she ran away from home at age 14, spending the post-war years in various touring troupes before eventually forming a partnership with fellow dancer Peter Elliott.
By then it was into the 1950s and the twosome — billing themselves as The Debonair Dancers — did pretty well until Elliott was drafted into the British army. Although she would later marry him, Phil took the opportunity to go in a different direction with her career. Changing her stage name to Billie Anthony, she began working hard to become a singer. Helped along by her friend, well-known British singer Tony Brent, she soon began showing up regularly on stages throughout Great Britain.
She soon found her way to the recording studio too, but her initial records didn’t do particularly well. That all changed in 1954, when her record of “This Ole House” chased Rosie’s up the charts, ending up at number four. Although she would never have another hit record, it did bring her a lot of fame for a while. Often billed as “Britain’s Blonde Bombshell”, she continued working for a number of years but things gradually slowed down and she retired to a private life. She was just 58 when she died from natural causes in 1991.
(Below is a video of Rosemary Clooney from the 1980s.)