Introduction to Dorothy Collins


Dorothy Collins (born Marjorie Chandler in 1926 – died in 1994) was a Canadian/American singer and actress, who reached the peak of fame during the 50s music era. She had been a singer on several local radio stations in Windsor, Ontario in Canada (her birthplace) and Detroit. When pioneer bandleader Raymond Scott became her mentor, she sang on his band the Raymond Scott Quintet as he groomed her for stardom. Even when Scott became the musical director of the hit radio show Your Hit Parade, Collins continued so sing with the Quintet until she and Scott worked together again. She sang the ad jingles that Scott had penned for the American Tobacco Company, the sponsor of the radio show, and which commissioned Scott to write the jingles. When Your Hit Parade made the transition into television, Collins was made as feature vocalist. From there her popularity steadily grew. She remained with the program for a long time before its cancellation in the late 50s music era. Collins also married Scott and went on with their professional duties together. They divorced in 1965, and Collins re-married, this time with actor and singer Ron Holgate (they also divorced years later). She also had a successful Broadway career, highlighted by her appearance on Follies, wherein her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination. In terms of her recording career, she released a handful of singles including “My Boy – Flat Top” (1955), “Baciare Baciare (Kissing Kissing)” (1955) and “Seven Days” (1956). In later years she performed in theater and cabaret shows until asthma forced her to retire in 1980. She died in 1994 of respiratory illness and heart attack, aged 67.

Early years 

Marjorie Chandler, professionally known as Dorothy Collins, was born on November 18, 1926. She hailed from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She was a Canadian/American singer, actress and recording artist who became popular via the radio show Your Hit Parade in the 1940’s. When Collins was 12 years old, she won at numerous amateur talent contests in Detroit which led her to become a regular on radio stations in Windsor and Detroit.  When she became 14, Collins was introduced to a Chicago-based bandleader/composer Raymond Scott whom she later became his protege. After a year being coached, Collins started performing in jazz clubs across the US with Scott’s sextet, Quintette (yes, that’s the name) which was also Scott’s talent on his Master Label. In 1949, Scott worked as an orchestra conductor on the popular CBS Radio program, Lucky Strike’s Your Hit Parade. The following year, Your Hit Parade was transferred to NBC television where Scott urged Collins to go for an audition which gave her a vocalist slot. Because of her stint on that show, she rose into national prominence in late 1950.

Music career

With Collins’ exposure on the television show in 1950, she stood out among all her fellow vocalists and became a crowd favorite. Collins captured the audience with her girl-next-door image and her high-necked blouses which later became her signature look. Also on the program, she was made as a spokeswoman/vocalist on commercials of the American tobacco company Lucky Strike. After two years, she married Scott. The marriage also paved for a  collaboration on Coral label  At Home with Dorothy & Raymond, since they were still professional partners.

In the 1950’s, Collins already recorded more singles but none of them made any commercial impact. On the other hand, the singles she released through 1955 to 1960 finally entered the Billboard chart, among of them were “My Boy Flat Top” (#16, 1955), “Seven Days” (#17, 1956), “Baciare, Baciare” (#43, 1959), and “Banjo”(#79, 1960). In 1958, Collins released an album which contained the compositions of musician/TV host/comedian Steve Allen simply entitled Picnic: Dorothy Collins Sings Steve Allen. And at the end of the decade, she participated on Experiment Songs, an album consisted of educational songs.

Aside from being a recording artist, Collins had been also involved in theater for some time. In 1957, she played the role of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, in St Louis, Missouri. In 1971, she was cast in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, her first-ever Broadway debut. Her role as Sally Durant Plummer earned her a Best Actress in a Musical nomination at Tony Awards. Collins also played as Dolly in Hello Dolly in 1980.

Collins finally retired in the business in 1980 due to acute asthma. Since 1988, she had been serving for Muscular Dystrophy Association as its vice president. At her home in Watervliet, New York on July 21 1994, Collins passed away from asthma and respiratory distress. She was 67 years old.