Rosemary Clooney was born in Maysville, Kentucky, to Marie Frances (Guilfoyle) and Andrew Joseph Clooney. She was one of five children. Her father was of Irish and German descent, and her mother was of Irish and English ancestry. She grew up in Maysville, where she and her sister Betty Clooney used to sing in her grandfather’s mayoral election campaigns, which he won three times. She made her singing debut on Cincinnati radio station WLW in 1941 at 13. On WLW she worked with band leader Barney Rapp, who had also worked with Doris Day and Andy Williams at the same station. She attended high school at Our Lady of Mercy in Cincinnati. In 1946 she appeared with her sister in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at the Steel Pier with Tony Pastor’s band. In 1949 she went solo and later appeared in White Christmas (1954), co-starring opposite Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Her first big hit was “Come On A My House” in 1951. She married José Ferrer in the 1950s and they had five children between 1955 and 1960. Her marriage to Ferrer was a tempestuous one and she had a nervous breakdown in 1968, but went on to resume her career in 1976. Her life was dramatized in a 1982 made-for-television form, which starred Clint Eastwood’s then-girlfriend Sondra Locke.
Her son Gabriel is married to singer Debby Boone, daughter of 1950s pop singer Pat Boone. Her brother, Nick Clooney, was an ABC news anchor in Cincinnati, and her nephew George Clooney has developed into one of the biggest movie stars of the 21st century. In 1968 she was standing in the Ambassdor Hotel in Los Angeles with Roosevelt Grier when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in the hotel kitchen after she had participated in his campaign rally. Her top hits include “Hey There” in 1954, “Tenderly”, “This Ole House” and “Half As Much” in 1952.
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