Birth Date: September 30, 1935 / Age: 78
Birth Place: Avonmore, Pennsylvania, USA
Biography: Jill Corey (born Norma Jean Speranza September 30, 1935) was a traditional pop music singer.
She was born in Avonmore, Pennsylvania, about forty miles east of Pittsburgh. The community was mainly devoted to coal mining. She was the youngest of five children.
She began singing as an imitator of Carmen Miranda at family gatherings and on amateur shows in grade school (never winning any prizes, usually finishing last). At age 13 she gave up the Carmen Miranda imitations and began to develop her own style. This won her first prize at a talent contest sponsored by the Lions Club, entitling her to sing a song on a local radio station. Thes got her invited to have her own program, a major accomplishment for a 13 year old.
By the age of 14, she was working seven nights a week, earning $5 a night, with a local orchestra led by Johnny Murphy. By age 17 she was a celebrity in her local area. It was suggested she make a tape recording to demontrate her singing skills to the outside show business world. She made the recording at the home of the only owner of a tape recorder in town, with trains going by in the background and no accompaniment. But the tape came to the attention of Mitch Miller, who headed the artists & repertory section at Columbia Records. He normally received over 100 record demos a week, and this one, with a 17-year-old girl and its train background, would not have been likely to gain his attention. But he did, and was so impressed that he immediately telephoned her in Avonmore, and the next morning she flew to New York to be heard by Miller in a more normal studio setting. Miller had Life Magazine send over reporters and photographers, and had her audition with Arthur Godfrey and Dave Garroway. The Life photographers reenacted her signing a contract with Columbia, and all this happened in a single day, with her headed back to Avonmore that night.
Both Garroway and Godfrey called her, and it was her choice to pick one; she picked Garroway, who took the name "Jill Corey" out of a telephone book. Within six weeks the Life article, with a cover picture and seven pages, came out. She did television with Garroway, Robert Q. Lewis, and Ed Sullivan, and became a regular for the last nine months of Johnny Carson's show from California. She became the youngest star ever at the Copacabana night club, and had numerous hit records. And she had her own syndicated radio and television shows, and became the last featured singer on Your Hit Parade. She also started to take dance classes and star in motion pictures.
But she gave up her career to marry Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Don Hoak, with whom she had a girl, Clare. Then Hoak died of a heart attack after they had been married eight years. She went back to New York and became a musical actress.