What You Didn’t Know About Dinah Shore

By | October 11, 2022

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American actress and singer Dinah Shore in September 1948. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As a Big Band era singer, radio star, and TV variety show hostess, it seems like Dinah Shore did it all and, indeed, she did. During her lengthy career, Shore recorded nearly 80 pop hits, acted in several feature films, starred in seven of her own radio shows, and enjoyed a television career that spanned roughly 40 years. But did you know that she recovered from childhood polio thanks to a controversial remedy, was somewhat of a cougar when it came to romantic relationships, and was an outspoken advocate for women in sports? Let’s take a look at what you didn’t know about Dinah Shore.

Her Name Isn’t Dinah

When she was born on Leap Day in 1916, Dinah Shore was named Frances Rose and nicknamed Franny. As a college student at Vanderbilt University, she used her summer break to attend auditions in New York City in the hopes of launching her singing career. For auditions, she often sang the 1925 song, “Dinah,” which was written by Harry Akst with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young. At one audition, DJ Martin Block couldn’t remember Shore’s name, but he remembered her as the girl who sang “Dinah”, so he called her the “Dinah girl.” The name stuck and Shore adopted it as her stage name.

She Failed Key Auditions

It may be hard to believe, given her long and successful career, but Dinah Shore failed some of the most important auditions of her early career. She auditioned to be a singer with the Benny Goodman Band but was rejected. She was also rejected by both Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey’s bands. Undeterred, Shore decided not to limit herself by singing exclusively for one Big Band. Instead, she decided to be something of a free agent and record her own music. Her gamble paid off. Between 1940 and 1957, Dinah Shore released 80 hit songs.

When she started her career, the United States was in the midst of World War II. Many of her more popular hit songs of that time reflected the national sentiments about American soldiers serving overseas, including “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”, “I’ll Walk Alone”, and “Jim.” 

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Actress Dinah Shore poses for a portrait holding a tennis racquet in circa 1966. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

She Survived a Bout of Childhood Polio

Dinah Shore was just 18 months old when she contracted polio, a viral infection also known as infantile paralysis. Prior to the development of the polio vaccine, polio was a horrific disease that could cause paralysis and even death in children and young adults. Doctors recommended that polio patients remain bedridden and that cumbersome metal braces be used to keep their arms or legs immobile.

An Australian nurse with no formal medical training named Sister Elizabeth Kenny developed her own theories about treating polio. She believed that the paralysis resulted from the polio virus affecting the muscles therefore she advocated rigorous physical therapy, stretching exercises, and heated compresses. This was a controversial approach, in part because Sister Kenny had no medical education and in part because conventional medicine believed that polio paralysis was neurological in origin. Dinah Shore’s mother opted to try the Sister Kenny treatment on her young child. She put her through a strict exercise and massage regiment. It appears to have worked to some degree. She was not paralyses but she retrained a silght limp her whole life. She never let it slow her down. In school, she played sports.

She Was Quite the Pitchman … Or Woman

Dinah Shore’s radio and television shows secured corporate sponsorship from some of the biggest corporations in the country. One of her radio shows was sponsored by Colgate. The American Dairy Association, Purex, and Green Stamps also sponsored Dinah Shore’s shows. Perhaps her best-known sponsor was the Chevrolet Motor company. In fact, Shore sang “See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet” for a TV commercial in 1959 and it was an instant hit. Shore hosted The Chevy Show that was renamed The Dinah Shore Chevy Show because it was so popular. Shore took her loyalty to her sponsors seriously. When Tennessee Ernie Ford appeared as a guest on her show, she was reluctant to say his last name since it is the name of Chevy’s biggest competitor. Shore jokingly introduced Ford as “Tennessee Ernie Chevrolet”.