Stage Door Records celebrates the legacy of one of Broadway’s great leading ladies, the late Dolores Gray, with its next release. Due in stores on August 14, Heat Wave: The Decca Singles 1953-1955 has two dozen sides Gray recorded for the venerable Decca label during that period including the Irving Berlin-penned showstopper from the soundtrack of There’s No Business Like Show Business which lends this collection its title. (Gray stepped in when the film’s star Marilyn Monroe was contractually unavailable to appear on the Decca LP.) Heat Wave picks up where the 2003 Sepia Records compilation Spotlight on Dolores Gray concluded; that set included 25 sides recorded between 1949 and 1952.
Born to a vaudevillian family, Gray attracted the notice of megaphone-wielding crooner Rudy Vallee. Spots on his radio show led to a couple of minor, uncredited motion picture roles but Gray rose to prominence on the stage. She made her Broadway debut in Cole Porter’s 1944 musical Seven Lively Arts and followed it up with Are You with It? and Sweet Bye and Bye, the latter of which closed out of town. In 1947, Gray was well-known and well-regarded enough to win the title role in the original London production of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun when Ethel Merman declined to reprise her role. She made Royal Variety Show appearances in 1947 and 1949, and while in London earned a diploma from RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) in Acting. Gray returned to Broadway in 1951 opposite Bert Lahr in Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green’s Two on the Aisle. Its cast album was recorded for Decca, and the label was quick to sign Gray for pop recordings.
At Decca, the sultry singer collaborated on a long string of singles with the illustrious likes of Tutti Camarata, The Ray Charles Singers, and Sy Oliver. She recorded pop tunes, novelties, and material from then-current musicals and films. Stage Door’s volume features Dolores’ renditions of songs from Hollywood’s Shane and Three Sailors and a Girl as well as Broadway’s By the Beautiful Sea, The Girl in Pink Tights, and Silk Stockings plus “Heat Wave” and “After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It” from There’s No Business Like Show Business. (Gray’s “Lazy” was on the original Decca soundtrack album but not released as a single.)
While recording for Decca, Gray opened and closed the musical Carnival in Flanders on Broadway; despite a fine pedigree including writer-director Preston Sturges and co-star John Raitt, the show only played six performances. It did, however, win her a Tony Award as Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (and a place in the history books as the recipient whose show ran the shortest length of time). MGM and director Vincente Minnelli took notice of Dolores and swept her to Hollywood where she appeared in four of the studio’s films – two musicals (Kismet and It’s Always Fair Weather) and two comedies (The Opposite Sex and Designing Woman).
In Hollywood, with her Decca contract ended, Gray signed to Capitol and recorded her only full-length studio album, Warm Brandy, with arranger-conductor Sid Feller. She scored a Broadway triumph opposite future television superstar Andy Griffith in 1959’s Destry Rides Again but didn’t appear on the New York stage again until the short-lived Sherry! in 1967. London remained hospitable to Gray, and she electrified audiences replacing Angela Lansbury there in the Broadway-bound revival of Gypsy. (She played the role of Madame Rose regionally in the U.S., as well.) In the 1980s Dolores made her final appearances on Broadway and in the West End with 42nd Street and Follies, respectively. She died in 2002 at the age of 78.
Heat Wave: The Decca Singles 1953-1955 has new liner notes from George Dansker. It’s made possible via current U.K. public domain laws, and is limited to 500 units only. It’s due on August 14 from Stage Door but pre-orders placed directly through the label are already shipping. You’ll find the track listing below!
- Kaw-Liga (Decca 9-28582, 1953)
- My Heart Is a Kingdom (Decca 9-28582, 1953)
- Big Mamou (Decca 9-28676, 1953)
- Say You’re Mine Again (Decca 9-28676, 1953)
- The Call of the Far-Away Hills (Decca 9-28755, 1953)
- Darling, The Moon Is So Bright Tonight (Decca 9-28755, 1953)
- L.O.V.E. (Decca 9-28783, 1953)
- That’s Love, I Guess (Decca 9-28783, 1953)
- Poppa Piccolino (Decca 9-28968, 1953)
- Face to Face (Decca 9-28968, 1953)
- Sweet Cheat (Decca 9-29031, 1954)
- Flowers for the Lady (Decca 9-29031, 1954)
- Happy Habit (Decca 9-29064, 1954)
- Hang Up (Decca 9-29064, 1954)
- In Paris and In Love (Decca 9-29109, 1954)
- Lost in Loveliness (Decca 9-29109, 1954)
- Too Bad (Decca 9-29205, 1954)
- One (Decca 9-29205, 1954)
- Without Love (Decca 9-29353, 1954)
- The Finger of Suspicion Points at You (Decca 9-29353, 1954)
- After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It (Decca 9-29380, 1955)
- Heat Wave (Decca 9-29380, 1955)
- Rock Love (Decca 9-29430, 1955)
- It May Sound Silly (Decca 9-29430, 1955)