Dennis Day was the perennial "kid" singer whose signature line—"Oh, Mr. Benny"—was enough to generate thunderous studio applause on Jack Benny's radio and television shows.
A mischievous leprechaun of an Irish tenor, Day was also a talented mimic who would bury Benny beneath a cascade of dialects and characters, only stopping when the exasperated comedian would sigh and say, "Oh, for heaven's sake. Sing, Dennis."
And sing he did in his smooth, lilting tenor. His selections ranged from "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, That's an Irish Lullaby" to the lively, foot-tapping "MacNamara's Band."
Day intended to enroll in law school at Fordham University after graduating from Manhattan College in 1939. But a recording of his songs that he mailed to Benny's wife, Mary Livingston, changed those plans permanently. Livingston persuaded her husband to give Day a two-week tryout.
"I was a green kid out of college when I joined the show Oct. 8, 1939," Day said. "I'll never forget it. I was scared stiff. But he [Benny] was like a father to me, so kind and gentle. Two weeks went into practically 35 years."
Although he specialized in Irish ballads like "Danny Boy," and appeared in eight films, Day was best known for his playful encounters with Benny.
In his final years, Day sang at conventions, fairs, churches and clubs. He continued to make appearances at benefits, despite the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair.
In 1985, he teamed for the first time with his sister-in-law, Ann Blyth, at an appearance in Downey. They were such a hit, that they agreed to an encore performance at El Camino College in Torrance.
Among Day's popular recordings were "Peg of My Heart" and "Clancy Lowered the Boom." His films included "Buck Benny Rides Again," "Music in Manhattan," "One Sunday Afternoon" and "Melody Time."