Rosemary Clooney soared to fame in the early 1950s with the novelty tune "Come On-a My House," overcame prescription-pill addiction and a nervous breakdown in the late '60s and began a comeback in the late '70s that boosted her stature as one of the finest pop singers in show business.
Clooney made her first solo record in 1946, "I'm Sorry I Didn't Say I'm Sorry When I Made You Cry Last Night."
In June 1951, Columbia's head of artists and repertoire, Mitch Miller, told Clooney she'd be recording "Come On-a My House," a quasi-Armenian folk song written by an unlikely duo: author William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian, who, as David Seville, later created the singing Chipmunks.
Within weeks, Clooney had one of the biggest-selling songs in the country and "Come On-a My House" went on to sell more than a million copies.
Over the next four years, Clooney amassed a string of hits, including "Tenderly" (a No. 1 tune that became her theme song), "Half as Much," "Botch-a-me," "Too Old to Cut The Mustard" (a duet with Marlene Dietrich), "The Night Before Christmas Song" (with Gene Autry), "Hey There," "This Ole House," and "Mambo Italiano."
As Paramount's latest "girl next door," the blond, blue-eyed Clooney made her motion picture debut in 1953 in "The Stars Are Singing," a largely forgettable musical. She made five movies in quick succession, including her most memorable film, "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, but her film career never took off.
She hosted "The Rosemary Clooney Show," a syndicated half-hour show in the 1955-'56 season, and appeared frequently on television variety shows — guest shots in which her frequent pregnancies prompted Bob Hope to quip that "Rosie's favorite game is Vatican Roulette" and Tennessee Ernie Ford to insist, "You've got to find out what's causing this."
A friend of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's, she was at the Ambassador Hotel in June 1968 when he was assassinated, triggering what became a complete mental breakdown.
In 1991, she made her debut at Carnegie Hall. In 1994, she was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding guest actress in a drama series for her role as an Alzheimer's patient given to belting out songs without warning on NBC's "ER," starring nephew George.
In 1996, she achieved her first No. 1 album, "Rosemary Clooney's White Christmas," which topped the jazz charts for three weeks.