Jill Corey

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Jill Corey
Jill Corey 1955.JPG
Corey in 1955.
Background information
Birth name Norma Jean Speranza
Born (1935-09-30) September 30, 1935 (age 82)
Avonmore, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Traditional pop

Jill Corey (born Norma Jean Speranza, September 30, 1935) is an American popular standards singer.


Corey was born in Avonmore, Pennsylvania, a coal mining community about forty miles east of Pittsburgh. Her father, Bernard Speranza, was a coal miner,[1] and she was the youngest of five children. She is a 1953 graduate of Bell-Avon High School.[2]

Corey 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).[citation needed]

At the age of 13, she began to develop her own style. She won first prize at a talent contest sponsored by the Lions Club, which entitled her to sing a song on WAVL in Apollo, Pennsylvania. This got her an offer to have her own program. By the age of 14 she was working seven nights a week, earning $5 a night,[citation needed] with a local orchestra led by Johnny Murphy. By the age of 17 she was a local celebrity talent.

A photo of Jill Corey in 2013
Corey in 2013

It was suggested she make a tape recording to demonstrate her singing skills to the outside show business world.[by whom?] 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.[citation needed]

He 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] Within six weeks the Life article, with a cover picture and seven pages, came out. Jill Corey became the youngest star ever at the Copacabana nightclub,[citation needed] and had numerous hit records.

Corey was a regular on the television variety programs Robert Q's Matinee (1950-1956)[3]:900, The Dave Garroway Show (1953-1954),[3] and the 1958-1959 version of Your Hit Parade.[3]:1209 She was co-host of Music on Ice, a variety program on NBC (1960).[3]:725

She also worked on television with Ed Sullivan. In 1956 she became a regular on Johnny Carson's CBS-network comedy-variety show from California. In addition, she had her own syndicated radio and television shows.[citation needed] In 1959 she starred in a feature-length musical film for Columbia Pictures, Senior Prom (co-produced by Moe Howard of The Three Stooges).[citation needed]

A two-CD compilation of her complete singles was released in June, 2015.[4]


Corey suspended her career[note 1][5] to marry Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Don Hoak on December 28, 1961 in Pittsburgh.[5] They had a daughter, Clare. Hoak died of a heart attack at age 41 after they had been married eight years. She then resumed her career in New York City.[citation needed]

An Associated Press article published in February 1973 pointed out the difficulties that Corey faced in attempting a comeback. "Today I don't know how to audition, how to get people interested in booking me," she said.[6] Determined to succeed, she said, "Somehow, I'm going to find a way to tell people I'm back, and that I want to sing."[6]


A two-CD compilation of her complete singles, "Love Me to Pieces" on Jasmine Records: http://www.jasmine-records.co.uk/acatalog/jascd-817.html



  1. ^ Whether she suspended her career might be questioned in light of the United Press International story about the wedding, which said, "The newlyweds will honeymoon in Hot Springs, Ark., and Bermuda where Miss Corey has singing engagements."


  1. ^ "Jill Corey To Marry Brazil Envoy". The Indiana Gazette. Pennsylvania, Indiana. April 11, 1969. p. 1. Retrieved June 13, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ Hastings, Bill (July 16, 1981). "The Lottery Winner's Right". The Indiana Gazette. Pennsylvania, Indiana. p. 13. Retrieved June 12, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ a b c d Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 239. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7. 
  4. ^ "COREY, Jill - Love Me To Pieces - The Complete Singles - Jasmine Records". www.jasmine-records.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  5. ^ a b "Hoak's Bride Is Tardy for Wedding". The Weirton Daily Times. West Virginia, Weirton. United Press International. December 28, 1961. p. 12. Retrieved June 12, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ a b "Former 'Hit Parader' Finds Comeback 'Not So Grand'". The Baytown Sun. Texas, Baytown. Associated Press. February 8, 1973. p. 12. Retrieved June 12, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read

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