Molly Bee, a country singer popular in the 1950s and 1960s who was a teenage star on television's "Hometown Jamboree" and "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show," has died. She was 69.
Ms. Bee, who lived in Carlsbad (San Diego County), died Saturday of complications related to a stroke in an Oceanside (San Diego County), hospital, said Michael Allen, her son.
At 10, she sang "Lovesick Blues" for country singer Rex Allen and soon debuted on his radio show. Within two years, she was a regular on "Hometown Jamboree," a Los Angeles-based show run by Cliffie Stone, who helped popularize country music in California.
First broadcast on radio, "Jamboree" aired from the late 1940s to 1960. The show gave a big break to many young singers, including Tommy Sands, who became a teen idol and dated Ms. Bee in the 1950s.
Molly Bee had her first major recording success with "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."Credit: LA Times, File
"She had a great voice and a wonderful stage personality," Sands said Monday. "She was a sweet person, just terrific."
When she was 13, Ms. Bee signed with Capitol Records and had her first major recording success with "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in 1952.
The next year, she recorded a duet with Ford, "Don't Start Courtin' in a Hot Rod Ford," when she was 13. In 1954, Ms. Bee left the children's TV program "The Pinky Lee Show" to join Ford's daytime variety show.
Before their performance of "Dim Lights Thick Smoke," Ford teased Ms. Bee about the pigtails she once wore and praised her "silver bell voice." He then coaxed her to yodel, a skill she had honed on the Beltbuckle, Tenn., farm where she spent her early years.
Born Mollie Gene Beachboard on Aug. 18, 1939, in Oklahoma City, she moved to Tucson in the 1940s and to Los Angeles when she was 11.
As her career took off, she appeared on a number of TV variety shows and had more hit singles, including "Young Romance," "Don't Look Back" and "5 Points of a Star."
In the 1960s, she turned toward acting, appearing in several stage musicals and films but once said she was "too shy" to embrace acting. Her films included "Chartroose Caboose" (1960) and "The Young Swingers" (1963).
Ms. Bee regularly headlined in the 1960s at major Las Vegas showrooms and briefly toured with Bob Hope's USO troupe.
She struggled with drug addiction and took several years away from performing to rebuild her life, biographical sources said.
"I've done it all and lived to tell about it," Ms. Bee once said. "Mine has been like six lifetimes rolled into one."
Married at least five times, she called herself "the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the country music set." Her marriage to country singer Ira Allen lasted 10 years.
Through her children, she found equilibrium, she said in 1975 in Country Song Roundup magazine. Ms. Bee reconnected with Stone, made two more albums and often toured with her two daughters in tow.
Eventually, she moved to Oceanside with her family in 1986 and regularly performed in the early 1990s at a local restaurant and nightclub she ran called Molly Bee's.
In addition to her son, Michael Allen of Napa, she is survived by daughters Lia Genn of Winchester (Riverside County) and Bobbi Carey of Oceanside; brother Robert Beachboard of Escondido (San Diego County); and four grandchildren.
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