"America's favorite Irish tenor," Dennis Day (born Owen Patrick McNulty) had an illustrious career as a smooth-voiced singer and comic actor. A longtime sidekick of Jack Benny, Day appeared with Benny in the 1940 film Buck Benny Rides Again and on Benny's television show in the early '50s. His film credits also included appearances in Music in Manhattan in 1944, Golden Girl in 1951, and Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood in 1976. His voice was heard in the animated films Johnny Appleseed, Melody Time (both 1948), and Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976).
Best known for his ability to sing Irish tunes including "Clancy Lowered the Boom," Day was one of the first artists to cover folk bluesman Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter's "Goodnight, Irene." Day was as comfortable with romantic tunes (such as "Mam'selle," "Dear Hearts and Gentle People," and "Mona Lisa") as he was with novelty ditties like "Mister and Mrs. Mississippi."
A graduate of St. Patrick's Cathedral High School in New York, Day attended Manhattan College for a brief period. Despite plans to become a lawyer, he was drawn increasingly to the stage. He starred in a late-'30s CBS radio show, Varieties, and caught the attention of Benny, who hired him to portray a naïve teenager on his radio show.
Serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Day sang with a Navy band under the direction of Claude Thornhill. Following his discharge in 1946, he quickly found a position as host of his own radio show. He remained with the program until 1952 when he was lured away to host the RCA Victor Show. A year later, he starred in his own series, The Dennis Day Show. His career in radio ended when the series was canceled after a year. Day continued to perform at conventions and fairs throughout the '60s. He mounted a successful comeback in the '70s that included numerous film and television appearances, including the title role in the 1978 TV special The Stingiest Man in Town. ~ Craig Harris