About The Artist
Molly Beachboard was the name she was born with, but country music fans would know her as Molly Bee. She was born in Oklahoma and was part Indian.
When Molly was growing up, she first wanted to be a "prima ballerina". She was taught how to sing and yodel by her brother, but at that time (when she was about six years old), singing didn't impress her as much as dancing.
Then the family moved to Tuscon, Arizona where Molly continued her dancing lessons. She performed at many of the usual venues - childrens shows, recitals, at school and at church - and at the same time, feeling quite at home on the stage.
When she was ten years old, a popular disc jockey in Tuscon heard her singing at a school play. Rex Allen liked her rendition of "Lovesick Blues" so much, that he had her on his show a few days later. It was about that time that singing became more a focus than dancing.
Shortly after this experience on radio in Arizona, the family (she had two brothers), moved to Hollywood, California. She attended Wilson Junior High in Pasadena.
You will read often that other artists will cite another singer as someone who influenced them or sparked that interest early in their lives. One such singer by the name Weslia Whitfield cited the impression Molly made on her in a 1993 article in the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Whitfield recalled for the WSJ that one of her earliest memories was from a visit to her grandparents house in Los Angeles, California to watch their television back around 1949 or so. She vividly recalls watching the Red Owen show and seeing this young singer named Molly Bee perform. She said Molly's trademark back then was to come on stage without any shoes on. Seeing Molly perform, Ms. Whitfield told herself then, "That's what I'm going to do."
A 1956 article featuring Cliffie Stone relates how Molly Bee was introduced to country music audiences. Cliffie had met Tennessee Ernie Ford while working at KXLA in Pasadena, California and persuaded him to join his troupe on the weekends and their travels around southern California. Cliffie was working for Capitol Records at the time as well and secured a recording contract for Mr. Ford. It wasn't too long before he was introduced to a young twelve year old named Molly Beachboard. She sang "Lovesick Blues" for Cliffie as well and soon she was appearing on his shows and had a recording contract.
Molly Bee got a recording contract with Capitol records when she was just 13 years old and was starring on radio and tv and personal appearances. She was still much the teenager, wearing pigtails, attending junior high. She got her start singing when she was ten years old, in Tucson, Arizona - and she had a 15 minute show there on the NBC network station there.
She got that start when Al Morris, a hillbilly dj on KCNA in Tucson heard her sing and she impressed him so much, he got station executives to listen to her, too. But Tucson wasn't enough. Hollywood was on her mind, too.
When she got to Hollywood, Cliffie Stone saw her on tv and got her to start appearing regularly on the Hometown Jamboree over KLAC-TV and also the radio version of the show over KXLA radio out of Pasadena. The Hometown Jamboree originated from the El Monte Legion Stadium. One of the long-time sponsors of the show as Gold's Furniture Store, who had sponsored the show for at least five years at the time of the 1953 article we found. The show later moved to the Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim, California.
She was quite popular with the audiences then. She became a regular on the daily Pinky Lee NBC-TV show. She was also doing regular appearances on the Bob Crosby Show with fellow Jamboree vocalist, Joanie O'Brien. She also worked with such stars as Ed Sullivan, Roy Rogers, Jimmy Rodgers, Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny and Bob Hope over the years.
Her recording of "Tennessee Tango" was scored by arranger-conductor Van Alexander - giving it some background music that had clarinets and saxophones. It was Mr. Alexander in 1937 who wrote and conducted a tune called "A-tisket A-tasket" for Ella Fitzgerald and got her career on the move.
Her first release did so well, that it got followed quickly by a Christmas recording called "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Willy Claus".
By 1955, Cliffie Stone had moved the Hometown Jamboree to the Valley Gardens Arena in North Hollywood, California. Members of the show's cast would make regular appearances in the southern California area. Country and Western Jamboree magazine had a regular column called "On The Trail" where they listed personal appearances being made by various acts. Throughout 1955, the magazine listed Molly as part of the Hometown Jamboree at the Valley Gardens Arena each week.
They described her singing style then as '...youthful exuberance, strong jazz sense and reads lyrics with a maturity far beyond her years." Her first recording was "Tennessee Tango" along with "The Kids Who Pay".
In 1955, she was signed by Coral Records. But it appears the record company wanted to stretch her audience. A note in one 1955 news report indicated that Coral was going to have her record both country and pop material. At the time, she was a regular not only on Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree, but Tennessee Ernie Ford's show as well.
Country and Western Jamboree had a regular "Checkin' The Records" section in their magazine where they listed the new singles released and offered some commentary about the music they heard on those records. But at times, those reviews appeared to be trying too hard for lame humor. But in May of 1955, while trying to provoke a smile to the reader, they offer up the contrast in the two sides of a Coral records release by Molly. One was "I Won't Grow Up" that was backed by a tune called "False Alarm", which was about a cheater in love. Keep in mind, she was only 16 at the time. This aspect of a young singer singing a tune that fit her age group but also singing of more mature, adult themes may not be all that uncommon. Let's think back to when Tanya Tucker came on the scene and was singing such tunes as "Delta Dawn".
Country and Western Jamboree magazine mentioned another of her Coral releases in April of 1956 and it is interesting to note the themes of the material. For one side, "Fair Weather Fellow", the magazine notes that she knows he's fickle and their love will soon come to an end. On the other side, "Young and Naive", the magazine tells us its a song about a young lady who has found a new love, but hopes "...he won't find out she's so young."
A 1967 article tells us that in her first personal appearance, she borke the six-year attendance record at the Mesker Auditorium in Evansville, Indiana. She then went on to break the attendance record at the Ohio State Fair.
Molly appeared in several movies in her career, but as we'll see later from a 1975 interview, she didn't feel she did too well as an actress. She felt she was "too shy" and said they weren't 'released', they 'escaped'. Her first movie was in 1958 with Allan Reed, Jr., Bill Goodwin, Ralph Moody, Ken Miller, Susan Easter and Irene Hervey in a film for Columbia called "Going Steady" . She later did "Summer Love" for Universal International in 1958 with such folks as John Saxon, Jill St. John, Troy Donohue, Fay Wray, Rod McKuen, Shelley Fabares, George Winslow, and Edward Platt. Other movies included "The Chartroose Caboose" in 1960 (starring such folks as Ben Cooper, Edgar Buchanan, Slim Pickens, Michael McGreevey, and Kay Bartels) and in 1963, "The Young Swingers" (her co-stars included Rod Lauren, Gene McDaniels, Jack Larson, Karen Gunderson, John Merritt, Jo Helton, Justin Smith, Jerry Summers and Jack Younger). According to the online movie database resource, imdb.com, she first appeared in a "musical-featurette" for Universal that starred Tennessee Ernie Ford, Cliffie Stone, Herman the Hermit, Billy Strange, Bucky Tibbs and the rest of the Hometown Jamboree gang.
She even did a bit of stage work. Her first effort was in San Francisco at the Garden Court Theater in the Sheraton Palace Hotel in "The Boy Friend." Around 1967, she did "Finian's Rainbow" with ALan Young at the Melodyland theatre in Anaheim.
Molly also did several appearances on the Jimmy Dean network television show. Another network show she worked on was Swinging Country which was hosted by the newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Roy Clark.
Around 1967, Dick Clark and Barbara John put together a new show for NBC, "Swingin' Country". It featured three regulars - Roy Clark, Molly Bee and Rusty Draper. The show gained popularity and even the Armed Forces Radio and Television picked it up to be seen by over 250,000 military people stationed around the world. The show had guest stars such as Leroy Van Dyke, JOdy Miller, Rex Allen, Webb Pierce, Don Bowman, Tex Williams, Hank Thompson, Ferlin Husky, Merle Haggard, Jimmy Wakely and Bonnie Guitar. It also featured a few folks that some might not consider 'country' oriented in their music. These included Vic Dana, Dorsey Burnett, Tommy Leoneti, Roger, WIlliams and Al Martino. But the show was country - it would feature country music, whether sung by country artists or popular artists. And wouldn't you have liked to seen the show that Rex Allen was a guest? Imagine that many years later after Rex had hosted the young Molly Bee, the tables were turned and Molly was hosting Rex on her show.
Molly gave an interview to Country Song Roundup magazine back in 1975 that provides some interesting insights into her career, observations and her life.
At the time, she had been on a rest from her musical career, living in Las Vegas and raising her two daughters. She, in her mind, she was becoming quite domestic back then. She had gone to a bingo game or some such gathering and some would recognize her and ask her, "Didn't you used to be Molly Bee?".
She had kept in contact with Cliffie Stone all through her career. She had come to a point where she decided a divorce was needed as well as a change of scenery by taking her daughters and moving back to California to try and take up her singing career again.
She told CSR magzaine that life in Las Vegas was similar to Tucson and not just weather wise. She noted that everybody knew what everyone else was doing and the focus is all local - the rest of the world they just ignored. She called it "very small ownie".
But she noted, if you forgot to pick up your cleaning, you could still do it at 2am or you could go and get your hair done at midnight. She said you just don't spend time on the strip doing "the tourist thing."
She mentions she was married for a time to a boss at the Tropicana Hotel and observed that its not a very anti-social type of setting, no one seemed to mix much. She was accustomed to being around a lot of people and a lot of activity going on. She notes, that in the Las Vegas gaming business, "You just don't fraternize."
The subject of her very young start in the entertainment industry came up. She was asked if she felt she had missed out on anything. She replied that she felt she actually did more - "I lived six lifetimes in one." She told CSR that if her kids decided they wanted to be in the music business, even at a young age, she hoped they would have as much fun as she did. She had gone around the world by the time she was just 19 years old. She recalls working with "incredible people and always into where the action was." Granted it wasn't all glamor - the long trips, sitting in airporst all night and the like, but she says, "I wouldn't trade it for the world."
She told CSR that she started becoming conscious that she might be a celebrity when she would notice that people would point or stare at her in public places such as restaurants. She notes her first date was with Stan Freeburg. Then it got to her a bit, causing her to be self-conscious, and began a routine of trying to duck the sit down restaurants and doing the drive-in lane, trying to avoid too much visibility so she could feel comfortable when she was out and about.
One of the reasons for the interview was the restart of her singing career and more of a focus on her recordings. She notes it had been a while between records, but noted she had never really focused on that aspect. Up to that point, the focus had been on personal appearances at state fairs, rodeos, concerts, television spots and movies. Touring to promote a record was new to her after being in the entertainment business for 25 years.
She told CSR that her nine years with the Tennessee Ernie Ford show were the most enjoyable years. She told the readers that she was home most of the time, got to see her family everyday. Yet, she was still "...being seen by a million people and don't even realize it." She opined, "It's scary when you go out on the road and there's thousands of people in little towns that you had no idea of, who had known everything about you."
She was asked whether the attitude of people on the club scene had changed towards female enertainers since the 1960s. She replied that she had not performed at clubs much - felt it was the hardest personal appearance to do. She had started her career again by doing mostly specials, recordings and television, including an appearance on Hee Haw and the Wembley Music Festival in London. She felt doing those two or three shows a night in the club scene was perhaps one of the toughest roles to play.
When she got back into the entertainment business again in 1975, she wanted to give her recording career a bigger emphasis - she wanted that hit record. But she also wanted to be a part of a television series - a situation that would allow her to be at home and be with her children. She fond that the travels caused her phone bills to sky rocket.
Finally, CSR asked her if she had changed her singing style now that she had matured. She noted that "I understand things now that were just words to me before. I think I've finally got around to maturing." She further noted, "I worked twenty years without really stopping and you cna't relate to real people unless you've lived something normal." For example, she notes, "they handed me my first baby and I didn't know how to tune her. I said this won't get in tune. OK, it was crazy, but having kids, I learned you could get so involved in aoother person. The first time you're around little babies, you discover they got you. You just die for them. It was the first time I ever felt anything like that and it's changed my outlook on everything."
1990s and Later
Molly left an impression with the folks she entertained. While reviewing old articles that mention Molly, we found a memory a disc jockey by the name of Dave Hull told the Orange County Register in an interview upon returning to KRLA. He said he was going to start doing the old "Love Line" segment on his show again which tried to match up single guys and gals. He recalled a caller by the name of Floyd who once called up and well, had no love life to speak of. But Floyd did get the biggest kick out of seeing Molly perform in concerts out in Blythe, California.
Perhaps by this time Molly was no longer traveling across the country doing personal appearances, but would still make appearances in southern California. In April of 1998, she was part of a roster of entertainers playing a benefit for the Ivey Ranch Park for the physically handicapped and mentally retarded, using the Old West as a back-drop to the benefit. The concert was held in Oceanside, California at the park across from the Mission San Luis Rey.
In 1991, the Sterling Silver Inn at 8737 Fenwick Street in Sunland, California was trying to offer live entertainment to its audiences, but did not want to hire its own band. The owners, Ruben Carranza and Ronald Battaglia, decided to bring some traditional country music acts to town. One was Johnny Lee. On August 9, 1997, Cliffie Stone along with the Riders of the Purple Sage and Molly were to appear; admission was $20.
After Cliffie Stone died in 1998, his wife Joan would organize an annual tribute concert to Cliffie that would include many of the former people associated with him and the Hometown Jamboree. The benefit concert, sponsored by the Music Performance Trust Fund, was held at the William S. Hart Park in Newhall, California in 1998 and continued to be a venue for the tribute show. Molly appeared on the roster for that tribute in 1998 along with the Riders of the Purple Sage and the Al Vescovo band among others, and would always feature the local talent who were trying to get some exposure as well. Entertainment ran from noon to 5:00pm. In 2001, Molly again appeared on the show and was touted as an original member of the Hometown Jamboree as part of the entertainment lineup that day. The event went from 11:30am to 5:00pm and was free to the public. The Music Performance Trust Fund sponsored the concert.
Later in life, she may have changed her mind about 'clubs'. We learned from that question and answer column that Molly had her own club in Oceaside, California. Acts that would appear at her club included such folks as Tommy Sands, who appeared there in November of 1992 for two shows a night for two nights; . Molly Bee's Club was located at 1903 Hill Street in Oceanside. In 1993, there was live dancing Thursday through Sunday and had no cover charge.
Molly was married seven times according to a question and answer column that answered a reader's question about Molly.
Credits & Sources
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