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Morton Downey

Morton Downey in the 1920s
Background information
Birth name Morton Downey
Also known as Morton James
Born November 14, 1901
Origin Wallingford, Connecticut, United States
Died October 25, 1985 (aged 83)
Genres Jazz
Instruments Vocalist, piano

Morton Downey (November 14, 1901 – October 25, 1985) was a singer popular in the United States, enjoying his greatest success in the 1930s and 1940s. Downey was nicknamed "The Irish Nightingale".[1]


Early years

Morton Downey was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, the child of James and Bessie (Cox) Downey.[1]


For a time in the 1920s, Downey, a tenor, sang with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. He first recorded in 1923 for Edison Records under the pseudonym Morton James; the following year he recorded for Victor with the S.S. Leviathan Orchestra. In 1925 he began 4 years of recording for Brunswick Records. In 1926 he had a hit in the show Palm Beach Nights.[1]

He toured London, Paris, Berlin, New York City and Hollywood. He also began appearing in motion pictures in 1929.

Downey was also a songwriter whose most successful numbers include "All I Need is Someone Like You", "California Skies", "In the Valley of the Roses", and "Now You're in My Arms", "Sweeten Up Your Smile", "That's How I Spell Ireland", "There's Nothing New", and "Wabash Moon". He joined ASCAP in 1949.[1]


In 1930, Downey began making national radio broadcasts after opening his own nightclub (The Delmonico) in New York. He was voted America's "Radio Singer of the Year" in 1932. At the time, Downey was featured nightly on the Camel Quarter Hour radio broadcast.[2] In the 1930s he recorded for ARC, Hit of the Week, and Decca Records, and in the 1940s made records for Columbia.[1]


Starting in 1949, Morton Downey began appearing on television. In the 1950s, he hosted the television show Star of the Family.

Personal life

Morton Downey was the father of the late right-wing television personality Morton Downey, Jr., by his first wife, actress Barbara Bennett (1906 - 1958), the sister of actresses Constance and Joan Bennett. Her early promise as a dancer and actress gave way to her turbulent marriage with Downey. The couple married in 1929, and divorced in 1941. She would marry singing cowboy actor Addison Randall shortly afterward. Downey and Bennett had five children, four boys and a daughter

Downey's second wife was Margaret Boyce Schulze (1922—1964), the former wife of Prince Alexander zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen and the granddaughter of Colorado mining industralist William Boyce Thompson.

Downey owned a house in Hyannis, MA next to Joseph P. Kennedy's. This house was used by John F. Kennedy as his summer White House.

His third wife was Ann Trainer, the widow of Howell Van Gerbig and the former wife of John Kevin Barry. They married in 1970.

Morton Downey died of a stroke in Palm Beach, Florida, at age 83.


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 242-243. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998
  2. ^ Time Magazine. Press: Scrapbookman. February 8, 1932.,8816,743114,00.html. Accessed June 28, 2009

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