Stark County ballad singer Claire Hogan started her performing and recording career by winning a 1944 “Sing a Song With Johnny Long” contest in Cleveland. She later performed with Freddie Slack, Gene Krupa and Jimmy Dorsey, all big names of jazz and swing during the Big Band era.
Stark County ballad singer Claire Hogan started her performing and recording career by winning a 1944 “Sing a Song With Johnny Long” contest in Cleveland.
The victor won a musical booking with Long at the New Yorker Hotel in New York City, but that gig was extended to a six-month tour with Long’s orchestra.
“Long, who was in need of a vocalist, later invited her to sing with the band, and she accepted,” said a profile of Hogan published in The Canton Repository on Sept. 11, 1949.
That article, carrying a headline “Band Career Has Its Darker Side,” noted that Hogan was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dueber E. Cable of North Canton. By the time it was printed in the Sunday edition of the newspaper, the young singer already had established herself in the music world.
“Miss Hogan, as you might know if you’re a popular music fan, has been the girl vocalist for such outstanding artists as Johnny Long, Freddie Slack and Gene Krupa,” reported the newspaper. “At present, she is singing with James Dorsey, the bandleading brother of the famous ‘Sentimental Gentleman of Swing,’ Tommy Dorsey.”
Those were large names in jazz and swing music during the 1940s portion of the Big Band era.

Hogan humorously recalled in 1979 for Repository writer Myrna Mullen how her mother “summoned her to the telephone” because a man calling was claiming to be the famed bandleader.
“Jimmy Dorsey wants to talk to you,” her mother said.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over the place for you!” began Dorsey.
“I thought it was a joke,” the singer — by then Claire Hogan Nelson — told Mullen.
Her eyes “twinkled” when she talked of the conversation, wrote the newspaper’s reporter. But, that was decades after the time she toured as a band vocalist.
Hardships accompanied the glamour in her job, she said while performing as a singer was still her career.
“You certainly don’t have much of a home life,” she said for the 1949 story. “Most of the time, you live out of a suitcase. I do travel around the country a lot, but I don’t get a chance to do much sightseeing.”

Before her performances with Dorsey, Hogan had sung with Krupa’s band. And she had toured with the Freddie Slack Orchestra, playing stops in Florida, New Jersey and, even, Ohio. Those Ohio swings would bring her to Canton’s Moonlight Ballroom, which she called “one of the prettiest places we played a one-nighter.”
After a year on the road, Slack fell ill and his orchestra folded. Hogan returned to the Lake Cable home of her mother, Caroline Cable. It is there where Dorsey found her.
“I think his big attraction to me was that he was Irish, and I was so Irish that you couldn’t believe it,” Hogan told Mullen for her 1979 article.
The singer initially was paid $75 a week, that article reported.
“Several successful albums and the hit record ‘Kiss Me’ later, Claire’s income had risen to $750 a week.”
But, life on the road made her earn her pay. Bookings might be extended stays in New York and Chicago, she explained to Mullen, but elsewhere on the tour it was mostly one-night stands that were separated by 400 miles ridden on a bus.
“I never even knew where I was most of the time or what state I was in,” she said in 1979. “It got to the point where you thought the bus was home.”

Columbia made several short films of the band when it was featuring Hogan. She also spent time in studios, where she recorded songs.
“Between engagements in dance halls and night clubs, she has managed to put several songs on wax,” noted the 1949 Repository article. “Her latest — and her best to date, she believes — is ‘Fiddle-dee-dee.’ ”
Among albums she released for MGM include “Just Imagine,” which she performed with the LeRoy Holmes Orchestra, and “Boozers and Losers,” which she recorded with record producer Cy Coleman, whom she called “a friend from the road” in her 1979 interview.
“Standards and show tunes — that’s what I like to do,” she told syndicated entertainment columnist Earl Wilson in 1955.
She called rock-and-roll music a fad in Wilson’s column, and said she disdained being labeled for her music.
“I got classed as a Dixieland singer once,” she explained. “But the record that stepped out for me happened to be a ballad.”
So, ballads became the music for which she was known — “sweet love songs,” wrote Wilson.

At the time his column was written, Hogan had been away from show business for three years, but was making a comeback. She had just released a record for MGM called “Where To, My Love?”
She was scheduled to make a personal appearance tour through Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis — “singing ballads, of course,” wrote Wilson.
“You can be very successful on records,” she told the columnist, “but if you show up and don’t make it for the audience, it’s a big disappointment for them.
“I’m in better voice than I ever have been in my life. I’m going to keep right on singing the good songs and if it happens I get a hit record, well, it’ll happen.”
In the end, the big hits never came. Eventually, she returned to Stark County, living at Lake Cable. The former singer died several years ago, leaving a legacy of fine performances during the Big Band era.
Her reputation lives on. Not long ago, Mitchell Lee of Richmond, Va., posted a review at about the online sale of Hogan’s vinyl album, “Boozers and Losers.”
“There are very few singers that really make one believe,” wrote Lee. “Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Claire Hogan are in that select company. Don’t get me wrong, there are great singers like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald that are great artists without needing to make one believe ANYTHING. Their talent alone is stunning! But there is something very special about Claire Hogan.”