Helen O'Connell, the petite singer who along with Bob Eberly formed one of the most enduring duos in American popular music, died yesterday at a San Diego hospice.
Her manager, Gloria Burke, said she was 73. With her when she died was her husband, Frank DeVol, the orchestra leader, arranger and composer, and three of her four daughters.
Most recently she had become identified as a soloist, appearing throughout the country either on her own or with "ghost bands," who represented the remnants of the grandeur of dance music in the 1930s and '40s. But it was with Mr. Eberly and the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra that she achieved her most abiding fame.
Their recordings of "Tangerine," "Green Eyes," and "Amapola," sold in the hundreds of thousands when million-record sales were almost impossible, while their appearances at dance and concert halls, primarily on the West Coast, guaranteed standing room only.
A delicate, winsome performer in an era when Big Band singers were noted for their stout endurance, the blonde, dimpled Miss O'Connell began with Mr. Dorsey singing solo on such hits as "Six Lessons From Madame La Zonga," "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair," and the classic torch song "When the Sun Comes Out."
George T. Simon, in his anthology "The Big Bands," said "she exploded notes so forcefully that I always pictured some little man standing behind her and pinching her at crucial times in crucial spots."
In the 1950s, she worked with Dave Garroway on NBC's "Today Show."
[She appeared in the 1970s at the Painters Mill Music Fair in Owings Mills in an act called Four Girls Four with Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting and Kay Starr.]