Born to Solomon and Anna (née Stein) Shore, Jewish immigrants from Russia, young Frances Rose was born and lived in Winchester, Tennessee. When she was two years old, she was stricken with polio (infantile paralysis), a disease that was not preventable at the time, and for which treatment was limited to bed rest. Her parents provided intensive care for her and she recovered. She continued, however, to have a deformed foot and limp, which did not physically impede her.
As a small child she loved to sing, encouraged by her mother, a contralto with operatic aspirations. Her father would often take her to his store where she would perform impromptu songs for the customers. She had a childhood recollection of her normally restrained father's exasperated reaction one evening when the Ku Klux Klan paraded in Winchester; despite the hoods the marchers were wearing, Solomon Shore, a dry goods merchant, recognized some of his customers by their shoes and gaits. In 1924, the Shore family (which included Dinah's older sister Bessie) moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, where her father had opened a department store.
Although shy due to her limp, she became actively involved in sports and was a cheerleader at Hume-Fogg High School and involved in other activities. At 14, Shore debuted as a torch singer at a Nashville night club only to find her parents sitting ringside, having been tipped off to their daughter's performance ahead of time. They allowed her to finish, but put her professional career on hold. She was paid $10, equal to $137.43 today.
When Shore was 16, her mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and Shore decided to pursue her education. She went to Vanderbilt University, where she participated in many events and activities, including the Chi chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. She graduated from the university in 1938 with a degree in sociology. She also visited theGrand Ole Opry and made her radio debut on Nashville's WSM (AM) radio station in these years. Shore decided to return to pursuing her career in singing, so she went to New York City to audition for orchestras and radio stations, first on a summer break from Vanderbilt, and after graduation, for good. In many of her auditions, she sang the popular song "Dinah." When disc jockey Martin Block could not remember her name, he called her the "Dinah girl," and soon after the name stuck, becoming her stage name. Shore eventually was hired as a vocalist at radio station WNEW, where she sang with Frank Sinatra. She recorded and performed with the Xavier Cugat orchestra, and signed a recording contract with RCA Victor Records in 1940.
In March 1939, Shore debuted on national radio on the Sunday afternoon CBS radio program, Ben Bernie's Orchestra. In February 1940, she became a featured vocalist on theNBC Radio program The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, a showcase for traditional Dixieland and Blues songs. With Shore, the program became so popular that it was moved from 4:30 Sunday afternoon to a 9:00 Monday night time slot in September. In her prime-time debut for "the music of the Three Bs, Barrelhouse, Boogie-woogie and the Blues", she was introduced as "Mademoiselle Dinah 'Diva' Shore, who starts a fire by rubbing two notes together!" She recorded with the two Basin Street bands for RCA Victor; one of her records was the eponymous "Dinah's Blues."
Shore's singing came to the attention of Eddie Cantor. He signed her as a regular on his radio show, Time to Smile, in 1940. Shore credits him for teaching her self-confidence, comedic timing, and the ways of connecting with an audience. Cantor bought the rights to an adapted Ukrainian folk song with new lyrics by Jack Lawrence for Shore to record for RCA Victor's Bluebird label. This song, "Yes, My Darling Daughter", became her first major hit, selling 500,000 copies in weeks, which was unusual for that time.
Shore soon became a successful singing star with her own radio show in 1943, Call to Music. Also in 1943, she appeared in her first movie, Thank Your Lucky Stars, starring Cantor. She soon went to another radio show, Paul Whiteman Presents. During this time, the United States was involved in World War II and Shore became a favorite with the troops. She had hits, including "Blues In the Night", "Jim", "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", and "I'll Walk Alone", the first of her number-one hits. To support the troops overseas, she participated in USO tours to Europe. She met George Montgomery, a young actor ready to go into military service. They married on December 3, 1943, shortly before he went into service. When he returned, they settled in San Fernando, California. In 1948, their first child was born, a daughter named Melissa Ann, and they adopted a son in 1954 named John David before moving to Beverly Hills.
Shore continued appearing in radio shows throughout the 1940s, including Birds Eye-Open House and Ford Radio Show. In early 1946, she moved to another label, Columbia Records. At Columbia, Shore enjoyed the greatest commercial success of her recording career, starting with her first Columbia single release, "Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy", and peaking with the most popular song of 1948; and "Buttons and Bows", (with Henri René & Orchestra) which was number one for ten weeks. Other number one hits at Columbia included "The Gypsy" and "The Anniversary Song". One of her most popular recordings was the holiday perennial "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Buddy Clark from 1949. The song was covered by many other artists, Ella Fitzgerald, for example. Other hits during her four years at Columbia included "Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)", "I Wish I Didn't Love You So", "I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)", "Doin' What Comes Naturally", and "Dear Hearts And Gentle People". She was a regular with Jack Smith on his quarter-hour radio show on CBS. Shore was a musical guest in the films Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Follow the Boys (1944) and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) and had starring roles in Danny Kaye's debut Up in Arms (1944) and Belle of the Yukon (1945). She lent her musical voice to two Disney films: Make Mine Music (1946) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947). Her last starring film role was for Paramount Pictures in Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952), co-starring Alan Young and Metropolitan Opera star Robert Merrill.
In 1950, Shore went back to RCA with a deal to record 100 sides for $1,000,000, equal to $9,542,185 today. The hits kept coming, but with less frequency, and were not charting as high as in the '40s. Dinah's biggest hits of this era were "My Heart Cries for You" and "Sweet Violets", both peaking at number three in 1951. Several duets with Tony Martin did well, with "A Penny A Kiss" being the most popular, reaching number eight. "Blue Canary" was a 1953 hit and her covers of "Changing Partners" and "If I Give My Heart To You" were popular top twenty hits. "Love and Marriage" and "Whatever Lola Wants" were top twenty hits from 1955. "Chantez, Chantez" was her last top twenty hit, staying on the charts for over twenty weeks in 1957. Shore stayed with RCA until 1958, and during that time released albums including Bouquet of Blues, Once in a While, and Vivacious, which were collections of singles with different orchestras and conductors such as Frank DeVol and Hugo Winterhalter. Holiding Hands at Midnight a studio album from 1955 andMoments Like These, a studio album from 1958, recorded in stereo, with orchestra under the musical direction of Harry Zimmerman, who performed the same duties on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, being the exceptions.
In 1958 Dinah was wooed from RCA by Capitol Records. Although she recorded only one "almost" hit for her new label (I Ain't Down Yet, which peaked at 102 on Billboard's pop chart in 1960), the collaboration produced four "theme albums" that paired Dinah with arranger Nelson Riddle (Dinah, Yes Indeed!) conductor and accompanist Andre Previn(Somebody Loves Me and Dinah Sings, Previn Plays) and jazz's Red Norvo (Dinah Sings Some Blues With Red). Her final two Capitol albums were Dinah, Down Home and The Fabulous Hits (Newly Recorded).
Shore left Capitol in 1962 and recorded only a handful of albums over the next two decades, including Lower Basin Street Revisited for friend Frank Sinatra's Reprise label in 1965,Songs For Sometime Losers (Project 3, 1967), Country Feelin' (Decca, 1969), Once Upon A Summertime (Stanyan, 1975) and Dinah!, a double LP for Capitol in 1976. She recorded this album at the height of her talk show fame, and it featured her take on contemporary hits such as 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, The Hungry Years, and Do You Know Where You're Going To (Theme from "Mahogany"). Her final studio album was released in 1979, Dinah! Visits Sesame Street, for the Children's Television Workshop.
In her early career, while in New York, Dinah Shore was briefly involved with drummer Gene Krupa. After Dinah relocated to Hollywood she became involved with James Stewart and it was rumored that a Las Vegas, Nevada, elopement was aborted en route. Shore's flirtation with General George Patton was commented on when he escorted her for a portion of her tour to entertain the troops in Britain and France during World War II.
Shore was married to actor George Montgomery from 1943 to 1962. Shore gave birth to daughter Melissa Ann, now known as Melissa Montgomery, in January 1948. She later adopted her son, John David "Jody" Montgomery. The author of Mr. S, Frank Sinatra's longtime valet George Jacobs, claimed Shore and Sinatra had a long-standing affair in the 1950s. After her divorce from Montgomery, she briefly married Maurice Smith. Romances of the later 1960s involved comedian Dick Martin, singer Eddie Fisher, and actor Rod Taylor.
In the early 1970s, Shore had a long and happy public romance with actor Burt Reynolds, who was 20 years her junior. The relationship gave Shore an updated, sexy image, and took some of the pressure off Reynolds in maintaining his image as a ladies' man. The couple was featured in the tabloids and after the relationship cooled, the tabloids paired Shore with other younger men, from Wayne Rogers, Andy Williams, and "Tarzan" Ron Ely, to others such as novelist Sidney Sheldon, Dean Martin, and former New York Governor Hugh Carey.