If you were a dedicated fan of The Waltons, the iconic 1970s TV show that was a huge hit for many years, you might remember that one of the teens – Jason – was musically inclined, and that he sometimes risked his mother’s wrath by entertaining in an area roadhouse, the venerable Dew Drop Inn. If you have a really good memory you might even recall that his boss was a lady named Thelma — but what you might not have known was that the role was filled by a gal with quite a musical background of her own.
Dorothy Shay was a veteran performer who’d had a long career as a band singer and comedienne, making appearances in movies and on radio and even early TV, billing herself as the Park Avenue Hillbilly. She also had a hit record along the way, one that showcased her good voice and played to her comedic persona.
The Florida native was born as Dorothy Sims, and began her career around the close of World War II as a bluesy band singer, but within a couple of years she’d adopted a lighter style. Even though she’d previously worked on losing her Southern accent, she now embraced it and became a comedic singer, working with guys like Spike Jones on his popular radio show. She also hit the recording studio regularly, and in 1947 nearly reached the top of the charts with “Feudin’ And Fightin’,” a song that fit perfectly into her style.
She was soon able to land a featured part in Comin’ ’Round The Mountain, a 1951 Abbot and Costello movie, and though she didn’t get other roles at that time it did lead to working on the comedy duo’s TV show and numerous others. It also gave her the acting bug, and after things slowed during the 1960s she reinvented herself as a character actress and found steady work. Unfortunately, her role on the Waltons would be her last. She died in 1978 at age 57. (In the show, writers portrayed her as having sold the roadhouse and moved to California.)
NOTE: You can learn more about Dorothy Shay at the website maintained by her great-niece. (later – website closed)
Dorothy Shay – “Feudin’ And Fightin'”
8 thoughts on “Dorothy Shay – The Park Avenue Hillbilly”
Would anybody be interested in original studio cuts of 7 Dorothy Shay songs … including what is probably the original ” Fuedin’ a-Fussin’ & a-Fightin”? The one-sided recordings are labeled with handwritten entries. For example, the label on “Fuedin” shows a preprinted item titled “Matrix#:” which in turn shows the handwritten entry ” HG 1974 IC” (of course, I’ve no idea what the coding signifies … but the year is right for the song). Or, perhaps you might suggest a venue where I might be able to offer them for sale.
Interesting, Tony. Maybe one of readers will have an idea.
I am looking for the lyrics of a song “I Was Born in Tennessee” by Dorothy Shay
hey there, folks…I’m.Dorothy Shay’s great niece (owner of DorothyShay.com–the self designated “archivist” for stuff about our Aunt Dot who never had kids of her own.)
@Anonymous, that’s the beginning of Uncle Fud….There are a couple of posting s on youtube…this one is a pretty scratchy recording http://youtu.be/Mf2PGkN_e5c?t=5m56s
This recording is clearer, but it is only serving as the soundtrack of some silly lipsynch skit….I seriously just saw it today http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjpaJJkkYo8
Tony…wow, cool find! I’m unemployed, so much as I’d love to have those recordings as part of the family collection, I”m in no position to purchase. Ebay is the only place I would know to offer them…since, with the exception of Dorothy Shay stuff, I’m not familiar with where else collectors offer items. Good Luck!
I have a promo record of dorthy shay WHY DON’T SOMBODY MARRY MARY ANNE ,AND NO RING ON HER FINGER MY EMAIL IS firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember going to the Palmer House in Chicago with my parents and loved being at a table close to the stage when Dorothy Shay was performing. Of course I learned the lyrics to many of her marvelous songs. I’m now 77 and still remember the words to most songs. With TV and YouTube we seem to have lost the miracle of connection between listener and live prerformer. She had such class and such humour, and the most wonderful sense of timing. They don’t make stars like they did back then, but she lives on in those of us that still sing her songs. .
What lovely words to hear….I”m trying to compile this kind of stuff for my family. Thank you for sharing!! Kathy (Dorothy’s great niece and god daughter—and owner of (later – website closed)
ps if you have a pic of you and your family at the palmer house, I’d love a digital copy to include with your comment in the scrapbook! You can contact me via the guestbook link at (later – website closed)