Although she is probably best remembered now for her years on TV’s Your Hit Parade, Canadian singer Gisele MacKenzie actually had a long and varied career. Beginning in radio, she seamlessly moved to early TV, where she made countless appearances, not only a regular on many shows but also as the star of her own. She also did a little acting from time to time, appeared in stage shows, and sold a lot of records along the way.
A native of Winnipeg, Gisèle Marie Louise Marguerite LaFlèche studied music while growing up, learning to play piano and violin at a high level while also developing her vocal talents. By the time she reached adulthood in the post-war years, she was appearing (as Gisele MacKenzie) on Canadian radio broadcasts and soon had her own show, one that featured a lot of well-known guest stars.
As the 1950s began, MacKenzie brought her talents to the U.S. and it wasn’t long before she was showing up on radio and TV there too. (One of the guests on her Canadian show — Jack Benny — returned the favor, and their friendship would continue for many years, as would their duets. See video below.) She also began spending more time in the recording studio, and even though she didn’t generate any best-sellers at first, it helped lead to her breakout on Your Hit Parade.
Spending several years on the hit TV show definitely helped move her career along and she also began selling more records, enjoying a hit with “Hard To Get” and doing well with several others too. In 1957 she moved on to her own TV show, but it only lasted a year and she fell back on what had always been a strength, making appearances on various other TV shows, including a stint as a regular with Sid Caesar. She also showed up from time to time in stage musicals and nightclubs while continuing to make records along the way, before things slowed a little. In the 1980s she started finding acting parts, and stayed active until her health began to fail. She was 78 when she died in 2003.
Gisele MacKenzie – “Hard To Get”