Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002)

Historical marker #2150 commemorates the life and career of Rosemary Clooney, who was born in Maysville, KY.

Rosemary Clooney was born on May 23, 1928, on Front Street in Maysville, one of five children born to her parents. When she was young, her parents were separated, and Rosemary lived with her paternal grandparents. Her grandfather was active in politics and while campaigning for mayor of Maysville, Rosemary and her sister would sing at political rallies. As she wrote in her autobiography:

“I made my first public appearance when I was three, on the stage at the Russell Theater, the downtown movie house with twinkling stars on the ceiling […] I kept on. From the corner of Front and Market to the London Palladium, from porch swing to padded cell, strapped down in the violent ward, I never stopped singing. I always sang.”

When Rosemary was 13, the Clooney children moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to live with their maternal grandparents. While living in Ohio, Rosemary and her sister Betty began singing duets on local radio. The Clooney Sisters, as they came to be called, soon caught the attention of saxophonist and band leader Tony Pastor. Pastor invited the sisters to tour with the orchestra, which they did for three years. In 1950, Rosemary received a contract with Columbia Records and moved to New York City to begin her solo career.

In New York, Clooney quickly made a name for herself with her rendition of “Come On-a My House,” which sold over 1,000,000 records. A string of hits followed, including “This Ole House,” “Mambo Italiano,” “Half as Much,” and “Hey There.” Her successes landed her on the February 23, 1953, cover of Time Magazine. Although not a trained actress, Clooney’s popularity was such that she accepted roles in several films, including White Christmas and The Stars Are Singing, the latter of which Clooney attended the premiere of at the Russell Theatre in Maysville in 1953. Upon her return for the premiere, Clooney recalled the thousands of people who filled the streets to celebrate her homecoming.

In Maysville, Clooney’s dreams were born, the seeds of her faith planted, the will and strength to survive were role-modeled, and the loving relationships that lasted her whole life were cemented. In her autobiography, Girl Singer, Rosemary Clooney used the metaphor of the Ohio River, where she and her sister, Betty, and her best friend Blanchie Mae would often play as children, to symbolize her beginnings, her dreams, and her continuing journey throughout her life.

Although she is widely known, Maysville took pride in claiming Rosemary Clooney as one of their own, honoring her in different ways throughout her life. In 1953, a street in Maysville was designated “Rosemary Clooney Street” while she was home for her movie premiere. In an interview with the Times-Star on Maysville’s Your Town Day, Clooney was brimming with excitement about being able to celebrate Maysville in the same way they always celebrated her by naming her television production company after her hometown.

The first annual Rosemary Clooney Music Festival was held in September 1999. The event helped raise fund to save the Russell Theatre in Maysville to transform it into a space for performing arts, per Clooney’s request. In 2007, a series of murals on the Maysville floodwall near the Ohio River were painted by Herb Roe, Brett Vhigoy, and Robert Dafford of Dafford murals. A section of the mural depicts aspects of Clooney’s career, including a depiction of the parade in her honor at the premiere of “The Stars Are Singing.”

Clooney was selected to be one of the inaugural inductees into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2002, chosen by a statewide advisory board which defined Clooney as a ‘pioneer’ who shaped or so profoundly affected the evolution of music that it prepared the way of others who followed. The same year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Awards.

Clooney’s connection to her Kentucky roots lasted until her death in 2002. She is buried in her hometown of Maysville in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery.

The marker reads:



Born in Maysville, Rosemary Clooney

topped the charts with “Come On-A

My House” in 1951. Other hits

include “This Ole House” and “Hey

There.” Her first film, The Stars

Are Singing, premiered at

Maysville’s Russell Theater in

1953. She costarred with Bing

Crosby in the 1954 classic film

White Christmas. Over.



Throughout a singing and acting

career that spanned six decades,

the acclaimed “girl singer”

remained connected to her

hometown. In 1999, “Rosie”

launched the Rosemary Clooney

Music Festival in Maysville, the

site of her birth, marriage, and

final resting place. Over.

Presented by Rescue the Russell, Inc.

This marker was dedicated on September 24, 2004.