Molly Bee, a country singer popular in the 1950s and 1960s who was a teenage star on television's "Hometown Jamboree" and "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show," has died on Saturday of complications related to a stroke at Tri-City Medical Center. She was 69.
At 10, she sang "Lovesick Blues" for country singer Rex Allen and soon debuted on his radio show. Within two years, she was a regular on "Hometown Jamboree," a Los Angeles-based show run by Cliffie Stone, who helped popularize country music in California.
First broadcast on radio, "Jamboree" aired on KTLA-TV Channel 5 from the late 1940s to 1960. The show gave a big break to many young singers, including Tommy Sands, who became a teen idol and dated Bee in the 1950s.
When she was 13, Bee signed with Capitol Records and had her first major recording success with "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in 1952. The next year, she recorded a duet with Ford, "Don't Start Courtin' in a Hot Rod Ford." In 1954, Bee left the children's TV program "The Pinky Lee Show" to join Ford's daytime variety show.
In the 1960s, she turned toward acting, appearing in several stage musicals and films but once said she was "too shy" to embrace acting. Her films included "Chartroose Caboose" (1960) and "The Young Swingers" (1963).
Bee regularly headlined in the 1960s at major Las Vegas showrooms and briefly toured with Bob Hope's USO troupe.
She struggled with drug addiction and took several years away from performing to rebuild her life, biographical sources said.
Married at least five times, she called herself "the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the country music set." Her marriage to country singer Ira Allen lasted 10 years.
Eventually, she moved to Oceanside with her family in 1986 and
regularly performed in the early 1990s at a local restaurant and
nightclub she ran called Molly Bee's. Most recently, she used the name Molly Muncy offstage.
A celebration of Bee's life will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at El Camino Memorial Chapel, 340 Melrose Ave., Encinitas.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to St. Jude
Children's Research Hospital.