Dolores O'Neill

aka Dodie O'Neill

Photo of Dolores O'Neill

Vocalist Dolores O’Neill worked with three orchestras during the late 1930s before starting a solo career in 1940 that kept her on the radio for the next four years. Her career waned afterwards, and she spent the late 1940s and early 1950s doing sporadic band work before eventually retiring in 1959.

A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, singer Dolores O’Neill was the grand-niece of playwright Eugene O’Neill, though despite her connection she came from a blue-collar family. Her father worked as a common laborer who worked variously in a warehouse and a coal mine. Aside from her vocal abilities, O’Neill aspired to be a writer and had published several short stories by 1940. She made her professional debut in front of the mike on Scranton radio station WGBJ in 1937 with her own fifteen-minute sustaining program. In October of that year, she recorded with Artie Shaw’s orchestra on Brunswick.[1] She then spent a year in Rio de Janeiro before returning to the States, where she took a staff singing job at WCAU in Philadelphia. The following year, she was heard by Jack Teagarden, who offered her a job. She joined Teagarden in July 1939, becoming one-half of the band’s new two female vocalist line-up, the other being Kitty Kallen. O’Neill disliked the arrangement and left by the end of the month. By September 1939 she was with Bob Chester.

O’Neill remained with Chester until November 1940, when she suddenly departed during a one-nighter in Charleston, South Carolina. O’Neill objected to reports in Down Beat that she’d walked out on Chester, saying instead that she had become suddenly ill and had to be rushed to New York. Doctors ordered her not to leave the city, so she was unable to continue with the band. She also denied reports that she was engaged to former Chester trumpet player, Alec Fila, who had since moved on to Benny Goodman’s band. Fila and O’Neill quietly married in mid-1941 however. In August 1941, Billboard reported that she’d left Chester because of the “stork.”[2]

Back in New York, O’Neill quickly landed a regular spot on the popular NBC radio musical variety program The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street in January 1941. She left the program later that year to give birth to her first child, returning to Philadelphia and WCAU in August. She was back in New York that October for more appearances on Basin Street. In March 1942, Columbia offered her a recording contract, but nothing seems to have come from that.

By early 1943, O’Neill was back in Philadelphia on WCAU again, where she sang with Johnny Warrington’s station orchestra, and in April of that year she made a guest appearance on CBS radio. In September 1944, she gave birth to her second child, a daughter. In 1946, she recorded on the Cosmo label, a small imprint published by Cosmopolitan magazine, and in late 1948 she and Fila, both living in Philly, made a failed attempted to start a Mr. and Mrs. orchestra. O’Neill was singing with Joe Frasetto’s local band at the time. She gave birth to another daughter in February 1949, and in April filled in with Elliot Lawrence’s orchestra when his regular singer, Rosalind Batton, was out for a throat operation.

O’Neill and Fila divorced in 1949. In mid-1950, O’Neill became part of Artie Shaw’s orchestra once again, and in 1951 she sang with Gene Krupa’s band. In spring 1955, she was working in Philadelphia. She retired from show business in 1959 after having a throat operation.

In 1961, O’Neill married a man named Weil and settled in Wingdale, New York, where she worked as a columnist on the Harlem Valley Times in 1971. O’Neill passed away in 2006 at the age of 92.[3]

O’Neill’s last name was often spelled incorrectly with only one “l.”


  1. It’s unsure if O’Neill actually sang live with Shaw’s band or if she just entered the studio with them. ↩︎

  2. Becoming pregnant outside of marriage would have been a serious public relations disaster in that period of time. ↩︎

  3. O’Neill was another female vocalist who grew younger as she grew older. Public records show that she was born in 1914. A newspaper article in January 1940, however, gives her age as 22, indicating a birth year of 1917. An August 1943 article in Billboard gives her age as 25, which would make a birth year of 1918. ↩︎


  1. “Radio Programs.” Chester Times [Chester, Pennsylvania] 21 Jun. 1939: 11.
  2. “Drama in Madison.” The Madison Capital Times [Madison, Wisconsin] 3 Aug. 1939: 8.
  3. “Nation's Big Name Leaders Shift Men Like Tenpins.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1939: 11.
  4. “Dolores.” The Davidsonian [Davidson, North Carolina] 11 Jan. 1940: 3.
  5. “Chester Band to Play Here.” The Bradford Era [Bradford, Pennsylvania] 24 Apr. 1940: 16.
  6. “On the Records.” Billboard 28 Sep. 1940: 72.
  7. “Record Reviews.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1940: 14.
  8. “Chester's New Vocalists.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1940: 3.
  9. O'Neill, Dodie. “I Didn't Walk Out on Bob Chester.” Down Beat 15 Jan. 1941: 10.
  10. “Radio Program.” The Washington D.C. Evening Star 27 Jan. 1941: B-12.
  11. “Gene Krupa Is Basin Street Star Tonight.” The Madison Capital Times [Madison, Wisconsin] 31 Mar. 1941: 7.
  12. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1941: 10.
  13. “Change of Heart.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1941: 5.
  14. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 2 Aug. 1941: 11.
  15. “Dolores O'Neill Back in N.Y.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1941: 23.
  16. “Kid Musicians To Get Chance.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1942: 20.
  17. “Dolores O'Neill Airs Again.” Billboard 13 Feb. 1943: 23.
  18. “We Found.” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1943: 11.
  19. “Wattalife!” Billboard 6 Mar. 1943: 22.
  20. Subotnik, Nadine. “Radio.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette [Cedar Rapids, Iowa] 19 Apr. 1943: 5.
  21. “Births.” Billboard 7 Oct. 1944: 57.
  22. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1944: 10.
  23. “Send Birthday Greetings to.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1945: 15.
  24. “Hubby, Wife Combo Nixed.” Down Beat 6 Oct. 1948: 5.
  25. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 8 Apr. 1949: 10.
  26. “Lawrence Pulls 1,822.” Billboard 30 Apr. 1949: 22.
  27. “Shaw Shuffles Up Whole Band.” Down Beat 14 Jul. 1950: 7.
  28. “Why Gal Singers Get Gray.” Down Beat 29 Jun. 1951: 18.
  29. “Things To Come: Gene Krupa's Orchestra.” Down Beat 21 Sep. 1951: 7.
  30. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 18 May 1955: 32.
  31. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 5 Mar. 1959: 50.
  32. O'Brian Jack. “The Voice of Broadway.” Lebanon Daily News [Lebanon, Pennsylvania] 13 Jan. 1971: 47.
  33. “United States, Social Security Numerical Identification Files (NUMIDENT), 1936-2007,” database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2023), Dolores Coletta Oneill.
  34. “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch ( : Wed Mar 06 12:13:22 UTC 2024), Entry for Aloysius O'Neil and Hattie O'Neil, 1920.
  35. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch ( : Fri Mar 08 08:11:23 UTC 2024), Entry for Aloyious E O Neill and Harriet O Neill, 1930.