Lynn Gardner

Vocalist Lynn Gardner went to high school in Union City, New Jersey, and studied singing with Jimmy Rich, who also counted Dinah Shore among his students. Gardner got her start as a band singer with Ray Bloch’s orchestra, but her big break came in January 1941 when bandleader Ray McKinley discovered her in a Union City night club and hired her for the orchestra he co-led with Will Bradley. As part of Bradley and McKinley’s band she appeared on CBS radio and made two soundies, “I’m Tired of Waiting for You” in 1941 and “Jack and Jill” in 1942. When McKinley split the band in January 1942, she remained with Bradley. Bradley struggled after the split, losing a number of musicians to the draft, and called it quits after only six months, leaving Gardner without a job.

In September 1942, Gardner joined Bob Allen’s orchestra, making her debut with the band as they opened at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Allen’s orchestra had been called in to the Pennsylvania as a replacement for Glenn Miller, who had just disbanded to join the Army Air Force. The booking put Allen’s band in the spotlight, and the resulting attention along with national radio time turned the orchestra into an overnight success, attracting the attention of fans and critics alike. Due to the American Federation of Musician’s recording ban, however, Allen was never able to follow up on that success in the studio. The band did catch the attention of Hollywood, though, and in October they were contracted by 20th Century Fox, with Gardner being given a screen test.

Gardner never made it to Hollywood, leaving Allen in March 1943 over a contract dispute with the band’s manager, Dick George. George gave Gardner the choice to sign a personal management contract which she felt was unfair or leave the band before it traveled to the West Coast. George’s terms for the contract were 50 percent of everything she earned over $100 weekly for the next ten years. Gardner chose to quit.[1]

Soon after leaving Allen, Gardner made her solo debut on the Mutual network radio program Keep Ahead and also appeared on Raymond Scott’s CBS show Jam Laboratory. For the past several years, she’d studied dramatics with the ambition to become a musical comedy star, and in November 1943 she briefly achieved that goal when she opened on Broadway at the National Theatre as one of the stars of the musical What’s Up?, with music by Allan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe in what was their first Broadway endeavor. The show was produced by Mark Warnow, CBS orchestra leader and Scott’s older brother. Down Beat magazine celebrated her casting by putting her on the cover of their November 1, 1943, issue.

What’s Up? received mixed reviews and closed on January 4, 1944, after only 63 performances. Gardner then hit the hotel and theater circuit. She also continued her radio career, landing a spot as featured vocalist on Bob Hawk’s Thanks to the Yanks program in February. She reunited with Bloch in 1944, appearing as a guest on his Here’s to Romance CBS radio program and filling in as his vocalist during a USO engagement. Gardner left Hawk’s show in March 1945 in anticipation of her May wedding to Al Durante, the assistant director of radio publicity for the J. Walter Thompson agency. She apparently retired after her marriage as she then vanishes from the press.

Gardner passed away in November 2018.[2] A bomber was named after her during World War II. Gardner was said to have commuted home every night to her parent’s house in New Jersey when she was working around the New York area.


  1. Bob Allen’s band ultimately never appeared in a motion picture. 20th Century Fox waited almost a year before deciding how to use Allen’s orchestra, and soon after they finally assigned them a film in late 1943 Allen received his draft notice and disbanded. ↩︎

  2. Gardner gave her age as 19 in 1941, while in 1944 her age was given as 20. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “What's Up.” Internet Broadway Database. Accessed 24 Dec. 2015.
  3. “Vocalist with Band.” The Tuscaloosa News 19 Jan. 1941: 7.
  4. Radio Guide. The Milwaukee Sentinel 27 Apr. 1941: 9-C.
  5. “Lovely Lynn.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1941: 4.
  6. “Separate Band for Will and Ray.” Billboard 31 Jan. 1942: 9.
  7. “Few Changes In Bradley Orchestra.” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1942: 1.
  8. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 28 Mar. 1942: 113.
  9. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 3 Oct. 1942: 23.
  10. Grennard, Elliott. “On the Air: Bob Allen.” Billboard 19 Dec. 1942: 23.
  11. “Profiling the Players: Bob Allen.” Down Beat 1 Jan. 1943: 14.
  12. “Lynn Gardner Nixes Terms, Leaves Allen.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1943: 1.
  13. “Bob Allen Signed for Penn, Capitol.” Billboard 20 Mar. 1943: 26.
  14. “Broadway Openings: What's Up?” Billboard 20 Mar. 1943: 26.
  15. “Paula Kelly New Bob Allen Chirp.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1943: 2.
  16. “Burton Adds Lynn Gardner.” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1943: 3.
  17. “Lynn Gardner On the Cover.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1943: 1.
  18. “Lynn Gardner on Her Own.” Billboard 12 Feb. 1944: 15.
  19. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1944: 5.
  20. “On the Air.” The Cedar Rapids Tribune 16 Mar. 1944: 6.
  21. “What's on the Air.” Wisconsin State Journal [Madison, Wisconsin] 30 Mar. 1944: 8.
  22. “Lynn With Bob Hawk.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1944: 1.
  23. Steinhauser, Si. “Kay Kyser Keeps His Promise Not to Get Bigheaded on the Radio.” The Pittsburgh Press 17 Sep. 1944: 30.
  24. “On the Air.” The Circleville Daily Herald [Circleville, Ohio] 15 Jan. 1945: 7.
  25. Steinhauser, Si. “Radio Comics Establish Youth Foundation.” The Pittsburgh Press 9 Mar. 1945: 37.
  26. “Marriages.” Billboard 19 May 1945: 35.
  27. irenegade. “Lynn Gardner Durante.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube 22 Feb. 2009. Web. 24 Dec. 2015.
  28. Gaertner, Marianne. Email. Received, 9 May 2022.