I auditioned for “The Tonight Show” in 1962. Jack Paar has left the show and Johnny Carson had not signed on as the permanent host. The guest host that day was Donald O’Connor, who I had loved in all those MGM musicals when I was a little girl in Mississippi. I sang my best song, “When the World Was Young,” and they said, “Okay, honey, you’re gonna to be on the show tonight. Well, we tape this afternoon, so you’ll be taping the show this afternoon and it’ll air tonight.” I panicked. “I don’t have any arrangements,” I said. “Don’t worry, Skitch (Henderson) will make you a great arrangement.” But I had a further worry. “And I don’t have anything to wear. (Don’t forget, I’d only been in the business a very short time!) “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll take care of that.” So they took me to Saks Fifth Avenue, bought me this fabulous fuschia dress and transported me back to the studio to tape the show.
I looked around and thought, Isn’t that nice, they’ve hired all these hearing impaired people because everyone was wearing what looked like hearing aids. Of course, I realized later that the director was communicating with the crew through those tiny headphones that I thought were hearing aids! When the taping started and it was my turn to sing I had never even rehearsed the song with the orchestra. Skitch Henderson came over to me and said, “Okay, honey, you’re gonna hear sounds you’ve never heard before, but just keep singing, just keep singing.”
And I did, I just kept singing, too young and naive to fear how badly I could’ve screwed up, I just kept singing. And that was my network TV debut.
Shortly thereafter, due to popular demand, I appeared again on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Below are the notes given to Mr. Carson as a guide to interviewing me.