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As Pat Friday - the Singing Coed, Helen Patricia Freiday’s voice once graced radio, stage, and movies, often uncredited. She sang with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Glenn Miller, but her biggest satisfaction came when performing for the troops. Photo by Phil Houseal

pat friday

Pat Friday as The Singing Coed

lynn bari

Friday ghost sang for actress Lynn Bari and others.

 



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Pat Friday

by Phil Houseal
July 14, 2010

 

She is where movie star Lynn Bari found her voice and how the star of TV's Dragnet got his name.

She is Fredericksburg resident Pat Friday, a delightful wisp of a woman who at the age of 15 hobnobbed with stars of film, stage and radio.

As Helen Patricia Freiday, she first found fame by winning a college singing contest. The prize was a guest appearance on a national radio show - Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall. She made quite the impression.

“The mail from my appearance was so heavy, they bought me - quite literally,” she said.

As Pat Friday (she dropped the “e” from her last name), she became a regular on the show, guested on all the popular radio programs of the era, and even hosted the Kraft Music Hall over two summers.

The young Friday spent her days in college, rehearsed in the evenings, and broadcast the show once a week. In her radio appearances, Friday worked with all the big names of her day. Here is a lightning round of her impressions of these larger-than-life personalities:

George Burns:
“He was a wonderful person. When Franklin Roosevelt died, Mr. Burns called me and said it wouldn’t be appropriate to do a funny show that day. I said I’ll sing. He said, get here fast. I was on his radio show many times.”

Gracie Allen:
“Her character was not the person she was. You have to be bright to act that dumb. Her puns were wonderful.”

Jack Benny:
“What a nice man.”

Victor Borge:
Friday was the featured singer on his show every week. “He was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. His wife was even finer. They were so happy together they made you feel warm. He was a good father, a very good friend, and a fabulous musician.”

Bob Hope:
Friday remembers working with him on the Armed Forces Radio Service that were broadcast all over the world. “I was blessed by meeting wonderful people, wonderful talent.”

Benny Goodman:
Friday worked with Goodman on Armed Forces Radio. One evening she went to dinner and the famed clarinetist recognized her from the bandstand. “He sent someone over to ask if I would get up to sing,” she said. “I replied, ‘I have been dreaming of it.’”

Glenn Miller:
The great bandleader was working on a film that featured the actress Lynn Bari. As was common practice in those days, studios would bring in ghost singers to voice the songs of the movie stars. Miller signed Friday to do both Sun Valley Serenade in 1941 and Orchestra Wives the following year. She earned $500 per film, made no residuals or royalties, received no credit, and was even forbade from telling anyone she was the singer.

That was the way the Hollywood machine ground in those days. I asked her impressions of one more radio star - Bing Crosby. Reluctantly she told the tale of working with the Crosbys. They were not happy at her decision to marry, since it would finish her career as “The Singing Coed.” The powerful family went so far as to blackball her in Hollywood, a sentence later lifted by their mother.

And finally, Jack Webb:
Pat Friday did a radio show with him called In Time To Come. It lasted only 13 weeks, but Jack Webb was destined to go on to greater things.

“He asked me one day, how long are you going to be using your name?” Friday said. “He told me he may adopt it, and I said that’s OK.”

As fans of the radio and TV series Dragnet know, Webb became Sergeant Joe Friday.

Interestingly, her fondest memories are not about her brushes with celebrities. She prefers to remember the times she spent volunteering, helping out the homeless, soldiers, and folks down on their luck.

“On those shows where you were ‘paid’ money to perform, well, some were fun, some were not,” she said. “Some were a hoot, some were.... hoochie. The best part was the volunteer work I did during the war, for the USO, Command Performance, and Armed Forces Radio Service.”

Friday is active in the community, still volunteering. Her one frustration is that she cannot remember all the details of those heady days.

“At my age they say you should remember the past with total clarity,” she said. “Balderdash! I can’t, without the bits and pieces to support it.”

She laments the loss all those photos, scrapbooks, and especially her sheet music. Sheet music?

“How would you feel if you had a piece of sheet music that had inscribed on it from Ira Gershwin: ‘Finally! Someone sang Summertime as a lullaby. Thank you. Thank you!’ I grieve that I lost that.”

As we celebrate that we found Pat Friday.