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April 18, 2014

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Debby Boone Brings Christmas Memories

Sun Photo By Nelson Morais

Debby Boone performs at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 14. In addition to singing some of her most popular music, she recounted childhood memories of being the daughter of famed crooner and actor Pat Boone and the daughter-in-law of singer and actress Rosemary Clooney.

Originally published: 2013-12-21 00:12:46
Last modified: 2013-12-21 00:25:00

Gives High Praise

To Advanced Chorus

Of Greeneville High



Debby Boone last week wove personal recollections of growing up as the daughter of world-famous singer Pat Boone -- and then becoming the daughter-in-law of famed singer-actress Rosemary Clooney -- into a performance at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC).

The popular singer of the hit ballad "You Light Up My Life" -- the most popular song of the 1970s -- appeared at the NPAC on Saturday evening, Dec. 14, in a show titled "Christmas Memories."

A highlight of the evening came when 47 students from Greeneville High School's Advanced Chorus harmonized beautifully, singing traditional Christmas hymns.

The 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders also sang on stage with Debby Boone.

"We had lots of fun doing it!" said Choral Director Kathryn May after the performance.

Boone, an author and actress as well as the winner of multiple Grammy awards, stated that she was "not exaggerating" when she said they were one of the best school choral groups she has ever had on stage at one of her shows.


She shared several memories of growing up in the Pat and Shirley Boone family, and then becoming the daughter-in-law of the legendary Rosemary Clooney: the mother of her husband, Gabriel Ferrer, to whom she has been married for 34 years.

Boone said that she remembers going to Las Vegas, Nev., as a child in the early 1960s, when the group of singers and actors known as "The Rat Pack" -- including close friends Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and others -- was famous, and "big band" sounds filled ballrooms.

She was required to hold the hand of a parent the entire time she was there, she said, but one episode intrigued her and established much of her career trajectory.

She said she looked between curtains and saw a glamorous-looking lounge singer performing, and told herself something along the lines of "I want to be like that."

Boone, 57, came on stage at the NPAC last Saturday evening in a shimmering, gray evening dress and sang "My Favorite Things," from The Sound of Music.

She then went into "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."

Five musicians who performed on stage behind her backed her up.

"We had a Christmas tradition in November," said Boone, who is one of four daughters. "We'd get the TV Guide to see when 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' was on TV. We then met in the den by the fireplace in our pajamas and watched it together as a family."

Boone sang "Christmas Time is Here" from the "Charlie Brown" TV special, which continues to be aired annually prior to Christmas.

She also sang from her latest CD, "Swing This," which recalls songs from the Swing era.


Boone said she remembered her chaperoned time in Las Vegas, when her father was a headliner at the Sands and Sahara hotels.

She recalled seeing several popular stars of the time get married in Las Vegas, including Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Elvis and Priscilla Presley, and Judy Garland (twice). In line with the wedding theme, Boone then sang, "Get Me to the Church on Time," from the hit Broadway play and movie "My Fair Lady."

Boone said when she became a professional singer herself, she worked with Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

She said she never worked with Dean Martin but was a friend of his daughter, who was about her age.

And she said that in her young years she had "a crush" on one of Martin's sons, "Dino Jr."


Boone said that, growing up, she spent a lot of time in Tennessee, particularly in Nashville, where her father was raised.

Her grandfather was the famous country and western singer Red Foley.

For more than two decades, Foley was one of the biggest stars of the genre, selling more than 25 million records.

Audience members at NPAC got to see video clips of Rosemary Clooney with Debby Boone's twin daughters, and Boone recalled touring across the U.S. in the popular show of the time: "Rosemary Clooney's White Christmas Party."

Boone said she and Clooney recorded a "rare duet," which is on Boone's only Christmas album, entitled, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."


She walked off the stage, appearing to end her show, but quickly returned to sing her signature song and mega-hit, "You Light Up My Life."

At its conclusion, she received a standing ovation from the audience and responded, "God bless you and Merry Christmas!"

After the show, she went to the lobby to sign autographs and meet fans.

For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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