“To Jane Froman, a great soldier, who, though, wounded herself,
didn’t forget us wounded.”
—Tribute from G.I.s to Froman
Jane Froman was a musical pioneer and legend of the early 1900s. She defined the era with her class and dignity, coupled with an amazing voice that many called the best they had ever heard. In fact, when the famous musical producer Billy Rose was asked to name the ten best female singers, he replied, “There is Jane Froman and nine others.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Jane Froman was born on November 10, 1907, in University City but moved shortly thereafter to the small town of Clinton. She spent a short time in the western Missouri town before moving to Columbia with her grandmother, where she spent the rest of her childhood. Her father disappeared one night in Atlanta and the case was never solved. A large number of stressful events in her childhood caused her to develop a speech impediment at the age of five, and she stuttered for the rest of her life, except when she was singing.
After high school, she received her associate’s degree from Christian College, (later known as Columbia College) and then attended the University of Missouri–Columbia to study journalism. Her amazing voice was getting a great deal of attention from teachers and musical professors in college, who encouraged her to pursue a career in music. At Mizzou, her grades were suffering and her musical abilities were not being fully developed, so her mother sent her off to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music at the age of twenty-one.
RISE TO FAME
Her next stop on the road to fame was at the age of twenty-three, when she auditioned as a singer for Cincinnati radio station WLW. Listeners to the station were amazed at what they heard. Calls to the station came in droves as listeners voted her the top girl singer of the day. From that moment on, she was a bona fide star with musical scouts from all over the country asking her to perform. In just a matter of years, she went from college student to one of the top radio performers in the country.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Her first credited movie role was for a short film called Kissing Time in 1933. The movie didn’t get a lot of attention from critics or the public, but it gave her needed experience to move on to bigger and better productions. Her first big break came when she got a job on a radio program starring Bing Crosby. That job opened the door to more radio work while allowing her to work on television shows and in movies.
She traveled and performed across the country in the late 1930s and built a legion of fans everywhere she went. Her popularity hit its peak during World War II when she traveled to Europe with the USO to entertain the troops. But on February 22, 1943, she sustained serious injuries when her plane crashed in Portugal. Severe injuries, crutches, and rattled nerves still were not enough to keep her off the stage. She performed nearly one hundred shows in Europe, further cementing her status as one of America’s most beloved entertainers. Her career continued into the 1950s and 1960s, as she starred in The Jane Froman Show and the classic variety show, Toast of the Town.
After thirty-four years on stage, Froman moved back to Columbia where she spent the rest of her life. Even though she was “officially” retired, she continued to perform around the Show Me State and raise money for charities like her Jane Froman Foundation. She also did quite a bit of charitable work in Arrow Rock for the Jane Froman Music Camp, which helps children develop their musical abilities. She died in 1980 from cardiac arrest. She is forever memorialized in her home state though, as the Missouri State Senate passed a resolution recognizing her as one of Missouri’s all-time greats.
*Clinton, Missouri, named July 25, 1973, Jane Froman Day.
*The life-altering crash and her amazing performances afterward were chronicled in the award-winning movie, With a Song in My Heart, starring Susan Hayward as Froman. Jane’s voice was electronically dubbed into the film.
*Columbia, Missouri, declared the centennial of her birth, November 10, 2007, Jane Froman Day.