Molly Bee (August 18, 1939 – February 7, 2009), born Mollie Gene Beachboard, was an American country music singer famous for her 1952 recording of the early perennial, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", and as Pinky Lee's sidekick on The Pinky Lee Show.
Bee was also well known in the 1950s in Los Angeles, California as a regular on Hometown Jamboree, a local television program featuring Tennessee Ernie Ford, later the host of NBC's The Ford Show. She also appeared several times on The Ford Show during its five-year run (1956–1961).
Bee, who was part Native American, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on August 18, 1939, and raised in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, until she and her family moved to Tucson, Arizona sometime in the 1940s. In Arizona, she was discovered by "singing cowboy" Rex Allen, a disc jockey in Tucson, when he heard her singing. Allen was impressed with Bee's voice, and had the ten-year-old sing "Lovesick Blues" on his popular radio show.
In 1950, when Bee was 11, the Beachboard family moved to the Los Angeles area. She became a regular on Hometown Jamboree during the next two years, a KTLA-TV program produced at the American Legion Stadium in El Monte, California. It was later moved to the then-famous Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim, California.
The Saturday night stage show was hosted and produced by Cliffie Stone, who helped popularize country music in California. While in her teens, Bee sang on the Jamboree, and gathered a large fan following. She was so popular, the program was sometimes referred to as "The "Molly Bee Show." The program gave a big break to many young singers, including Tommy Sands, who became a teen idol and dated Bee in the 1950s. When she was 13, Bee signed on with Capitol Records and had her first major recording success with "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", in 1952. She attended Rosemead High School and graduated from Hollywood High School.
In 1952, Bee was cast to play Pinky Lee’s sidekick on the nationally-televised children's program, The Pinky Lee Show. In 1954, Bee joined Tennessee Ernie Ford in an NBC-TV daytime variety show which ran from January 3, 1955 to June 28, 1957. Before their performance of "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)", Ford teased Bee about her hair, which she wore in braids, and complimented her "silver bell voice." Ford also coaxed her to yodel, a skill learned on the Tennessee farm where she spent her early years. Thereafter, her yodeling became a feature in most of her early appearances. She was quoted as saying that her nine years with the Tennessee Ernie Ford show were the most enjoyable years of her life; she was home most of the time and got to see her family every day. Bee's No. 1 hit was followed by three more hit singles, including "The Tennessee Tango". She had gone around the world by the time she was 19 years old.
First appearing on screen in an RKO Pathe short subject film, "Molly Bee Sings", Bee also undertook a brief stage and film acting career in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in Summer Love, Corral Cuties, Going Steady, Chartroose Caboose and The Young Swingers, but once said she was "too shy" for an acting career. Bee appeared in 1958 with George Montgomery in an episode of NBC's The Gisele MacKenzie Show. She guest-starred on other national television variety shows hosted by Red Foley and Steve Allen.
During the 1960s, Bee was a regular headliner at major Las Vegas showrooms and briefly toured with Bob Hope's USO troupe. She also made frequent appearances on ABC-TV's The Jimmy Dean Show. In 1966, Dick Clark and Barbara John put together a new show for NBC-TV, Swingin' Country. It featured three regulars—Bee, Roy Clark and Rusty Draper. The show gained popularity, and the Armed Forces Radio and Television picked it up to be seen by over 250,000 military personnel worldwide. She was nominated in 1966 as "Best Television Personality" by The Academy of Country Music Awards.
By the end of the 1960s, her career began to fade; in later years, she blamed her decline on drug abuse. In 1975, in Country Song Roundup magazine, she was quoted as saying that, through her children, she found "equilibrium." In the 1970s, Bee reconnected with Cliffie Stone and recorded two more albums to begin her comeback; she played small country bars and venues, very different scenes from the large concert audiences that she had attracted early in her career. Her daughters often performed with her. Bee released the albums Good Golly Ms. Molly in 1975, this time on Stone's Granite record label, and, in 1982, her final album, Sounds Fine to Me. Although she was no longer touring, in April 1998, she was part of the playbill putting on a benefit for the Ivey Ranch Park for the physically and mentally handicapped in her city of residence, Oceanside, California.
By the 1990s she owned a restaurant and night club in Oceanside, known as The Molly Bee. She was quoted as having said, "I've done it all, and lived to tell about it." She remembered working with "incredible people and always into where the action was. I wouldn't trade it for the world." "Mine has been like six lifetimes rolled into one."
Bee was married at least five times—she called herself "the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the country music set." She had two daughters, Lia Genn and Bobbi Carey, and one son, Michael Allen. Her marriage to country singer Ira Allen lasted ten years.
A wonderful woman
Don Kirk = I had the privilege of knowing Molly for 8 weeks when I sang for Cliffie Stone, who was host of the Hometown Jamboree TV show. The first day I walked into rehearsals (It was 1957 and I was 11) I was with my mother and Molly came over and talked to us. Even though (Harmony Park Ballroom - home of the show) was full of big name stars like Tommy Sands and Tennessee Ernie Ford, Molly made me feel at home; and that I was now part of the family. She was a wonderful person.
Bee, who in her later years went by Molly Muncy offstage, died on February 7, 2009, at Tri-City Medical Center, Oceanside, California, from complications following a stroke. She was 69 years old and lived in Carlsbad, California. In addition to her son Michael Allen of Napa, California, Bee was survived by daughters Lia Genn of Winchester, California, Bobbi Carey of Oceanside, California, a brother Robert Beachboard of Escondido, California (died 2012), and four grandchildren.
|1965||It's Great, It's Molly Bee||MGM|
|1975||Good Golly Ms. Molly||Granite|
|1982||Sounds Fine to Me||Accord|
1965 "Single Girl Again"/"Keep It a Secret"
|1952||"The Tennessee Tango"|
|1952||"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"|
|1952||"Where Did My Snowman Go?"|
|1962||"Just For the Record"|
|1963||"All My Love, All My Life"|
|1963||"I Was Only Kidding"|
|1963||"Some Tears Fall Dry"|
|1974||"She Kept on Talkin'"|
|1975||"Good Golly Ms. Molly"|
|1975||"Right or Left at Oak Street"|