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Judy Canova (November 20, 1913August 5, 1983) was an Americanmarker comedienne, actress, singer and radio personality. She was sometimes introduced as the Ozark Nightingale.

Early career

Born Juliette Canova in Starke, Floridamarker, her show business career began with a family vaudeville routine. She joined her sister Annie and brother Zeke, and their performances as the Three Georgia Crackers took them from theaters in Florida to a club in Manhattan. Judy Canova sang, yodeled and played guitar. The standout in the family, she had once aspired to a serious musical career. Instead, she was typed as a wide-eyed likable country bumpkin, often barefooted, and wearing her hair in braids, sometimes topped with a straw hat, and her hayseed character developed as radio's female equivalent of comedian Bob Burns's smalltown sage. When bandleader Rudy Vallée offered her a guest spot on his radio show in 1931, The Fleischmann Hour, it opened the door to a career that spanned more than five decades.

Radio and films

The popularity of the Canova family led to numerous performances on radio in the 1930s, and they made their Broadwaymarker debut in the revue Calling All Stars. An offer from Warner Bros. led to several bit parts before she signed with Republic Pictures. During her career, she recorded for the RCA Victor label and appeared in more than two dozen Hollywoodmarker films, including Scatterbrain (1940), Joan of Ozark (1942) and Lay That Rifle Down (1955).
The Judy Canova Show began on CBS in 1943 and moved to NBC in 1945.
In 1943, she began her own radio program, The Judy Canova Show, that ran for 12 years—first on CBS and then on NBC. Playing herself as a love-starved Ozark bumpkin dividing her time between home and Southern California, Canova was accompanied by a cast that included voicemaster Mel Blanc as Pedro (using the accented voice he later gave the cartoons' Speedy Gonzales) and Sylvester (using the voice that later became associated with the Looney Tunes character), Ruth Perrott as Aunt Aggie, Ruby Dandridge as Geranium, Joseph Kearns as Benchley Botsford and Sharon Douglas as Brenda—with Gale Gordon, Sheldon Leonard and Hans Conried also making periodic appearances. The Sportsmen Quartet joined the show in 1943 and backed Judy on most of her songs, and the Charles Dant Orchestra provided the rest, usually supporting Canova's country warble. Western singer and actor Eddie Dean also appeared with Canova on numerous occasions during the 1930s.

During World War II, she closed her show with the song "Goodnight, Soldier" ("Wherever you may be... my heart's lonely... without you") and used her free time to sell U.S. War Bonds. After the war, she introduced a new closing theme that she once said she remembered her own mother singing to her when she was a small child:

Go to sleep-y, little baby,
Go to sleep-y, little baby,
When you wake
You'll patty-patty cake,
And ride a shiny little pony.

Canova recorded the song in 1946.

While a hit with her own show, Canova made frequent appearances on other popular radio programs of the day, including and especially those hosted by Abbott and Costello and Fred Allen.


Judy Canova and George Raft (1979)
By the time her radio program ended in 1955, Canova easily made a smooth transition to television with appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Steve Allen Show, Matinee Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and other shows. In 1967, she portrayed Mammy Yokum in an unsold TV pilot adapted from Al Capp's Li'l Abner. She also worked on Broadway and in Vegasmarker nightclubs through the early 1970s, touring with No, No Nanette in 1971.

Her daughter, Diana Canova, is an actress best known for her role on the ABC television sitcom Soap.

In 1983, Judy Canova died from cancer at age 69 and was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemeterymarker in Glendale, Californiamarker. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker for her contribution to the film industry (6821 Hollywood Boulevard) and a second star for her radio career (6777 Hollywood Boulevard).


  • The Song of Fame (1934) (The Canova Family)
  • In Caliente (1935) — (Specialty number, "The Lady in Red")
  • Broadway Gondolier (1935) — (uncredited)
  • Going Highbrow (1935)
  • Artists & Models (1937)
  • Thrill of a Lifetime (1937)

  • Scatterbrain (1940)
  • Sis Hopkins (1941)
  • Puddin' Head (1941)
  • Sleepytime Gal (1942)
  • True to the Army (1942)
  • Joan of Ozark (1942)
  • Chatterbox (1943)
  • Sleepy Lagoon (1943)
  • Louisiana Hayride (1944)
  • Hit the Hay (1945)
  • Singin' in the Corn (1946)
  • Honeychile (1951)
  • Oklahoma Annie (1952)
  • The WAC from Walla Walla (1952)
  • Untamed Heiress (1954)
  • Carolina Canonball (1955)
  • Lay That Rifle Down (1955)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
  • Cannonball (1976)

Listen to


  • Canova Family Tree
  • Smith, Ronald L. Who's Who in Comedy, page 88. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0-8160-2338-7

External links

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