Born the tenth of eleven children to a grocery store owner in Tacoma, Washington, Helen Greco, as they say, came out singing. She began belting out songs at the age of 4 and by 8, little Helen was singing on local radio. While performing on a Seattle variety show, a young Bing Crosby caught Helen’s act, prompting him to exclaim “That girl sings Hollywood!” Helen and her family moved to Los Angeles and the young singer was given a job in Hollywood, earning $75 a week.
In 1935, eleven-year old Helen (now using the last name “Grayco”) appeared in a non-speaking role in the Marx Brothers’ film A Night at the Opera. A few years later, producer Joe Pasternack signed Helen to replace teen sensation and Universal Studios leading child star Deanna Durbin. Helen was cast in a supporting role in That Certain Age, a Durbin picture.
In the 1940s, Helen began a string of featured vocalist positions with a number of popular big bands, including Red Nichols’ ensemble. She met wildly popular “murderer of modern music” Spike Jones backstage at the Hollywood Palladium. Jones offered the songstress a job with his group, The City Slickers. Familiar with the type of music the Slickers performed, Helen lamented, “But I’m no comedian. How will I fit in?” Jones promised her that nothing would change. She would be given her own spotlight between comedy bits, to allow the audience to calm their fits of laughter. It was a perfect match and audiences loved it. Helen also worked with Jones’ other band, appropriately named Spike Jones’ Other Orchestra. This group played things straight, offering so-called “pretty” music that differed greatly from the City Slickers’ raucous on-stage antics. However, the public preferred the Slickers’ crazy tunes and The Other Orchestra broke up after a year. Along the way, Helen married Spike Jones.
Helen moved on to a solo career, releasing several albums. She also was a featured performed on her husband’s network television variety show The Spike Jones Show. The show ended in 1961. After Jones’ untimely death in 1965, Helen began singing in various nightclubs for the next decade. She met and married successful restaurateur Bill Rosen. After a few television appearances, including her final public performance on The Dean Martin Show, Helen stepped out of the spotlight for good.
She passed away in August 2022 at the age of 97.