Lita Roza is not the only singer to be especially connected with one song. However, she may be one of the few who had such a degree of loathing for her big hit that she rarely if ever agreed to sing it. The song was How Much Is That Doggie In The Window ? which went to the top of the UK charts in April 1952, making her the first British singer to have a number one hit. In an article in the Daily Mirror [18th May 1954] she said of it “I thought it was a silly song. I didn’t want to sing it. We had one run-through and then made the record. It became a best-seller and I got a car out of it”.
She was born Lillian Patricia Lita Roza on 14th March 1926, the first of seven children to Francis and Elizabeth Roza who lived at 13 Upper Pitt Street L8. The family would later move to 92 Wordsworth Street L8. She attended St. Michael’s primary school in Cornwallis Street and then Granby Street Secondary Modern. After leaving school she worked at a florists in Lodge Lane, Pollocks pram store in Renshaw Street and then the Home and Colonial Store at 108 Lodge Lane.
She had some early success in show business, appearing in pantomime, working with comedian Ted Ray and landing a slot as a singer at a club in Southport. However it all came to a halt when, aged 18, she married an American serviceman and moved to Miami. However the marriage did not last and in the aforementioned Daily Mirror article she said that she only became a singer because of her unhappy marriage, “We split and I got my divorce. I had to earn a living again – so I went back to singing”.
She returned to England and by 1950 had become the lead singer with the prestigious Ted Heath band. After four years with the band she embarked on a solo career and was one of the country’s leading female singers throughout the 1950’s. Although she only had two other minor chart successes this was an era where stars gained their big money from live appearances and the press frequently made reference to her earning as much as £400 a show (say about £12,000 at today’s purchasing power). She was a regular on the top television and radio variety shows and made an appearance, as a singer, in the 1955 Dirk Bogarde film Cast A Dark Shadow. [The full film is on YouTube and Lita Roza's song can be found 28 minutes into the film] In 1956 she married a trumpet player from Ted Heath’s band, Ronnie Hughes, but the marriage did not last. She continued to record into the 1960’s but her fame receded as tastes changed.
Her last public performance was on Radio Merseyside on 28th November 2002. Shew died in London, aged 82, on 14th August 2008.
Lita Roza's house has been demolished, it stood where the Liverpool Chinese Gospel Church now stands. The adjacent house, number 15, shows the style of the house.
The Roza home when she was working in Lodge Lane.
The Wikipedia entry is just an outline. I gained some useful information from The Guinness Who's Who Of Fifties Music [Guinness Publishing 1993] and from press articles. There is a nice piece on YouTube which shows her being interviewed and singing Just In Time on a Dutch TV show
© Liverpool Footprints