Despite a recording career that extended for nearly two decades, including a stint at the famed Motown label, Barbara McNair remains better-known as an actress than as a singer, utilizing both skills as the star of her own eponymously-titled television variety series. Born January 1, 1934, in Chicago, and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, McNair began singing as a child and, after spending a year at UCLA, she relocated to New York City, working as a secretary for the National Foundation of Settlements while fruitlessly auditioning for countless Manhattan nightclub gigs. Impresario Max Gordon finally booked her at the legendary Village Vanguard, followed by appearances on The Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. While performing at Las Vegas' Silver Slipper Casino, McNair came to the attention of famed newspaper columnist Walter Winchell, whose favorable reviews earned her a deal with Coral Records; her debut single, "Till There Was You," appeared in 1958, with the B-side, "Bobby," becoming a hit. That same year, she also made her Broadway debut in The Body Beautiful, later returning to the stage in The Pajama Game.