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Debby Boone Says Rosemary Clooney Loved Being a Grandmother to Her 4 Kids: ‘She Just Didn’t Hold Back’

Forty-one years after her classic hit “You Light Up My Life” helped win her a Grammy for Best New Artist, Debby Boone is kicking off a new U.S. tour on August 30. But first things first. “I just had a hip replacement and my husband, Gabriel [Ferrer], is having one as well on September 11, so we’re trying to figure out when we can squeeze in our 40th wedding anniversary celebration in between!” Debby, 62, exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.

In recent years, the singer has cut a 2010 tribute album dedicated to her late mother-in-law, Rosemary Clooney — mom of her Episcopal priest husband, Gabriel — while remaining a loyal daughter to her legendary crooner dad, Pat Boone. On the eve of Debby’s “fabulous” recovery from surgery, Closer sat down to talk about her legendary times with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., her famous cousin George Clooney and the lessons she learned from Rosemary about being the best grandmother ever.

Let’s go back to your breakthrough hit. Did it feel like a whirlwind?

It was just life-altering. Thankfully I had some experience onstage working with my sisters [as the Pat Boone Family and the Boone Sisters], but it was a whole different skill set — and kind of frightening.

How did you stay grounded?

Well, I was still living at home. My mom would say, “You haven’t cleaned the cat box in four days. Get upstairs.” [Laughs]

Still, you met some legends…

I got to open for Frank Sinatra for a couple of weeks, which was absolutely thrilling. Then I was invited to his home in Palm Springs called The Compound, with guesthouses named after his albums, and taken under his wing a bit. He sent a present to my son, Jordan, when he was born, a sterling silver cup engraved with the words, “Welcome to this world.” Isn’t that great?