Debby Boone's family is all over the musical map.

Not only is her father Pat Boone, but her grandfather on her mother's side was country legend "Red" Foley, who sang "Peace in the Valley" at Hank Williams' funeral. Her husband is Gabriel Ferrer, the son of the great jazz singer Rosemary Clooney.

To top it off, Ferrer's godfather was Clooney's friend and mentor Bing Crosby.

"How did you know that?" Boone asked, in awe of my vast store of useless knowledge. "Did she tell you? No one knows that."

I had already name-dropped that I had interviewed Clooney.

Boone's natural charm makes her a natural fit for this year's Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Holiday Pops concerts. Her voice, too, is perfect for the holidays. Boone's Christmas caroling has been featured on many a disc. And it is elegant -- polished but not fussy, sweet but not cloying.

She would be the first to admit she has been working on her craft for a long time.

At 14, she was singing with her sisters. It is hard to imagine her pursuing any other life. So it is surprising when she confides that her father did not think it was such a good idea.

"He wanted his daughters to be wives and mothers," Boone confesses. "We were raised in the '50s, really -- let the husband be the breadwinner, that's the way God made it.

"But my father made a big error in trying to see that dream fulfilled when he put us in the act when we were young. He had a specific reason -- he didn't want to be gone from us all the time. When it started he was giving a tour in Asia, and the opening act was the Osmond Brothers. And he said, 'Well, if the Osmond family can travel, why can't mine?' I got bitten. That's what I wanted to do, that's where I felt I excelled. He started it."

If Pat Boone was disappointed in his daughter's path, he got over it.

"He's been nothing but supportive and encouraging when it became apparent that I was going to have a career in music," Debby Boone says. "I still think if he had his druthers I would have been home."

But she has not neglected her husband and four children. "I'm not one of those women who think they can have it all."

Boone's solid marriage, an exception in the show biz world, begs a question: How did Gabriel Ferrer prove such good husband material, whereas his father, Jose Ferrer, was such a problematic mate for Clooney?

"For one thing, I think I chose very well," she says. "I attribute the success of my marriage, 32 years, more to him than to me.

"He's incredibly balanced and generous. I knew as I got to know him, that having been raised in an entertainment family, he knew what it was all about. What happened in the beginning, when some people referred to him as Mr. Boone, he wouldn't have his confidence shattered or come unglued when people saw him that way. He knew that it didn't mean anything.

"The easier answer is, we laugh so much. I think, if you can't laugh with the person you live with on a daily basis, you might not have been the right combination. I've never, for one minute of my marriage, been bored."

Such sincerity might explain Boone's big hit, "You Light Up My Life," about someone who, looking for love, finally strikes gold. A massive hit in 1977, the song went down in history as the single biggest hit of the 1970s.

In a way, Boone became a prisoner of her hit. Though she went on to make successful forays into country and Christian music, she never scored another hit on the scale of "You Light Up My Life." At one time, she admits, she felt ambivalent toward the song.

"I would say maybe in the second year of really having taken off with 'You Light Up My Life,' I began to get frustrated with it," she says.

"Then you go on with your career and you accept that wherever you go, people will want to hear that. The older I got, the more I thought hey, if I do nothing but that for the rest of my life, I did more than most people ever do. I thought, well, I had a massive hit record, people want to hear that song. I realize that song has connected me to so many people, in so many cases in such a special way. I view it from a special place of gratitude. I didn't appreciate it much early on, when it was so on fire."

Will Boone sing the song at Kleinhans Music Hall, in between Christmas classics? She says she will.

And she doesn't mind. She is touched, she says, by how people relate to "You Light Up My Life," by the role it has played in their lives.

"Every time I sign CDs after my concert, I hear the stories," she says. "And it never gets old to me."

In that respect, she follows in the footsteps of her mother-in-law, Clooney.

"I'll take you to a time I was watching Rosemary perform. I was in the audience, and she started singing songs that weren't necessarily her own hits, but were very very popular during World War II. And I looked around the audience and I watched these people go to special memories. It was intense. And I thought, what a gift that she has, that makes people go to a fond and lovely place. And I want to do that.

"I can't sing songs that were those hits [that Clooney sang]. But to have one that was my voice, to have someone say, 'My father sang that to me,' or 'That was my wedding song,' or 'I have a disabled child, and this is what he resonates to' -- that is a gift. Music is such a powerful and universal language. To have that convergence, to share those special, loving times, is a gift."



Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Holiday Pops, with Debby Boone

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. today, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Kleinhans Music Hall

TICKETS: $30-$75

INFO: 885-5000