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Quinn began her career in her native Dublin as a teenager singing with local bands. She sang at Dublin's Theatre Royal with the house orchestra and Jimmy Campbell. She was noted for one of her first songs, "The Isle of Innisfree", from the classic hit movie The Quiet Man, which starred John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
After coming to the United States in 1954, she appeared on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts radio program in 1955 and won the contest. Her voice and performing style was compared to that of Judy Garland and other popular singers. She became a regular on the show, appearing daily, singing and telling funny anecdotes about her life. She went on to appear on the television version of Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.
Unlike many of the so-called "Little Godfreys," who Godfrey capriciously dismissed from his shows and left with bitter feelings, Quinn had no such trouble. She remained a frequent guest throughout Godfrey's television career and appeared on the CBS radio version of Arthur Godfrey Time which he hosted until 1972. She continued to be a favourite with audiences and made guest appearances on The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom (three times between 1957 and 1960) The Ed Sullivan Show, The Match Game, Candid Camera and other variety and talk shows.
Since then she went on to appear in numerous musical road shows and has starred in Wildcat, Finian's Rainbow and The Sound of Music. She performed for presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Her annual Saint Patrick's Day Concerts at Carnegie Hall sold out for more than two decades. She appeared in numerous television commercials and has recorded many successful albums. She received a Grammy Award nomination for her children's recording of "Patrick Muldoon and his Magic Balloon". One of her biggest hits was "The Whistling Gypsy Rover".
She continued to record and many of her early recordings have been reissued on CD. In 1991 she was the second woman to receive the prestigious John F. Kennedy Award for excellence in her field of activity. She continues to perform her cabaret show throughout the United States as well as maintaining a commitment to numerous American and Irish charities.
She was married to Irish businessman and impresario William "Bill" Fuller (1917–2008). The couple had several children, one of whom, Michael, predeceased his parents. The marriage eventually ended in divorce.