Morton Downey was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, the child of Irish immigrant parents. Downey was nicknamed the Irish Nightingale.
For a time in the 1920s, Tenor Downey sang with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. He first recorded in 1923 for Edison Records under the pseudonym Morton James; the following year he recorded for Victor with the S.S. Leviathan Orchestra. In 1925 he began 4 years of recording for Brunswick Records. In 1926 he had a hit in the show Palm Beach Nights. He toured London, Paris, Berlin, New York City, and Hollywood. He also started making appearances in motion pictures in 1929.
In 1930 he began making national radio broadcasts. He was named voted the USA's "Radio Singer of the Year" in 1932. In the 1930s he recorded for ARC and Decca Records, the in the 1940s made records for Columbia.
Downey was also a songwriter, his most successfull numbers including "All I Need is Someone Like You", "California Skies", "In the Valley of the Roses", and "Now You're in My Arms", "Sweeten Up Your Smile", "That's How I Spell Ireland", "There's Nothing New", and "Wabash Moon".
Morton Downey was the father of television personality Morton Downey, Jr