Monday, October 24, 2011
VAUGHN MONROE AT 100
Monroe was born in Akron, Ohio on October 7, 1911. He graduated from Jeannette High School in Pennsylvania in 1929 where he was senior class president and voted "most likely to succeed." After graduation, he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he was an active member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. Monroe attended New England Conservatory for one semester in 1935, studying voice with Clarence B. Shirley.
He formed his first orchestra in Boston in 1940 and became its principal vocalist. He began recording for Victor's low-priced Bluebird label. That same year, Monroe built The Meadows, a restaurant and nightclub on Route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts, west of Boston. He hosted the Camel Caravan radio program from there starting in 1946. It burned to the ground in December 1980.
Monroe was tall and handsome which helped him as a band leader and singer, as well as in Hollywood. He was sometimes called "the Baritone with Muscles", "the Voice with Hair on its Chest", "'ol Leather Tonsils", or "Leather Lungs".
He recorded extensively for RCA Victor until the 1950s and his signature tune was "Racing with the Moon" (1941). Among his other hits were "In the Still of the Night" (1939), "There I Go" (1941), "There I've Said It Again" (1945), "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" (1946), "Ballerina" (1947), "Riders in the Sky" (1949), "Someday (You'll Want Me To Want You)" (1949), "Sound Off" (1951), and "In the Middle of the House" (1956).
Monroe also wrote a number of songs ranging from "Army Song" to less-known ones like the "Jeannette High School Alma Mater".
Movies also beckoned, although he did not pursue it with vigor. Monroe appeared in 1944's Meet the People, Carnegie Hall (1947), Singing Guns (1950), and The Toughest Man in Arizona (1952). He co-authored The Adventures of Mr. Putt Putt, a children's book about airplanes and flying, published in 1949.
He hosted The Vaughn Monroe Show on CBS television from 1950–51 and from 1954–55, and also appeared on Bonanza and The Mike Douglas Show, as well as The Ed Sullivan Show, Texaco Star Theatre, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Tonight Show, and American Bandstand. He was a major stockholder in RCA and appeared in print ads and television commercials for the company's TV and audio products.
Like most big bands of the 1940s, a number of well-known artists got their start with Vaughn Monroe. Ray Conniff, guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, and songstress Georgia Gibbs all performed with the orchestra. Although most of the big bands broke up after the 1947 musician's union strike, Monroe kept on chugging, and went on to record his biggest hit in 1949: Ghost Riders In the Sky. Eventually the same fate befell Monroe's orchestra. With the band still at the height of its popularity, concert attendance began to drop.
Monroe himself attributed the decline to increased expenses, and above all, television. When expenses drove ticket costs to the breaking point in 1952, the violins were dismissed. More attrition followed, and Monroe called the orchestra business quits in 1953. Of the top orchestras from the 1940s, only Guy Lombardo and Count Basie would continue with a sizable show into the 1960s and 1970s.
With the loss of his touring band, the hit records stopped. But Monroe's personal popularity was as strong as ever; he continued to be successful touring as a solo act, using whatever band or orchestra was on the bill. He was also popular as a pitchman, promoting everything from Camel cigarettes and RCA radios to the US Forest Service's Smokey the Bear campaign. Monroe was a spokesman for RCA televisions well into the 1960s. He continued to headline decent sized showrooms and theatres until his passing in 1973.
Monroe died on May 21, 1973 at Martin County Memorial Hospital, shortly after having stomach surgery. He was buried in Fernhill Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum in Stuart, Florida...
For more information on singer Vaughn Monroe please visit:The Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society