When you hear people talk about vocalists of the big band era, everyone instantly thinks of Frank Sinatra. By far, he was the most famous singer to come out of the big band era. However, there are countless other vocalists - some of them great, that never reached the heights of a Sinatra, but they should be remembered nevertheless...
RUSS CARLYLE (1914-2011)
Born on the December 3, 1914 vocalist and bandleader Russ Carlyle got his professional start after winning an amateur singing contest in 1935. After engagements at local Cleveland nightclubs, he went to work for radio station WJAY. In 1936 fellow Clevelander Blue Barron hired him as featured vocalist of his new orchestra. Carlyle was well-received by audiences, being voted one of the top four male vocalists by Billboard magazine in 1939.
Carlyle formed his own orchestra in 1940. When he fell victim to the draft in 1943 his sister, Louise Carlyle, took over leadership of the group under her own name. In the service Carlyle worked at a chemical warfare facility. On the side he formed an orchestra to entertain his fellow soldiers. It was during Carlyle's military stay that he met and became good friends with comedian Joey Bishop. In 1951 Carlyle's orchestra was signed by the ABC/Paramount label, where they recorded three albums. The group continued performing and touring throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. Dorothy Ferguson was female vocalist, eventually replaced by Patty Clayton, who later became Carlyle's wife. Russ retired in 1990 and for the next twenty years he made Arizona his home. He died on May 3, 2011 at the age of 96.
FORD LEARY (1908-1949)
Born on September 5, 1908 and with a name that sounds like an abbreviated aversion to a brand of automobile, Ford Leary had a short musical career which began in the mid- '30s in New York City and ended in the late '40s sadly at Bellevue Hospital. In his early years he sang and played trombone with Bunny Berigan.That association was one of the better jobs Leary found for himself while trying to establish himself as a freelance musician in a big city, New York City to be exact. The trombonist/vocalist moved on to the bands of Larry Clinton in 1938, Charlie Barnet in 1940, and Mike Riley in 1941 and finally Wingy Manone in 1943.
Sadly Leary was admitted to Bellevue in 1949 after having been in rotten physical shape for a long period of time due to alcoholism and physical ailments. At least two years were spent attempting to recover from a back injury, a calamity that halted a new and entirely different momentum to his career. Leary had broken through as an actor in the Broadway show entitled Follow the Girls. Ford Leary died institutionalized on June 4, 1949. He was only 40.
BOB HAYMES (1923-1989)
Born on March 29, 1923 Bob Haymes was a very good vocalist who was also known under the stage names Robert Stanton and Bob Stanton. He is best remembered today for co-writing the song "That's All", considered part of the Great American Songbook. He was the younger brother of singer and actor Dick Haymes. However, unlike his brother - Bob had a less troubled and turbulent life. Haymes began his career in the early 1940s as a vocalist in the bands of Carl Hoff and Bob Chester. In 1942 Haymes began work, under the name "Bob Stanton", for the radio show Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. He continued with the program until 1946, when it was turned into a television show on NBC; he then became the host of the television show until 1949.
In the 1950s, Haymes began work as a songwriter. In 1952 he co-wrote the song "That's All" with Alan Brandt. The song was first performed by Nat King Cole in 1953, but truly became a hit when recorded by Bobby Darin in 1959. It has since been covered by dozens of artists. In 1953 Haymes co-wrote, with Nick Acquaviva, the song "My Love, My Love", which became a hit when recorded by Joni James (Acquaviva's eventual sister-in-law) that year. Around the same time, he wrote the song "I Never Get Enough of You", which was recorded by his brother Dick. In 1968, Bob Haymes served as the national television director for Richard Nixon's presidential campaign, but he eventually retired from the limelight to South Carolina. Haymes died on January 27,1989 in Greenville, South Carolina at the age of 65.
What male vocalists do you remember? There are enough great talent out there that this could become a regular feature. Sadly, not every big band vocalist became a Frank Sinatra, but all of them deserve to be remembered...