Sunday, October 9, 2016
SINGER SPOTLIGHT: ANDY RUSSELL
Born Andres Rabago on September 16, 1919, he was the son of Mexican-Spanish parents. Russell was a popular singer in the USA during the 40s, with a romantic image and a penchant for Latin American numbers. He took his professional name from one of his idols, Russ Columbo. In the early 40s he worked with several bands, including Sonny Dunham, Gus Arnheim and Johnny Richards, sometimes also playing drums.
In 1942, he was one of seven vocalists with Alvino Rey’s big band, but was unable to record with the outfit because of union leader James Caesar Petrillo’s infamous musicians recording ban. His own hits, for Capitol Records, began in 1944 with ‘Besame Mucho’ and ‘Amor’, and continued through until 1948, with romantic ballads such as ‘What A Diff’rence A Day Made’, ‘I Dream Of You’, ‘I Can’t Begin To Tell You’, ‘Laughing On The Outside (Crying On The Inside)’, ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’, ‘Pretending’ and ‘Anniversary Song’. He also recorded Billy Reid’s ‘I’ll Close My Eyes’ and Bud Flanagan’s ‘Underneath The Arches’, on which he was accompanied by Tommy Dorsey’s old vocal group, the Pied Pipers.
Russell was also successful with ‘Je Vous Aime’, which he sang in the film Copacabana, starring Groucho Marx. Russell’s other movies included The Stork Club, in which he joined Betty Hutton on ‘If I Had A Dozen Hearts’, Make Mine Music, a series of short Walt Disney cartoons, for which Russell contributed ‘Without You’, and Breakfast In Hollywood, derived from a radio series of the same name, and featuring artists such as Spike Jones And His City Slickers, and the Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio.
Russell was very popular on US radio during the mid-late 40s on the Old Gold Show and Lucky Strike Hit Parade. He also appeared at many top venues, including the Paramount Theatre in New York. In the early 1950's, Russell appeared on early television with "Your Show Of Shows" with Sid Caesar for NBC, but recorded less frequently. By the early 50's, however, his hits had stopped and Capitol Records began to lose interest in him. Realizing that he commanded more popularity in Mexico than the U.S. he began performing there more frequently.
In the late 1950s, he re-located to Mexico City, and then to Argentina where he had a successful variety show that ran for seven years. He remained a U.S. citizen, however, and still made appearances in the U.S. from time to time. Capitol's Latin American affiliated labels released new material by Andy in the 1960s, after his stint with RCA Victor. He also recorded for Orfeon.
Andy returned to the United States in the late 60s and released two more albums for the parent Capitol label, one of which featured a Billboard Easy Listening Chart hit in 1968. It was a "cover" of label-mate Wynn Stewart's Country hit, It's Such a Pretty World Today, and served as the title song for the LP. Andy also appeared on public television fundraising specials well into the 1980s.
Andy was especially proud of receiving an award from "Nosotros" magazine, acknowledging his special achievements as the first bilingual singer to reach the top of the charts with an Anglo audience and to popularize Latin American songs. He surely paved the way for many other Latino singers, including Vikki Carr and even Ricky Martin!
After suffering a paralyzing stroke in February 1992 followed by another stroke on April 12, 1992, Russell died from complications at St. Joseph's Hospital in Sun City, Phoenix, Arizona on April 16, 1992 at the age of 72...