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Who was Vaughn Monroe?


Despite an early talent for the trumpet, Vaughn Monroe just happened to be blessed with one of the most memorable singing voices in the history of recorded music (His baritone operatic quality earned his voice the nicknames “Old Leather Lungs” and “The voice with hairs on its chest”). While based in Boston, Monroe formed his first orchestra and began recording for Victor's Bluebird label. One of his first singles, There I Go, spent three weeks at the top of the Hit Parade in 1940. His longtime theme song Racing with the Moon debuted in 1941, and the following year brought no less than three number one hits: My Devotion, When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World), and Let's Get Lost. They happened to be just about the hottest big band of the late 1940s and early 1950s and in addition to the songs above, his roster of other #1 hits is just as impressive:


  1. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 

  2. Ballerina 

  3. There, I've Said It Again 

  4. Red Roses For a Blue Lady 

  5. Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)

  6. Ghost Riders In The Sky


(One lost opportunity– he turned down the chance to be the first to record Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Gene Autry ended up with that one, but perhaps Vaughn evened the score when Vaughn’s arrangement of Ghost Riders surpassed the one that Autry had done earlier.)

Monroe's first few years of recording had been quite successful, but all his biggest hits were yet to come. During 1945, There! I've Said It Again and Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! both spent more than a month at the top of the charts. And his two biggest hits, Ballerina and (Ghost) Riders in the Sky, came in 1947 and 1949, respectively. The latter, an old Western chestnut, brought Monroe and his handsome 6’2” frame into Hollywood's singing-cowboy genre with a couple of early-'50s movies, including "Singing Guns" and "The Toughest Man in Arizona." RCA capitalized on Monroe's continuing appeal, by signing him to a lucrative deal as its corporate spokesman, "The Voice of RCA Victor," in a long series of TV and print ads, and he continued to perform into the early '70s. The band's jobs always included appearances at Monroe's successful nightclub and restaurant, "The Meadows", located on Route 9 in Framingham, MA.

Children: Candace, Christina

Died: May 21, 1973


Hobbies: photography, motorcycling, miniature trains, carpentry, swimming, golf, and flying (Vaughn owned two planes.)



Top-Selling Albums


On the Moonbeam

October, 1945


Down Memory Lane

April, 1948


Vaughn Monroe Sings

January, 1949



#1 Hit Songs (weeks)

  1. 1.Riders In The Sky (12)

  2. 2.Ballerina (10)

  3. 3.There, I've Said It Again (6)

  4. 4.Let It Snow, Let It Snow (5)

  5. 5.Someday (2)


Did You Know?

Vaughn Monroe has two Hollywood Stars on the Walk of Fame– one for recording and one for radio.


His TV Show was the first variety show to be shown fully in color.

 
He was spokesman for RCA Victor and demonstrated the first television stereo broadcast on the Garry Moore Show (10/21/58). This landmark television show can be viewed in New York's Radio and TV Museum.

 

It has been estimated that Vaughn Monroe and his crew accrued more than half a million miles, traveling mostly by bus to do their many years of playing around the country. (It may have been many more for Mr. Monroe personally, as he did pilot his plane to get to venues, and to return to his family at night if within 300 miles of New England.


In the early 1950s, a college gave Mr. Monroe and his crew the biggest amount on record for a big band’s one-night stand– $4,200 (the average worker at the time made around $3,000 a year).


The film "Toughest Man in Arizona," which starred Monroe, was released in 1952. A publicity book at the time noted, “No doubles were required for Vaughn Monroe during the chase sequences in his latest starring picture for Republic. Monroe is an expert rider and he stables eight horses in a riding academy near Boston.”




















Other Links

  1. Vaughn Monroe Society

  2. Vaughn Monroe Show

  3. The Hanover Theatre

 

September 30, 7:00-10:00 PM, Neighborhood Club of Quincy, Quincy, MA

October 4, 7:00-9:00 PM, Southgate at Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury, MA

October 5, 6:30-8:30 PM, The Willows, Westborough, MA

October 6, 9:00-Midnight, Boston Swing Central, Cambridge, MA

October 7, 7:30-9:30 PM, Newbridge on the Charles, Dedham, MA

October 8, 2:00-4:00 PM, Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA

and

October 15, 4:00 PM

featuring original Monroe band member, the legendary guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli!

Bucky w/ Vaughn

Bucky today (age 91 and going strong)

What is the Vaughn Monroe Show?


Hopefully, a unique experience for all of us! Our goal is to transport the audience back to October, 1949– a time when shows like these were part of the American fabric. It’s a chance to both look back to the hope and aspirations of the pre-war generation (with the excitement that only a big band could deliver), as well as recall a society that could then look forward to what the 1950s had in store. Like so many of those shows, ours is complete with dancers, a comedian, skits, messages from sponsors, and even snippets of original broadcasts. For at least a few hours we will all be musically-transported, and we hope you can make that journey with us.

Vaughn in the starring role

Vaughn on his

Indian® motorcycle

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 (see bio below), songstress Georgia Gibbs, and Boston saxophone master Andy Bagni all performed with the orchestra. Although most of the big bands broke up after the 1947 musician's union strike, Monroe went on to record his biggest hit in 1949: (Ghost) Riders In the Sky which spent 12 weeks at #1 and was the biggest hit for any group that year. From 1940 to 1954, Monroe had close to 70 chart records, including many #1 hits. Three of those songs, Let It Snow, Ghost Riders and Ballerina, rank among the all-time top #1 songs, each dominating the Billboard charts for 10 weeks or more.

 

From a 1945 souvenir booklet:


“Monroe is a man of many hobbies. He likes photography, motorcycling, miniature trains, carpentry, swimming, golf, and especially flying. His earnings are large enough to permit him to be an active flying enthusiast and he owns two planes– Cantina II and Cantina III (named from first three and last four letters of his daughters' names). On dates played within three hundred miles of New York, Vaughn is able to fly home for a visit on his day off. That's a pretty good record for a man who directs RCA Victor's top-selling recording band, plays a hundred one-nighters a year, usually fifteen weeks of theater dates, a dozen other week engagements at night clubs and the like, and is on the air every Saturday night for Camel cigarettes.”

Vaughn with Ted Williams

The RCA spokesman

Our band leader and music director, Dan Gabel, has been leading his own big band for over 10 years, with the exception of one year when he was a trombonist with The Glenn Miller Orchestra. He has assembled two dozen musicians, including a male and female vocal group (Vaughn’s Moon Maids and Moon Men) and, with the blessing and permission of the Monroe family and New England Conservatory, is using the original manuscripts that were last used by Vaughn over 60 years ago. You’ll hear the #1 hits, including (Ghost) Riders in the Sky, Ballerina, and There, I’ve Said It Again, as well as Vaughn’s countless Top 10 arrangements.

Vaughn with The Moon Maids

Who is Bucky Pizzarelli?


For more than seven decades, the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli has had a stellar career. He was born John Pizzarelli but, even as a teenager, his nickname was "Bucky." "Oh, my father gave me that," Pizzarelli said.  "My father was in love with cowboys.  He went to Texas when he was a kid.  And they always had cowboy connotations”.


As the complete jazz musician, he has been a fixture in jazz and the studios since the 1940s. The list of big bands and vocalists with whom Bucky has performed and recorded reads like a veritable Who’s Who of Jazz. One of the era’s most solid rhythm players, Pizzarelli was in high demand, playing and touring with Benny Goodman, Zoot Sims, Bud Freeman, Stephane Grappelli, The Tonight Show Band, and Frank Sinatra. (Most recently he recorded Paul McCartney on his new Grammy® Award winning album, Kisses on the Bottom.) At the age of 91, he still tours and performs all over the world and lives in Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife of nearly 70 years, Ruth. The legendary guitarist got his start, though (at age 17!), playing with Vaughn Monroe.

“I think he [Vaughn] made some great, popular songs, and he had some million-sellers, I know that for a fact. He was a good musician.  He could sight-sing, you know. I know when arrangers would bring their new arrangements on the job and they would pass out the music and we would play it, and he would sing it like he'd been singing it forever…it didn't faze him at all to sing something 'cold' right on the job.  That's pretty good. He was unique.  There wasn't another bandleader that did what he did, in the whole band business.  Because he had that unusual voice.”


"They had a lot of jokes about that, everybody, but I thought it was pleasing. It was different, a deep baritone, and he was like an opera singer, quite strong and masculine. Monroe could have been on the stage, in operatic or theatrical productions, if he desired. When he was younger, he should have. He had the voice for that."


The Pizzarelli sound is also unmistakable, and the beloved guitarist has developed a very personal style that sets him apart from his contemporaries. Now, for the first time since 1953, the rhythm guitar master returns as a special guest with the new Vaughn Monroe Orchestra.

Photo: © Mike Oria

Our special guest at The Hanover Theatre is none other than original Vaughn Monroe band member, the legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. At 91, he still performs with his talented sons, John and Martin and tells us he is extremely excited to be “reunited” with the music that was so much a part of his early success and the musician he became. In fact, Bucky will open our show with his trio, including son Martin, before sitting in with the whole band.

presents

”I was just learning how to play rhythm guitar, and I learned how to do it in the band. I joined him when I was 17 years old. I just got out of high school, and I did three or four one-nighters with him.  Of course, back during those days, they were taking guys out of the Army– it was 1943, in December and I stayed with the band until I got drafted. In fact, two years later when he found out that I was being discharged, he called my mother and said, 'Tell him to come back in our band.  He's got the job.  It's his, 'cause he went in the service.’ I was just learning how to play rhythm guitar, and I learned how to do it in the band. You know, when you're 17, you don't care whether you're playing any solos. You're glad to be in the band wearing a gabardine suit. As a member of the rhythm section, my job was to help support and drive the band. Definitely you had to, that's the post of the band, you know."

“I joined him when I was 17 years old...you know, when you're 17, you don't care whether you're playing any solos. You're glad to be in the band wearing a gabardine suit.”