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Italian-American popular singers from the 1950s:


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Initial post: Dec 30, 2012 5:48:31 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2012 6:44:20 AM PST
Joe Anthony says:
Am I the only one who likes the Italian-American popular singers who began their careers around the 1950s?

I'm talking here about the likes of Dean Martin, Perry Como, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine and Frank Sinatra.

First of all, in order to have remembered these artists during the heyday, one would have to be about eighty years old; and except for Jerry Vale and the great Tony Bennett who remain alive and well and still recording albums; all of these great singers are no longer with us.

In this sense, I first experienced all of these artists second-hand, during the 1980s when I was in my teens and early twenties. At the time, it wasn't even my "mother's music", but more-so, the music of my grandparents, and at the time it was considered very "square" among both Baby Boomers and so-called Generation X.

Even so, with the popularity of "Mafia" movies such as "Goodfellas" and "Casino", or maybe, just with the passing of time, these artists eventually became recognized by younger generations. Indeed,young people today seem to think that Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were "cool"; and I have a college-aged son who says he likes and listens to Tony Bennett; and now we even have Rock singers such as Rod Stewart trying to sing like Tony Bennett.

In my classical-music-oriented mind, I perceive that there were colors and textures to the recordings made by these Italian-American singers of that era that came just before the tremendous entrance of Rock-n-Roll which seemed to push these guys into the "easy-listening" bin.

My summation goes as follows:

Frank Sinatra: He's "Numer Uno"; the "Chairman of the Board"; "Old Blue Eyes"...near perfect phrasing; extremely masculine, but also quite vulnerable. Frank was a perfectionist who was concerned with all aspects of production and created many fine "concept" albums (such as "Only the Lonely") which work as a whole idea; like a symphony; with the "whole" being greater than the "sum of the parts".

Dean Martin: Not only a great singer, but also a gifted actor and comedian; incredibly handsome...Dean's voice was, perhaps, the best of all the great "crooners"; but his output past the mid-1960s, IMO, sounds repetitious and uninspired. Dean only made ONE recording past 1973, "The Nashville Sessions". Even so, Dean's recordings from the 1950s are full of color and texture that rival, or even surpass, Sinatra's music of the same period.

Perry Como: squeaky clean, wholesome; stayed away from the dark side of fame; in the Italian-American neighborhood where I grew up, Perry was everybody's grandmother's favorite. While Perry Como is something of a modified Bing Crosby, he does have a style all his own; and he does have an appeal as long as you don't listen to too many of his songs at the same time. During the 1950s, Perry Como could actually pull off a degree of "swing" with songs such as "Papa Loves Mambo".

Al Martino and Jerry Vale: Sort of along the lines of a poor man's Frank Sinatra. Martino had a robust, nearly operatic voice (he grew up in Philadelphia with Mario Lanza); and, though he never quite caught on; he did gain some notoriety as "Johnny Fontaine" in the "Godfather". Jerry Vale seemed to be more along the lines of a "crooner"but could also belt it out; had a spot in "Goodfellas" playing himself.

Frankie Laine: After tremendous popularity in the 1950s became virtually forgotten during the rest of his very long life (he died in 2007, at the age of 93). Frankie Laine was a "belter"; he sang with a full voice, and with a great deal of emotion. Eventually, he became known for singing the opening themes of western movies such as "OK Coral", "Rawhide" and "Blazing Saddles". Even so, Frankie Laine, also had some nice little romantic gems such as "My Desire" and "We'll Be Together Again" (a song that he also composed).

Tony Bennett: As I said, he's still alive and popular. While there are others who are younger and are singing in that style; such as Harry Connick; Tony is the last of one left from the old days. While Tony did lots of very lush songs such as "I Left My in San Francisco" and "Maybe This Time"; he also did a lot of jazz with the Ralph Sharon Trio, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz and many others. In this regard, Tony Bennett is one of the last links to a great era of music, and I'm glad that he gets to enjoy recognition as such.

What say you?

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 7:08:02 AM PST
I'm not a big fan of the style or the singers you've mentioned.
However I do enjoy many of the recordings of the top female Italian-American recording artist of the 50s, Connie Francis.

I'm not sure if she was the first, but certainly one of the first to double track her own vocal harmonies to her vocal melody line.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 7:34:21 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Domenico Modugno had a huge hit with the original "Volare" in 1958, subsequently covered by just about everybody else. Of course, he wasn't Italian-American; just Italian.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 7:51:59 AM PST
Nel Blu de Pinto de Blu by Domenico Modugno is probably the greatest Italian song of all time.

Don't be fooled: Connie Francis was a nice Jewish girl. Frankie Laine was a nice jewish boy.

The most fun Italian-American singer of all time. Not Sinatra, not Perry, not Dean. Not Frankie Avalon nor Bobby Rydell. Not even Lou Monte. But (drum roll, please).... the Big Chief: LOUIS PRIMA.

Buona Sera and so many others. Despite the anti-Italian feeling during the WWII, Prima continued to record Italian songs, the most famous "Angelina", named after his mother. Others included "Please No Squeeza Da Banana," "Bacci Galupe (Made Love on the Stoop," and "Felicia No Capricia."

He complains about someone eating his ravioli on his version of the New Orleans classic, "I Wish You were Dead, You Rascal You."

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:08:11 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2012 8:10:31 AM PST
Don Cornell. Did flirt with some rock 'n' roll, too, with Alan Freed on Coral.

I find Al Martino most interesting/listenable after 1966. His "country" songs from 1963-67 more or less set up Glen Campbell's career formula.

I never "got" Mario Lanza. He was very big as a pop artist into the late '50s, and he seemed to be part of the inspiration for Elvis's persona, especially Elvis's 1960-64 recordings.

I really like Frankie Laine's not-Western records, especially the jazz stuff. It's annoying that there isn't a really fleshed out package of his Mercury recordings. On vinyl, all his Merc stuff I can find is that horrible bleed-off fading echo rechanneled fake stereo. (Frankie Lo Vecchio is Jewish???)

Como's a favorite. He managed to accomodate rock 'n' roll without being embarrassing, made some pretty decent albums from the late '60s into 1973 or so.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:08:29 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Louis Prima was heavily influenced by one Louis Armstrong, another New Orleans native. Prima wrote some classics, including "Sing, Sing, Sing", a Benny Goodman trademark tune.

Prima's daughter continues to keep her dad's name popular, performing his music.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:11:28 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Never forget Mr. Durante, possibly the most beloved entertainer in American showbiz history.

Umbriago
Gwan' Home Yer Mudder's Callin'

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:13:21 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Jimmy Durante's 1967 gospel album is back in print, and as heartfelt as anything he ever did.

Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Somebody's Keeping Score
In The Garden

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:14:38 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Simply means inka dinka doo a dinka dee.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:15:35 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Bacciagalupe
Makes love on the stoop
It's the only place where he can be alone.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:40:05 AM PST
My older sister introduced me to Elvis,Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino,Buddy Holly , The Supremes and The Beatles. She knew her stuff . No Pat Boone,Frankie Avalon etc. Her all time favorite was Louie Prima and Kelly Smith. She wore out the albums. Now that I think back they were right there at the start of Rock and Roll for our family along with the artists alredy listed. She could really dance and Prima and Smith was the music to dance to. The Beatles are my Favorite but I will always have a spot for Prima and Smith. Oh yeah Sinatra , Martin, Bennett and Francis, and Como were all played in our home every Sunday while we had our Sunday sauce. Joe D

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2012 8:53:31 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2012 8:56:04 AM PST
Joe Anthony says:
Frank Alan Hush says:

"Don't be fooled: Connie Francis was a nice Jewish girl. Frankie Laine was a nice jewish boy."

Frankie Laine was Italian. Connie Francis is also Italian; although she enjoyed a fruitful association with Jews, as she was popular in the Catskills. I also know that Connie Francis recorded two albums of popular Jewish songs which might also add to the confusion:

Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favourites

Another singer from the same era, and was of minor importance, was Tony Martin (Alvin Morris), who lived a very long time (1913-2012), and WAS Jewish, although he adopted an Italian-sounding stage name and even occasionally sang in Italian for effect.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:55:39 AM PST
Oh, oh--Sam Butera & the Witnesses! Sax man, yes, but also growled/howled some great stuff.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 8:59:34 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Concetta Francona from Philly is Jewish?

The late Eddie Fisher, a bel canto belter, was, of course.

Oh My Papa

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:03:09 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Whoops, sorry. Ms. Franconero was born in N. Jersey. Sorry, Connie.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2012 9:04:27 AM PST
"Lady of Spain" --! That was a chest blaster.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:05:27 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
My dad is still a Frankie Laine fan. He can still belt out "Ghost Riders In The Sky".

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:10:23 AM PST
She came a little bit later, but Timi Yuro was superb.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:12:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2012 9:22:38 AM PST
Johnny Bee says:
Tony Bennett singing 'Rags to Riches' in the soundtrack to Goodfellas - superb choice of song and what a vocal performance!

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:15:39 AM PST
Dr. Mikey says:
I grew up in the 50s and "came of age" in the 60s, so I remember the "popular" singers well. My mother was a big fan, but my dad favored "hillbilly" as it was called at the time. He loved the Grand Ole Opry and Western Swing. Of course, I rebelled against the country stuff, but as I got older came to appreciate it more. So now I like classic country (stuff before 1970).

I always like the "popular" singers, which included many Italian-Americans, because they had "classically" good voices. I still do not like rock or pop singers who changed the standard for voice production -- Dylan, Tom Waits, Dave Matthews, women singers with "little girl voices," and almost all rock groups under age 40. I do admire many of their songs, e.g., Dylan, but the Byrds did Dyaln beter than Dylan. The Beatles totally changed my life. I still like some MOR and definitely swing (both Western -Riders in the Sky, Asleep at the Wheel) and "regular" (Louis Prima, Louis Jordan, Brian Setzer, and the late Ray Collins, who left Frank Zappa to play swing and dance).

Back to the issue

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:24:51 AM PST
Dr. Mikey says:
Sorry, OK, now back to the issue, and I'll make it short - a story you may have heard. Perry Como had a TV variety show in the 60s and the joke was,
"Did you see the Perry Como Show last night?"
"No, I slept through it."
"That's OK, so did he."

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:26:26 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2012 9:28:55 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
I once sang for da Sultan of Passion.
And the Sultan offered me his harem of five hundred beautiful wives.
But I toined 'im down.
Because who wants to find a t'ousand stockings hangin' in the bathroom when he gets up in th' mornin'?
Not Durante!

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:27:39 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
That note was given to me by Bing Crosby.
And boy, was he glad to get rid of it!

Simply means inka dinka doo.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2012 9:33:25 AM PST
Joe Anthony says:
Steeler's Fan says:

"My dad is still a Frankie Laine fan. He can still belt out 'Ghost Riders In The Sky'."

I say:

...but "Ghost Riders" was Vaughn Monroe's song. In Laine's autobiography, he relates that because he did so many "western numbers", people at concerts would request that he did "Ghost Riders". Eventually, Laine had to just go ahead and record his own version of "Ghost Riders" because so many folks just assumed that he had already recorded it.

Like your dad, I like Frankie Laine a lot too.

I became intrigued by Frankie Laine during the 1990s and was pleased to find out that at that time, he was still alive and well. His recordings were, however, rare; and in this time just before the internet became a household thing, I had no way to find out more except to write Mr. Laine personally; which I did. He was gracious enough to send me his complete discography which I could acquire through his office. I ordered quite a bit, and he autographed everything. He seemed really pleased to be appreciated by younger generations. We corresponded a few times and I saved all of letters.

My only regret was never having seen him in person.

He lived out in San Diego and I'm out here in Boston; about as far away from two people can be from one another in the continuous forty-eight United States. At one point, he had plans for a concert in Atlantic City which I was planning to attend, but it was cancelled due to Laine's being quite elderly at the time.

Posted on Dec 30, 2012 9:40:03 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Yeah, I was aware that Vaughn ("Racing With The Moon") Monroe had the original hit. It's a standard covered by many artists over the years.
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Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  55
Initial post:  Dec 30, 2012
Latest post:  Jul 9, 2013

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