About Vaughn Monroe
Bandleader Dan Gabel is working on a forthcoming biography of Monroe. Expect updates in the fall of 2018!
Vaughn Monroe. One of the most popular musicians of the 20th Century. Remember Ballerina? How about Ghost Riders in the Sky ? Racing with the Moon and Let it Snow ? Or perhaps you went to The Meadows, the place to go for entertainment. How about the Camel Caravan radio and TV programs? Or the first RCA color televisions? How about the star of Broadway musicals "Annie Get Your Gun" or "State Fair"? Or, perhaps the fellow next door who came over to help you fix your car?
...that was Vaughn Monroe. A star among stars, but a kind and charming "local" family man.
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:
- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
- There, I've Said It Again
- Red Roses For a Blue Lady
- Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)
- 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 "Riders in the Sky," came in 1947 and 1949, respectively. The latter, an old Western chestnut, brought Monroe 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.
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, 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. 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.