The Post War Dance Bands - part three ©1999JCMarion
Capitol Records saw the strides made by RCA Victor and Columbia records with the post war dance bands on record and were looking to add their label to the style, and they realized they had the perfect musician for the task. He was Raymond Antonini, known as Ray Anthony from Pennsylvania. Anthony had been a big band veteran on the trumpet since the age of seventeen and a member of the Glenn Miller orchestra in 1941. After the war he organized his first band in his hometown of Cleveland. Soon the sound and style of his band caught the ear of Capitol Records and he was signed to that label in 1949. His first hit record for Capitol was in late 1949, an instrumental version of "A Dreamer's Holiday" which just barely missed the top ten listing. He was now on his way.
Early the next year Ronnie Deauville & The Skyliners did the vocals on "Sitting By The Window", which had a very brief chart life. The next Capitol release of "Sentimental Me" with solo vocal by Deauville gave the Ames Brothers a run for the top version of the song. The Ray Anthony record spent four months on the hit list and got solidly into the top ten best sellers. In mid 1950 a different vocalist (Dick Noel) propelled "Count Every Star" to a chart life of better than five months and a placing as high as the number four spot. Three more records released in 1950 all were solid top ten hits. "Can Anyone Explain?" and "Harbor Lights" both with Deauville solo vocals, and Ronnie & The Skyliners on "Nonetheless I'm In Love With You" closed out a most prolific year. Of the first eight Capitol records by Anthony, five made it into the top ten and a sixth stalled at eleven-quite an opening year.
In 1951 "The Night Is So Young And You Are So Beautiful" barely stays afloat, but "Be My Love" the Mario Lanza tune from the movie "The Toast Of New Orleans" is a big hit for Anthony and new vocalist Tommy Mercer. "These Things I Offer You" by Tommy Mercer & The Skyliners is a decent sized hit while a cover of Guy Mitchell's "My Truly Truly Fair" is not. The cover versions continue, many with success as "Undecided" with vocals by Tommy Mercer, Gloria Craig, and The Skyliners cover the Ames Brothers with a top ten record for Capitol. Tommy Mercer's vocal; gives Anthony a huge hit in 1952 on "At Last" a Glenn Miller evergreen. The record lasts for four months and peaks at number two. By now Ray Anthony has an impressive track record. Of his 16 Capitol Records releases, half of them are solid top ten sellers. Midway through 1952 however the hits stop coming.
An pop instrumental version of "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" does fair, but "Bermuda" with vocals by Marcy Miller and Tommy Mercer does little, and "Marilyn" (a song dedicated to Marilyn Monroe in 1952 !) goes nowhere. "As Time Goes By" with Mercer gets to number ten but is only on the charts for four weeks. The last charted record of 1952 for the Ray Anthony orchestra is one that does not sell very well but is identified with the band for a long time. It is "The Bunny Hop" with Marcie Miller and Tommy Mercer on vocals. In 1953 "On The Trail" (from Grofe's 'Grand Canyon Suite' - the Phillip Morris song), "Wild Horses" with Jo Ann Greer on the Perry Como cover, and "Thunderbird" with Leo Anthony doing the vocal, all fail to become big sellers. It seems the Ray Anthony touch has deserted the maestro.
In the late summer of 1953, Ray Anthony takes the dramatic theme song from television's top rated police drama and works it into a superbly arranged and conceived dance number. "Dragnet" takes the country by storm as it is played constantly on radio and phonographs across the country. It just misses the number one spot in sales, but the long running hit cements the reputation of the band. They are very popular with college aged dancers and play a great number of proms and dances on campuses across the country. Almost lost in the Dragnet craze is a finely crafted arrangement and performance of the old standard "Dancing In The Dark" which is on the flip side. The Ray Anthony band continues to cover other's hits for Capitol. "Oh My Papa" a hit for European trumpeter Eddie Calvert and American singer Eddie Fisher does well, "Secret Love" Doris Day's hit from her movie "Calamity Jane" does next to nothing for Anthony, while closing out 1954 he takes on the tricky tune "Skokiaan", a hit by the Bulowayo Sweet Rhythms band from Rhodesia, Africa.
By 1955 Anthony can see that as a viable pop music act, he has just about run the course now that he is faced with the rock 'n' roll explosion. He turned to movies and television for a variety of shows and appearances. He gained notoriety for his marriage to movie star Mamie Van Doren. He led a band into the early sixties and then disbanded the orchestra, and for years appeared at show rooms in Las Vegas as part of a small combo, one of which was named The Bookends who were a Vegas mainstay for several years. Ray Anthony was a successful trumpeter and Capitol Records main star in the post war dance band category.
Marterie was born in Naples, Italy, and grew up in Chicago. After military service in the war he returned to Chicago and worked in local radio in that city. For a time he led his own band on a Chicago radio show. A trumpeter and leader, he soon came to the attention of Mercury records in that city. "Summer Night" and "I Only Have Eyes For You" do not make the charts even though the band picks up momentum and is gaining favor among college crowds. In March of 1951 the Marterie band has their first chart appearance (ever so briefly) with folk singer Leadbelly's tune "So Long Its Been Good To Know Ya" which was popularized by The Weavers. "Castle Rock", "Tenderly", "Perdido". "Autumn Leaves" , "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams", and "Street Scene" all fail to place. In January of 1953 Marterie finally breaks the string and records an instrumental version of Nat Cole's hit tune "Pretend". The record is a good sized hit for the band and surprisingly gets as high as the number six position on the best seller charts.
Much as Capitol did with Ray Anthony, Mercury sees the Ralph Marterie band as ripe for cover records. The next cover provides the band with their biggest seller to date. The Esquire Boys record a guitar driven rhythm version of Juan Tizol's great tune "Caravan" for the small New York independent label Rainbow Records. As it begins to gain in sales, Mercury has Marterie record a big band version of the song in a note for note copy of the arrangement. This practice, common in the early fifties, spells success for the band. The recording of "Caravan" is a huge million seller and ;leads Mercury to try again with this formula. They take on Bill Haley & The Comets Essex record of "Crazy Man Crazy" (the first true rock 'n' roll record) with Larry Rogers & The Smarty-Airs on vocal. This time the results are not spectacular by any means.
Two instrumental records barely dent the best sellers list for the band. "Warsaw Concerto" featured in the film "Suicide Squadron" is followed by "The Creep" a cover of an RCA record by The Three Suns. "That Old Feeling" and "The Moon Is Blue" do not chart at all. The final chart appearance by the Marterie orchestra is a cover of a tune also tried by ray Anthony. The results for Marterie are much better, however. The song "Skokiaan" from a Zulu tribal song, does very well on the national charts. It remains on the hit list for almost four months and tops out at number three, a very respectable showing.
The Ralph Marterie band remained together into the early sixties when the leader called it quits after almost fifteen years at the helm of this well disciplined unit that played great music for dancing, which was its prime reason for being. Although they did not have the prolific numbers of records issued, they did have enough of them that made an impression on the record buying and listening public to assure the band a place in the music history of the post war years.
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