Racing With The Moon : Vaughn Monroe
Vaughn Monroe was born in October, 1911, in Akron Ohio. While a teenager he developed a passion for music and was interested in both voice and the trumpet. His ability on the brass instrument was such that at fifteen he won the Wisconsin state championship award for trumpet soloist. By the early thirties he led a dual life, musically speaking. He studied opera vocal technique at the Carnegie Tech School of Music, and at the same time played trumpet in area dance bands. Monroe moved to the Boston area in the mid thirties and continued playing in dance bands while also studying classical vocal at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1940 he organized his own orchestra and composed his well known theme song "Racing With The Moon" which soon became world famous. Great success came from both radio broadcasts and record sales.
By the beginning of the Interlude Era in 1946, Monroe had racked up five number one sellers - "There I Go" (Bluebird 10848), "My Devotion" (Victor 27925) and all subsequent records for RCA Victor), "When The Lights Go On Again" (27945), "Let's Get Lost" (from the motion picture "Happy Go Lucky - with the 4 Lee Sisters-1524), and "There I've Said It Again" (1637). In that same time period he had charted 25 records, and so as 1946 began he entered a transition from the big band age to a time of the solo vocalist.
1946 began as the previous year had ended for Monroe, with a number one selling record. This was "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" (1759). The year 1946 also was the time when Monroe began a steady radio program on the CBS network sponsored by Camel cigarettes and was part of the Camel Caravan. The show remained on the network for seven years. "Seems Like Old Times" recorded with The Norton Sisters (sometimes called The Moon Maids) was a top ten seller (1811). Two top fifteen RCA Victor releases filled out the year for Vaughn - "Who Told You That Lie" / "It's My Lazy Day" (1892) a two sided hit, and "The Things We Did Last Summer" on 1972.
In 1947, the record label now officially became RCA Victor, and Vaughn Monroe continued to be a constant presence on the best seller charts. "You Can't See The Sun When You're Crying" (2053) was first, followed by "Dreams Are A Dime A Dozen" (2206). A tune from the motion picture "The Perils Of Pauline" starring Betty Hutton was a huge hit for Monroe. This was "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" (2294) which got to the number two position and remained there for five weeks. Two more movie tunes were the next charted single, both from the Betty Grable film "Mother Wore Tights". The songs "Kokomo, Indiana" and "You Do" ( 2361) both topped out at the number five position. During the summer Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra did a sequence for the motion picture "Carnegie Hall" which featured Marsha Hunt. Vaughn's next recording was one of his biggest and the top selling record of the year. "Ballerina" (2433) sold more than two million copies and remained the number one record for an amazing three months ! The year of 1947 was closed out by the tune "How Soon" (2523) which got as high as number three on the sales charts. It was quite a year for the big voiced baritone.
The steady pace of hit records translated into high ratings for his radio show on CBS. During the year of 1948, Vaughn Monroe charted a dozen times on the hit parade. "In A Little Book Shop" / "Passing Fancy" (2573) was first. "Matinee" (2671) and "Completely Yours" (2712), "It's The Sentimental Thing To Do" (2748), and two songs from the Disney animated film "Melody Time" -"Blue Shadows On The Trail" and the title tune (2785) was followed by a Broadway show tune "What Do I Have To Do" from "Are You With It" gave the singer eight straight top twenty hits for the year. Monroe continued his prolific output of recorded hits with Ziggy Talent featured with the band on "The Maharajah Of Magador" 2851, a big hit followed by an even bigger hit in "Cool Water" recorded with The Sons Of The Pioneers (2923). This pairing with The Sons (who did the original version in the thirties) was a top ten smash. "Every Day I Love You" (2957) from the film "Two Guys From Texas" and "In My Dreams" (3133) were both top twenty sellers at the tail end of a most successful year for Monroe.
Vaughn Monroe was now one of the top names in the entertainment field and soon began to explore other opportunities in show business. But for now the radio show and recordings were his main focus. "Red Roses For A Blue Lady" led off 1949 in a big way getting to the number three position on the best sellers charts. Even though, that was just a prelude for his next feat : back to back number one records. "Ghost Riders In The Sky" (3411) with the Moon Men, an atmospheric reworking of the old song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" was an instant sensation. It quickly rose to the top of the pop charts and remained there for three months and sold two and one half million copies. This was followed by "Someday" (3510) which rose to number one during the summer. Vaughn did a rare cover version, his take on Frankie Laine's "That Lucky Old Sun" (3531) was well received by the record buying public and went to number six on the hit parade. "Vieni Su" (3539) and another Frankie Laine cover "Mule Train" (3600) a top ten seller closed out the year of 1949.
In 1950 Monroe tried his hand at the new and spreading home entertainment medium of television with his own fifteen minute variety show. He also had an acting role in the motion picture "Singing Guns" for Republic with Ella Raines, Ward Bond, and Walter Brennan. As he branched out in other fields his recording output dropped considerably. During the year he had two charted records - "Bamboo" (3627) which reached the number four position in the country, and "Thanks Mister Florist" (3773) a top twenty seller. 1951 began with Monroe's version of the army marching cadence song "Sound Off" (4113) a number three seller nationally, and a top ten hit cover version of The Weavers "On Top Of Old Smokey" (4114) with The Moon Maids and The Moon Men. In mid 1951, Vaughn Monroe had a hit recording of a poignant song that was based on General Douglas MacArthur's farewell speech to congress "Old Soldiers Never Die (They Just fade Away)" on 4146. The song reached number seven in sales, and the final chart recording of the year was "Meanderin'" (4271). By year's end his run on television with his variety show had ended.
In 1952 Vaughn Monroe continued to record for RCA Victor, but the veteran of the big band era began to see the coming changes in the music industry. Early in the year his version of the song "Charmaine" (4375) briefly charted as did "Mountain Laurel" (4479). He did better with a two sided hit which had both sides in the top twenty sellers - "Idaho State Fair" and "Lady Love" on 4611. In the year 1953 Vaughn made two important steps in his career. He gave up his orchestra after thirteen years and also ended his seven year stint for CBS radio. He continued on radio with sporadic guest spots and had one record on the charts that year - "Ruby" (5286) from the motion picture "Ruby Gentry". In 1954 he returned to the top ten best sellers with "They Were Doing The Mambo" (5767). By 1955 he had a short lived television show for NBC, and then embarked on a new career by becoming the main spokesperson for RCA products in all media, a role he would keep for almost twenty years. That year a cover version of The Cheers "Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots" (6260) briefly charted.
In 1956 it would seem that Vaughn Monroe, like most performers from the big band years, would succumb to the rock & roll explosion. But he showed he was still around with "Don't Go To Strangers" (6358) which made the top 40, and later in the year a top ten seller with the novelty tune "In The Middle Of The House" (6619). From that time on, Monroe would appear on variety shows and nostalgia revues, but his main presence would continue in advertising for RCA. He passed away in May of 1973 at the age of 61.
Today Vaughn Monroe is remembered for the booming baritone voice that was so singular during the nineteen forties and early fifties. His string of hit records made him a major force in the recording industry for almost two decades, and produced one of the most enduring and dframatic theme songs ever written and recorded. A wonderful career and a ton of pleasant memories are the legacy of one of American music's true great ones - Vaughn Monroe.
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