Two Different Worlds : Don Rondo©2004JCMarion


Don Rondo, a big voiced baritone singer was a throwback to a decade earlier when that type of vocalist ruled the airwaves. After Sinatra and Como, came Frankie Laine, Tony Bennett, Al Martino, Eddie Fisher, Don Cornell, Jerry Vale, Alan Dale, and so many others. By late 1956 the rock 'n roll age was upon us and the big voices of the baritone ballad singers seemed silenced. by time especially among the record buying public. But - a curious event was about to take place thanks to a small independent label known up until then for the recordings of the pioneering vocal groups The Orioles and The Four Tunes.

In late October of 1956 the Jubilee label announced in the trade press its new release on #5256. The song it was promoting was called "Two Different Worlds" and the singer was an unknown named Don Rondo. Almost immediately the song and the singer commenced what is called in the trade as "making noise". This meant that the record was getting good reaction from airplays on local radio and record outlets were starting to get requests for the record. This message heads out to the distributors who in turn put the heat on the record company for additional "product". And in early 1957 plenty of "product is what they were all looking for as Jubilee had a real winner on its hands. The record hit the charts and remained there for three months bucking the teenage dominated rock field with this dynamic ballad. "Two Different Worlds" made it into the top ten nationally, no simple feat for a record on the Jubilee label. Rondo had previously recorded for Jubilee with "Wandering Heart" on #5205, but that record had gone nowhere so it was a surprise to most of the record buying public when "Worlds" burst on the scene. Because of the spreading popularity of "Two Different Worlds" (which would eventually sell one million records) , Don Rondo was now a hot commodity and was readily available for in person appearances. Late in 1956 he had a spot on that high point of American entertainment, the "Ed Sullivan Show" on Sunday evening television across the country. That particular show featured a cross section of what was highly popular with record buyers from coast to coast. On the show were Fats Domino, Guy Mitchell, and a film clip of Elvis from his newest movie. And - Don Rondo singing his big hit "Two Different Worlds". During the next year Jubilee Records tried to duplicate the success of its hit. First came "The Love I Never Had" and a cover of Elvis "Don't" on #5270. The single was not a hit and neither was the next effort on a song with an intriguing title - "On Forgotten Street" for Jubilee #5282. However if Rondo and Jubilee Records had any doubts about their hit making ability, the proof came in the late summer of 1957.

Instead of the big romantic ballad that provided hit material a year before, this time the song that would climb the charts was an up tempo tune with an irresistible musical "hook" that would have the whole country humming. The song was "White Silver Sands" written by Red Matthews and had mysterious lyric references to the South of Argentina. The song had a snappy rhythm and backed up by jazzy guitar stylings and the big sound of a Hammond organ. Whatever it was, it certainly had the right stuff to become a huge hit record. It kept selling right into the following year and led to appearances by Rondo on that arbiter of teen style, American Bandstand. Rondo also made two appearances on Dick Clark's Saturday Night television show for Beechnut gum. "Sands" went well into the top ten nationally and became one of Jubilee Records biggest sellers, another million plus gold record for Rondo (the song became a huge seller again in two years with a chugging instrumental version by Elvis Presley's original bass player Bill Black). Because of the haste in preparing another release to keep Rondo in the public eye, the next record may have come out too soon on the heels of the top selling "White Silver Sands". Jubilee #5297 paired the songs "There's Only You" and "Forsaking All Others" and the record actually made the charts briefly right in the middle of the run of "Sands". The rendition of "There's Only You" did not last on the best sellers list and this was a forerunner of things to come. A line of Jubilee singles followed in the late fifties, none of them providing anything like the hits of 1956 and 57.

"What A Shame" on #5313, was followed by "Blonde Bombshell" / "There Goes My Heart" on #5319, "Dormi Dormi Dormi" / "Her Hair Was Yellow" on #5325, "As Long As I Have You" / "City Lights" on #5334, "I Could Be A Mountain" on #5341, and "My Foolish Heart" on #5364. Continuing on Jubilee Records "Alone In The World" and "Because Of You" was released on #5381, "Blonde Bombshell" was re-released with a new version of "Two Different Worlds" on #5421, "Bells On My Heart" and "School Dance" on #5460, and "The Love I Had" and "Play The Other Side" on #5522. The Jubilee LP called "Have You Met Don Rondo" on LP#1081 was released in 1959 and singles taken from the album included "Diane" / "Charmaine" on #9002, "Peg O My Heart" on #9003, and "Dolores" on #9009. Other LPs for Jubilee were "Rondo" on #1952, and a compilation album called "Jubilee Surprise Party" with LuAnn Sims, Sy Oliver, and others on #1107. By now Rondo's time with Jubilee Records was at an end. He gave the little independent label owned by Jerry Blaine out of New York two huge million selling pop hits and many other fine efforts. Now Don Rondo moved on.

Rondo recorded one side for that giant of R & B independents, Atlantic Records. Today that release is something of a rarity which features the tunes "Malibu" and "So Did I" on #2194. Don also recorded for Carlton - "A Hoot 'n A Holler" / "Friends" on #531 and "Wanderlust" and "King Of Holiday Island" on #536. Roulette Records - "The Golden Rule" on #4216 and "That's My Girl" and "Even The Heaven's Cried" on #4236. Then came a turn for Decca Records which produced "Evening Star" and "Beyond The Mighty River" on #29738, another release of "Evening Star" this time with "I Offer You My Heart" on the flip side on #30248, and "Statue Of A Fool" on #32561. Finally Don Rondo recorded for United Artists Records on the tunes "Till The World Knows You" on #50111, and "Let's Live For Today" on #50191.

By the mid nineteen sixties Don Rondo had realized that his style of music was not one that could compete for young listeners who had moved from surfing and car songs to the British Invasion groups. Rondo became a familiar pitch man doing many voice overs and commercials for radio and television. In later years he became a radio personality based in New Hampshire where he regularly gives his take on world affairs. But - for a short time in the late nineteen fifties, he was the voice of pop music excellence and at the top of his game. Two Jubilee label million sellers and a lot of fine music was the result, and to this day remains a voice to remember.

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