Vaughn Monroe, 61, noted vocalist and band leader of a golden era of
American music, died at Martin Memorial Hospital at 8:20 p.m. Monday.
He had sung at one of the Kentucky Derby balls, was stricken on returning
to his home at High Point, Sewall's Point. He underwent surgery at the
hospital May 8 and had been under intensive care since. He and Mrs. Monroe
have been residents of this area for about eight years.
Services were to be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made
in his name to Martin Memorial Hospital.
Mr. Monroe was a member of St. Lucie Power Squadron. He was a recipient of
the Legion of Honor of the Order of DeMolay, and a member of the Quiet
Bird Men, a select aviation society.
He is survived by his wife, Marian, two daughters, Mrs. Jerry T. Wagner of
Baltimore, Md., and Mrs. Paul A. Smith, Stuart; a brother, William Monroe,
Sydney, Neb.; and two grandchildren, Jerry T. Wagner Jr., and Carrie M.
Wagner of Baltimore.
He was born at Akron, Ohio, on Oct. 7, 1911. He studied music at Carnegie
Tech in Pittsburg and voice at the New England Conservatory of Music in
Boston. He learned to play the trumpet at an early age and eventually
became a sideman with touring dance bands before organizing his own group
in Boston in 1940.
Any history of modern show business must devote a major chapter to the
colorful "Big Band Era Of The Forties." This period featured such musical
giants as Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Guy
Lombardo, Sammy Kay and Vaughn Monroe.
Each developed a musical mark, uniquely his own and incomparable. Each
also, in his time, reached the pinnacle of success, in the eyes of his
musical peers as well as the general public.
Of the group, it is safe to say that Vaughn Monroe was perhaps the most
unique. Whereas the others achieved their distinction as great
instrumentalists, or by the inimitable sound of their respective bands,
Monroe gained his recognition as a vocalist. His rich, vibrant, baritone
voice was unlike that of anyone else around. Consequently, audiences were
attracted to his appearances as much to hear him sing as to dance to the
music of his band.
It was no surprise, therefore, when in 1953 he disbanded his musical
organization that he was able to move easily into the circuit of the major
supper clubs as a "single" headline attraction.
As such, he performed in the Sahara, Flamingo, Tropicana and Dunes Hotels
in Las Vegas, the Maisonette of the St. Regis Hotel and the Rainbow Grill
in New York, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, the Regency-Hyatt
House in Atlanta, the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans and the famous Rugby
Clubs in Australia. He also made numerous tours of American serviceman's
bases throughout Europe.
With it all, his reputation as one of the country's leading bandleaders
never paled. In later years, he limited appearances to private functions,
such as Shriner's conventions, industrial shows and fundraising affairs
for hospitals and charities. The people who attended were the Vaughn
Monroe fans who grew up with his brand of music, and enjoyed the nostalgia
of listening and dancing to it one more time.
Vaughn Monroe's career spread-eagled the entire spectrum of show business,
accomplishing notable achievements in each area, something few major
performers can boast of. For most of the 13 years that he fronted his
original band, it was one of the most successful in the country. It pulled
record-breaking crowds constantly, some of which marks have never been
topped to date. It was not uncommon to find 10,000 people jamming
ballrooms night after night on his cross-country tours. The band was so
popular that it was featured for eight consecutive years on the "Camel
Caravan" radio show on the NBC and CBS networks. A television version of
the program was also produced in 1949 over the CBS-TV network.
Monroe and the band were starred on the first regularly scheduled network
color program, a fifteen-minute show sponsored by RCA-Victor Records on
the NBC-TV network, and they were the first to pioneer tours of concert
presentation by a popular dance bands. As a matter of fact, it was still
the top-drawing band when it was disbanded in 1953, averaging an annual
gross of over $1,500,000.
During the forties and early fifties, Vaughn Monroe was one of the most
important artists on the RCA-Victor Records label. His records sold over
70,000,000 copies, and included four million-selling singles-- "There,
I've Said It Again," "Ballerina," "Ghost Riders In The Sky" and "Racing
With The Moon," his theme song. More recently, Vaughn Monroe was featured
with other great alumni of the big band era in the Reader's Digest album
series, "Sound Of The Forties," and "Sound Of The Fifties."
He starred in two western motion pictures, "Singing Guns" and "The
Toughest Man In Tombstone (sic Arizona)." It was in the former that
he introduced the song, "Mule Train," which became a sensational hit.
Before these pictures, he and the band were also featured in the films,
"Carnegie Hall" and "Meet The People."
Monroe was one of the first major artists to enter the field of
commercials. He was the "Official Voice of RCA" on all of the company's
radio and television commercials for fifteen years. He also toured the
country as the goodwill ambassador for RCA. His early commercials, which
often had dramatic story lines and in which he played various roles, were
the forerunners of the current trend in television commercials.
He also appeared in summer stock, in such popular stage productions as
"Annie Get Your Gun," and starred in a dramatic role on "Bonanza," the
popular NBC-TV series.
Monroe had many hobbies. They included flying (he had a pilot's license),
sailing, boating, riding, hunting, model trains, motorcycling and
Perhaps his most beloved hobby was bumping into members of his original
band and sitting down to reminisce about the "old days."
Johns Funeral Home in Stuart was in charge of local arrangements.