First Band I Saw In Person

I had just turned 18 years of age. It was Easter Sunday, 1948. My brother and some friends were driving some 50 miles or so to see the Vaughn Monroe band in the Marine Ballroom on Steel Pier in Atlantic City. He asked if I'd like to go. Knotting my head, I raced upstairs, jumped into my new tweed suit and off we went. I loved music, but I had never seen any performer in person. The boardwalk outside the pier was jammed with people eager to show their new attire, me included. Looking high up on the front of the pier, were the letters, "Appearing, The Vaughn Monroe Band". Eager to catch the matinée show, we entered the pier and quickly walked to the ballroom, located one half mile from shore. The place was bedlam, one could barely move, let alone dance. I pushed my way through the crowd to the edge of the stage where I remained through the first set. I was mesmerized, watching the band perform songs I had listened to in the privacy of my bedroom. I didn't want to dance, I wanted to watch and listen. There was Ziggy Talent singing "The Rich Maharajah Of Magador" and I suppose just for the occasion, there was Frank Fontain doing his character, John C. Savoney, which later became Crazy Gugganheim on the Jackie Gleason show. During a break, we enjoyed the salt air and splashing of water against the pilings beneath the deck surrounding the ballroom. It was one of the most enjoyable days I experienced in my then young life. One that I've always cherished. Vaughn Monroe continued to be one of my favorite performers and my vast collection of his recording will prove it.

Submitted by: John Wira