The Stylish Serenader : Vic Damone
The great baritone singer we know as Vic Damone was born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn, New York in June of 1928.His nearest touch to the world of show business came as a teenager when he served as an usher at the New York Paramount Theater during the mid forties. While there he thought that he might have what it took to become a pop music vocalist and took voice lessons and learned how to put over a song. Top comic and soon to be "Mr. Television" Milton Berle was instrumental in giving young Farinola his first break at New York night clubs La Martinique and the Aquarium. At the age of nineteen he had his own radio show called the "Saturday Night Serenade" for the CBS network. That same year of 1947 he signed a recording contract with Mercury Records in Chicago which was trying to break into the position of one of the major labels along with Decca, Columbia, RCA Victor, and late comer Capitol. They took a major step in this direction by hiring Mitch Miller as top arranger and A & R man.
In August of 1947 Damone enters the hit charts for the first time with "Ivy" / "I Have But One Heart" on #5053 which was a top ten seller, as was the follow up "You Do" (from the motion picture "Mother Wore Tights") on #5056. In 1948 Damone had four records that barely dented the top seller lists - "Thoughtless" on #5104, "My Fair Lady" on #5121, "It's Magic" (a popular song from the picture "Romance On The High Seas") on #5138, and a duet with new star Patti Page "Say Something Sweet To Your Sweetheart" on #5192. The following year, 1949 gave Damone his first national big hits. First came "Again" on #5261 from the picture "Road House" which got as high as number six and remained a hit for five months. This was followed by a big number one smash "You're Breaking My Heart" on #5271 which spent a month at the top spot and six and a half months on the best sellers list. "My Bolero" on #5313 was a top ten hit, and a Broadway show tune "Why Was I Born" (from "Sweet Adeline") was a top twenty lister.
In 1950 Damone continued as a top recording artist for Mercury Records with nine charted hits during the year. "Sitting By The Window" on #5343 and "God's Country" on #5374 barely charted, while "Vagabond Shoes" was a solid hit lasting more than three months on the hit parade. A cover of The Weavers "Tzena Tzena Tzena" on #5454 got as high as number six, while "Just Say I Love Her" and a cover of the Ames Brothers "Can Anyone Explain" on #5474 barely got on the charts. The oddly named "Cincinnati Dancing Pig" recorded with Ralph Marterie's Orchestra and The Meadowlarks on #5477 also had a short stay on the hit charts. At the end of the year Damone hit it big again with "My Heart Cries For You" on #5563 which sold enough to get to the top five in America. The flip side "Music By The Angels" sold well enough to make the top twenty. Damone had a big appearance in Hollywood at the Mocambo Club which led to a shot at motion pictures in the early fifties including "Young, Rich, and Pretty" and "The Strip" both in 1951
That same year "Tell Me You Love Me" on #5572, and a cover of the Perry Como hit "If" on #5565 did not do much but the next release for Mercury "My Truly Truly Fair" a cover of Guy Mitchell's hit on #5646 got into the top five once again. "Longing For You" was a solid hit on #5655, while "Calla Calla" on #5698 barely charts. In 1952 Damone's biggest hit was again a cover record - this time from Al Martino on "Here In My Heart" a top ten seller. Others that year were "Jump Through The Ring" on #5785, and Roseann" on #5877 both briefly in the top twenty five. Through most of 1952 and all of 1953 Damone was in military service and Mercury kept the backlog of recordings issued on a regular basis.
"Sugar" on #70054 did little but "April In Portugal" ( a big hit for Les Baxter for Capitol) on #70128 was a top ten seller, "Eternally" (#70186) written by Charlie Chaplin was a moderate hit and "Ebb Tide" (an instrumental top hit for Frank Chacksfield on London)was another top ten seller on #70216. "A Village In Peru" on #70269 which barely charted, closed out the year on record for Damone. After his time was over with Uncle Sam, Vic Damone appeared in the film "Athena" and did many guest spots on the rapidly disappearing medium of network radio. In 1954 at the birth of the rock 'n roll era "The Breeze And I" on #70287 and "The Sparrow Sings" on #70326 made the top twenty five on the best seller list.
In 1955 "Foolishly" on #70546, "My Symphony" on #70577, "Don't Keep It A Secret" / "A Man Doesn't Know" on #70624, and "Por Favor" on #70699, were all rather unsuccessful releases for Mercury. However Vic Damone was certainly busy in Hollywood appearing in the motion pictures "Deep In My Heart", "Kismet" and "Hit The Deck". Because the hits stopped coming Mercury Records did not renew Vic's contract and soon he was signed to Columbia where he rejoined A & R man Mitch Miller who had moved there in 1950 and made the label the top of the industry during the pop years of the fifties. Damone had one more surprise hit waiting in 1956 with a song from the incomparable score from the stage show "My Fair Lady". The song was "On The Street Where You Live" on Columbia #40654 and Damone carried it to the number four position bucking the rock trend during the year of Elvis. "Street" remained for a solid four months on the top sellers charts during the summer of 1956. During the year he had a best selling LP called "That Towering Feeling" for Columbia (#900) and also hosted his own television show into 1957.
Damone entered the charts twice more briefly - "An Affair To Remember" on Columbia #40945, and as late as 1965 with the standard "You Were Only Fooling" on Warner #5616. He recorded for many labels in the ensuing years such as United Artists, RCA Victor, MGM, and Capitol. Damone has continued to be the consummate pop music pro through the years including years of special appearances with his then wife, Diahann Carroll. He has taken his place along with the vocalists that entertained a generation that has included Sinatra, Como, and Bennett. Vic Damone owns one of the voices that has defined the Interlude Era.
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