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A biography on Vaughn Monroe has not been written to date. However, numerous short pieces have been written for his souvenir booklets, which circulated in the 1940s and 1950s. More recent books written about the big bands usually include at least a paragraph, if not a page or two on Vaughn Monroe, and CD liner notes typically contain biographical information of varying length.

This page includes some of the biographical sketches that frequently appear on other websites. We have amalgamated them here along with one of the 'stories' of Vaughn's life from his 1945 souvenir booklet.

Perhaps the best biographical profile on the web (in our opinion)  is written by Chicago librarian, Christopher Popa, and can be found on his Big Band Library website.

On the Web

Vaughn Monroe. Despite an early talent for the trumpet, Vaughn Monroe's desire to become an opera singer eventually landed him almost ten number one hits during the '40s as well as a host of nicknames for his rich baritone, including "The Voice with Hairs on Its Chest" and "Old Leather Tonsils." Born in Akron, OH, Monroe moved to Wisconsin while still a child and focused on his trumpet talent for most of his boyhood. Another early ambition, to be an opera singer, resulted in his signing on as a vocalist with territory bands led by Austin Wylie, Larry Funk (for whom he made his recording debut) and Jack Marshard. While based in Boston with Marshard, Monroe formed his first orchestra and began recording for Victor's low-priced Bluebird label. One of his first singles, "There I Go," spent three weeks at the top of the Hit Parade in 1940. Though his orchestra was rather tame (even for the time), it was voted top college band that year. His longtime theme song "Racing with the Moon" debuted in 1941, and the following year-and-a-half brought no less than three number one hits: "My Devotion," "When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World)," and "Let's Get Lost."

Monroe's first few years of recording had been quite successful, but all his biggest hits were yet to come. During 1945, "There! I've Said It Again" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" both spent more than a month at the top of the charts. And his two biggest hits, "Ballerina" and "Riders in the Sky," came in 1947 and 1949, respectively. The latter, an old Western chestnut, presaged Monroe's attempt at moving into Hollywood's singing-cowboy genre with a couple of early-'50s B-movies including "Singing Guns" and "The Toughest Man in Arizona." He also disbanded his orchestra, and continued to work television and radio (he hosted Camel Caravan for many years). Except for a few mid-'50s novelties (including "They Were Doin' the Mambo" and "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots"), Monroe never again hit the charts. He worked as a spokesman for RCA Victor, and continued to perform into the early '70s.

Source: John Bush, All Music Guide

Vaughn Monroe (October 7, 1911 - May 21, 1973) was a singer, trumpeter and big band leader, most popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Monroe was born in Akron, Ohio. He formed a band in Boston in 1940 and became its principal vocalist.

His signature tune was "Racing with the Moon." He also had hits with "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "There I've Said It Again," "Ballerina," "Let It Show, Let It Snow" and "Mule Train." One lost opportunity - he turned down the chance to record "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

He was tall and handsome which helped him as a band leader and singer, as well as in Hollywood, although he did not pursue a movie and television career with vigor. He was sometimes called 'the baritone with muscles.' He was admired by some and derided by others for both his singing and his persona. He had a pleasant baritone voice that wasn't always quite good enough for the songs he sang, according to his critics. He was considered sincere, steady, and down-to-earth by some; pompous and square by others. In spite of these mixed opinions, he had a very successful musical career, with a large number of fans.

Monroe died in Stuart, Florida.



Artist - Vaughn Monroe Imagine a pop vocalist who looked and sounded like a movie star. Imagine a tour full of musicians and a bevy of teenage Texas beauties singing back up. Imagine hit records rocketing to the top of the charts...

Today this would be a recipe for lawsuits, paternity suits, and drug busts. Back it up 60 years, and you have the rather uneventful, wholesome touring group known as Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra. The young ladies were backing vocalists known as The Moon Maids, who doubled as babysitters for the band members' offspring. They sang about "racing with the moon," but were about as square as a group of musicians could be. And they happened to be just about the hottest big band of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Monroe was a decent horn player who just happened to be blessed with one of the most memorable singing voices in the history of recorded music. Not one of the best, for he didn't possess the range of a Crosby or a Como, and certainly not the timing or styling of a Sinatra. Yet when that baritone hit the stage, it was magic.

His first hit came relatively early in his career, a song called There I Go recorded with his first orchestra. Thought of as a "college act," Monroe was signed to a minor subsidiary of RCA called Bluebird. Despite the odds, There I Go hit the top of the charts, where it stayed for three weeks.

Like most big bands of the 1940s, a number of well-known artists got their start with Vaughn Monroe. Ray Conniff, guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, and songstress Georgia Gibbs all performed with the orchestra. Although most of the big bands broke up after the 1947 musician's union strike, Monroe kept on chugging, and went on to record his biggest hit in 1949: Ghost Riders In the Sky. Eventually the same fate befell Monroe's orchestra. With the band still at the height of its popularity, concert attendance began to drop.

Monroe himself attributed the decline to increased expenses, and above all, television. When expenses drove ticket costs to the breaking point in 1952, the violins were dismissed. More attrition followed, and Monroe called the orchestra business quits in 1953. Of the top orchestras from the 1940s, only Guy Lombardo and Count Basie would continue with a sizable show into the 1960s and 1970s.

With the loss of his touring band, the hit records stopped. But Monroe's personal popularity was as strong as ever; he continued to be successful touring as a solo act, using whatever band or orchestra was on the bill. He was also popular as a pitchman, promoting everything from Camel cigarettes and RCA radios to the US Forest Service's Smokey the Bear campaign. Monroe was a spokesman for RCA televisions well into the 1960s. He continued to headline decent sized showrooms and theatres until his passing in 1973.

From 1940 to 1954, Monroe had close to 70 chart records, including many #1 hits. Three of those songs, Let It Snow, Ghost Riders and Ballerina, rank among the all-time top #1 songs, each dominating the Billboard charts for 10 weeks or more.

Considering Monroe's suave good looks, height, and voice that could shake the ground, it is surprising that he didn't achieve even greater fame. Monroe dabbled in cowboy movies in the early 1950s, but he was a city dweller at heart and not quite comfortable with the role. He was put in the role of an outdoorsman for the Smokey the Bear campaign, but was a bit too debonair. Monroe felt at home in front of an orchestra, and although he enjoyed playing the horn, was smart enough to know that his voice made the show go.

Another part of the legend is that Monroe turned down a few songs that might've made him an even bigger star. Although a lot is probably rumor or conjecture, a number of sources have claimed that he was offered first crack at Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, but turned it down. The song went on to be a massive hit for Gene Autry. If it's true, it probably pleased fair-and-square Vaughn Monroe, whose hit with Ghost Riders usurped an earlier recording by Autry. Monroe also recorded an early version of Mule Train, which was used in one of his westerns, but was slow to promote it as a single. Frankie Laine would go on to have a huge hit with the song.

Even without these, Vaughn Monroe's roster of #1 hits is quite impressive:

  • There I Go
  • Racing With The Moon
  • When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Ballerina
  • There, I've Said It Again
  • Red Roses For a Blue Lady
  • Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)
  • Ghost Riders In The Sky



The Story of Vaughn Monroe


1945 Souvenir Booklet. Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York all could claim Vaughn Monroe as their product. And all could support their claims, because the "life and times" of America's top bandleader ahs given him roots in many localities.


Vaughn's first home was in Akron, Ohio, where he was born October 7, 1911. At the time, the senior Monroe was working in a rubber processing factory, but soon moved to Cudahy, Wisconsin, and later to Jeanette, Pennsylvania. It was in Jeanette that Vaughn was graduated from high school in 1929. While there he also met Marian Baughman, who is now Mrs. Monroe. At the senior prom, Mrs. Monroe relates, Vaughn, who had been voted the "boy most likely to succeed," was supposed to lead the grand march. Ten minutes late, Vaughn rushed breathlessly into the room and informed Marian that he had just won a trumpet contest in a nearby town. Which, Marian felt, was "succeeding" almost too soon.


Vaughn had begun his trumpeting career at eleven. One day, he calmly walked in to his parents, holding a new trumpet in hand. In response to their questioning looks, the future "moonracer" explained, "The kid down the block gave it to me. He can't play it on account of his teeth."


The trumpet turned out to be exceedingly useful. All through high school and for two years following his graduation, Vaughn was able to earn and save by working in neighborhood bands. Finally, in 1931, having saved enough for college, he enrolled at Carnegie Tech's School of Music at Pittsburgh, where he also took engineering courses, and later at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston for further vocal training. While attending these schools Vaughn continually wavered between his desire to become an engineer, and the desire to become a concert singer. In 1933, he made his decision--to quit school and devote all his time to dance bands. In college, as in high school, he had earned while he learned by playing trumpet with small bands in his spare time.


Two factors helped Vaughn make up his mind: 1) although he liked engineering, he didn't think he could be satisfied at it for his life's work; and 2) despite the fact that his voice teachers told him he had a big future ahead as a baritone, he had a big frame that had to be fed in the immediate present.


Vaughn's first job after leaving college was with Austin Wiley's band. It lasted two years, ending when the band broke up in Ohio. At the time orchestra leader Larry Funk was playing a date in the vicinity. He had heard Vaughn on the trumpet, like him and gave him a job.


That's when Monroe took his "boot training" on the road, for the band did a group of one-nighters that took them from Ohio to Boston, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, and back to Boston. "Enough was enough," says Vaughn. "When we got back to Boston it looked like Paradise to me. I thought it would be a good idea to settle down there for a few years."


Vaughn got in touch with a friend, Jack Marshard, for advice. Marshard, at that time, fronted a society band, in addition to owning several similar units which operated in the Cope Cod area. Not only did Jack give Vaughn advice, he gave him a job in one of the units. For the next year and a half Monroe played trumpet, did some vocalizing, and was perfectly content. Finally, in 1937, the band moved into the "Terrace Gables" in Falmouth, Mass.


Here Marshard asserted himself. All along Jack had felt Vaughn belonged out front, not hidden in with the brass section where his talent was more or less buried. Jack offered Vaughn the choice of either leaving, or taking the baton. And so--Monroe became a bandleader.


The twelve piece orchestra played the "Terrace Gables" for the season then moved to a Boston hotel, thence to the Dempsey-Vanderbilt in Miami, Florida. By this time, Marshard was again discontent: He wanted the maestro to go into business for himself. The boys in the band also urged Vaughn to do the same. Talent scout Willard Alexander entered the picture and he too prevailed upon Monroe to take the leap.


In 1940 Vaughn finally gave in. He disbanded the Marshard unit at the end of the Miami engagement, asking those who wanted to join the new band to meet him two weeks later up north. Jack Marshard became manager, and Alexander was to handle booking. Monroe then got into his car and without stopping to rest, drove straight to New York. Marian Baughman was waiting for him there, as was a train to take them to Jeanette, where they were married a few days later. Almost immediately after the ceremony, the newlyweds returned to Boston where Marshard had collected the nucleus of the new Monroe band. Weeks of hectic rehearsal followed.


The new band made its debut in Siler's Ten Acres in New England. On the night of April 10, 1940, they made their first radio broadcast--over NBC. RCA-Victor heard a later broadcast, and signed Vaughn immediately to a record contract.


During the next year, the Monroe band traveled extensively, playing hotels, theaters, ballrooms and night spots throughout the New England and Mid-West areas. The husky, masculine tones of Vaughn's voice soon won him a reputation as a "man's singer," without costing him the loyalty of his feminine followers. His recording of IF YOU SEE MAGGIE became one of the nation's top sellers. Since then any number of Monroe records have moved into this same category. To name a few: SHRINE OF ST. CECELIA; THERE! I'VE SAID IT AGAIN; LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW; and I WISH I DIDN'T LOVE YOU SO. Vaughn himself, feels that BALLERINA is one of his top performances on records.


The year 1941 really marks Monroe's entry into big-time. In June of that year he opened at New York's Paramount Theater, and a few months later took his band into the Century Room of the Commodore. He has played there every year since, sometimes more than one engagement. To date, Vaughn has played twelve engagements in all at the Commodore. He says it almost seems like a "second home" to him.


In 1944, Monroe needed another trombone. After a long and futile search, Vaughn finally gave up, bought a trombone and taught himself to play. Now, when the occasion arises, he still stands in with the trombone section, apparently having deserted the trumpet.


Monroe is a man of many hobbies. He likes photography, motorcycling, miniature trains, carpentry, swimming, golf, and especially flying. His earnings are large enough to permit him to be an active flying enthusiast and he owns two planes--Cantina II and Cantina III (named from first three and last four letters of his daughters' names). On dates played within three hundred miles of New York, Vaughn is able to fly home for a visit on his day off.


He often uses the planes for getting from one engagement to another. "It gives me extra time for business," says Vaughn, "and it breaks up the monotony of road life when we're doing one-nighters." Sometimes, it breaks up the monotony too well. Recently, Vaughn had to make a forced landing in a Pennsylvania cabbage patch, after being blown about fifty miles off his course. It's the only time he's been late on a job.


That's a pretty good record for a man who directs RCA-Victor's top-selling recording band, plays a hundred one-nighters a year, usually fifteen weeks of theater dates, a dozen other week engagements at night clubs and the like, and is on the air every Saturday night for Camel cigarettes.


The Monroes, with daughters Candace (born Dec. 13, 1941) and Christina (born Oct. 16, 1944), live in a smart New York apartment on Park Avenue. Vaughn calls it "home" but with the exception of his long engagement at Hotel Commodore every year, he sees very little of it.


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