Vaughn Monroe And His Marian

In Love With St. Lucie Living



News Tribune Woman's Editor


JANUARY 21, 1973


He has been called by critics, on alternate occasions, "Old Leatherlungs" and the "Velvet Frog."

He has danced his Ballerina and four other musical babies onto the million -seller Gold Record stage.

His den walls are lined with practically every award and honor a musician can earn in the course of a star-flight career.

Yet Vaughn Monroe is as easy-to-know and unselfconscious a host as your next door neighbor. He has that unique facility of being gratefully proud of God's gifts while not taking undue credit for them himself.

Monroe, whose deep mellifluous voice can easily be counted as one of the top five most distinguishable in the nation, will be the stellar attraction for the Martin Memorial Hospital Ball set this year for March 9 at the St. Lucie Hilton Country Club.

His act will run the full gamut of the shows for which he is famous in Las Vegas, New York, Atlanta and countless parts of the globe, with no punches pulled. He believes in giving just as much of himself to his favorite charities as he does for the very large dollar he receives as one of the country's top entertainers.

Lucieland is benefiting from the talents of the famous singer because, five years ago, they chose High Point in Martin County as their permanent home base. And both Vaughn and his gracious wife Marian believe in total involvement in their home community.

Over the years, he and his band have been putting out their tuneful best for every charity going--from the Cancer Drive to March of Dimes and the Heart Fund.

"Now I do my main appearances for charity for St. Mary's Episcopal Church or the Cancer Fund," he told this reporter.

When The News Tribune learned of the Monroes' permanent residence in the area, it became imperative to invade the privacy of their home to find out what manner of man was this, and the whys of their settling here.

The invasion turned out to be sheer pleasure--a rewarding experience both in aesthetics and humanity. The Monroes are a joy to know, and their home, another full story in itself, an adventure in good taste.

Proud of Daughters

In an interview, Vaughn Monroe is a bit difficult to get to, at first, because he's far more interested in extolling the virtues of his daughters Candace and Christina and his sparklingly knowledgeable Marian.

"Candace is named after Marian's grandmother," the singer said. "When Christina came along, we named her after my grandmother--I thought I deserved equal time."

Both daughters are accomplished equestriennes--one side of Monroe's den is studded with ribbons won by both in horse shows.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Vaughn Monroe knew early in life that music was destined to become his career. One of his prize mementoes is the bugle he won at 14, for his prowess while in Boy Scout camp.

"When I was 17, I was playing trumpet solos in church," he said. "One day the choir director heard me humming, and asked me to join the choir."

A short time thereafter the director and his wife, both professional musicians, offered to give him lessons free, with the stipulation that he concentrate his studies on voice.

Living up to the promise, he went on to major in voice at Carnegie Tech Fine Arts School.

"I was studying for opera," he recalled, "but I got out of school in 1932 during the depression, and they weren't hiring many opera singers."

Hence, armed with a magnificently trained voice and a trumpet, the young musician got several band jobs including ones with Austin Wiley in the midwest and Larry Funk's NBC house band. He picked up a great deal of valuable knowledge on bandsmanship during this three years with the latter.

"Then I went to Boston Conservatory for more voice lessons," he recalls.

The Big Breaks

Next came one of his big breaks, which led to a lasting association with Jack Marshard, a prominent society band leader.

He considers his Marian his lucky charm in hitting the big time. They'd dated casually in high school in Jeannette, Pa., but they didn't get immediately serious. Marian became involved in furthering her education, first with a degree in chemistry from Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh, and then with a master's in business from the University of Pittsburgh.

But they'd been keeping in touch.

"One night in '40 I called from Miami Beach," the singer said, " and she started to cry--she said she was tired of the whole rat race. Before I knew it, I said 'Let's get married.' I don't know why--I hadn't meant to propose."

They said vows on April 2, 1940, in Jeannette. Almost immediately thereafter, Marshard came down to Miami with an idea for getting into the big band act--then in its heyday.

"He organized the band in Boston--we opened April 10, 1940," Monroe remembers. "My first week's pay was $35. Martin Block, a New York disc jockey built us up because he liked us. We signed a contract with RCA in May, and the following June we were in the Paramount Theater in New York. Everyone said it was one of the fastest rises in musical history."

The flash of success came right in the midst of wartime. Monroe had tried to sign up, but was rejected for a minor physical defect of which he wasn't even aware.

"But we did our share for the boys in camps, hospitals and air bases," Monroe said.

Many Honors

Those many plaques on his den wall are a measure of that share--the coveted Ernie Pyle award, the first American "Kilroy" award--(remember those remote fronts where "Kilroy Was Here?")--which hang alongside the Best Band of '47 and the Year's Outstanding Band honors, among others.

Monroe got his first Gold Record in 1946 for "There, I Said It Again." After that came "Ballerina" in 1947, and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" in 1949. His band's theme, "Racing With the Moon," hit the million-mark in 1952.

"I've had ten or 12 others that reached 900,000, like "Let It Snow," "Mule Train," and "Tangerine,"" he said.

Though they failed to attain the Gold Record distinction, they've become classics, and many are included on the Readers' Digest albums of the Big Bands of the '40s, '50s and '60s.

As anyone with any musical memory span can tell you, Vaughn Monroe was the host on the Camel Show--11 years on radio and one year on television. He was also the official Voice of RCA Victor in 1955 and '56. During that time, the Voice hit every town and hamlet, speaking in behalf of every imaginable cause.

Still much in demand, Monroe spends a large part of his time on the road, playing dates all over the country.

He has mixed feelings about Las Vegas.

"Vegas is a fantastic place," he said. "In the early days, it was real fun--everyone dressed up in western gear. But it's undergone a drastic change in the past two years. Today it's like Miami Beach with gambling."

Hand of Fate

Kismet brought the Monroes to St. Lucie shores.

"I had a club date in Palm Beach, and at the last minute it fell through," Monroe recounts. "Marian had a cousin here--Roland Merrell, who is now vice president of the trust department at First National Bank of Stuart. Marian and Roland grew up together, so we came up to visit him."

Marian also knew Trude Kennedy, a Sewall's Point real estate woman.

"Trude had some lots to show on High Point, and she asked us if we wanted to go along," the singer continued.

Marian had never been too sold on Florida as a place to live--she considered it a rather wearisome refuge for the old and retired. But it was love at first sight with the property on which their house now sits.

"She took one look and said 'I want that lot,'" her husband said.

At the time, they were living in a charming old home outside Boston.

"We went back home and thought about the lousy winter and dirty snow, and started dreaming about building a home down here."

They put their Boston home on the market, and left for one of Vaughn's working dates in Melbourne, Australia. The house sold while they were "down under."

The resulting High Point house, which they designed as a fitting showcase for their prize antique furniture, is a happy blending of the classic with the modern--Governor Bradford with a southern accent.

Monroe's schedule now is pretty much of his own choosing. He's partial to the Regency Hyatt House in Atlanta where he's played six engagements, and to the Hyatt House in Houston. Then there have been those business-and-pleasure stints aboard ocean-going liners like the S.S. France. Next month, he has a booking in Puerto Rico.

Man of Talents

He makes no secret, however, of his desire to spend more time in their magnificent home on the banks of St. Lucie River with his hobbies.

Vaughn Monroe is a pilot licensed for multi-engine aircraft, and an active member of the St. Lucie Power Squadron, which received its charter last year with more than 200 registered members. He has owned yachts, but gave them up because he didn't have the time to use them.

Does he have any regrets about not pursuing the early-dreamed-of operatic career?

"My voice might have fit opera, " he said, "but I don't think I would have. With the band business, every day is a new day. It's been a great education. I wouldn't' trade it for anything."