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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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,""
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
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
He has mixed feelings about
"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
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
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