The Heart of a Hobo

1950 Souvenir Booklet

The Monroe orchestra, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is the most traveled organization f its kind in the entertainment world. Each year Vaughn and his caravan of musicians, singers, dancers and comedians, cover some 50,000 miles as they travel the length and breadth of the country.

Most of their engagements are made up of one-nighter dances and concerts, the total annual average running to more than 200,. A typical one-nighter tour is the one made from January to April, 1949, in which the band played more than 70 consecutive dates through the entire midwest and south. The longest engagement played during any year is a four-week New York hotel or theatre date. The only other exception is when Monroe takes time off to make a motion picture in Hollywood, such as his first starring western film, "Singing Guns."

Monroe, who has never disbanded his crew since it was first organized back in 1940, firmly believes that a name band has to keep moving to maintain its popularity. "You've got to get out on the road and meet the people yourself to find out the kind of music they like and which of your records the disc jockeys prefer to play. Trends in dance tempos are like women's fashions. They change over night, and if a band stays in one spot too long it soon becomes as dated as last year's hemline."

This insistence on the importance of the road to the success of a band undoubtedly has a great deal to do with the fact that he is now recognized as the top band attraction in the country. Vaughn is generally conceded to be the only leader that can take a company of 35 people on tour and make money.

Most of the traveling done by the band while on tour is by bus. This is because tours are generally arranged with the various cities close to one another. Where long distances are involved, special trains are chartered for overnight hauls or, when time is important, an airliner will be chartered for the entire company. A normal day of the band on the road will find them finishing an engagement around midnight or 1:00 A.M. They will then travel by bus overnight to their next stop, arriving about 5:00 A.M., check into their hotel and sleep through the day, getting up just in time for the next show. This goes on without respite for the entire tour.

Add to all this Vaughn's weekly CBS Saturday night Camel Caravan show, which is broadcast live each week, band rehearsals, recording sessions, personal appearances for record dealers, distributors and disc jockeys, helping to support collection drives for such organizations as the Red Cross, National Tuberculosis & Health Association, March of Dimes, Damon Runyon Cancer Fund, keeping in touch with fan club activities, and you get a rough idea that leading a band consists of considerably more than merely waving a baton. It more closely resembles being a corporation president. Only most corporation presidents don't have to sing and travel for their suppers.

Vaughn, who personally directs his entire staff of specialists, including a personal manager, a booking agent, lawyer, treasurer-accountant, a road manager, press relations director and miscellaneous others, has often worked at breakneck speed all day, just like many of the people he is entertaining, who little realize all that has been involved in bringing the orchestra to their city.

To take the edge off these long one-nighter tours, Vaughn does as much flying as possible. A licensed pilot, he owns his own Lockheed-12 and is today the most airminded bandleader in the business. While on dates within 300 miles of Boston, he often flies home on his day off to visit the family and handle important business details.

But days off are rare on the Monroe schedule, and Vaughn himself admits that to be a bandleader today you need to the heart of the hobo and more stamina than a gold rush pioneer.