Vaughn Monroe

Many old-timers, and perhaps even more newcomers who were old-timers other places before they came to Martin County, remember The Toughest Man in Tombstone (sic Arizona), who chalked up sales of four million "singles," and chose to settle on the east bank of the St. Lucie River after he had seen the world.

Ohio-born (Akron, October 7, 1911), Vaughn Monroe entered Jeanette (Pennsylvania) High School for his junior year in 1928, and, as president of the senior class, was voted "the boy most likely to succeed."

One of his classmates, whose vote had helped elect him, was Marian Baughman. After graduation, Marian went to Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham Collage), in Pittsburgh, where she majored in chemistry, working as a laboratory technician from 1933 to 1936, before going back to the classroom for a Master's Degree in Business at the University of Pittsburgh. After that, she became Training Director of Gimbels in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, "the boy most likely" had been studying music in general at Carnegie Tech and singing in particular at Boston's New England Conservatory. He had also been playing the trumpet, and was sideman with touring dance bands until the spring of 1940. He was in Boston when he decided that what he really wanted was a band of his own. It was time for another decision, too.

"I'd kept in touch with Vaughn thought the years, constant writing, and dating when he came home from 'going on the road with band,'" Marian recalled, asked for a few facts for this article. "April 2, 1940, was our wedding, and April 10 was the first appearance of the big Vaughn Monroe Orchestra. Having little money, I was given the job of handling the business and finances, thus becoming Vaughn's first manager--and his last Executive Manager."

"The years were good to us and we expanded, finally having a complement of twenty-eight on stage--eight singers and twenty playing. There were two road managers, one business manager, one agent, and one personal manager--all reporting to me."

There were other Big Bands in the forties--Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Guy Lombardo, Sammy Kaye. . . but only Vaughn Monroe, while he was playing an engagement with his earlier--and not so big--band at the Dempsey-Vanderbilt Hotel in Miami, made up his mind that he would love to live Florida. There was some thought of California, during his motion picture-making days, and his musical engagements, but he resolved that, someday, it must be Florida.

Then in 1953--after thirteen years-- the big Vaughn Monroe band stopped playing, and the man with the rich, vibrant baritone voice went out alone--to sing. How many have heard that voice on the four million records, and in record-breaking crowds in person from New Orleans to New Zealand--not to mention summer stock, State Fairs, and radio and television audiences--no one really knows.

Two daughters were born, both in New York and each while their father happened to be performing at the same hotel: the Commodore--Candace in 1941 and Christina in 1944. Their mother "toured with the band, doing one-nighters, hotels, nightclubs, or whatever, returning home to Boston to watch over the teen-age girls" but again, all details went through her.

"When the girls married, we left Boston and came south to look for property. . . and decided High Point was it." Marian Monroe agreed to the purchase, thinking it would give her husband "something to think about during our travels." After Vaughn became a single nightclub performer, the Monroes decided that, between them, they could manage all the still-complicated affairs. Marian's job became even more demanding.

"I took over the complete bookings, finances, transportation, and handling of managers, lighting and so forth. Vaughn took over all musical arrangements, all musicians, his act, and where we both wanted to go. Thus I did not think we would live in Florida. . . but to please him, and give him his dream, we sold our Boston home, and came to Stuart, where we rented for a year during the building of the house on High Point.

"He loved every nook and cranny in it, drawing the original plans for it during an engagement in Sydney, Australia. Few changes were made by our local architect. It took me a year or so to adjust, but then we were always coming and going with our business, and it kept us happy having both."

Vaughn Monroe had the boat he had always wanted, belonged to the St. Lucie Power Squadron, was a member of the Quiet Birdmen, and aviation society, was awarded the Legion of Honor for work with the troops in Europe, and the Order of DeMolay. He was a motorcycle buff, was fond of flying, hunting, and sailing, had a collection of model trains, and enjoyed woodworking.

Occasionally, when he was in town, he sang with the choir at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, of which he was a communicant. He died in 1973--home briefly between engagements that were booked ahead for a year.

"Yes," Marian Monroe admits, "I am sad; but thirty-three years of a great and wonderful marriage, terminating in Martin County--what more could anyone ask? No, I shall never leave, either, except as he did!"


Webmaster's note: The author (Janet Hutchinson?) obviously obtained her information from the Stuart News obituary and supplemented that with some nice additional details from her interview with Mrs. Marian Monroe.