A Personal Interview

with the famous singer and band leader, Vaughn Monroe

who is a former DeMolay (PMC) and member of the Legion of Honor


Wichita, KS "DeMolay Communiqué"

December 1967


By Robert Downen

NOTE: Mr. Vaughn Monroe (whom your parents will remember if you can't place the name) was a top entertainer of the big-band era back in the 1930s and '40s. He was well-known for his deep, resonant bass voice on records that sold over 2 million copies each. Even more interesting to us is the fact that Mr. Monroe is a past Master Councilor who, though a very busy man in the entertainment field, still practices the virtues he learned as a DeMolay. The following interview was taken by the editor of this newspaper on November 30, when Vaughn Monroe was in Wichita on a promotional tour.

Taking a half-hour break out of his busy schedule to meet with a small delegation of three Wichita DeMolays and Dad Richard Porter, Vaughn Monroe quickly settled into casual and free conversation. Naturally, we were most interested in his DeMolay history, and we soon found out that he had belonged to a chapter in Jeannette, PA, where he went through the officers' chairs and became Master Councilor when he was 18 years old. However, success came early for Mr. Monroe (who had begun his musical career at 14), and he had to leave some of his DeMolay activities when he joined a band and went on the road during his 18th year, also. Nevertheless, as the years rolled by and he became more and more well-known, Mr. Monroe managed to meet with DeMolays somewhere every March in observance of DeMolay Devotional Day. He still attempts to do this today. In the 1950s, Dad Frank S. Land, the founder of DeMolay, honored Vaughn Monroe by personally presenting him with the coveted Legion of Honor Award, given to Senior DeMolays who have done outstanding work in the field of worthwhile endeavor that serves God, country or humanity. Mr. Monroe loves to recall that event, and he calls the late Dad Land one of the greatest men he has ever known. I asked Vaughn Monroe in what ways he felt that his early DeMolay experience had helped him later on in his career; he replied that probably the ability to meet comfortably with people and the personal pride he learned to take in his activities  while a DeMolay were fundamental to his position today. He further stated that all boys will gain something of value from DeMolay, and that he has "never know a DeMolay who turned out badly."

Turning to the subject of which he is famous (music), we asked Mr. Monroe if he thought that the era of the big-band music, which was so popular 20 and 30 years ago, would ever return he answered: "It could. It very possibly could. But there would have to be a complete revolution in music from what it is today. Five years from now there might be a complete turn around." Vaughn Monroe offered some advice to those of us who are particularly interested in music and are thinking of a future with it, either as a study in school or as a career. He began by saying that music is sometimes "not a very lucrative business." He went on to note: "There is a definite lack of interest in young people today. There is no opportunity today for a young fellow to become a big-band leader. There's just no market for that type of music. Therefore," he advised, "if a young man wants to study music today, and wants to make it his career, he should study for a professorship to teach it, rather than to seek a job in the field of entertainment.

Returning to talk of DeMolay (which seems to be one of Vaughn Monroe's favorite subjects), he cited the change that has taken place in the organization since he was an active member. He said that it used to be "a great distinction" to be a DeMolay. Boys begged to get in, rather than waiting to be asked to join. And then, not everyone who petitioned for membership was granted it. "It was an honor to be asked to be a DeMolay."

Finally, I asked Mr. Monroe if he had any statement that he would like to make to all DeMolays everywhere. He paused only a moment before he said: "If you're going to be a DeMolay, be a Demolay all the way. Don't be a drop-out. Finish what you start."