The Story of Vaughn Monroe

1950 Promotional

The story of the country's most popular band leader is truly an American success saga. While today his name is a national by-word, just a few years ago Vaughn Monroe was an unknown factor in the entertainment world, who had experienced a tough, discouraging struggle for survival and recognition.

Vaughn was born in Akron, Ohio, on October 1, (sic) (This should read 7. Italics mine.) 1911, the son of a rubber experimental engineer. During his early years the family took up residence in Kent, Ohio; Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; Cudahy Wisconsin; and finally Jeannette, Pennsylvania, as his father changed jobs in various rubber factories.

It was in Kent, at the age of eleven, that Vaughn began his musical career when he came home from school one day carrying a battered old trumpet. He explained to his puzzled parents that "The kid down the street gave it to me on account of he just got a drum and likes it better."

Much to the chagrin of the household, young Vaughn took up the instrument seriously and eventually became proficient enough to win a statewide championship trumpet contest in Wisconsin at the age of 14. The trumpet also served a more worthy purpose, for throughout his high school days and for two years after graduation, he played with local bands earning and saving money to help finance a college education. One such aggregation was called Gibby Lockhard's Jazz Orchestra who appeared on stage wearing white knickers and blazers with the monogram "GL" on them , and with whom Vaughn was occasionally allowed to sing through a megaphone.

By this time Vaughn had developed quite a reputation, for on graduating from Jeannette High School in 1929 he was voted the "Boy Most Likely To Succeed." His high school sweetheart, Marion Baughman, who later became Mrs. Monroe, thought he was rushing things a little when he dashed breathlessly into the senior prom ballroom ten minutes late with the startling news that he had just won another trumpet contest in a nearby town.

Up to this point, Vaughn's musical activities had revolved almost exclusively around his trumpet. But in the back of his mind what he really wanted to do was sing. He had done some vocal work with the Jeannette Methodist Church Choir and had been encouraged to continue with voice study. Therefore, several years later he enrolled in the School of Music at Carnegie Tech during the day while working with the Lockhard group at night. However, he was forced to give up his ambition of a concert stage career when the grind became too grueling to continue. He left school at the end of his sophomore year and took a job with Austin Wiley's band, and later with a larger group led by Larry Funk. In addition to his musical chores, he served as driver for the instrument truck and as treasurer for the band. Vaughn took his boot training in one-nighters at this time, as the band toured the country from Boston to Texas. "Every once in a while, when I think we have it rough on our one-nighter junkets now," says Vaughn, "I think back and shudder."

In 1937 he left Funk and went to Boston to accept a previous job offer from the late Jack Marshard, who had built a reputation for himself in the east organizing and managing a group of society orchestras. Vaughn began as a trumpet player, later did some vocalizing and finally was promoted to leader of one of the units. Throughout this period, he looked upon his band experience as only temporary, for he had enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music to continue his classical voice training.

However, other plans were in the making. It was while Vaughn and the unit was playing a Florida hotel date that Jack Marshard and Willard Alexander, former vice president in charge of bands for the Music Corporation of America, who now has his own agency and is booking manager for the band, met and discussed the possibilities of developing Vaughn into a singing bandleader personality. Several hours later, the three signed a contract and the present Monroe organization was born.

One of the first things Vaughn did following the signing was to propose to Marion Baughman. They were married at once and spent a one-day honeymoon traveling to Boston where the new band was to be organized.

Almost immediately, Jack Marshard began to put into action all the ideas he had for building Vaughn into a popular singing star. He proceeded to eliminate the "classical sound" Vaughn had so painstakingly learned by hiring a New York vocal coach, who worked with Monroe for four months toning down his booming concert baritone to a more subdued, mike-style voice. Vaughn claims this was one of the hardest jobs he has ever taken on. "I got panicky when I realized all I had accomplished in the way of singing was being thrown out the window." However, he stuck it out and the band got underway, making its debut at Seiler's Ten Acres, in New England.

The year was 1940, and from then until 1945 things were touch and go. His weekly salary averaged $25 and Mrs. Monroe, who suddenly found herself traveling with the band in the capacity of bookkeeper and general assistant, began to feel that his earlier optimism was a little premature, and that the high school prophecy of his success was not exactly running true to form.
The band played its first big theatre date in June, 1941 at the Paramount Theatre in New York, and a few months later landed an engagement at the Commodore Hotel. It then embarked on its first string of one-nighters and gradually began to attract some attention.

In the meantime, RCA-Victor signed the band to a recording contract. But it was not until January, 1945 that the really first big break came along when the recorded "THERE, I'VE SAID IT AGAIN." It was made merely to fill space on the second side of a record that featured the smash tune of the day, "Rum and Coca Cola." By one of those inexplicable flukes that happen again and again in show business, the first side flopped and "THERE, I'VE SAID IT AGAIN" became a national sensation, selling 1,250,000 copies. The band was in.

From this point on, record hits seemed to follow at almost breath-taking pace--"LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW," "BALLERINA," COOL WATER," "RIDERS IN THE SKY," "SOMEDAY." As a result of this new popularity on records, Camel Cigarettes signed Monroe for the Saturday night CBS Caravan show which has never been interrupted to date.

Also as a result of his records, his western tunes in particular, he was signed to star in his first picture, "Singing Guns", which was produced at Republic Studios during the summer of 1949, and which co-stars Walter Brennan, Ella Raines and Ward Bond.

Today, Monroe lives with his wife and two daughters, Candace, 8 and Christina, 5 in a beautiful, Georgian-styled home in the suburbs of Boston. In spite of his tremendous success as the leading singing personality in the band business, he is happiest when he is at home, surrounded by family, friends and hobbies. Of the latter, he enjoys building model trains, photography, pipe collecting, flying and motorcycling. He is a licensed pilot and owns his own Lockheed-12 plane, which he uses all the time when he is on the road.

Other Monroe interests include The Meadows, one of the most famous restaurants in New England, located in Framingham, Mass., and a company called Stories for Young America, which produces children's educational toys and songs.