Vaughn at Duke University

Vaughn at Duke University, October 18, 1952

In 1952 I was a freshman at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Being an independent Yankee I was not too happy at being cloistered in a very strict women’s college, (neither my parents nor I had any idea it was that regulated before I went) so when a fellow student told me she was going to a dance with her boyfriend at Duke University and that Vaughn would be there, I didn’t hesitate. She and I took a train to Durham together and checked into a room in a house that was approved by our school. ( I told you it was strict!) Late that afternoon I took a cab to Duke and walked up to the entrance where I was told that it was a “Shoe and Slipper Club” dance and I couldn’t get in without club membership card. Undaunted by such a silly rule I took a snapshot of Vaughn and the Moonmaids out of my purse, wrote a note on it, and asked a passing couple to give it to Mary Lee. A couple of minutes later I heard someone call my name, and there was Gizmo, looking for me. He was- I think – the road manager for Vaughn. I never knew him by any other name. He told the guard “She’s with the band” and I followed him in, floating on air. Lee was Mary’s last name, but everyone I knew referred to her as Marylee. As far as I’m concerned she was a star in her own right – just wonderful to all of us. She had a lovely voice and I well remember her singing “I Love The Guy” as a solo.

When I went in I immediately found her to thank her for rescuing me. I said hello to all of the Moonmaids and then went over to greet Vaughn and talk with him very briefly before he had to go over the program with the singers and band. As always it was a thrill to be at the rehearsal, and it seemed to be taken for granted that I could stand right beside, or just in front of the stage. After the broadcast Vaughn walked over, gave me one of those wonderful smiles, autographed his copy of the script and handed it to me. In the break between the radio show and the dance and during the intermission I had most of the band and the singers sign it on the second page. (It still is a very special treasure to me and I’m delighted that Claire wants to share it with all of you). Also during the break some of the boys in the band had an impromptu jazz session, which was wonderful. People used to talk about Vaughn’s “business man’s bounce”, but they could really swing.

During the intermission I had a chance to talk with Vaughn for quite a while. He realized that I wasn’t that happy with school and was very supportive and encouraging. By then I thought he knew “Ballerina” was my favorite song and I don’t think I even asked him to sing it, as he always included his biggest hits at every performance and I didn’t think it was necessary. When the dancing began again time slid by with me standing in front of the stage enjoying every minute.( For the information of any of you who never saw Vaughn at a dance, the crowd used to stand 10 to 20 people deep in front of him whenever he sang.) All of a sudden it was almost midnight, when the dance would be over, and no “Ballerina.” I was so disappointed. He stood in front of the band, said “Racing With The Moon” as he always did at the end of a dance, and gave the downbeat - but instead they played and he sang “Ballerina.” He purposely waited until the last minute just to tease me. He must have thought it would cheer me up, and indeed it did. I still smile when I think of it. To top everything off he let me ride back to my room in the band bus. What a nice memory, and what a wonderful, thoughtful person he was.

Submitted by: Polly Attridge