La Rosa was born in Brooklyn, New York and joined the United States Navy in 1947 after finishing high school. Arthur Godfrey, a radio and early network television pioneer (and a Naval Reserve officer), heard LaRosa in Pensacola, Florida, where LaRosa was stationed, and offered him a job.
Godfrey was impressed by La Rosa's singing and had him flown to New York to appear on his television show, with Godfrey ending the spot by saying, "When Julie gets out of the Navy he'll come back to see us."
Discharged from the Navy on a Friday, La Rosa went to Godfrey on the following Monday, and a week later he appeared on Godfrey's variety show. He was a regular on both the morning Arthur Godfrey Time and the Wednesday night variety show Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.
Julius La Rosa's appeared on Godfrey's shows from November 19, 1951 to October 19, 1953. When Archie Bleyer, Arthur Godfrey's bandleader, formed Cadence Records in 1952, the first performer signed was La Rosa. Cadence's first single, which was also La Rosa's first recording, was "Anywhere I Wander." It reached the top 30 on the charts, and his next recording, "My Lady Loves To Dance," was a moderate success.
La Rosa's third recording, "Eh, Cumpari" in 1953 hit #1 on the Cash Box chart and #2 on the Billboard chart, and La Rosa got an award as the best new male vocalist of 1953.
Like the other "Little Godfreys," as the cast members were known, Godfrey discouraged La Rosa from hiring a manager or booking agent, preferring to have his staff, and his own agent and manager, Tommy Rockwell and negotiate on La Rosa's behalf.
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With hit recordings and his appearances on Arthur Godfrey's shows, La Rosa's popularity grew exponentially. At one point, La Rosa's fan mail eclipsed Godfrey's. A year after La Rosa was hired, he was receiving 7,000 fan letters a week.
On the morning of October 19, 1953 (in a segment of the show broadcast on radio only) after La Rosa had finished singing "Manhattan" on Arthur Godfrey Time, Godfrey fired him on the air, announcing, "that was Julie's swan song with us." La Rosa tearfully met with Godfrey after the broadcast and thanked him for giving him his "break." La Rosa was then met at Godfrey's offices by his lawyer, manager and some reporters.
Singer Ruth Wallis, known for her raunchy double entendre' novelties, recorded "Dear Mr. Godfrey," a biting satire on the matter, which made it to #25 on the Billboard charts in November 1953. Days after firing La Rosa, Godfrey also fired bandleader Archie Bleyer, owner of La Rosa's label Cadence Records, for producing spoken word records for Cadence featuring Chicago-based talk host Don McNeill, whose Don McNeill's Breakfast Club on ABC Radio opposite Godfrey's morning show was considered a direct competitor.
Immediately after his firing, "Eh, Cumpari" became a major hit, followed by "Domani." Ed Sullivan immediately signed La Rosa for appearances on his CBS Toast of the Town TV variety show, which sparked a feud between him and Godfrey. La Rosa's first appearance on Toast of the Town following the firing got a 47.9 Trendex rating, and La Rosa would appear 12 more times on Sullivan's show that year.
La Rosa had a three times a week television series, The Julius La Rosa Show, during the summer of 1955, featuring Russ Case and his Orchestra. The short-lived series lasted only 13 weeks. La Rosa tired of revisiting the Godfrey affair, in part because it had been rehashed so many times, but he was also known to declare publicly that Godfrey was, indeed, the individual who made his career, but always adding, "He wasn't a very nice man."