Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28: Multi-musician, bandleader, entertainer Rudy Vallée was born on this date in 1901…

… he died on July 3, 1986.

Rudy Vallée was born Hubert Prior Vallée in Island Pond, Vermont on July 28, 1901. Vallée grew up in Westbrook, Maine. After playing drums in his high school band, Vallée played clarinet and saxophone in various bands around New England as a teenager.

In 1917, he decided to enlist for World War I, but was discharged when the Navy authorities found out that he was only 15. From 1924 through 1925, he played with the Savoy Havana Band at the Savoy Hotel in London, where his fellow band-members discouraged his attempts to become a vocalist.

He then returned to the U.S. and earned a degree in philosophy from Yale and to form his own band, "Rudy Vallée and the Connecticut Yankees." With this band, which featured two violins, two saxophones, a piano, a banjo and drums, he started singing. He had a rather thin, wavering tenor voice and with his suave manner and boyish good looks, attracted great attention, especially from young women.

Vallée was given a recording contract and in 1928, he started performing on the radio. Vallée became the most prominent and, the first of a new style of popular singer, known as a “crooner”; well-suited for listening to on the radio. Some people credit him as the first “pop-star.”

Vallée's recording career began in 1928 recording for Columbia Records' labels Harmony, Velvet Tone, and Diva. He signed to Victor in February 1929 and remained with them through to late 1931, leaving after a heated dispute with company executives over title selections. He then recorded for the short-lived, but extremely popular "Hit of the Week" label.

Along with his group, The Connecticut Yankees, Vallée's best known popular recordings included: "The Stein Song" (aka University of Maine fighting song) in 1929 and "Vieni, Vieni" in the latter 1930s. Vallée's last hit song was the 1943 reissue of the melancholy ballad "As Time Goes By,” popularized in the feature film Casablanca in 1943.

Rudy Vallee with Alice Faye
Vallée acted in a number of Hollywood films starting with The Vagabond Lover in 1929. His earliest films showed him rather stiff and unemotional but by the 1940s he had become a successful comedic supporting player. He appeared opposite Claudette Colbert in the 1942 Preston Sturges comedy The Palm Beach Story.

Other films in which he appeared include I Remember Mama, Unfaithfully Yours and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. In 1955, Vallée was featured in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.

He performed on Broadway as J.B. Biggley in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and reprised the role in the film version of the show. He appeared in the campy 1960s Batman television show as the character "Lord Marmaduke Ffogg.”

He toured with a one-man theater show into the 1980s. He occasionally opened for The Village People. In 1967 Vallée recorded a new record album, titled Hi-Ho Everybody.

Vallée died of cancer at his home on July 3, 1986.


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