Vic Damone was stationed at Fort Dix, in New
Jersey, in 1951,
for his Army basic training. He was on leave on one of
those weekends and he and some buddies went out to a club
in Newark, New Jersey, and caught a newcomer's act. The
performer was Joey Bishop.
Vic totally enjoyed the show and afterwards went
to talk to Joey. He told him that he wanted Joey to work with
him when he got out of the Army. Bishop couldn't believe it and
said: "Yeah, sure, you'll forget all about me!"
Low and behold, Vic Damone returned and kept
Joey Bishop opened for Vic at Bill Miller's Riviera in New
Jersey, as well as at the Paramount Theater in New York.
The rest is history. Joey Bishop became part of the "Rat Pack" and
went on to host his own television talk show in the late 60's.
Joey Bishop has always credited Frank Sinatra
as the one who discovered him.......
We report, YOU decide.......
Along with his endorsement of Vic Damone's performance, Mr.
Dana devoted a good portion of this review to dancers Marge and
Glower Champion. Opening act Joey Bishop received words of encouragement
but Vic's army buddy Burt Bacharach got his name misspelled (Bert
Bachrach) for his first mention in the papers. His thank-you
letter appears below which may have doubled as a reminder to
Mr. Dana on the correct spelling. Anyone who saw all these future
stars together must have talked about it for years. At least
you know Marge and Glower Champion must have.
Tips on Tables - Robert W. Dana - May 22, 1953
His tour of duty behind him, Vic Damone is back on the cafe
ball at Bill Miller's Riviera enriched, not bothered and certainly
not Vic damonebewildered by the happy change to civvies.
a sterling new entertainment bill that features the return of
one of the country's class dance teams, Marge and Gower Champion
and Joey Bishop, a brave comedian to open the show. Vic gives
the finest performance of his career and then toasts the life
and the people he just left.
There is no doubt about Damone's maturity before his military
duty. A top performer in cafes, hotel rooms, on records and in
movies, his gloss and ease of showmanship gained through diligent
apprenticeship since his emergence from his Paramount Theater
usher's days was quite apparent.
His maturity now will have opportunity to settle in its mold,
when I predict he will be the top male vocalist in the country.
In a fresh engaging way he's throwing out his challenge in his
Damone tuxedo, a pearl-gray affair with black lapels and cuffs.
He's backing up his case with an unaffected but polished style
and strong, clear singing of numbers like "They Say," "Will
You Still Be Mine?" "April in Portugal," "Where
Or When" and "Gypsy In My Soul." Then after acknowledging
the fine piano accompaniment of Bert Bachrach Jr. and Walter
Nye's band, he toasts his Army life with "I Never Had It
Hollywood has done wonders for Marge and Gower Champion. damone
cartoonAlways professional, youthful and original in past appearances
in local cafes, they now are dazzling thanks to some expert arrangements
and thoughtful choreography, Their accompanist is Richard Pribor.
Five Beautiful Numbers.
They did five beautiful numbers: "Let's Dance," "The
Clock" (to "Time On My Hands"),"County Fair," "Margie"and "Meeting
Joey Bishop, billed as the unhappy humorist, makes the most
of his unhappiness to make the audience happy. He serves well
his duty to warm up the customers. Also helpful in pre-show dance
sessions are the orchestras of Walter Nye and Pupi Campo.
Burt Bacharach letter
Vic Damone at the Empire Room in 1956
as written by columnist Robert W. Dana on December 7, 1956
Click On Clipping To See Full-Sized
Courtesy of Craig at:
Philip Elwood, EXAMINER MUSIC CRITIC
WHEN I HEARD that voice, I knew it must be singer Vic Damone
on the line, phoning to say that he is appearing at the Concord
Pavilion Friday with Rosemary Clooney.
"And, by the way" he added, "my new record (CD)
release, "Greatest Love Songs of The Century' (Q&M),
is the finest thing I've ever done."
Damone then had something to say about his career, the music
business and, as the old song says, "What's the Matter With
"I'm in Atlantic City - got a week here, then I'm coming
to San Francisco; love your city. Y'know, I'd like to do my symphony
concert out there - "Greatest Love Songs of the Century," with
a special section of some of Frank Sinatra's hits. Frank loaned
me his own charts; wonderful stuff. He told me "You sing
my songs - I'm out of it for good."
Like most men singers who came up in the post-war 1940s, Damone
pays homage to Frank Sinatra. Francis Ford Coppola even offered
the Sinatra-like role of Johnny Fontaine in "The Godfather" to
Damone, but it didn't pay enough. Instead, Al Martino grabbed
the offer, thus prolonging his fading career. The 1950s and '60s
were rough times for mainstream pop singers.
"You're singing at Concord on the first night of the jazz
festival," I said. Damone seemed nonplused. "Anyone
out of the big band period these days is considered a survivor
of the "swing era,' and "swing' and "jazz' are
"But I never was a band vocalist," he commented, "I
was a solo singer. I worked shows and record sessions with great
orchestras . . . so now I'm with Rosemary Clooney as a jazz singer?
I first heard her with her sister Betty singing with Tony Pastor's
band. We're about the same age (Damone was born 15 days later
than Clooney, on June 12, 1928).
"Two things caused the slump in my kind of music in the
1950s," Damone continued. "First was the payola scandals
- jocks were getting paid by record companies to play certain
tunes. When that blew up, record programming on radio was given
to musical directors and librarians, which led to the take-over
of all radio music programming by the record companies.
"Then," Damone continued, "the young generation
of the '50s grew up hostile to the mess their parents were making
of the country - Korea, Vietnam; they didn't like what we were
doing to their lives. Anything that had to do with us they didn't
believe in. So the complaints, situations where both parents
had to work, restlessness of the young people, anti-war feelings,
became a nationwide clique of resentful kids - and the jocks,
record companies and young musicians saw it happening and responded.
"The record and radio industry are in a rut. The record
stores are run by punks who don't know anything but the monotonous
crap that's being played all over radio. And it's tough for people
like me to get records onto the market.........
........."After a little TV exposure," Damone continued, "we
sold 20,000 copies of my new recording. Reader's Digest put $300,000
into the project, but getting airplay, getting it into the stores
is something else."
Damone, long a member of the Baha'i faith, then got off onto
his concerns for integrity of the nation - one-parent children,
drugs, decline in moral values and so-forth........
........In the war years of the 1940s, Damone came to fame as
a Perry Como-Sinatra protege; he won an Arthur Godfrey "Talent
Scouts" competition. He made a lot of records, some did
well; ironically, in 1962 he hosted a TV variety show featuring "far-out
and different music," meaning jazz. Among his guests were
Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck.
He still is a magnificent singer ( "Best pipes in the business," Sinatra
once said) and his newish 2-CD set is a beauty - gorgeous orchestrations,
beautifully recorded and beautifully sung.
But, as he said, bravely, in ending the phone call,
"Remember those years when you were always the youngest
in the crowd? Now, it seems I'm always the oldest."
Copyright © 2000 San Francisco Examiner
Original article: San Francisco Examiner