Friday, October 13, 2017

Singer & "The Godfather" Actor Al Martino 2009 Holy Cross Cemetery

Al Martino (born Jasper Cini; October 7, 1927 – October 13, 2009) was an American singer and actor. He had his greatest success as a singer between the early 1950s and mid-1970s, being described as "one of the great Italian American pop crooners,"[1] and also became well known as an actor, particularly for his role as singer Johnny Fontane in The Godfather.

Early life

Jasper "Al" Cini was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[2] The name Jasper was an anglicisation of his father's name, Gasparino. His parents were immigrants from Abruzzo, Italy, who ran a construction business, and while growing up, he worked alongside his brothers as a bricklayer. He aspired to become a singer, emulating artists such as Al Jolson and Perry Como, and by the success of a family friend, Alfredo Cocozza, who had changed his name to Mario Lanza.[1]


After serving with the United States Navy in World War II, during which he was part of, and injured in, the Iwo Jima invasion, Cini began his singing career.[3] Encouraged by Lanza, he adopted the stage name Al Martino—based on the name of his good friend Lorraine Cianfrani's (née Losavio) husband Alfred Martin Cianfrani—and began singing in local nightclubs. In 1948, he moved to New York City, recorded some sides for the Jubilee label,[4][5] and in 1952, won first place on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program with a performance of Como's hit "If."[6]

As a result, he won a recording contract with the Philadelphia-based independent record label BBS, where he recorded "Here in My Heart." Lanza's label RCA Victor had asked him to record the song, but Martino called and pleaded with him to let Martino's version have a clear run.[1][2] The song spent three weeks at No. 1 on the US pop charts in June 1952, earning Martino a gold disc,[7] and later in the year, also reached the top of the UK charts. It was number one in the first UK Singles chart, published by the New Musical Express on November 14, 1952, putting him into the Guinness Book of World Records.[8] "Here in My Heart" remained in the top position for nine weeks in the UK, a record for the longest consecutive run at number one, that has only since been beaten by five other songs.[9][10]

The record's success led to a deal with Capitol Records, and he released three more singles: "Take My Heart," "Rachel," and "When You're Mine" through 1953, all of which hit the U.S. top 40.[1] However, his success also attracted the attention of the Mafia, which bought out Martino’s management contract and ordered him to pay $75,000 as a safeguard for their investment.[1] After making a down-payment to appease them, he moved to Britain. His popularity allowed him to continue to perform and record successfully in the UK, headlining at the London Palladium and having six further British chart hits in the period up to 1955, including "Now" and "Wanted." However, his work received no exposure back in the US.[1] In 1958, thanks to the intervention of a family friend, Martino was allowed to return to the U.S. and resume his recording career, but he faced difficulties in re-establishing himself, especially with the arrival of rock and roll. In 1959, Martino signed with 20th Fox Records;[11] his deal scored him two albums,[12] and four singles released, none of which was a major hit. The success of his 1962 album The Exciting Voice of Al Martino secured him a new contract with Capitol, and was followed by a mostly Italian-language album, The Italian Voice of Al Martino, which featured his version of the then internationally popular song "Al Di Là." He also made several high-profile television appearances, helping to re-establish his visibility.[1]

In 1963, he had his biggest U.S. chart success with "I Love You Because," a cover of Leon Payne's 1950 country music hit. Arranged by Belford Hendricks, Martino's version went to number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number one on the Easy Listening chart. The album of the same name went top 10 in the Billboard 200. Martino had four other U.S. top 10 hits in 1963 and 1964 - "Painted, Tainted Rose" (1963), "I Love You More and More Every Day," "Tears and Roses," and "Silver Bells" (all 1964).[1] He also sang the title song for the 1964 film, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. One of his biggest hits was "Spanish Eyes," achieving several gold and platinum discs for sales.[13] Recorded in 1965, the song reached number five on the UK Singles chart when reissued in 1973.[10] The song, with a tune by Bert Kaempfert originally titled "Moon Over Naples," is among the 50 most-played songs worldwide.[14]

In the mid- to late 1960s, the Martino family lived in this house on the corner of Laurel Place and Belmont Drive in Cherry Hill Estates, New Jersey, just down the street from Frankie Avalon.

Martino's run of chart success faded after the mid-1960s, although many of his records continued to reach the U.S. Hot 100. Another later hit was a disco version of "Volare," (also known as "Nel blu, Dipinto di Blu"). In 1976, it reached number one on the Italian and Flemish charts, and was in the top 10 in Spain, the Netherlands, and France, as well as in many other European countries. In 1993, Martino recorded a new studio album with German producer Dieter Bohlen (former member of pop duo Modern Talking, producer of international artists such as Chris Norman of Smokie, Bonnie Tyler, Dionne Warwick, Engelbert or Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate). The single "Spanish Ballerina" (written in Bohlen's europop sound) reached number 93 in the German single charts.[15]

Apart from singing, Martino played the role of Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as well as singing the film's theme, "Speak Softly Love." He played the same role in The Godfather Part III and The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980. He later returned to acting, playing aging crooner Sal Stevens in the short film Cutout, appearing in film festivals around the world in 2006.


Martino was married to Judi. He had three children, Alison Martino, Alfred Cini, and Alana Cini; and several grandchildren.

Daughter Alison Martino is a writer and television producer of such programs as Mysteries and Scandals and Headliners and Legends.[16] Martino also writes for Los Angeles.[17] Martino is an amateur historian, who launched the organization Vintage Los Angeles in 2010.[16] Vintage Los Angeles is a tribute to the Los Angeles of yore, which has about 250,000 followers on Facebook.[18]


Martino died from a heart attack[19][20] on October 13, 2009 at his childhood home in Springfield, Pennsylvania, six days after his 82nd birthday. He was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Awards and honors

2009 — inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.[21]

Partial filmography

The Godfather (1972) - Johnny Fontane
The Godfather Part III (1990) - Johnny Fontane


Studio albums

1959: Al Martino 1960: Swing Along With Al Martino 
1962: The Exciting Voice of Al Martino (U.S. No. 109) 
1962: The Italian Voice of Al Martino (U.S. No. 57) 
1963: I Love You Because (U.S. No. 7) 
1963: Painted, Tainted Rose (U.S. No. 9) 
1963: Love Notes 
1964: A Merry Christmas 
1964: I Love You More and More Every Day/Tears and Roses (U.S. No. 31) 
1964: Living a Lie (U.S. No. 13) 
1965: My Cherie (U.S. No. 19) 
1965: Somebody Else is Taking My Place (U.S. No. 42) 
1965: We Could (U.S. No. 41) 
1966: Spanish Eyes (U.S. No. 8) 
1966: Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep (U.S. No. 116) 
1966: This is Love (U.S. No. 57) 
1967: Daddy's Little Girl (U.S. No. 23) 
1967: This Love for You (U.S. No. 99) 
1967: Mary in the Morning (U.S. No. 63) 
1968: Love is Blue (U.S. No. 56) 1968: This is Al Martino (U.S. No. 129) 
1969: Jean (U.S. No. 196) 
1969: Sausalito (U.S. No. 189) 
1970: Can't Help Falling in Love (U.S. No. 184) 
1970: My Heart Sings (U.S. No. 172) 
1972: Love Theme from 'The Godfather' (U.S. No. 138) 
1975: To the Door of the Sun (U.S. No. 129) 
1976: In Concert: Recorded With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (live) 
1976: Sing My Love Songs 
1977: Time after time 
1978: Al Martino Sings 
1978: Al Martino 
1982: All of Me 
1993: The Voice to Your Heart; produced by Dieter Bohlen in Germany 
2006: Come Share the Wine 
2011: Thank You


1968: The Best of Al Martino (U.S. No. 108) 
1999: The Legendary Al Martino


Year Titles (A-side/B-side)

Both sides from same album except where indicated 

U.S. Billboard[22] U.S. Cash Box[23] U.S. AC[22] UK[10] Album

"Here in My Heart" b/w "I Cried Myself To Sleep" 1 2 1  Non-album tracks 
"Take My Heart" b/w "I Never Cared" 12 9  Non-album tracks 
"I've Never Seen" b/w "Say You'll Wait For Me" Non-album tracks 

"Now" b/w "In All This World" 25 3  Non-album tracks 
"Rachel" b/w "One Lonely Night" 30 21 10  Non-album tracks 
"Here In My Arms" b/w "There's Music In You"  Non-album tracks 
 "When You're Mine" b/w "This Night I'll Remember" 27  Non-album tracks 
 "All I Want Is A Chance" b/w "You Can't Go On Forever Breaking My Heart" Non-album tracks 

"Melancholy Serenade" b/w "Way, Paesano (Uei...Paesano)"  Non-album tracks 
 "Wanted" b/w "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight" 4  Non-album tracks 
"The Story Of Tina" b/w "Say It Again" 10  Non-album tracks 
"Don't Go To Strangers" b/w "When" Non-album tracks 

"The Man From Laramie" b/w "To Please My Lady" 19  Non-album tracks 
"Love Is Eternal" b/w "The Snowy, Snowy Mountains" Non-album tracks 

"A Love To Call My Own" b/w "The Girl I Left In Rome" Non-album tracks 

"I'm Sorry" b/w "I'm A Funny Guy" Non-album tracks 

"Here In My Heart" b/w "Two Lovers" Non-album tracks 

"I Can't Get You Out of My Heart" b/w "Two Hearts Are Better Than One" 44 43  Non-album tracks 
 "Darling, I Love You" b/w "The Memory Of You" 63 52 Non-album tracks 

"Summertime" b/w "I Sold My Heart" (Non-album track) 49 Swing Along With Al Martino
"Dearest (Cara)" b/w "Hello My Love" 106 Non-album tracks 
"Only The Broken Hearted" b/w "Journey To Love" 
 "Our Concerto" b/w "In My Heart Of Hearts" 
 "Come Back To Me" b/w "It's All Over But The Crying"

"Little Boy, Little Girl" b/w "My Side Of The Story" 109 92 
"Here in My Heart" (re-recording) b/w "Granada" 86 102 17 The Exciting Voice Of Al Martino 
"Pardon" b/w "Another Time, Another Place" Non-album tracks

"There's No Tomorrow" b/w "The Memory Of You" 
"Love, Where Are You Now (Toselli Serenade)" b/w "Exodus" 119 The Exciting Voice Of Al Martino 
"Because You're Mine" b/w "Make Me Believe"

"I Love You Because" b/w "Merry-Go-Round" 3 3 1 48 I Love You Because 
"Painted, Tainted Rose" b/w "That's The Way It's Got To Be" 15 19 3 Painted, Tainted Rose 
"Living A Lie" b/w "I Love You Truly" (from Painted, Tainted Rose) 22 23 8 Living A Lie

"My Side Of The Story" b/w "It's All Over But The Crying" Non-album tracks 
"I Love You More and More Every Day" b/w "I'm Living My Heaven With You" 9 11 3 I Love You More and More Every Day 
"Tears and Roses" b/w "A Year Ago Tonight" (Non-album track) 20 18 7 
"Always Together" / 33 41 4 We Could 
"Thank You For Loving Me" 118 96 Non-album tracks 
"I Can't Get You Out of My Heart" (reissue) b/w "Come Back To Me" 99 
"We Could" b/w "Sunrise To Sunrise" 41 44 6 We Could 
"Silver Bells" b/w "You're All I Want For Christmas" 145 A Merry Christmas

"My Heart Would Know" b/w "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" 52 50 11 Somebody Else Is Taking My Place 
"Somebody Else Is Taking My Place" / 53 64 11 
"With All My Heart" 122 99 
"My Cherie" / 88 79 26 My Cherie 
"Ramona" tag Painted, Tainted Rose 
"Forgive Me" b/w "What Now, My Love" (from My Cherie) 61 73 7 Spanish Eyes

"Spanish Eyes" b/w "Melody Of Love" (From My Cherie) 15 16 1 5 A 
"Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself To Sleep" b/w "Hello Memory" 30 33 2 
"Wiederseh'n" b/w "The Minute You're Gone" 57 61 3 Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep 
"Just Yesterday" b/w "By The River Of Roses" (from Spanish Eyes) 77 71 12 This Is Love 
"The Wheel of Hurt" b/w "Somewhere In This World" 59 57 12 Daddy's Little Girl

"Daddy's Little Girl" b/w "Devotion" (From This Love For You) 42 46 2 
"Mary in the Morning" b/w "I Love You and You Love Me" 27 27 1 
"More Than the Eye Can See" b/w "Red Is Red" (from Mary In The Morning) 54 47 1 This Is Al Martino 
"A Voice In the Choir" b/w "The Glory Of Love" (from This Is Al Martino) 80 81 5 Non-album track

"Love Is Blue" b/w "I'm Carryin' The World On My Shoulders" 57 60 3 Love Is Blue 
"Lili Marlene" b/w "Georgia" 87 82 7 
"Wake Up To Me Gentle" b/w "If You Must Leave My Life" 120 125 21 Wake Up To Me Gentle

"I Can't Help It" b/w "I Can See Only You" 97 93 10 
"Sausalito" b/w "Take My Hand For A While" 99 62 13 Sausalito 
"I Started Loving You Again" B b/w "Let Me Stay Awhile" (from Jean) 86 74 19 Non-album track

"Can't Help Falling in Love" b/w "You're All The Woman That I Need" 51 57 5 Can't Help Falling In Love "Walking In The Sand" b/w "One More Mile (and Darlin', I'll Be Home)" (from Can't Help Falling In Love) 123 9 To The Door Of The Sun "True Love Is Greater Than Friendship" b/w "The Call" 110 33 My Heart Sings

"Come Into My Life" b/w "One Pair Of Hands" (from My Heart Sings) 104 30 To The Door Of The Sun 
"Losing My Mind" b/w "Too Many Mornings" (Non-album track) 39 Summer of '42 
"This Summer Knows" b/w "More Now Than Ever"

"Speak Softly Love" b/w "I Have But One Heart" 80 81 24 Love Theme from 'The Godfather' 
"Canta Libre" b/w "Take Me Back" 37 Non-album tracks

"Hey Mama" b/w "If I Give My Heart To You" (Non-album track) The Very Best Of Al Martino 
"Daddy Let's Play" b/w "Mary Go Lightly (Como Un Nino)" (from To The Door Of The Sun) Country Style

"To the Door of the Sun (Alle Porte del Sole)" b/w "Mary Go Lightly (Como Un Nino)" 17 21 7 To The Door Of The Sun

"Volare" b/w "You Belong To Me" 33 41 9 Sing My Love Songs 
"My Thrill" b/w "The More I See You" 43 
 "Sing My Love Song" (With The Mike Curb Congregation) b/w "May I Have The Next Dream With You" 24

"Kentucky Morning" b/w "Sweet Marlorene" 110 26 The Next Hundred Years

"The Next Hundred Years" b/w "After The Lovin'" 49 55 6 
 "One Last Time" b/w "Here I Go Again" 44

"Torero" b/w "Now That I Found You" Non-album tracks

"Almost Gone" B-side unknown Non-album tracks 

"Look Around (You'll Find Me There)" "More Than Ever Now" Non-album tracks 

"You and I" b/w "If I Should Love Again"  Non-album tracks 
 "What Your Love Did For Me" b/w "Warm Is When You Touch Me"  Non-album tracks 

A "Spanish Eyes" reached #5 in the UK on re-issue in 1973.[10] 

B "I Started Loving You Again" also peaked at #69 on Hot Country Songs.


1. Huey, Steve. "Al Martino Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. 
2. Velez, A.E. (14 October 2009). "Al Martino, Singer of Pop Ballads, Is Dead at 82". The New York Times. p. B14.
3. "Al Martino". Telegraph.
4. "Jubilee Records Advertisement". Billboard. April 25, 1953. p. 71.
5. "Popular Record Reviews". Billboard. April 14, 1951.
6. Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 446. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
7. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 61. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
8. Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
9. "I Believe" (11 weeks), "Cara Mia" (10), "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" (16), "Love Is All Around" (15), and "Umbrella" (10)
10. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles and Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 352. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
11. Callahan, Mike; Edwards, David; Eyries, Patrice (February 7, 2006). "20th Century Fox Records".
12. Callahan, Mike; Edwards, David; Eyries, Patrice (February 8, 2006). "20th Century Fox Album Discography, Part 1".
13. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 194. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
14. "Al Martino Obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 14 October 2009.
15. "German Single Charts (Dieter Bohlen)".
16. Stevie St. John (2 April 2014). "With ‘Vintage Los Angeles,’ Every Day is ‘Throwback Thursday’ for Alison Martino".
18. "THE GODMOTHER Alison Martino is the Guardian of the History of Old Hollywood and the Sunset Strip".
20. Al Martino
21. "Al Martino". Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
22. "Al Martino | Awards". AllMusic.
23. "Cashbox Archives". Cashbox. ISSN 0008-7289.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"The Great Caruso" Singer & Actor Mario Lanza 1959 Holy Cross Cemetery

Mario Lanza (born Alfred Arnold Cocozza; January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959) was an American tenor of Italian ancestry, actor and Hollywood film star of the late 1940s and the 1950s.

Lanza began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 16. After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, Lanza signed a seven-year film contract with Louis B. Mayer, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing. Prior to that, the adult Lanza had sung only two performances of an opera. The following year (1948), however, he sang the role of Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in New Orleans.[1]

His film début for MGM was in That Midnight Kiss (1949) with Kathryn Grayson and Ethel Barrymore. A year later, in The Toast of New Orleans, his featured popular song "Be My Love" became his first million-selling hit. 

In 1951, he played the role of tenor Enrico Caruso, his idol, in the biopic The Great Caruso, which produced another million-seller with "The Loveliest Night of the Year" (a song which used the melody of Sobre las Olas). The Great Caruso was the top-grossing film that year.[2]

The title song of his next film, Because You're Mine, was his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. After recording the soundtrack for his next film, The Student Prince, he embarked upon a protracted battle with studio head Dore Schary arising from artistic differences with director Curtis Bernhardt, and was eventually dismissed by MGM.[3]

Lanza was known to be "rebellious, tough, and ambitious."[4] During most of his film career, he suffered from addictions to overeating and alcohol which had a serious effect on his health and his relationships with directors, producers and, occasionally, other cast members. Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper writes that "his smile, which was as big as his voice, was matched with the habits of a tiger cub, impossible to housebreak." She adds that he was the "last of the great romantic performers."[5] He made three more films before dying of an apparent pulmonary embolism at the age of 38. At the time of his death in 1959 he was still "the most famous tenor in the world."[6] Author Eleonora Kimmel concludes that Lanza "blazed like a meteor whose light lasts a brief moment in time."[7]

Early years

Born Alfred Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was exposed to classical singing at an early age by his Abruzzese-Molisan Italian parents. His mother, Maria Lanza, was from Tocco da Casauria, a province of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo. His father, Antonio Cocozza, was from Filignano, a province of Isernia in the region of Molise. By age 16, his vocal talent had become apparent. Starting out in local operatic productions in Philadelphia for the YMCA Opera Company while still in his teens, he later came to the attention of longtime (1924–49) principal Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky. In 1942, Koussevitzky provided young Cocozza with a full student scholarship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Reportedly, Koussevitzky would later tell him, "Yours is a voice such as is heard once in a hundred years."[8]

Opera career

He made his opera debut, as Fenton in Otto Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor (in English), at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood on August 7, 1942, after a period of study with conductors Boris Goldovsky and Leonard Bernstein. This was when Cocozza adopted the stage name Mario Lanza, for its similarity to his mother’s maiden name, Maria Lanza.[9]

His performances at Tanglewood won him critical acclaim, with Noel Straus of The New York Times hailing the 21-year-old tenor as having "few equals among tenors of the day in terms of quality, warmth and power." Herbert Graf subsequently wrote in Opera News (October 5, 1942), "A real find of the season was Mario Lanza [...] He would have no difficulty one day being asked to join the Metropolitan Opera." Lanza sang Nicolai's Fenton twice at Tanglewood, in addition to appearing there in a one-off presentation of Act III of Puccini's La bohème with the noted Mexican soprano Irma González, baritone James Pease and mezzo-soprano Laura Castellano. Music critic Jay C. Rosenfeld wrote in The New York Times of August 9, 1942, "Irma González as Mimì and Mario Lanza as Rodolfo were conspicuous by the beauty of their voices and the vividness of their characterizations." In an interview shortly before her own death in 2008, González recalled that Lanza was "very correct, likeable, with a powerful and beautiful voice."[10]

His budding operatic career was interrupted by World War II, when he was assigned to Special Services in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He appeared in the wartime shows On the Beam and Winged Victory. He also appeared in the film version of the latter (albeit as an unrecognizable member of the chorus). He resumed his singing career with a concert in Atlantic City with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in September 1945 under Peter Herman Adler, subsequently his mentor. The following month, he replaced tenor Jan Peerce on the live CBS radio program Great Moments in Music on which he made six appearances in four months, singing extracts from various operas and other works.[11]

He studied with Enrico Rosati for fifteen months, and then embarked on an 86-concert tour of the United States, Canada and Mexico between July 1947 and May 1948 with bass George London and soprano Frances Yeend. Reviewing his second appearance at Chicago's Grant Park in July 1947 in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, Claudia Cassidy praised Lanza's "superbly natural tenor" and observed that "though a multitude of fine points evade him, he possesses the things almost impossible to learn. He knows the accent that makes a lyric line reach its audience, and he knows why opera is music drama."[12]

In April 1948, Lanza sang two performances as Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly for the New Orleans Opera Association conducted by Walter Herbert with stage director Armando Agnini. Reviewing the opening-night performance in the St. Louis News (April 9, 1948), Laurence Oden wrote, "Mario Lanza performed ... Lieutenant Pinkerton with considerable verve and dash. Rarely have we seen a more superbly romantic leading tenor. His exceptionally beautiful voice helps immeasurably." Following the success of these performances, he was invited to return to New Orleans in 1949 as Alfredo in Verdi's La traviata. But, as biographer Armando Cesari wrote, Lanza by 1949 "was already deeply engulfed in the Hollywood machinery and consequently never learned [that key mid-Verdi tenor] role."[13]

At the time of his death, Lanza was preparing to return to the operatic stage. Conductor Peter Herman Adler, with whom Lanza had previously worked both in concert and on the soundtrack of The Great Caruso, visited the tenor in Rome during the summer of 1959 and later recalled that, "[Lanza] was working two hours a day with an operatic coach, and intended to go back to opera, his only true love." Adler promised the tenor "all possible help" in his "planning for his operatic future."[14] In the October 14, 1959, edition of Variety, it was reported that Lanza had planned to make his return to opera in the role of Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci during the Rome Opera's 1960–61 season. This was subsequently confirmed by Riccardo Vitale, Artistic Director of the Rome Opera.[15] Variety also noted that preparations had been underway at the time of Lanza's death for him to participate in recording a series of complete operas for RCA Italiana.[16]

Film career

A concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1947 had brought Lanza to the attention of Louis B. Mayer, who promptly signed Lanza to a seven-year film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The contract required him to commit to the studio for six months, and at first Lanza believed he would be able to combine his film career with his operatic and concert one. In May 1949, he made his first commercial recordings with RCA Victor. His rendition of the aria "Che gelida manina" (from La bohème) from that session was subsequently awarded the prize of Operatic Recording of the Year by the (United States) National Record Critics Association.[17]

The Toast of New Orleans

Lanza's first two starring films, That Midnight Kiss and The Toast of New Orleans, both opposite top-billed Kathryn Grayson, were commercial successes, and in 1950 his recording of "Be My Love" from the latter became the first of three million-selling singles for the young singer, earning him enormous fame in the process. While at MGM, Lanza worked closely with the Academy Award-winning conductor, composer, and arranger Johnny Green.

In a 1977 interview with Lanza biographer Armando Cesari, Green recalled that the tenor was insecure about the manner in which he had become successful, and was keenly aware of the fact that he had become a Hollywood star before first having established himself on the operatic stage.

Had [Lanza] been already a leading tenor, if not the leading tenor at the Met[ropolitan Opera House], and come to Hollywood in between seasons to make a picture, he would have had [the security of having] the Met as his home," Green remarked. According to Green, Lanza possessed "the voice of the next Caruso. [Lanza] had an unusual, very unusual quality ... a tenor with a baritone color in the middle and lower registers, and a great feeling for the making of music. A great musicality. I found it fascinating, musically, to work with [him].[18]

The Great Caruso

In 1951, Lanza portrayed Enrico Caruso in The Great Caruso, which proved a success. At the same time, Lanza's increasing popularity exposed him to intense criticism by some music critics, including those who had praised his work years earlier. His performance earned him compliments from the subject's son, Enrico Caruso Jr., a tenor in his own right. Shortly before his own death in 1987, Enrico Jr. wrote in Enrico Caruso: My Father and My Family (posthumously published by Amadeus in 1990) that:

I can think of no other tenor, before or since Mario Lanza, who could have risen with comparable success to the challenge of playing Caruso in a screen biography ... Lanza was born with one of the dozen or so great tenor voices of the century, with a natural voice placement, an unmistakable and very pleasing timbre, and a nearly infallible musical instinct.

The Student Prince

Tenor Richard Tucker (left) speaking with Lanza in 1958 at Tucker's Covent Garden debut. In 1952, Lanza was dismissed by MGM after he had recorded the songs for The Student Prince. The reason most frequently cited in the tabloid press at the time was that his recurring weight problem had made it impossible for him to fit into the costumes of the Prince.[19] However, as his biographers Cesari and Mannering have established, Lanza was not overweight at the beginning of the production, and it was, in fact, a disagreement with director Curtis Bernhardt over Lanza's singing of one of the songs in the film that led to Lanza walking off the set. MGM refused to replace Bernhardt, and the film was subsequently made with English actor Edmund Purdom, who was dubbed to Lanza's recorded voice.[20]

Depressed by his dismissal, and with his self-confidence severely undermined, Lanza became a virtual recluse for more than a year, frequently seeking refuge in alcoholic binges. During this period, Lanza also came very close to bankruptcy as a result of poor investment decisions by his former manager, and his lavish spending habits left him owing about $250,000 in back taxes to the IRS.[21]


Lanza returned to an active film career in 1955 in Serenade, released by Warner Bros. However the film was not as successful as his previous films, despite its strong musical content, including arias from Der Rosenkavalier, Fedora, L'arlesiana, and Otello, as well as the Act I duet from Otello with soprano Licia Albanese. Ms. Albanese said of Lanza in 1980:

I had heard all sorts of stories about Mario [Lanza]. That his voice was too small for the stage, that he couldn't learn a score, that he couldn't sustain a full opera; in fact, that he couldn't even sing a full aria, that his recordings were made by splicing together various portions of an aria. None of it is true! He had the most beautiful lirico spinto voice. It was a gorgeous, beautiful, powerful voice. I should know because I sang with so many tenors. He had everything that one needs. The voice, the temperament, perfect diction. ... Vocally he was very secure. All he needed was coaching. Everything was so easy for him. He was fantastic![22]

He then moved to Rome, Italy in May 1957, where he worked on the film Seven Hills of Rome, and returned to live performing in November of that year, singing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium. From January to April 1958, Lanza gave a concert tour of the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany.[23] He gave a total of 22 concerts on this tour, receiving mostly positive reviews for his singing.[24] Despite a number of cancellations, which resulted from his failing health during this period, Lanza continued to receive offers for operatic appearances, concerts, and films.[25]

In September 1958, he made a number of operatic recordings at the Rome Opera House for the soundtrack of what would turn out to be his final film, For the First Time. It was then that he came to the attention of that opera house's artistic director, Riccardo Vitale, who promptly offered the tenor carte blanche in his choice of operatic roles. Lanza also received offers to sing in any opera of his choosing from the San Carlo in Naples.[15] At the same time, however, his health continued to decline, with the tenor suffering from a variety of ailments, including phlebitis and acute high blood pressure. His old habits of overeating and crash dieting, coupled with binge drinking, compounded his problems.[26]


In April 1959, Lanza reportedly fell ill, mainly with heart problems, as well as pneumonia. On September 25, 1959, he entered Rome's Valle Giulia clinic for the purpose of losing weight for an upcoming film. While in the clinic, he underwent a controversial weight loss program colloquially known as "the twilight sleep treatmen,t, which required its patients to be kept immobile and sedated for prolonged periods. Lanza died of a heart attack at the age of 38. No autopsy was performed. He was survived by his wife and four children. Betty Lanza returned to Hollywood completely devastated. She died five months later of a drug overdose. [27] Maria Caniglia, Franco Fabrizi and Enzo Fiermonte attended the funeral. Frank Sinatra sent his condolences by telegram.[28]

Mario and Betty Lanza are both interred together at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. 

Musical legacy

Lanza was the first RCA Victor Red Seal artist to win a gold disc and the first artist to sell 2 1/2 million albums[29]

Lanza was referred to by some sources as the "new Caruso" after his "instant success" in Hollywood films,[30] while MGM hoped he would become the movie studio's "singing Clark Gable" for his good looks and powerful voice.[4]

In 1994, outstanding tenor José Carreras paid tribute to Lanza during a worldwide concert tour, saying of him, "If I'm an opera singer, it's thanks to Mario Lanza."[31] His equally outstanding colleague Plácido Domingo echoed these comments in a 2009 CBS interview with, "Lanza's passion and the way his voice sounds are what made me sing opera. I actually owe my love for opera ... to a kid from Philadelphia."[32]

Even today "the magnitude of his contribution to popular music is still hotly debated," and because he appeared on the operatic stage only twice, many critics feel that he needed to have had more "operatic quality time" in major theaters before he could be considered a star of that art form.[6] His films, especially The Great Caruso, influenced numerous future opera stars, including Joseph Calleja,[33] José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.[6] According to opera historian Clyde McCants, "Of all the Hollywood singers who performed operatic music ... the one who made the greatest impact was Mario Lanza."[34] Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper concluded that "there had never been anyone like Mario, and I doubt whether we shall ever see his like again."[5]

Portrayal on stage

In October 2007, Charles Messina directed the big budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere, about Lanza's life, which was produced by Sonny Grosso and Phil Ramone, and which premiered at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale, New York.[35]


Mario Lanza Boulevard is a roadway in the Eastwick section of Lanza's native Philadelphia, close to Philadelphia International Airport and ending on the grounds of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

The Mario Lanza Institute and Museum, which honors Lanza's legacy and also provides scholarships to young singers, is located at 712 Montrose Street in South Philadelphia.[36]

Philadelphia's Queen Street Park was renamed for Lanza in 1967.[37]

Lanza was born at 636 Christian Street in South Philadelphia. A Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission marker stands outside of the house.

In 1983, a 90-minute PBS documentary, Mario Lanza: The American Caruso, hosted by Plácido Domingo and featuring Lanza's family and professional associates; was nominated for a Primetime Emmy as "Outstanding Informational Special."

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[38]

Mario Lanza has been awarded two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a Star for Recording at 1751 Vine Street, and a Star at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard for Motion Pictures.


Winged Victory, Twentieth Century-Fox 1944 (uncredited chorus member)
That Midnight Kiss, MGM 1949
The Toast of New Orleans, MGM 1950
The Great Caruso, MGM 1951
Because You're Mine, MGM 1952
The Student Prince, MGM 1954 (voice only)
Serenade, Warner Bros. 1956
Seven Hills of Rome, MGM 1958 (also known as Arrivederci Roma)
For the First Time, MGM 1959

Box office ranking

At the height of his career, Lanza was voted by exhibitors as being among the most popular stars in the country:

1951 – 13th most popular (US), 10th (UK)
1952 – 23rd (US), 6th (UK)

Select recordings on CD

Mario Lanza: The Legendary Tenor, (1987)
Christmas With Mario Lanza (1987)
The Great Caruso And Other Caruso Favorites (1989)
Mario Lanza Sings Songs from The Student Prince and The Desert Song (1989)
The Mario Lanza Collection, (1991)
Mario Lanza Live From London (1994)
Mario! Lanza At His Best (1995)
Mario Lanza: Opera Arias and Duets, (1999)
Mario Lanza Live at Hollywood Bowl: Historical Recordings (1947 and 1951) (2000)
Serenade/A Cavalcade of Show Tunes (2004)
The Essential Mario Lanza (2007)


1. Bessette, Roland L. Mario Lanza: Tenor in Exile, Amadeus (1999), p. 65
2. Vogel, Michelle. Children of Hollywood, McFarland (2005), p. 65.
3. Mario Lanza profile,; accessed March 30, 2015.
4. Fischer, Lucy; Landy, Marcia. Stars: The Film Reader, Routledge (2004) p. 216.
5. Hopper, Hedda. The Whole Truth and Nothing But, Pyramid Books (1963), chapter 18.
6. Mannering, Derek. Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, Univ. Press of Mississippi (2005) pp. xv–xvii.
7. Kimmel, Eleonora. Altered and Unfinished Lives, A.F.A. (2006) p. 191.
8. Briggs, John. Leonard Bernstein: The Man, His Work, and His World, World Pub. (1961), p. 55.
9. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2nd. ed, 2008), p. 21.
10. Zermeño, Erick B. Interview with Irma González. Pro Ópera (April 2008), pp. 32–35.
11. Mannering, Derek. Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, University Press of Mississippi (2005), pp. 33–34.
12. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2004), p. 60.
13. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2004), p. 78.
14. Mannering, Derek. Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, UP of Mississippi (2005), p. 201.
15. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2004), p. 275.
16. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2004), p. 277.
17. Mannering, Derek. Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, University Press of Mississippi (2005), p. 61.
18. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2004), p. 132.
19. Stern, Michael. An American in Rome, B. Geis Associates/Random House (1964), p. 287.
20. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2nd. ed., 2008), p. 168.
21. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2nd ed., 2008), p. 167.
22. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville (2004), pp. 201–02.[1]
23. "Mario Lanza in Scotland". Opera Scotland.
24. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: an American Tragedy, Baskerville (2nd. ed. 2008), pp. 251–55.
25. Mannering, Derek. Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, University Press of Mississippi (2005), p. 175.
26. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: an American Tragedy, Baskerville (2nd. ed. 2008), p. 280.
27. Cesari, Armando and Philip A. Mackowiak, M.D. Mario Lanza: A Fatal Zest for Living, The Pharos (Winter 2010), pp. 4–10. Reprinted in [2]
28. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (2004) Passage link,
29. Hopkins, Jerry. Elvis: The Final Years, Mass Market (1986), p. 79.
30. Cesari, Armando. Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy, Baskerville Publishers (2004) p. 4.
31. Interview with José Carreras for New Zealand Television, 1994
32. Plácido Domingo Interview with CBS[permanent dead link], January 2009
33. Profile,
34. McCants, Clyde T. American Opera Singers and Their Recordings, McFarland (2004), p. 132.
35. "Richard Vetere Collection". Stony Brook University Special Collections & University Archives. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012.
36. Link label
37. Link label[permanent dead link]
38. Palm Springs Walk of Stars website Archived October 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading

Iodice, Emilio, "A Kid from Philadelphia, Mario Lanza, the Voice of the Poets," Createspace, New York, 2013

Studwell, William E. "Mario Lanza". In The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia, ed. Salvatore J. LaGumina (New York: Garland, 2000) 332–33.

Lanza, Damon and Dolfi, Bob. Be My Love: A Celebration of Mario Lanza. Chicago, IL, 1999. ISBN 1-56625-129-X.

Mannering, Derek. Mario Lanza; A Biography. London: Hale 1991.

Strait, Raymond and Robinson, Terry. Lanza: His Tragic Life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.

Bernard, Matt. Mario Lanza. New York: Macfadded-Bartel, 1971.

Callinicos, Constantine. The Mario Lanza Story. New York, NY, 1960. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-12480.

Bessette, Roland L. Mario Lanza: Tenor In Exile. Portland, OR. ISBN 1-57467-044-1.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Composer & Bandleader Nelson Riddle 1985 Beth Olam at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Nelson Smock Riddle, Jr. (June 1, 1921 – October 6, 1985) was an American arranger, composer, bandleader and orchestrator whose career stretched from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s. His work for Capitol Records kept such vocalists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith household names. He found commercial and critical success again in the 1980s with a trio of Platinum albums with Linda Ronstadt.

Early years

Riddle was born in Oradell, New Jersey, the only child of Marie Albertine Riddle and Nelson Smock Riddle, Sr., and later moved to nearby Ridgewood.[1] Following his father's interest in music, he began taking piano lessons at age eight and trombone lessons at age fourteen.

A formative experience was hearing Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing Ravel's Boléro. Riddle said later: "...I've never forgotten it. It's almost as if the orchestra leaped from the stage and smacked you in the face..."[2]

By his teenage years he had decided to become a professional musician; "...I wanted to be a jazz trombone player, but I didn't have the coordination."[3] So his inclinations began to turn to writing—composing and arranging.

Riddle and his family had a summer house in Rumson, New Jersey. He enjoyed Rumson so much that he convinced his parents to allow him to attend high school there for his senior year (1938).[4]

In Rumson whilst playing for trumpeter Charlie Briggs' band, the Briggadiers, he met one of the most important influences on his later arranging style: Bill Finegan, with whom he began arranging lessons. Despite being only four years older than Nelson, Finegan was considerably more musically sophisticated than Riddle,[5] within a few years creating not only some of the most popular arrangements from the swing era, such as Glenn Miller's "Little Brown Jug" but also great jazz arrangements such as Tommy Dorsey's "Chloe" and "At Sundown" from the mid-1940s.

Nelson Riddle & Doreen Moran

After his graduation from Rumson High School, he spent his late teens and early 20s playing trombone in and occasionally arranging for various local dance bands, culminating in his association with the Charlie Spivak Orchestra. In 1943, Riddle joined the Merchant Marine, serving at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York for about two years while continuing to work for the Charlie Spivak Orchestra. He studied orchestration under his fellow merchant mariner, composer Alan Shulman. After his enlistment term ended, Riddle traveled to Chicago to join Tommy Dorsey's orchestra in 1944, where he remained the orchestra's third trombone for eleven months until drafted by the Army in April 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. While in the Army, Riddle married his first wife Doreen Moran in 1945. He was discharged in June 1946, after fifteen months of active duty. He moved shortly thereafter to Hollywood to pursue his career as an arranger and spent the next several years writing arrangements for multiple radio and record projects. In May 1949, Doris Day had a #2 hit, "Again," backed by Riddle.

The Capitol years

In 1950, Riddle was hired by composer Les Baxter to write arrangements for a recording session with Nat King Cole; this was one of Riddle's first associations with Capitol Records. Although one of the songs Riddle had arranged, "Mona Lisa," soon became the biggest selling single of Cole's career, the work was credited to Baxter. However, once Cole learned the identity of the arrangement's creator, he sought out Riddle's work for other sessions, and thus began a fruitful partnership that furthered the careers of both men at Capitol.

During the same year, Riddle also struck up a conversation with Vern Yocum (born George Vernon Yocum), a big band jazz musician (brother of Pied Piper, Clark Yocum) who would transition into music preparation for Frank Sinatra and other entertainers at Capitol Records. A collaboration followed with Vern becoming Riddle's "right hand" as copyist and librarian for the next thirty years.

In 1953, Capitol Records executives viewed the up-and-coming Riddle as a prime choice to arrange for the newly arrived Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was reluctant however, preferring instead to remain with Axel Stordahl, his long-time collaborator from his Columbia Records years. When success of the first few Capitol sides with Stordahl proved disappointing, Sinatra eventually relented and Riddle was called in to arrange his first session for Sinatra, held on April 30, 1953. The first product of the Riddle-Sinatra partnership, "I've Got The World On A String," became a runaway hit and is often credited with relaunching the singer's slumping career. Nelson's personal favorite was a Sinatra ballad album, one of his most successful recordings, Only the Lonely.

For the next decade, Riddle continued to arrange for Sinatra and Cole,[6] in addition to such Capitol artists as Kate Smith, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Keely Smith, Sue Raney, and Ed Townsend. He also found time to release his own instrumental discs of 45 rpm and albums on the Capitol label. For example, Mr. Riddle's most successful tune was Lisbon Antigua, which was released in November 1955, and reached and remained at the #1 position four four weeks in 1956. Riddle's most notable LP discs were Hey...Let Yourself Go (1957) and C'mon...Get Happy (1958), both of which peaked at a respectable number twenty on the Billboard charts.

While at Capitol, Riddle continued his successful career arranging music for film, most notably with MGM's Conrad Salinger on the first onscreen duet between Bing Crosby and Sinatra in High Society (1956), and the 1957 film version of Pal Joey directed by George Sidney for Columbia Pictures. In 1969, he arranged and conducted the music for the film Paint Your Wagon, which starred a trio of non-singers, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, and Jean Seberg.

Later years

In 1957, Riddle and his orchestra were featured on The Rosemary Clooney Show, a 30-minute syndicated program.[7]

In 1962, Riddle orchestrated two albums for Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson, and Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, their first work together since 1959's Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook. The mid-1960s would also see Fitzgerald and Riddle collaborate on the last of Ella's Songbooks, devoted to the songs of Jerome Kern (Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook) and Johnny Mercer (Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook).

In 1963, Riddle joined Sinatra's newly established label Reprise Records, under the musical direction of Morris Stoloff. Much of his work in the 1960s and 1970s was for film and television, including his hit theme song for Route 66; steady work scoring episodes of Batman and other television series including the theme to "The Untouchables" and composing the scores of several motion pictures including the Rat Pack features Robin and the 7 Hoods and the original Ocean's 11.

In the latter half of the 1960s, the partnership between Riddle and Frank Sinatra grew more distant as Sinatra began increasingly to turn to Don Costa, Billy May and an assortment of other arrangers for his album projects. Although Riddle would write various arrangements for Sinatra until the late 1970s, Strangers In The Night, released in 1966, was the last full album project the pair completed together. The collection of Riddle-arranged songs was intended to expand on the success of the title track, which had been a number one hit single for Sinatra arranged by Ernie Freeman.

In 1966, Riddle was hired by TV producer William Dozier to do the music for the Batman TV series starring Adam West. While Neal Hefti had written the Batman theme song we all know today, it was Riddle who did the first two seasons of Batman. Billy May did the third season's music. Riddle's music from Batman was issued on one soundtrack LP and one 45 RPM. During the 1970s, the majority of his work was for film and television, including the score for the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby, which earned Riddle his first Academy Award after some five nominations. In 1973, he served as musical director for the Emmy Award winning The Julie Andrews Hour. In 1971, he wrote the theme song for the television series Emergency!. Nelson Riddle's Orchestra also made numerous concert appearances throughout the 1970s, some of which were led and contracted by his good friend, Tommy Shepard.

On March 14, 1977, Riddle conducted his last three arrangements for Sinatra. The songs, "Linda," "Sweet Lorraine," and "Barbara," were intended for an album of songs with women's names. The album was never completed. "Sweet Lorraine" was released in 1990 and the other two on The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings in 1996.[8]

1982 saw Riddle work for the last time with Ella Fitzgerald, on her last orchestral Pablo album, The Best Is Yet to Come.

Career revival

In the spring of 1982, Riddle was approached by Linda Ronstadt - via telephone through her manager and producer, Peter Asher - to write arrangements for an album of jazz standards Linda had been contemplating since her stint in The Pirates of Penzance. The agreement between the two resulted in a three-album contract which included what were to be the last arrangements of Riddle's career, with the exception of an album of twelve Great American Songbook standards he arranged and conducted for his old friend, opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa, in April 1985, six months before his death that October. Ronstadt recalls that when she initially approached Riddle, she did not know if he was even familiar with her music. He knew her name but basically hated rock 'n' roll. However, his daughter was a big Linda Ronstadt fan and told her father, "Don't worry, Dad. Her checks won't bounce."

When Nelson learned of Ronstadt's desire to learn more about traditional pop music and agreed to record with her, he insisted on a whole album or nothing. He was at first skeptical, but once he agreed his career turned upside down immediately.[9] For her to do "elevator music", as she called it, was a great surprise to the young audience. Joe Smith, the president of Elektra, was terrified that the albums would turn off the rock audience. The three albums together sold over seven million copies[10] and brought Nelson back to a young audience during the last three years of his life. Arrangements for Linda Ronstadt's What's New (1983) and Lush Life (1984) won Riddle his second and third Grammy Awards.

On January 19, 1985, he conducted at the nationally-televised 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala, the day before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan. The program was hosted by Frank Sinatra, who sang "Fly Me to the Moon" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" (backed by a single-dancer dance routine by Mikhail Baryshnikov).

Working with Ronstadt, Riddle brought his career back into focus in the last three years of his life.[9] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote, What's New "isn't the first album by a rock singer to pay tribute to the golden age of pop, but is ... the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania and the mass marketing of rock LPs for teen-agers undid in the mid-60s ... In the decade prior to Beatlemania, most of the great band singers and crooners of the 40s and 50s codified a half-century of American pop standards on dozens of albums ... many of them now long out-of-print".[11] What's New is the first album by a rock singer to have major commercial success in rehabilitating the Great American Songbook.[11]

Riddle's third and final Grammy was awarded posthumously—and accepted on his behalf by Linda Ronstadt just prior to airtime—in early 1986. Ronstadt subsequently presented the evening's first on air award, at which time she narrated a tribute to the departed maestro.

Death and legacy

In 1985, Riddle died in Los Angeles, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, at age 64 of cardiac and kidney failure as a result of cirrhosis of the liver, which he had been diagnosed with five years previously.[12][13] His remains are interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California in the Hall of David Mausoleum.

Following Riddle's death, his last three arrangements for Ronstadt's For Sentimental Reasons album were conducted by Terry Woodson; the album was released in 1986.

In February 1986, Riddle's youngest son Christopher, himself an accomplished bass trombonist, assumed the leadership of his father's orchestra.

Following the death of Riddle's second wife Naomi in 1998, proceeds from the sale of the Riddle home in Bel Air were used to establish a Nelson Riddle Endowed Chair and library at the University of Arizona, which officially opened in 2001. The opening showcased a gala concert of Riddle's works, with Ronstadt as a featured guest performer.

In 2000, Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops released a Nelson Riddle tribute album titled "Route 66: That Nelson Riddle Sound" on Telarc Records. The album showcased expanded orchestral adaptations of the original arrangements provided by the Nelson Riddle Archives, and was presented in a state-of-the-art digital recording that was among the first titles to be released on multi-channel SACD.

Riddle and his first wife Doreen Moran had six children. Riddle had an extra-marital affair with singer Rosemary Clooney in the 1960s, which contributed to the breakup of their respective marriages.[14] In 1968, Riddle separated from his wife Doreen; their divorce became official in 1970. A few months later he married Naomi Tenenholtz, then his secretary, with whom he would remain for the rest of his life. Riddle's children are dispersed between the east and west coasts of the United States with Nelson Jr. residing in London, England. Riddle's eldest daughter Rosemary is the trustee of the Nelson Riddle Trust.

Riddle was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men in music.

In a 1982 radio interview on WNEW with Jonathan Schwartz, Riddle cites Stan Kenton's "23 degrees north 82 degrees west" arranged by Bill Russo as inspiration for his signature trombone interplay crescendos.



1. Levinson, Peter J., September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle, pp. 17–19
2. September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle by Peter J. Levinson (Billboard Books 2001) ISBN 0-8230-7672-5 p.22
3. September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle by Peter J. Levinson (Billboard Books 2001) ISBN 0-8230-7672-5 pp.22-23
4. Cotter, Kelly-Jane. (June 15, 2008), A Daughter's Devotion, Asbury Park Press, retrieved 2008-07-07, Nelson lived with his parents in Ridgewood but the family rented rooms in a house in Rumson during the summer. Riddle enjoyed the teen music scene in Rumson so much that he asked to spend his last year of high school in the borough. He and his mother stayed in the rental, and his father visited on weekends.
5. September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle by Peter J. Levinson (Billboard Books 2001) ISBN 0-8230-7672-5 p.25
6. Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 22 - Smack Dab in the Middle on Route 66: A skinny dip in the easy listening mainstream. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Track 3.
7. McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television. Penguin Books USA, Inc. ISBN 0-14-02-4916-8. P. 710.
8. On This Date,
9. "The Peter Levinson Interview". Jerry Jazz Musician.
10. "Ronstadt: The Gamble Pays off Big". Family Weekly. January 8, 1984. 
11. Holden, Stephen (September 4, 1983). "Linda Ronstadt Celebrates The Golden Age of Pop". The New York Times.
12. "Composer Nelson Riddle Dead At 64", Lodi News-Sentinel (United Press International), October 8, 1985: 18
13. Page, Tim (October 8, 1985), "Nelson Riddle Is Dead At 64; Orchestrated Sinatra Songs", The New York Times: 24 (Section A)
14. "Obituaries: Rosemary Clooney". The Independent (London). July 1, 2002. Retrieved 2010-05-20.


Arranged by Nelson Riddle: The Definitive Study of Arranging by America's #1 Composer, Arranger and Conductor (Warner Bros 1985) ISBN 9780897249546

September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle by Peter J. Levinson (Billboard Books 2001) ISBN 0-8230-7672-5