Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ghost Riders or Big Foot?

I have met more than my share of famous people over the years and you’d think I could really impress my friends and family by telling anecdotes….beginning with “As (famous person…fill in the blank) told me one time…..“save your money….don’t stand out in the rain…a wet bird never flies at night")…whatever.

But no.

I usually freeze up when I meet a famous person and say something so bizarre that they wind up just looking at me like I’m from outer space…and don’t say anything…memorable or otherwise.

Which reminds me of an adventure I had as an 11 year old with the Charlotte Boys Choir.

That trip we took to New York City was the highlight of the 2 or 3 years that I was a member of the choir, but there was one other brush with the big time that we had at the old Armory Auditorium around 1947 or 48.

Vaughn Monroe
One of the most popular radio shows of that era was “The Camel Caravan” hosted by singer Vaughn Monroe and his sidekicks, the Moon Maids.

The show usually originated in New York, but would often travel to various cities and broadcast remotely from those locations and feature at least one local act from that location. When it was Charlotte’s turn, the show took over the Armory Auditorium one evening and somehow the Charlotte Boys Choir was chosen to be the local talent for that show.
I remember it well.

The announcer was isolated in some sort of soundproof booth on the stage of the Armory. We couldn’t hear him, but there was a man (producer) standing down in the orchestra pit who pointed a lot and made things happen. There was another man standing in the front row facing the audience who held up signs from time to time….one of which had “applaud” written on it and the other one said “laugh.”

As fascinating as that was, my most vivid memory of that event was backstage waiting for the show to start. I remember it to this day.

It happened that I was standing right next Mr. Monroe.

I didn’t say anything to him.

And he didn’t say anything to me.

But I’ll never forget one thing.

Two, actually.

He had the biggest feet I had ever seen!

(Sorry folks, but don’t say you weren’t warned. Most of my celebrity stories are like that; very forgettable.)


Vaughn Monroe

Monroe was born in Akron, Ohio on October 7, 1911.[1] He graduated from Jeannette High School in Pennsylvania in 1929[2] where he was senior class president and voted "most likely to succeed." 

He formed his first orchestra in Boston in 1940 and became its principal vocalist. He began recording for Victor's low-priced Bluebird label. That same year, Monroe built The Meadows, a restaurant and nightclub on Route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts, west of Boston. He hosted the Camel Caravan radio program from there starting in 1946. It burned to the ground in December 1980.

Monroe was tall and handsome which helped him as a band leader and singer, as well as in Hollywood. He was sometimes called "the Baritone with Muscles", "the Voice with Hair on its Chest", "'ol Leather Tonsils", or "Leather Lungs".

He recorded extensively for RCA Victor until the 1950s and his signature tune was "Racing with the Moon" (1941). Among his other hits were "In the Still of the Night" (1939), "There I Go" (1941), "There I've Said It Again" (1945), "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" (1946), "Ballerina" (1947), "Riders in the Sky" (1949), "Someday (You'll Want Me To Want You)" (1949), "Sound Off" (1951), and "In the Middle of the House" (1956). He also turned down the chance to record "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".[2]

Monroe also wrote a number of songs ranging from "Army Song" to less-known ones like the "Jeannette High School Alma Mater".[3]