Guy Lombardo (1902-1977)
(2008 INDUCTEE) A CANADIAN, GUY LOMBARDO, FOUNDED A PERENNIALLY POPULAR DANCE BAND KNOWN AS THE ROYAL CANADIANS. THEIR FIRST RECORDINGS WERE MADE IN GENNETT’S RICHMOND STUDIO IN 1924.
DONATED IN MEMORY OF ALICE LUMSDEN GENNETT (WIFE OF HENRY GENNETT) BY ROSANNE KARLEBACH (GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER)
Gaetano Alberto “Guy” Lombardo was born in London, Ontario, to a Canadian mother and Italian immigrant father. A tailor by trade, Guy’s father loved music and transferred that enthusiasm to five of his seven children. The brothers all learned to play wind instruments, and one doubled on drums. Guy, however, took up the violin. Their mother found opportunities for them to perform as an ensemble at teas and garden parties, and by 1916 they had added several players to their adolescent band. At first, their repertoire included hot jazz as well as dance music. Later, to differentiate themselves from other bands of the day, they settled on “sweet” numbers that their audiences seemed to enjoy most for dancing. Their subsequent style featured melody much more than improvisation and was expressed with a distinctive saxophone sound. In 1923, they crossed the U.S.-Canadian border into Ohio and began to perform at clubs in the Cleveland area. In March, 1924, they journeyed to Richmond, Indiana, to make their first recordings. The following year they named their band “The Royal Canadians.” Capitalizing on their new momentum, they gave a ballroom performance in 1927 that was broadcast by a Chicago radio station to the delight of listeners. In 1928, they adopted their famous promotional slogan, “the sweetest music this side of heaven.” Although Guy had always led the band as well as played in it, he now put aside his violin and became its out-front conductor and performance emcee. From then on he cultivated the bandstand “personality” that would help make him a celebrity. In 1929, the band began an engagement in New York City that led to another hit radio broadcast, this time on New Year’s Eve. It started a tradition that would last for nearly 50 years and forever link Guy Lombardo with “Auld Land Syne” and Times Square. The Royal Canadians went on to record for other companies, eventually selling more than 100 million records. The band is also credited with introducing 300 songs, some of which were composed by Guy’s brother, Carmen. Among them are classics such as “Boo Hoo,” “Coquette,” and “Return to Me.” Guy Lombardo and his band became immensely popular in the 1930’s and 40’s, and remained active throughout the 50’s and 60’s. Perhaps Lombardo’s greatest tribute was paid by one Gennett veteran to another, when jazz legend Louis Armstrong called The Royal Canadians his favorite band.
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