Sunday, May 15, 2016

Passings: Julius La Rosa (1930 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Julius La Rosa, who scored ten top 40 hits between 1953 and 1958, died of natural causes at his home in Crivitz, WI on Thursday at the age of 86.

La Rosa joined the navy at 17 and started singing on the side with the Navy choir and at bars when he could find the work. Friends in the service promoted La Rosa to Arthur Godrey, who was a member of the Navy Reserve along with being a major radio and early television star. Godrey liked what he heard and hired La Rosa for his radio program. Julius started on Godrey's radio show in November 1951 and his TV program a week later where he became a regular.

In 1952, La Rosa was the first artist signed to the newly formed Cadence Records which was formed by Godfrey's bandleader, Archie Bleyer. The company's first single was Julius' Anywhere I Wander from the recent popular movie Hans Christian Anderson, which became a major success, going to number 4 nationally.

With his new popularity, La Rosa hired a manager, something that Godfrey discouraged his show's performers from doing as he had his staff controlling their careers. On Godrey's radio show of October 19, 1953, Julius performed his last song which Godrey followed with "that was Julie's swan song with us."

The firing ended up being the beginning of Godrey's downfall in show business.

While La Rosa felt humiliated by the blind side firing by Godfrey, it didn't hurt his career. He was almost immediately signed by Ed Sullivan for his Talk of the Town series and his next single, Eh Cumpari, became the biggest of his career, going to number 2.  He also became the host of The Julius La Rosa Show, a summer replacement program for Perry Como in 1955 which turned into a regular program until 1957. It was while working with Como that he met the singer's secretary, Rosemary Meyer, whom he was still married when he died.

La Rosa hit again just as Rock and Roll was starting to gain force with Domani (Tomorrow) (1955 / #13) and followed with Suddenly There's a Valley (1955 / #20) and Lipstick and Candy and Rubbersole Shoes (1956 / #16).

As rock grew more popular, the vocalist of the 40's and early-50's started to fall off the charts with La Rosa's last charting record being Torero (1958 / #21).

From the late-50's on, La Rosa remained a popular guest on variety and talk shows and, in 1980, joined the soap opera Another World in a role that won him an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Later in his career, he back a DJ at WNEW in New York while continuing to occasionally record and perform live.