Monday, January 02, 2006

Today is Julius La Rosa's birthday.

La Rosa is still on the scene, and there is a healthy contingent of fans (myself included) and critics (Whitney Balliett especially) who consider him one of the best male jazz-pop singers around.

When, on October 19, 1953, Arthur Godfrey fired Julius La Rosa on air "live" for his lack of so-called humility, it was major news. Maybe the top show biz story of the year---or close. Neighbors ran into the streets shouting the news, and the seemingly avuncular, awshucks Godfrey went---at warp Jerry Lee Lewis speed---from being the most powerful personality in radio-TV to dead media meat almost overnight. The meglomaniacal character, Lonesome Rhodes, brilliantly portrayed in the film "A Face in the Crowd" by Andy Griffith, was inspired by Godfrey.

La Rosa, meanwhile, went on to carve a nice recording career for himself. Eventually he became a popular dee-jay, and he's still performing. This is a track (link for a limited time only) from his terrific 1961 LP "The New Julie La Rosa" (not that there was anything wrong with the old one).

As for Godrey, who died in '83, his wife of 40-some-odd years divorced him on her deathbed, and his famous last words (when asked by a nurse "Can I get you anything?") were, "Yes, get me some friends."

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