Happy 115th Birthday, Rudy Vallée!

Rudy Vallée was born Hubert Prior Vallée 115 years ago today in Island Pond, Vermont. He was a huge star as a young man, a true teen idol singing in a brand new style—the Elvis Presley (or perhaps the Justin Bieber) of his day, if you will. Here are 10 RV Did-You-Knows:

  • In addition to his vocal talents, Vallée played drums, clarinet and saxophone.
  • Vallée’s popular radio program of the 1920s and early ’30s was sponsored by Fleishmann’s Yeast (funny, but you just don’t see or hear that many yeast advertisements anymore).
  • Vallée, for all his popularity with the public, was said to be difficult to work with early in his career. He was short-tempered and ever spoiling for a fight, it is said.
  • As an orchestra leader, Vallée gave many popular singers their start, among them Alice Faye and Frances Langford.
  • Vallée wrote his first memoir in 1930, when he was all of 29.
  • His catch-phrase was, “Heigh-ho, everybody!”
  • The crooners of the 1920s and ’30s, of whom Vallée was among the most popular, were singing in a new, more intimate, even sexy style that simply wasn’t possible prior to the rise of the microphone. Rudy’s vocalizing may not strike the average listener today as especially sexy, but at the time, it was. If you don’t believe us, just ask him: He insisted on more than one occasion that “People called me the guy with the cock in his voice.” (No, we don’t really understand that, either.)
  • He played the romantic lead in several movies at the height of his popularity, but he later switched to more comedic roles, playing stuffy, pompous and sometimes oddball characters. (He’s very funny in Preston SturgesThe Palm Beach Story (1942), for example, but one almost wonders if he’s in on the joke.)
  • Vallée had a hit in the 1920s with The Maine Stein Song, the fight song for his alma mater, the University of Maine.
  • Vallée died in 1986 while watching the Statue of Liberty Centennial ceremonies on television.

Happy birthday, Rudy Vallée, wherever you may be!

Rudy Vallée

Happy 114th Birthday, Rudy Vallée!

We were slow to come around to Rudy Vallée but we’re big fans now. He was a true eccentric and his singing style can take a little getting used to, for some, but once you’re won over, you’re hooked but good.

Rudy was born 114 years ago today, and we’ll be celebrating by enjoying his music throughout the day. We recommend you do the same! Heigh-ho, everybody!

Rudy Vallée

Times Square Tintypes: Rudy Vallee

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles crooner and bandleader Rudy Vallee.

AMERICA’S SWEETHEART

RUDY VALLEE was born July 28, 1901, in Island Pond, Vt.
Caricature of Rudy ValleeHis real name is Herbert Prior Vallee. Took the name of Rudy from Rudy Wiedoft, the saxophone player. His idol.
Curses like a stoker. Has a temper and when it is aroused he screams like a woman.
His father was a pharmacist and owned a drug store in Westbrook, Maine, until last summer. The father is a French Canadian. His mother is Irish. Has one sister, Kathleen Marie, and one brother, William, who goes to Fordham College and lives with him.
Doesn’t drink much. When he does he takes a rye highball. The taste of Scotch makes him sick.
When the war broke out he ran away from home to enlist in the navy. While in a training school, they learned that he was only fifteen years old. He was put in the hoosegow until his parents called for him. Stills thinks he was a sailor.
His boyhood ambition was to be a letter carrier.
Sleeps in gay-colored pajamas. He snores and grinds his teeth. Occasionally he has a hot-water bag in bed with him to keep his toes warm. Gets semi-nightmares and wanders in his sleep. Several times his brother pulled him back from walking out a window.
Can play only two instruments. The saxophone and the clarinet. He two-fingers the piano a bit. He is left-handed.
As a kid and a student at Yale he was unpopular with the girls. While at college he majored in Spanish. His desire then was to be a wealthy South American business man.
He pinches the lobe of his ear with his finger nails when he is nervous.
Smokes occasionally. It is an English brand of cigarettes. He has posed for pictures smoking a pipe but detests one. Often requests people not to smoke a pipe in his presence.
The kind of a woman who appeals to him the most is one of the Lenore Ulric type of beauty.
Can often be seen in Childs’ or in Thompson’s one-armed lunch place. His favorite dish is buckwheat cakes with plenty of butter.
While playing at the Rendezvous, he sang so low that Gilda Gray told him “to go get a megaphone.” He did. Now plans to use an all glass megaphone so people will be able to see his face when singing.
His blond eyebrows are not very prominent. Therefore for photographs and stage purposes he pencils in arched eyebrows.
Keeps all strings, bags and papers that he finds. His pockets are filled with bits of paper, cigarette crumbs, throat tablets and burnt matches. Buys every patent medicine that appears. He always carries at least three toothbrushes.
Whenever he takes a girl out to eat he tells her what to order.
Lets his clothes flop wherever he takes them off. Never bothers to hang them up. Is economical. Takes stains out of his suits with a home cleaning fluid.
While playing at the Paramount, two schoolgirls, watching him, decided that they had to meet him personally. Posing as interviewers from a high school paper, they were ushered into his dressing room. As a matter of courtesy, he offered his hand in greeting. One of the girls took it and fainted. The other fell back in a chair—exhausted. The house physician was called, and the girl was revived and escorted to the street. But not until the one who clasped Rudy’s hand let it be known that she was never going to wash the hand that touched her hero’s hand.
His great ambition today is to make one million dollars.
When reading he prefers Western stories. Believes the greatest book ever written to be The Guarded Heights, a story of college life at Princeton, by Wadsworth Camp.
Of all the songs he sings his favorite is “Deep Night.”
On May 11, 1928, he married Leonie Cauchois McCoy. The marriage was annulled the August of that year. He gives every girl the “Grey Dawn” test. Keeps them out until dawn, believing that if a girl looks good then she’ll look good any time.
Has two scars on his body. One is from an appendicitis operation. The other is a bit of gravel in his left knee cap. The result of a motor-cycle accident.
The one thing in life he fears is that some day he will be fat and bald.

Fridays with Rudy: Vagabond Dreams Come True, The Final Chapter

In Chapter 22 of his 1930 memoir, Vagabond Dreams Come True, Rudy Vallée closes by musing on the fleeting nature of fame and what matters most to him amidst the clamor of his early fame.

Chapter XXII

THE IRONY OF FATE

AND NOW they ask me, “What do you think of this admiration? How does it affect you?” How could it affect me otherwise than to give me a feeling of ironic pleasure. After all, I have a sense of humor, and I am tempted at times to burst into hysterical laughter when I reflect that the city in which I was once the most lonesome person in the world, with the same appearance and musical gifts that I now possess, today finds me the target for both admiration and criticism almost as great as that which Rudolph Valentino received.
Right here I must say that I do not seek the publicity I receive. Rather I almost dislike it. Natural publicity, generally true and sound, I enjoy; stunt, sensational and exaggerated publicity I abhor. I employ one press man, and his specific duty is to keep a keen ear close to earth and to try to kill any unfavorable publicity that might be started by those who would drag me down, because it is a fact, all too true, that the bigger one gets, the more one is panned, reviled and hated. But I have enemies, people I have never met, people who do not know me or my work, but who instinctively dislike me and who would hurt me if they could. I know only two well that certain individuals who cannot stand seeing one so young and apparently untalented, attain something, will not rest until they see the end. It is sometimes possible avoid a catastrophe if the warning comes early enough. For that reason this one man tries to present the facts as they are, and to keep me in the minds of people as I would like to be kept. I am not going to attempt to convince anyone that I am this way or that way. The greatest tributes to my ideals are the photographs that I have received from the boys who play with me. They have all found me a stern taskmaster, but one who always works for their interests. I have told them that they will never be discharged, no matter waht they do, and they know they are assured of a life job with me. We have a world tour which we can begin at almost any time and which will carry us at least four or five years at a good salary for everyone. I will not allow my picture work or anything to hurt my relations with the boys who play with me.
Their greatest tribute, as I say, is expressed on the photos they have given me, for nearly all of them have ended their inscriptions by calling me the squarest man they have ever known or worked for. I can ask not more than that.
One article said that my main ambition was to make a million dollars. But it is really much simpler than that . . . after having well provided for my mother and father . . . what would really give me great happiness is to possess a beautiful home in the country, not elaborate but homelike, and comfortable. I played for years for very little, and was very happy since I play for the sheer love of playing. The same is true today and is quite apparent to a close observer: My boys and I play because we enjoy our work. We receive unheard of prices because we won a following through long and extremely hard work on the air and no one can begrudge us what we labored so hard to achieve.
People tell me that our success is fragile, and that the slightest indiscreet action on my part would mean the end. But I like to feel that the bond between us and our true radio admirers and the thousands of sick or unhappy people to whom we have given solace and enjoyment can not be so easily broken and that the end will come only when we cease to bring romance, sincerity, beauty and comfort through our music.

THE END

Fridays with Rudy: Vagabond Dreams Come True, Ch. 21

In Chapter 21 of his 1930 memoir, Vagabond Dreams Come True, Rudy Vallée reveals how he came to use his signature megaphone while performing and how he felt about “copycat” orchestras that sprung up when Vallée’s Connecticut Yankees hit it big.

Chapter XXI

Originality

WHILE WE WERE in Hollywood making our picture we found it impossible to broadcast back to the East. In the first place it was necessary that we be prepared to work on the picture at any hour, day or night, and secondly the line charges for broadcasting across the continent runs into thousands of dollars and the reception in the East at best is never good when transmitted over three thousand miles; but radio fans become very devoted and attached to their radio favorites and many of ours seemed to resent our disappearance from the air even after I had told them we would be away for no longer than eight weeks.
These letters from our very devoted fans who upbraided us for going off the air made me very happy. But the letters I received from those who were confined to sick rooms and who found our music a comfort in their illness, and especially some notes I received from a little blind colony just outside of New York, these made me feel slightly conscience-stricken.
However, something almost laughable had happened in the broadcasting of dance music just before we left for the Coast which made me feel more at ease when I received these letters. It is a well-known fact in theatrical circles that our vaudeville appearances were sensational. Nearly everyone knew, too, that it was our radio broadcasts which had brought this popularity and it is a truism that whenever any product, person or group of persons achieve success in a particular way or through a particular method, that those who likewise desire to achieve success are quick to adopt the same methods and ideas.
Our sudden rise was the cue for other small and comparatively unknown broadcasting orchestra leaders who had been broadcasting for years, possily even before we had gone on the air, to drop their own style and to study our presentation over the air in hopes of discovering just what that something was which had won over our radio audiences. In fact, several of these leaders were frank enough to write or visit me and ask me to show them just how we broadcast and thereby aid them in achieving success. They were honest enough to admit that they too hoped that their adoption of our style would result in as a great a popularity for them.
By July and August just preceding our trip to the Coast, this adoption of our particular style had become a fact according ot the thousands of letters which reached me from listener-in, in which they all asked me if I was going to do something about it. Some showed me copies of letters, very denunciatory in tone, which they had sent to the radio stations asking them why they permitted such an obvious imitation.
But realizing that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and reliazing there was room enough for all of us, I said nothing, and in fact was pleased as the vogue we had apparently created. Then as these unhappy letters from those who missed us reached me, I felt consoled in the thought that in a way those orchestras back East that had admittedly attempted to present a program over the air in the simple style that had brought us such a wonderful reward, these orchestras helped make our absence less keenly felt.

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