Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Julius La Rosa Passes On

Julius La Rosa, the singer who came to fame on Arthur Godfrey and His Friends and had hit songs throughout the Fifties, died on May 12 2016 at the age of 86. 

Julius La Rosa was born on January 2 1930 in Brooklyn, New York. At age 17 Mr. LaRosa joined the Untied States Navy where he served as a radioman. He was still in the Navy when his Navy buddies persuaded Arthur Godfrey to give him an audition. Julius La Rosa auditioned for Arthur Godfrey in Pensacola, Florida, where he was stationed. Arthur Godfrey then featured Mr. La Rosa on his TV show and told him he would have a job when he got out of the Navy.

Julius La Rosa was eventually discharged from the Navy and joined Arthur Godfrey's show in November 1951. He appeared on Arthur Godfrey Time, which aired in the morning, and the Wednesday night show  Arthur Godfrey and His Friends. Julius La Rosa soon became one of the most popular performers on Arthur Godfrey's shows. This popularity would soon lead to a record career. Mr. La Rosa was the first performer signed to Cadence Records, a record label formed by Arthur Godfrey's bandleader Archie Bleyer. In 1953 Julius La Rosa had a string of hits, including "This is Heaven" (which peaked at no. 21 on the Billboard chart), "Anywhere I Wander" (which peaked at no. 4), "My Lady Loves to Dance" (which peaked at no. 21), and "Eh, Cumpari!" (which peaked at no. 2).

Eventually Julius La Rosa's popularity was such that he was receiving more fan mail than Arthur Godfrey himself. At the same time, Arthur Godfrey was very controlling with regards to his performers, something which Mr. La Rosa resisted. Arthur Godfrey had not approved of Julius La Rosa signing with Cadence Records and was unhappy when Mr. La Rosa hired Tommy Rockwell as his agent and manager. In the end Arthur Godfrey fired Julius La Rosa on air on Arthur Godfrey Time on October 19 1953.

Arthur Godrey stated in the press that he fired Julius La Rosa for lacking "humility". That having been said, the American public were convinced that it was Godfrey who lacked humility. If the outrage on the part of radio listeners and television viewers was not enough, for a time Arthur Godfrey became the butt of jokes for stand-up comedians, who sought ways to work the phrase "no humility" into their acts. 

If anything else Arthur Godfrey's public firing of Julius La Rosa seemed to help his career in the short term. He soon started appearing on various variety shows and continued to do so throughout the Fifties. Almost immediately after Arthur Godfrey had fired him, Ed Sullivan arranged to have Julius La Rosa appear on Toast of the Town (soon to be renamed The Ed Sullivan Show). Mr. La Rosa would appear several more times on The Ed Sullivan Show. He also appeared on The Martha Raye Show, What's My Line, The Nat King Cole Show, The Polly Bergen Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall. From 1955 to 1957 he had his own show, The Julius La Rosa Show, which served as a summer replacement for Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall. He also appeared in an episode of Matinee Theatre and the movie Let's Rock (1958). 

Julius La Rosa also continued to have hit songs for the remainder of the Fifties, including such hits as "Three Coins in the Fountain", "Domani (Tomorrow)", "Lipstick and Candy and Rubbersole Shoes", and "Torero". His first album, Julius La Rosa, was released in 1956. He released three more albums before the end of the decade. Unfortunately his recording career would decline as rock 'n' roll began to dominate both the radio and recording charts.

In the Sixties Julius La Rosa guest starred on Shirley Temple's Storybook, The United States Steel Hour, and Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine. He released two more albums and had two hits on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. 

In 1980 Julius La Rosa appeared in a role on the soap opera Another World, for which he was nominated for the Daytime Emmy for Best Supporting Actor. He appeared as himself in an episode of Laverne & Shirley. Mr. La Rosa eventually became a long time disc jockey at  WNEW-AM in New York. He continued to perform and sing, and appeared regularly on Jerry Lewis's  Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons in the New York area.

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