To remember Guy Lombardo, you have to be of a certain age. To appreciate Guy Lombardo, I’m sure you qualify. Allow me to introduce him to you.
Gaetano Alberto Lombardo was born on June 19, 1902 in London, Ontario. He died in November 5, 1977, at the age of 75, in Houston, Texas. He was a Canadian/American bandleader and violinist.
“The Royal Canadians” was formed by Guy Lombardo in 1924 with his brothers Carmen, Lebert, and Victor and other musicians from his hometown, Lombardo led the group to international success. They billed themselves as creating “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.” The Lombardos are believed to have sold between 100 and 300 million phonograph records during their lifetimes.
Lombardo and his brothers formed their first orchestra while still in grammar school and rehearsed in the back of their father’s tailor shop. They first performed in public with his brother Carmen at a church lawn party in London in 1914.
In 1938, Lombardo became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Although Lombardo’s “sweet” big-band music was viewed by some in the jazz and big-band community of the day as “corny”, trumpeter Louis Armstrong famously enjoyed Lombardo’s music.
Lombardo is best known for almost a half-century of New Year’s Eve big band remotes, first on radio, and then on television. Lombardo’s orchestra played at the Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959, and from then until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Live broadcasts (and later telecasts) of their performances were a major part of New Year’s celebrations across North America; millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties. Because of this popularity, Lombardo was called “Mr. New Year’s Eve”.
The Royal Canadians were noted for playing the traditional song Auld Lang Syne as part of the celebrations. Their recording of the song still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.
Guy Lombardo has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles (I didn’t know some have more than one!). There is a bridge named after him in London, Ontario near Wonderland Gardens, as well as Lombardo Avenue in north London near the University of Western Ontario.
I would highly recommend you listen to this New Year audio clip from CBC. You could also listen to an interview in 1959 at Radiotapes.com. And if you would still like to hear more, I suggest listening to Paper Tape Archive: Guy Lombardo at Hotel Roosevelt (1949).
If you would like to learn more about Lombardo, I will suggest the The Guy Lombardo Society, the “Duh! Dick Clark is proof that older people are here to stay. Hey, sick people too!” at the Noir Dame. And for a very special treat, I recommend reading USA Today‘s article, “For auld lang syne: Guy Lombardo’s history needs a home.”