A Tribute to Rudy Vallee

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A Tribute to Rudy Vallee

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Before Frank Sinatra, and long before Elvis, there was Rudy Vallee, and his megaphone. His wife says that the girls threw their underwear on stage. (I know what you’re saying: At least they wore some.) Rudy was not only the first “crooner”; he invented the style.

 

He was born on July 28, 1901 in Vermont, as Hubert Prior Vallee. Hubert joined the Navy at the beginning of WWI, but was sent home when they found out he was only 15. He was nicknamed “Rudy” by his frat brothers in college because of his admiration for sax player Rudy Wiedoeft.

Rudy’s career as a professional entertainer began during his college days, but really took off when he teamed up with bandleader Bert Lown in January 1928. The group, consisting of two saxes, two violins, and a piano, first played at the Heigh-Ho Club in New York. Thus the “heigh-ho” introduction from his radio show.

Vallee sang through a megaphone in several languages. The Connecticut Yankees became popular quickly, and soon was on the radio and playing the Palace. Rudy appeared in his first film, Vagabond Lover, in 1929. His radio program began shortly thereafter, sponsored by Fleischmann’s Yeast; it ran for many years after, and featured an amazing array of performers. He was everywhere during the 30s, on stage, screen, and radio. During WWII he tourned with an orchestra as a member of the Coast Guard.

Cary Grant Rudy ValleeThough his career as a singer faded after the War, he continued to appear in films for the next thirty years (a total of over 50 theatrical films and TV movies), and starred in How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying on Broadway, and later in the movie version. He also showed up regularly on television during the 60s and 70s. In the photo above he is shown at Paramount Studios in 1983 with Cary Grant and publicist Edward Lozzi. According to Lozzi, “Rudy was 81 when he retained me to be his publicist in 1982 until his death in 1986. I was 31. The 50-year difference was never noticed. He was a genius, a wordmaster, a crooner, and a tyrant to the end. He helped me in so many ways with my PR agency.” (Photo courtesy of Edward Lozzi & Associates.)

Though Vallee was known as a tough person to work for, and not always free with a buck, he was also generous with those musicians who stuck with him, and was responsible for helping to start the careers of Alice Faye and Frances Langford, among others. You can learn more about his personal side in the interview linked below. Rudy Valle passed away in 1986, and we celebrated the centennial of his birth in 2001 when this article was originally written.

Rudy Vallee Tributes/Pages

Selected Reviews of Rudy Vallee’s Best Films

Where To Find Or See Rudy Vallee Films

Books by or about Rudy Vallee

Rudy Vallee Movie Posters On The Web

 

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