Remembering past bandleaders, musicians, arrangers and ballroom operators.
Malac Sr., Joseph
Started as Gardener
Written by Frank Fochek
Joseph Malec, Sr., who died April 7 at age 85, was a co-founder of Peony Park in 1921 with his brothers, Bob and Jerry.
I knew him for over 40 years and worked for him 20 years managing the Carter Lake Club Ballroom.
He once told me in 1950 that his first job in Omaha after he left Detroit was as a gardener for the club's flower garden (not the parking area). From this humble start, he managed to save his money to buy some land in West Omaha and in the next 50 years, he directed the expansion of Peony Park to the world-famous ballroom and amusement park.
Joe Malec was a wonderful man to work for and he always had a good advice for neophytes in the business. Omaha has lost an outstanding builder of first-rate entertainment facilities and a man who, although always busy, still found time to create and help maintain the beautiful flowers gardens of Peony.
[Source: Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated April 12, 1978]
Big Band Sax Great Martin Dies at 76
Newport Beach, Calif. – Big Band leader Freddy Martin, one of the greats from an era when America’s idea of a good time was a night spent on a hotel or ballroom dance floor, has died at the age of 76, it was announced Saturday.
The tenor saxophonist, whose silver tone gave his group one of the sweetest sounds of the 1930s and 1940s, died Friday night at Hoag Memorial Hospital of complications from two strokes. His most recent stroke was Thursday, family spokesman Bryce Patterson said.
Born in Cleveland on Dec. 9, 1906, Martin was reared in an orphanage in Columbus, Ohio. At 16, he formed his own band, working after school for a musical instrument company and trying to sell new saxophones without success to two local big band figures – Guy Lombardo and his brother, Carmen. “I had a high school band in those days, and Guy heard it a couple of times and kept encouraging,” Martin recalled years later. “Then one night his band had to play somewhere else so he asked us to fill in at his regular spot.” Martin’s band did very well that night, and his commercial career was launched in earnest.
[Source: Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), dated October 2, 1983]
Hal McIntyre Dead of Burns
Los Angeles (AP) - Bandleader Hal McIntyre, 44, died yesterday of burns suffered in a Hollywood apartment fire.
He was found Sunday huddled under a blanket on the kitchen floor of his vocalist's apartment. Firemen said he apparently fell asleep while smoking.
He started leading a band at 16 and played saxophone and clarinet with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
A native of Kentucky, he is survived by his estranged wife and their two children, living in Cromwell, Conn.
[Source: Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), dated May 6, 1959]
London (AP) – Felix Mendelssohn, 40, bandleader and great-great-grandson of the noted German composer, died Monday.
[Source: Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated February 5, 1952]
Death Stills Monroe Song
Stuart, Fla. – Vaughn Monroe, the bandleader and singer who rose to prominence in the 1940s with the theme song “Racing With the Moon,” died Monday in a hospital here. He was 62.
Monroe underwent stomach surgery two weeks ago. His wife, Marian, said he became ill after returning from an engagement in Louisville, Ky.
Monroe, who had lived in Stuart for several years, performed 10 months out of the year at night clubs and social events around the country, the Associated Press reported.
Monroe’s orchestra emphasized singing – not only Monroe’s but the band members themselves as well as vocal groups such as the Murphy Sisters and Moonmaids. His orchestra outlasted ore instrumental-oriented groups.
In the 1940s he was compared to Rudy Vallee as a romantic bandleader with a host of female fans. United Press International reported.
Monroe was better known for his vocals than his band leading, although his group at one point had Bobby Nichols on trumpet and Ray Conniff as lead trombonist.
[Source: Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated May 22, 1973]
Russ Morgan Dies; Leader of a Big Band
Las Vegas, Nev. (UPI) – Big band leader Russ Morgan, 65, who made “music in the Morgan manner” famous around the world, died here late Thursday.
Morgan had been appearing at the Top of the Dunes on the Las Vegas strip for the last four years.
The trombonist-pianist died at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital following a cerebral hemorrhage. He had been hospitalized for several days after suffering a minor hemorrhage.
Morgan was the son of a Welsh family in Scranton, Pa., his father was coal mine foreman and Russ started working in the mines at the age of 9 to earn money for music lessons.
Morgan died after enchanting the music world for 33 years with such original arrangements, compositions and recordings as “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “So Tired,” “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place” and “So Long.”
He left for New York as a teenager to arrange for John Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert and later toured Europe with the Paul Specht orchestra.
After returning to the United States, Morgan went to work for WXYZ radio in Detroit and became musical director of “music in the Morgan manner.” He recorded jazz with Joe Venuti and arranged for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
It was singer Rudy Vallee who insisted that Morgan form his own orchestra in 1936 and invited him to appear on his popular Fleischman Yeast radio show. Vallee got Morgan his first engagement with his own orchestra at the Biltmore Hotel in New York. The four-week contract expended into two years.
Leaves 4 Children
Morgan, one of the originators of the big band sound, was signed at the Dunes Hotel in 1965 and since then made his home here. He celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary last month by returning to Ft. Worth, Tex., where he and his wife stayed at their honeymoon hotel.
He is survived by his widow, Shirley, and four children, Jack, David, Judy and Patty. Jack has been with the band for 10 years and has been directing the orchestra since his father was hospitalized July 21. The younger Morgan said he will keep the band together.
[Source: Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), dated August 8, 1969]
Band Leader Russ Morgan Dead at 65
Las Vegas, Nev. (AP) – Russ Morgan, one of the leaders of yesterday’s “big band sound” and who helped the Dorsey brothers get their start, is dead at the age of 65.
Morgan, whose music was among dancers’ favorites in the 1939s and 1940s, died last Thursday night of a cerebral hemorrhage, spokesmen said at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital.
An accomplished arranger and songwriter, he wrote such hits as “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “Somebody New Is Taking My Place” and his band’s theme, “Does Your Heart Beat For Me?”
He led his group, “The Russ Morgan Orchestra,” for the past five years at the Dunes Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Morgan formed his first band in his home state of Pennsylvania in 1923 and dubbed it the “Scranton Sirens.” Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, who both went on to their own fame, were members of the band. The Dorsey’s and Morgan went to the same church in Scranton, where one of the Dorsey’s was organist.
Before he was out of his teens, Morgan had left for New York to arrange music for John Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert. Later he led the Jean Goldkette Orchestra in Detroit which claimed as members such names as Dorsey’s, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Chauncey Morehouse, Bix Beiderbecke and Fuzzy Farrar. He formed the Russ Morgan Orchestra in 1936 and dubbed the sound “Music in the Morgan Manner.” Besides leading, Morgan played the trombone and occasionally the piano. His deep, mellow sounds were famous to several decades of radio listeners.
[Source: Boston Record American (Boston, Massachusetts), dated August 9, 1969]
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