Rudy Vallee (1901 – 1986)

Rudy Vallee was one of the most popular vocalists of the pre-swing era. The year 1930 saw this famous band leader and saxophonist come to Yankee Lake in Trumbull County to entertain. He was noted for singing into a megaphone to amplifying his voice. Rudy possessed a voice that was some-what nasal and people would make fun at his expense by singing a ditty while depressing both nostrils. When Rudy arrived here with his entourage during the beginning of the Great Depression, he was met by 2,000 loyal dance fans. Not all, however, shared his philosophy as set forth in his favorite rendition, “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.”
Rudy Vallee had several “firsts” to his credit. He was the first to record “As Time Goes By,” 13 years before the movie “Casablanca.” (See Issue No. 16) Debuting in 1928, the Rudy Vallee Show (a.k.a. The Fleischmann Yeast Hour) was the first-ever radio talk show. It was a live variety revue and Rudy’s guests were a mixture of famous and the unknown.
Alice Faye, Frances Langford and Paul Weston all received their big breaks on his show. Rudy was the first to invite black artists to be on his show, such as musician Louis Armstrong and dancer Josephine Baker. You might also say that Rudy Vallee was the first so-called crooner, long before Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra became famous singers.

Born Hubert Prior Vallee in 1901, he changed his name to Rudy after the famous saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft. While still in Yale College, he formed a band and performed at the Heigh-Ho Club in New York City. His band was an instant success and was soon picked up to play on WABC Radio. Each radio show began with "Heigh-Ho everybody, this is Rudy Vallee speaking."
His theme song was “My Time is Your Time.” His band was an unusual one, consisting of two violins, two saxophones, and a piano. They played only choruses. No chorus was repeated. And no two tunes were played in the same key. Vallee sang in English, Spanish, French and Italian, using his megaphone. With the advent of the microphone, Rudy would use it to engage in a sensuous dance while sliding his fingers up and down the microphone stand. It was in 1929 that Vallee did his first film "Vagabond Lover". It was a zany black and white musical and may occasionally be seen today on Turner Classic Movies (Channel 50). Rudy went on to perform in 33 more motion pictures mainly as a band leader and vocalist. He also played Lord Marmaduke Phogg on the Batman TV series.
In 1941 he enlisted in the Coast Guard to help direct the 11
th district band as a Chief Petty Officer. Eventually he was promoted to Lieutenant and led the 40 piece band to great success. In 1944 he was placed on the inactive list and he returned to radio.
Rudy had three unsuccessful marriages before marrying actress Eleanor Norris in 1946. Mrs. Eleanor Vallee, has written a book about their 40 years together called “My Vagabond Lover.” After his death in 1986, one of Rudy’s saxophones was sold to a Little Rock Attorney as a gift for then-governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton. The former U.S. President Clinton played this saxophone while in the White House. If Rudy had lived to hear Bill Clinton play his old saxophone, he would have smiled, knowing that Clinton was trying to become another “Vagabond Lover.”