Vic Damone was stationed at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, in 1951,
for his Army basic training. He was on leave on one of
those weekends and he and some buddies went out to a club
in Newark, New Jersey, and caught a newcomer's act. The
performer was Joey Bishop.

Vic totally enjoyed the show and afterwards went backstage
to talk to Joey. He told him that he wanted Joey to work with
him when he got out of the Army. Bishop couldn't believe it and
said: "Yeah, sure, you'll forget all about me!"

Low and behold, Vic Damone returned and kept his promise
Joey Bishop opened for Vic at Bill Miller's Riviera in New
Jersey, as well as at the Paramount Theater in New York.
The rest is history. Joey Bishop became part of the "Rat Pack" and
went on to host his own television talk show in the late 60's.

Joey Bishop has always credited Frank Sinatra
as the one who discovered him.......

We report, YOU decide.......

Along with his endorsement of Vic Damone's performance, Mr. Dana devoted a good portion of this review to dancers Marge and Glower Champion. Opening act Joey Bishop received words of encouragement but Vic's army buddy Burt Bacharach got his name misspelled (Bert Bachrach) for his first mention in the papers. His thank-you letter appears below which may have doubled as a reminder to Mr. Dana on the correct spelling. Anyone who saw all these future stars together must have talked about it for years. At least you know Marge and Glower Champion must have.

Tips on Tables - Robert W. Dana - May 22, 1953

His tour of duty behind him, Vic Damone is back on the cafe ball at Bill Miller's Riviera enriched, not bothered and certainly not Vic damonebewildered by the happy change to civvies.

On a sterling new entertainment bill that features the return of one of the country's class dance teams, Marge and Gower Champion and Joey Bishop, a brave comedian to open the show. Vic gives the finest performance of his career and then toasts the life and the people he just left.

There is no doubt about Damone's maturity before his military duty. A top performer in cafes, hotel rooms, on records and in movies, his gloss and ease of showmanship gained through diligent apprenticeship since his emergence from his Paramount Theater usher's days was quite apparent.

Pearl-Gray Tuxedo.

His maturity now will have opportunity to settle in its mold, when I predict he will be the top male vocalist in the country. In a fresh engaging way he's throwing out his challenge in his Damone tuxedo, a pearl-gray affair with black lapels and cuffs.

He's backing up his case with an unaffected but polished style and strong, clear singing of numbers like "They Say," "Will You Still Be Mine?" "April in Portugal," "Where Or When" and "Gypsy In My Soul." Then after acknowledging the fine piano accompaniment of Bert Bachrach Jr. and Walter Nye's band, he toasts his Army life with "I Never Had It So Good."

Hollywood has done wonders for Marge and Gower Champion. damone cartoonAlways professional, youthful and original in past appearances in local cafes, they now are dazzling thanks to some expert arrangements and thoughtful choreography, Their accompanist is Richard Pribor.

Five Beautiful Numbers.

They did five beautiful numbers: "Let's Dance," "The Clock" (to "Time On My Hands"),"County Fair," "Margie"and "Meeting Time."

Joey Bishop, billed as the unhappy humorist, makes the most of his unhappiness to make the audience happy. He serves well his duty to warm up the customers. Also helpful in pre-show dance sessions are the orchestras of Walter Nye and Pupi Campo.

Burt Bacharach letter

Vic Damone at the Empire Room in 1956
as written by columnist Robert W. Dana on December 7, 1956
Click On Clipping To See Full-Sized

Courtesy of Craig at:


WHEN I HEARD that voice, I knew it must be singer Vic Damone on the line, phoning to say that he is appearing at the Concord Pavilion Friday with Rosemary Clooney.

"And, by the way" he added, "my new record (CD) release, "Greatest Love Songs of The Century' (Q&M), is the finest thing I've ever done."

Damone then had something to say about his career, the music business and, as the old song says, "What's the Matter With Kids Today."

"I'm in Atlantic City - got a week here, then I'm coming to San Francisco; love your city. Y'know, I'd like to do my symphony concert out there - "Greatest Love Songs of the Century," with a special section of some of Frank Sinatra's hits. Frank loaned me his own charts; wonderful stuff. He told me "You sing my songs - I'm out of it for good."

Like most men singers who came up in the post-war 1940s, Damone pays homage to Frank Sinatra. Francis Ford Coppola even offered the Sinatra-like role of Johnny Fontaine in "The Godfather" to Damone, but it didn't pay enough. Instead, Al Martino grabbed the offer, thus prolonging his fading career. The 1950s and '60s were rough times for mainstream pop singers.

"You're singing at Concord on the first night of the jazz festival," I said. Damone seemed nonplused. "Anyone out of the big band period these days is considered a survivor of the "swing era,' and "swing' and "jazz' are synonymous."

"But I never was a band vocalist," he commented, "I was a solo singer. I worked shows and record sessions with great orchestras . . . so now I'm with Rosemary Clooney as a jazz singer? I first heard her with her sister Betty singing with Tony Pastor's band. We're about the same age (Damone was born 15 days later than Clooney, on June 12, 1928).

"Two things caused the slump in my kind of music in the 1950s," Damone continued. "First was the payola scandals - jocks were getting paid by record companies to play certain tunes. When that blew up, record programming on radio was given to musical directors and librarians, which led to the take-over of all radio music programming by the record companies.

"Then," Damone continued, "the young generation of the '50s grew up hostile to the mess their parents were making of the country - Korea, Vietnam; they didn't like what we were doing to their lives. Anything that had to do with us they didn't believe in. So the complaints, situations where both parents had to work, restlessness of the young people, anti-war feelings, became a nationwide clique of resentful kids - and the jocks, record companies and young musicians saw it happening and responded.

"The record and radio industry are in a rut. The record stores are run by punks who don't know anything but the monotonous crap that's being played all over radio. And it's tough for people like me to get records onto the market.........

........."After a little TV exposure," Damone continued, "we sold 20,000 copies of my new recording. Reader's Digest put $300,000 into the project, but getting airplay, getting it into the stores is something else."

Damone, long a member of the Baha'i faith, then got off onto his concerns for integrity of the nation - one-parent children, drugs, decline in moral values and so-forth........

........In the war years of the 1940s, Damone came to fame as a Perry Como-Sinatra protege; he won an Arthur Godfrey "Talent Scouts" competition. He made a lot of records, some did well; ironically, in 1962 he hosted a TV variety show featuring "far-out and different music," meaning jazz. Among his guests were Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck.

He still is a magnificent singer ( "Best pipes in the business," Sinatra once said) and his newish 2-CD set is a beauty - gorgeous orchestrations, beautifully recorded and beautifully sung.

But, as he said, bravely, in ending the phone call,

"Remember those years when you were always the youngest in the crowd? Now, it seems I'm always the oldest."

Copyright © 2000 San Francisco Examiner
Original article: San Francisco Examiner