“His singing is very direct and unpretentious – he can wrap his voice tenaciously around a melody line and bring out the best in it. He is certainly an equal partner to the song lyric.” Stephen Holden, New York Times.
“Lucky, very lucky. I’m talking about my whole life, not merely my professional career.” – Julius La Rosa
His Song” Eh Cumpari” Has Become a Beloved Traditon, Played At All Italian Weddings, Celebrations and Festas
This weeks column is a special one for me. To be doing a Q & A with the fabulous Julius La Rosa, is a rare and wonderful treat. After you read this interview, I suggest you all go to youtube or his website and play a couple of his songs. I guarantee you will be hooked for life on this voice, a voice that is as smooth as Italian velvet. Julius La Rosa is one of those singers who appreciates a song’s lyrics and it’s meaning, he is part of that Golden Era of music that spawned Sinatra and his like. Singers that can interpret a lyric as well as the writer can write it.
Cookie: Welcome Julius, to LAS VEGAS VOICE. Mila, grazie for taking the time to talk with us.
Julius: IT’S A PLEASURE. COOKIE.
Cookie: You were born in Brooklyn, New York, and went directly from high school into the U.S. Navy. Did you ever return to your Brooklyn roots? Where do you make your home these days?
Julius: Yes. I returned to brooklyn many times. I would visit regularly. I have lived north of the city now for some 50 years. But I am never far away from my roots. i visit my home town often during the year.
Cookie: As the story goes, immediately after serving your time in the navy you were offered a job on the popular TV and radio show, Arthur Godfrey and his friends. When did you have time for voice training? Your voice was as great as the best of them. How did you manage to have such control and such a smooth sound just out of the Navy?
Julius: No problem! after i started on the godfrey shows i studied voice for many years.i had a natural talent for singing, but the training was needed to keep my voice strong over the years.
Cookie: Your time on the Godfrey show lasted only from 1951 to 1953. But it was long enough to have recorded several big hit songs… your first in 1952, “Anywhere I Wonder, ” for Cadence Records. How did you feel having your first recording soar to the top of the charts?
Julius: Well, to be honest, it was a case of unrealistic dreams actually coming true! It’s all a dream and you act like you are not clear headed, sometimes…
Cookie: After that hit you recorded “My Lady Loves To Dance,” a moderate hit, when compared to the one that was about to follow. “Eh Cumpari ” shot to # 1 on the Cash Box chart and #2 on the Billboard chart. That same year you were named male vocalist of 1953! How in the world did you stay grounded?
Julius: Cookie!! Who said i did!? I didn’t realize it at the time, I was still such a young boy! I had a lot to learn and a long road ahead to learn it. no, i was not grounded.. not by a long shot.
Cookie: Because “Eh Cumpari” was such an enormous hit and your trademark song, I think my readers would like to know how you came to record this super hit that we all love so much. Was it written for you?
Julius: I was telling archie bleyer as a boy my friends and I would sing it on the train going to coney island and by the time we got there everyone would be up front listening to us. He recognized it as a sign of “public acceptance”-a phrase he would use to affirm has own opinions of a songs’ potential.
Cookie: With all these hit recordings your fan mail on the Godfrey show hit a staggering 7,000 letters a week. (I know I was responsible for a few hundred of them at least.) Your popularity eclipsed that of the star of the show Arthur Godfrey, and because you had hired your own manager and agent, on July 19, 1953, you found yourself fired… on live TV… by your mentor, Arthur Godfrey. What are your personal feelings about that memorable day in your career?
I was shocked, no doubt about that…. But immediately after the show iI went up to his office and thanked him for this wonderful opportunity he’d given to me. I truly was grateful… (many years later in an interview he said i was the only one of his “discoveries’ who ever thanked him.
Cookie: In 1953, your popularity zoomed and another hit song soon followed. The wonderful and romantic song, ” Domani ” was a major hit. You were so hot Ed Sullivan had you on his “Toast of the town variety show 12 times that year. Later you made frequent guest appearances on The Honeymooners and Lavern and Shirley. Do you think these guest acting roles helped prepare you for your recurring role on NBC’s Another World for which you were nominated for the prestigious Emmy award for best supporting Actor?
Julius: What better teacher is there than experience? I worked on stage in many off broadway plays, and did some tv work that i believe prepared me.
Cookie: It’s obvious from your recording of “If,” using the poem by Rudyard Kipling, that you’re a man who appreciates the beauty and strength of a song’s lyrics. Do you yourself like to write poetry or musical lyrics?
Julius: nah… I leave it up to the pros. but I do like to hear a lyric interpreted the way the writer intended it to be. Clear and meaningful and from the heart.
Cookie: I’ve enjoyed seeing you on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy marathon many times. I hope we’ll have that pleasure again soon. Do you have any special plans or projects you’re working on at this time? And is there a website where we can keep up with your career and purchase your recordings?
Julius: Please check out my web page: www.julius la rosa.com you can keep up with our current news and available recordings.
Cookie: Julius, it has been my greatest pleasure to talk with you, but before I can let you go, I have to ask you the question I ask all my Italian American interviews….What is your favorite Italian dish and are you a good enough cook to prepare it ?
Julius: I love spaghetti with meat sauce. The way my family prepares it, with special herbs and spices…but again, cookie, …I leave it to the pros. cooking is not my thing.
COOKIE: Grazie, to Julias La Rosa, a very special singer of songs who was inducted into the National Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame in 2008 and whose legacy of music , traditions and talent makes our Italian hearts sing with pride!
JULIE: I appreciate your kind words; and have enjoyed being with you!