Greg Poppleton

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Ted Fio Rito Cocoanut Grove 1934 – Phantom Dancer 11 May 2021

Ted Fio Rito, band leader, composer and pianist, under the radio pseudonym ‘Vincent Valsanti’, is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist in a 1934 Cocoanut Grove radio transcription.

Since I’ve been playing radio transcriptions made in 1934 of ‘Valsanti’ from the Cocoanut Grove Los Angeles over the past three weeks, here’s a little about the Ted Fio Rito / Valsanti / Cocoanut Grove story along with videos from the era.

The Phantom Dancer – your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV hosted by me, Greg Poppleton.

Enjoy a whole library of Phantom Dancer mixes online now at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/.

This show will be online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 11 May at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/

COCOANUT GROVE

The Cocoanut Grove at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel was a lavishly appointed club – part of the massive 23-acre Ambassador resort, which also included four restaurants, a bowling alley, a billiard room, a shopping plaza, and even a movie theater – decorated in Moroccan style and featured full-sized palm trees reportedly salvaged from Rudolph Valentino’s film “The Sheik.” In addition to the decor, which also offered a night sky filled with stars (thanks to about 1000 small light bulbs), an elevated stage, and both dining and dancing room for several hundred patrons, customers came for the smooth musical entertainment provided by a series of dance orchestras and popular vocalists – many of whom would later go on to star careers in radio, recordings, and the film industry.

In the 1980 book, “Are the Stars Out Tonight?”, former Ambassador PR Director, Margaret Tante Burk, recalls the Grove’s opening night:

“…on the night of April 21, 1921… the new club officially opened its Moroccan style, gold leaf and etched palm tree doors… The Cocoanut Grove was aptly named, guests agreed as they were escorted by the maître de and captains down the wide plush grand staircase… Overhead, soaring about the room were cocoanut trees of papier mache, cocoanuts and palm fronds which had been rescued from the sandy beaches of Oxnard where they had served as atmosphere of the 1921 classic, The Sheik. Swinging from their branches were stuffed monkeys blinking at the revelers with their electrified amber eyes. Stars twinkled in the blue ceiling sky, and on the southernmost wall hung a full Hawaiian moon presiding over a painted landscape and splashing waterfall.”

Ray West Orchestra in 1930…

Due to the foresight of Abe Frank, the manager of both the hotel and the Grove, in the mid-1920s the Ambassador had been equipped with a small radio studio, allowing the music of the various orchestras to be broadcast and enjoyed well outside the confines of the nightclub. From the late 1920s well into the 1960s, live “remote” programs broadcast from the Cocoanut Grove were a popular feature of nighttime radio, allowing millions of people to enjoy the music they would otherwise be unable to afford to hear in person. These broadcasts, aired live nightly for two full hours, only increased the reputation of the Grove as “the place to be” when it came to top notch West Coast entertainment.

From the beginning, the Cocoanut Grove’s glamorous atmosphere attracted the top names in Hollywood for dining, dancing, and mingling. This celebrity connection was always well-publicized by the Ambassador and for a very good reason, too: tourists coming to Los Angeles for a vacation wanted to see the stars and there was no place where the stars came out quite so regularly as the Ambassador Hotel. On an average evening, it was common to see such well-known celebrities as Joan Crawford, Jack Oakie, or Jean Harlow coming to see Bing Crosby or Russ Columbo sing with Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra or dance to Jimmie Grier’s band as they accompanied Loyce Whiteman, The Three Ambassadors (Martin Sperzel, Jack Smith, and Al Teeter), or popular tenor Donald Novis. Even though there was a nationwide depression, Hollywood stars and executives still needed to be entertained — and the Cocoanut Grove was often their first choice.

From 1930 to 1943, six Academy Awards ceremonies were hosted at the hotel. As many as seven U.S. presidents stayed at the Ambassador, from Hoover to Nixon, along with heads of state from around the world.

It was the place to be even in the 1960s…

In 1968, the Ambassador Hotel was the scene of the shooting of Bobby Kennedy.

Due to the decline of the hotel and the surrounding area, the Ambassador Hotel was closed to guests in 1989. In 2001, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) purchased the property with the intent of constructing three new schools within the area. After subsequent litigations to preserve the hotel as a historic site, a settlement allowed the Ambassador Hotel to be demolished in 2005.

VALSANTI

Ted Fio Rito used the pseudonym ‘Valsanti’ for these Cocoanut Grove transcriptions because of an existing recording contract.

Fio Rito was a pianist, hammond organist and the composer of such classic tunes as, “I Never Knew,” “Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye,” “Laugh, Clown, Laugh,” “Roll Along, Prairie Moon” and “Alone at a Table for Two.”

He started his career as a pianist with a series of bands led by Harry Yerkes, then moved to Chicago in 1921 to join Dan Russo’s band. The following year, he joined with Russo to become the co-leader the Oriole Terrace Orchestra, which he eventually took over when Russo departed in 1928.

Before coming to the Cocoanut Grove in mid-1933, Fio Rito had spent a number of years touring the East Coast and Midwest, including many engagements in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Cincinnati. An early radio enthusiast, Fio Rito’s band was frequently heard on the air from various nightspots – preparing him well for the regular broadcasts scheduled to emanate from the Grove during his stay.

Musically, the orchestra that Fio Rito brought to the Grove was sweet, smooth and clever, playing highly danceable music accented with temple blocks, rapid triplets, and even an occasional solo on the Hammond organ by its talented leader.

Due to an existing recording contract, Theodore Salvatore Fiorito’s singers also adopted pseudonyms for these transcriptions. Muzzy Marcellino, Fio Rito’s guitarist and primary vocalist, sings as Jack Howard. Howard Phillips sings under the name of Bill Thomas, and Fio Rito’s vocal trio The Debutants appear as The Three Keys. 

Watch Ted Fio Rito from the Cocoanut Grove in this 1934 Paramount short ‘Star night atthe Cocoanut Grove’ also featuring Mary Pickford and Bing Crosby. You’ll hear the extreme high and low four octave voice of Jimmy Durante’s future comic foil Candy Candido in what is thought to be his earliest film performance….

 

11 MAY PLAY LIST

Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney
LISTEN ONLINE

Community Radio Network Show CRN #489

107.3 2SER Tuesday 11 MAY 2021
12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4am
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4am
2BRW Braidwood Monday 3 – 4am
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
4RPH Brisbane Sunday 3 – 4am
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
Swing Bands One Night Stand Radio 
Theme + Song of the Wanderer
Buddy Morrow Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Roseland Ballroom NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
1 Mar 1946
16:00 On The Clock
Shep Field and His New Music
‘One Night Stand’
Copacabana NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
9 Aug 1944
Come Rain Come Shine + Close
Hal McIntyre Orchestra (voc) Frankie Lester
‘One Night Stand’
Century Room
Hotel Commodore NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
15 May 1946
Set 2
1950s-60s Jazz Radio 
Jazz Connoisseur
Harry James Orchestra (dms) Buddy Rich
Moonbowl
Freedomland
WNEW NYC
1962
The Theme
Miles Davis Sextet
‘Treasury of Music’
Birdland
WRCA NBC NY
AFRTS Re-broadcast
25 Aug 1959
 
 
 
Set 3
Benny Goodman in Chicago 
Let’s Dance (theme) + Farewell Blues
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Joseph Urban Room
Congress Hotel
WMAQ NBC Red Chicago
20 Jan 1936
Soft Spring
Benny Goodman Orchestra (voc) Helen Forrest
Panther Room
Hotel Sherman
WMAQ NBC Chicago
10 Aug 1941
King Porter Stomp + Goodbye (theme)
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Joseph Urban Room
Congress Hotel
WMAQ NBC Red Chicago
3 Feb 1936
Set 4
Vincent Valsanti (Ted Fio Rito) 
Serenade of Love (theme) + Flirtation Walk
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Jack Howard
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
When You’re in Love
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
Two Cigarettes in the Dark
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Phil Thomas
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
Were You Foolin’? + I’ll Take an Option on You + Serenade of Love (theme)
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Jack Howard and The Three Blue Keys
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
Set 5
1930s German Swing 
Darf ich bitten?
Die Goldene Sieben
Comm Rec
Berlin
Sep 1936
Ja und nein
Die Goldene Sieben
Comm Rec
Berlin
Aug 1939
Aus lauter Liebe
Die Goldene Sieben (voc) Peter Igelhoff
Comm Rec
Berlin
Jul 1937
Oh! Aha!
Die Goldene Sieben (voc) Rudi Schuricke Terzett
Comm Rec
Berlin
Feb 1939
Set 6
Early Dorseys 
Theme + On The Beach at Bali Bali
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
‘Ford V-8 Show’
Texas Centennial Exhibition
KRLD CBS Dallas Tx
11 Aug 1936
Sandman (theme) + Is That Religion?
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (voc) Bob Crosby
Riviera
Fort Lee NJ
WEAF NBC Red NY
20 Sep 1934
Weary Blues
Eddy Howard Orchestra
‘Ford V-8 Show’
Texas Centennial Exhibition
KRLD CBS Dallas Tx
4 Aug 1936
Farewell Blues
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra
‘Chrysler Show’
Radio Transcription
1934
Set 7
Sweet Music 
Romance (theme) + We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye
Ray Herbeck Music with Romance Orchestra (voc) Lorraine Benson
Trianon Ballroom
WGN Mutual Chicago
24 Nov 1947
For You
King Sisters
‘Jubilee’
AFRS Hollywood
Jun 1945
Sweet Lorraine
Frank Sinatra
‘Frank Sinatra Show’
AFRS Re-broadcast
26 Nov 1946
What is This Thing Called Love?
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Eugenie Baird
‘Forever Pops’
ABC Chicago
1947
Set 8
1930s Fats Waller 
Yacht Club Swing (theme) + Whatcha Know, Joe?
Fats Waller
Panther Room
Hotel Sherman
WMAQ NBC Red Chicago
3 Dec 1940
Pent Up in a Penthouse
Fats Waller
Yacht Club
WABC CBS NY
14 Oct 1938
Sto Beating ‘Round The Mulberry Bush
Fats Waller
WEAF NBC Red NY
16 Jul 1938
I Had To Do It
Fats Waller
Yacht Club
WABC CBS NY
18 Oct 1938

Back to the News

11 May 2021

(Until May 11)

Ted Fio Rito Cocoanut Grove 1934 – Phantom Dancer 11 May 2021

Greg Poppleton's Phantom Dancer swing jazz radio show

Ted Fio Rito, band leader, composer and pianist, under the radio pseudonym ‘Vincent Valsanti’, is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist in a 1934 Cocoanut Grove radio transcription.

Since I’ve been playing radio transcriptions made in 1934 of ‘Valsanti’ from the Cocoanut Grove Los Angeles over the past three weeks, here’s a little about the Ted Fio Rito / Valsanti / Cocoanut Grove story along with videos from the era.

The Phantom Dancer – your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV hosted by me, Greg Poppleton.

Enjoy a whole library of Phantom Dancer mixes online now at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/.

This show will be online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 11 May at https://2ser.com/phantom-dancer/

COCOANUT GROVE

The Cocoanut Grove at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel was a lavishly appointed club – part of the massive 23-acre Ambassador resort, which also included four restaurants, a bowling alley, a billiard room, a shopping plaza, and even a movie theater – decorated in Moroccan style and featured full-sized palm trees reportedly salvaged from Rudolph Valentino’s film “The Sheik.” In addition to the decor, which also offered a night sky filled with stars (thanks to about 1000 small light bulbs), an elevated stage, and both dining and dancing room for several hundred patrons, customers came for the smooth musical entertainment provided by a series of dance orchestras and popular vocalists – many of whom would later go on to star careers in radio, recordings, and the film industry.

In the 1980 book, “Are the Stars Out Tonight?”, former Ambassador PR Director, Margaret Tante Burk, recalls the Grove’s opening night:

“…on the night of April 21, 1921… the new club officially opened its Moroccan style, gold leaf and etched palm tree doors… The Cocoanut Grove was aptly named, guests agreed as they were escorted by the maître de and captains down the wide plush grand staircase… Overhead, soaring about the room were cocoanut trees of papier mache, cocoanuts and palm fronds which had been rescued from the sandy beaches of Oxnard where they had served as atmosphere of the 1921 classic, The Sheik. Swinging from their branches were stuffed monkeys blinking at the revelers with their electrified amber eyes. Stars twinkled in the blue ceiling sky, and on the southernmost wall hung a full Hawaiian moon presiding over a painted landscape and splashing waterfall.”

Ray West Orchestra in 1930…

Due to the foresight of Abe Frank, the manager of both the hotel and the Grove, in the mid-1920s the Ambassador had been equipped with a small radio studio, allowing the music of the various orchestras to be broadcast and enjoyed well outside the confines of the nightclub. From the late 1920s well into the 1960s, live “remote” programs broadcast from the Cocoanut Grove were a popular feature of nighttime radio, allowing millions of people to enjoy the music they would otherwise be unable to afford to hear in person. These broadcasts, aired live nightly for two full hours, only increased the reputation of the Grove as “the place to be” when it came to top notch West Coast entertainment.

From the beginning, the Cocoanut Grove’s glamorous atmosphere attracted the top names in Hollywood for dining, dancing, and mingling. This celebrity connection was always well-publicized by the Ambassador and for a very good reason, too: tourists coming to Los Angeles for a vacation wanted to see the stars and there was no place where the stars came out quite so regularly as the Ambassador Hotel. On an average evening, it was common to see such well-known celebrities as Joan Crawford, Jack Oakie, or Jean Harlow coming to see Bing Crosby or Russ Columbo sing with Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra or dance to Jimmie Grier’s band as they accompanied Loyce Whiteman, The Three Ambassadors (Martin Sperzel, Jack Smith, and Al Teeter), or popular tenor Donald Novis. Even though there was a nationwide depression, Hollywood stars and executives still needed to be entertained — and the Cocoanut Grove was often their first choice.

From 1930 to 1943, six Academy Awards ceremonies were hosted at the hotel. As many as seven U.S. presidents stayed at the Ambassador, from Hoover to Nixon, along with heads of state from around the world.

It was the place to be even in the 1960s…

In 1968, the Ambassador Hotel was the scene of the shooting of Bobby Kennedy.

Due to the decline of the hotel and the surrounding area, the Ambassador Hotel was closed to guests in 1989. In 2001, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) purchased the property with the intent of constructing three new schools within the area. After subsequent litigations to preserve the hotel as a historic site, a settlement allowed the Ambassador Hotel to be demolished in 2005.

VALSANTI

Ted Fio Rito used the pseudonym ‘Valsanti’ for these Cocoanut Grove transcriptions because of an existing recording contract.

Fio Rito was a pianist, hammond organist and the composer of such classic tunes as, “I Never Knew,” “Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye,” “Laugh, Clown, Laugh,” “Roll Along, Prairie Moon” and “Alone at a Table for Two.”

He started his career as a pianist with a series of bands led by Harry Yerkes, then moved to Chicago in 1921 to join Dan Russo’s band. The following year, he joined with Russo to become the co-leader the Oriole Terrace Orchestra, which he eventually took over when Russo departed in 1928.

Before coming to the Cocoanut Grove in mid-1933, Fio Rito had spent a number of years touring the East Coast and Midwest, including many engagements in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Cincinnati. An early radio enthusiast, Fio Rito’s band was frequently heard on the air from various nightspots – preparing him well for the regular broadcasts scheduled to emanate from the Grove during his stay.

Musically, the orchestra that Fio Rito brought to the Grove was sweet, smooth and clever, playing highly danceable music accented with temple blocks, rapid triplets, and even an occasional solo on the Hammond organ by its talented leader.

Due to an existing recording contract, Theodore Salvatore Fiorito’s singers also adopted pseudonyms for these transcriptions. Muzzy Marcellino, Fio Rito’s guitarist and primary vocalist, sings as Jack Howard. Howard Phillips sings under the name of Bill Thomas, and Fio Rito’s vocal trio The Debutants appear as The Three Keys. 

Watch Ted Fio Rito from the Cocoanut Grove in this 1934 Paramount short ‘Star night atthe Cocoanut Grove’ also featuring Mary Pickford and Bing Crosby. You’ll hear the extreme high and low four octave voice of Jimmy Durante’s future comic foil Candy Candido in what is thought to be his earliest film performance….

 

11 MAY PLAY LIST

Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney
LISTEN ONLINE

Community Radio Network Show CRN #489

107.3 2SER Tuesday 11 MAY 2021
12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4am
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4am
2BRW Braidwood Monday 3 – 4am
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm
4RPH Brisbane Sunday 3 – 4am
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am
3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
Swing Bands One Night Stand Radio 
Theme + Song of the Wanderer
Buddy Morrow Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Roseland Ballroom NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
1 Mar 1946
16:00 On The Clock
Shep Field and His New Music
‘One Night Stand’
Copacabana NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
9 Aug 1944
Come Rain Come Shine + Close
Hal McIntyre Orchestra (voc) Frankie Lester
‘One Night Stand’
Century Room
Hotel Commodore NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
15 May 1946
Set 2
1950s-60s Jazz Radio 
Jazz Connoisseur
Harry James Orchestra (dms) Buddy Rich
Moonbowl
Freedomland
WNEW NYC
1962
The Theme
Miles Davis Sextet
‘Treasury of Music’
Birdland
WRCA NBC NY
AFRTS Re-broadcast
25 Aug 1959
 
 
 
Set 3
Benny Goodman in Chicago 
Let’s Dance (theme) + Farewell Blues
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Joseph Urban Room
Congress Hotel
WMAQ NBC Red Chicago
20 Jan 1936
Soft Spring
Benny Goodman Orchestra (voc) Helen Forrest
Panther Room
Hotel Sherman
WMAQ NBC Chicago
10 Aug 1941
King Porter Stomp + Goodbye (theme)
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Joseph Urban Room
Congress Hotel
WMAQ NBC Red Chicago
3 Feb 1936
Set 4
Vincent Valsanti (Ted Fio Rito) 
Serenade of Love (theme) + Flirtation Walk
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Jack Howard
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
When You’re in Love
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
Two Cigarettes in the Dark
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Phil Thomas
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
Were You Foolin’? + I’ll Take an Option on You + Serenade of Love (theme)
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Jack Howard and The Three Blue Keys
Cocoanut Radio Transcription
TRANSCO
Los Angeles
1934
Set 5
1930s German Swing 
Darf ich bitten?
Die Goldene Sieben
Comm Rec
Berlin
Sep 1936
Ja und nein
Die Goldene Sieben
Comm Rec
Berlin
Aug 1939
Aus lauter Liebe
Die Goldene Sieben (voc) Peter Igelhoff
Comm Rec
Berlin
Jul 1937
Oh! Aha!
Die Goldene Sieben (voc) Rudi Schuricke Terzett
Comm Rec
Berlin
Feb 1939
Set 6
Early Dorseys 
Theme + On The Beach at Bali Bali
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
‘Ford V-8 Show’
Texas Centennial Exhibition
KRLD CBS Dallas Tx
11 Aug 1936
Sandman (theme) + Is That Religion?
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (voc) Bob Crosby
Riviera
Fort Lee NJ
WEAF NBC Red NY
20 Sep 1934
Weary Blues
Eddy Howard Orchestra
‘Ford V-8 Show’
Texas Centennial Exhibition
KRLD CBS Dallas Tx
4 Aug 1936
Farewell Blues
Dorsey Brothers Orchestra
‘Chrysler Show’
Radio Transcription
1934
Set 7
Sweet Music 
Romance (theme) + We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye
Ray Herbeck Music with Romance Orchestra (voc) Lorraine Benson
Trianon Ballroom
WGN Mutual Chicago
24 Nov 1947
For You
King Sisters
‘Jubilee’
AFRS Hollywood
Jun 1945
Sweet Lorraine
Frank Sinatra
‘Frank Sinatra Show’
AFRS Re-broadcast
26 Nov 1946
What is This Thing Called Love?
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Eugenie Baird
‘Forever Pops’
ABC Chicago
1947
Set 8
1930s Fats Waller 
Yacht Club Swing (theme) + Whatcha Know, Joe?
Fats Waller
Panther Room
Hotel Sherman
WMAQ NBC Red Chicago
3 Dec 1940
Pent Up in a Penthouse
Fats Waller
Yacht Club
WABC CBS NY
14 Oct 1938
Sto Beating ‘Round The Mulberry Bush
Fats Waller
WEAF NBC Red NY
16 Jul 1938
I Had To Do It
Fats Waller
Yacht Club
WABC CBS NY
18 Oct 1938
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