Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Arcesia - Reachin' 1968

Arcesi first made a name for himself as a vocalist for prominent bands in New York City. His first professional recordings, c.1934, were on the Columbia label with Lud Gluskin and Orchestra. These titles were "Hands Across the Table" and "Moonlight On The River Danube". His next recordings were on the Bluebird label with Louis 'King' Garcia in 1936, recording five vocals for the date: "It's Great to Be in Love Again","Christopher Columbus","Swing Mr. Charlie","There Is No Greater Love", and "Love Is Like a Cigarette". One of his first important live performances and radio broadcasts was with the Claude Hopkins Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. Hopkins let Johnny sing with the band for several nights after an impromptu audition backstage. Johnny was employed at Mills Music Publishing Company in the Brill Building as a song demonstrator and office assistant during the day, and singing in various clubs in NYC at night. Irving Mills, upon meeting Johnny during a band rehearsal with Joe Venuti in NYC, suggested the name Arcesi sounded too 'Italian'. Thus, Don Darcy was the name John used from 1935–45, and he recorded as Johnny Darcy from 1946-1950. He was sometimes listed as Don D'Arcy. In 1935 Major Bowes, impressed by young Don when he refused to perform on his amateur show and asserted and demonstrated his professionalism at audition, gave him three sustaining (non sponsored) 15 minute spots a week, broadcasting on WHN in NYC. Shortly thereafter Darcy was offered the same spots, thirty minute shows, on WOR in Newark, New Jersey where he performed from c.1935-36. During this time Darcy developed a loyal fan base of regional listeners, received fan mail and other offers, and learned about the subject of 'payola' first hand.

Upon leaving WOR, and after turning down an offer to broadcast nationally on CBS radio, Darcy desired to go on the road and learn the band business. For the next several years Darcy was the male vocalist for Joe Venuti's Orchestra c.1936-40, after having worked with Charlie Barnet, 1934, Lud Gluskin, 1935, Louis 'King' Garcia, 1936, and others. With the Venuti Orchestra, among many engagements playing the largest hotels and ballrooms in the country, Darcy opened the show for several months at Billy Rose's 'Casa Manana' extravaganza in Fort Worth, Texas in 1936 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Texas' statehood. Both Paul Whiteman and Joe Venuti's bands shared the stage for this event. Darcy performed the same function at Rose's Cleveland Aquacade the following year. Contrary to what has been previously written, the only association Darcy had with Rhode Island was any number of one nighters with the various bands he performed with over the next several years, i.e., Dick Gasparre, 1940, Joe Marsala, 1941–42, Sonny Dunham, 1943–44, Boyd Raeburn, 1944–45, Art Mooney, 1946–48, and Johnny Bothwell in 1948-49. Darcy also worked in brief association with the bands of Frank Trumbauer, Hal McIntyre and Sam Donahue. He recorded on various labels with these bands, such as Hit, Guild, Grand, Signature and Century Records. Darcy also recorded on American and Langworth Transcriptions. The Century Records dates produced four sides entitled, 'Doink,Doink', 'This Strange Desire', 'A Haunting Melody', and his first recorded version of his original song 'Noahs' Ark', a song he co-wrote with Bud Green c. 1940. The Century dates were recorded in NYC at RCA studios and marked his first collaboration with Lloyd Shaffer. He later recorded 'Noah's Ark' under the title 'Rockin' the Ark'.

[edit] Capitol Records

In 1952 Darcy reverted to his original birth name of John Arcesi when he signed with Capitol Records, after being heard on late night weekend broadcasts on KNX-LA with just voice and piano. Pianists Harper McCabe and Ed Greenburg accompanied Arcesi on these shows. Alan Livingston was President of the Capitol label at the time, with Lee Gillette as head of A&R. John recorded nine singles, with Lloyd Shaffer conducting the arrangements. Shaffer had previously worked with Perry Como on Como's "Chesterfied" show. His first single with Capitol was entitled "Wild Honey" for which he received positive reviews. Arcesi also received positive reviews in Variety for his live performance work at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas in October 1952, before the notoriety of the incident written of below. Following his engagement in Las Vegas, he appeared in New York City at the French Casino, and then followed with a stint at the Boulevard Cafe in Queens. He received positive reviews at these locales for his live stage work. However, he also received much derision from audiences at these shows because of the Las Vegas incident. Upon returning to Hollywood, California after the New York engagements, Arcesi performed at the Crescendo nightclub. The opening act at these shows was the infamous Lord Buckley. In March 1953 Arcesi recorded four sides with Nelson Riddle, who arranged and conducted the date just prior to being signed to Capitol himself. The titles for this recording date: "Tombstone", "Cowpo", "Rockin' the Ark", and "Ol' Man River", the first three songs written by Arcesi. He was also voted third most promising 'new singer' by Billboard Magazine that year, following Al Martino and Steve Lawrence. His last public broadcasts with voice and solo guitar were on KABC-LA in 1959. These shows, broadcast on Saturday and Sunday nights were also heard over the AFRTS.

John's renown eventually spread as far as the West Coast where audiences in (among other places) Los Angeles and Las Vegas soon became enamored with the roguishly handsome star.

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