Guy Lombardo (1902 – 1977) (33 years old in 1935)
Lombardo was born in London, Ontario, to Italian immigrants Gaetano Alberto and Angelina Lombardo. While playing at the Music Box in Cleveland, Guy met Lillibeth Glenn and they married in 1926.
In 1911, his father made a fateful decision when he presented his nine-year-old son with a three quarter violin. Within a decade music had consumed the young boy’s life and he quit school to
devote himself to his fledgling orchestra.
Guy recalled, “My dad liked music. He didn’t know music. He came here when he was 15 years old from Italy and he immediately studied voice. He used to say this, and I liked it very much: ‘Along with your schooling, know a little music. Study music. It’s a light load to carry.’”
He and his brothers formed their first orchestra while still in grammar school and rehearsed in the back of their father’s tailor shop. Guy on Violin, Victor on Sax, Lebert on trumpet, cornet, and
drums, and Carmen on sax, flute and vocals.
Lombardo first performed in public with his brother Carmen at a church lawn party in London in 1914.
In March of 1924 the freshly named Royal Canadians made their first recordings at the Gennett studios in Richmond, Indiana – with Guy on violin. Unfortunately, the only side where Guy’s violin playing is audible — “Someone Loves You After All” — was not released. By the time the orchestra achieved national fame five years later, the group had acquired their distinctive sound and the violin was on its way out. “I had come to the conclusion I would never be a great violinist,” Guy recounted in his autobiography, “My fingers were too stiff and inflexible.”
As things turned out, the violin was more of a hindrance than a help in furthering the success of the Royal Canadians. When Guy eventually dropped his fiddle for a conductor’s baton, it gave him
the freedom to chat with dancing patrons as they waltzed passed the bandstand. This established him as the industry’s key music frontman and gave the Royal Canadians a warmth and intimacy few orchestras enjoyed.
Victor Lombardo – baritone sax, bass clarinet, clarinet; played by Tessa Busch
Lebert Lombardo – trumpet; played by Matt Bell
Larry Owen – alto sax, clarinet, flute; played by Ian Burbidge
Derf Higman – tenor sax, clarinet, flute; played by Charlie Bell
Walter Smith – trumpet; played by Wayne McGrath
John Dillon – trombone; played by Ridley Gillmore
Hunter Fuerste – trombone; played by Kerrie Lynne Boyshgol
Bernard Davies – bass tuba; played by Don Burns
Francis “Muff” Henry – guitar; played by Andy Harasymczuk
Frank Kreitzer – piano; played by Don Buchanan
George Gowans – drums; played by Steve Wood
In 1929 a 33-year residency at the Roosevelt Grill in New York was established. Broadcast to millions by CBS, the Royal Canadians’ annual New Year’s Eve performance at the Roosevelt Grill, and later at the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, became a New Year’s tradition when they played ’Auld Lang Syne’ at the stroke of midnight. This song had been part of Guy’s repertoire since his
early days when he played in Scottish communities near London, Ontario. As a matter of interest, the names of Southampton’s settlers indicate that many were of Scottish descent, such as
McAulay, McLeod, McKenzie, Murray, Graham, Logie, etc.