(The Royal Canadians)

Guy Lombardo (1902 – 1977) (33 years old in 1935)

played by Drew Jurecka

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.

Musicians who make up Guy’s 12-piece “extended orchestra” (also known as the “Royal Canadians”) will be impersonated by local musicians from the Southampton area.
Carmen Lombardo – alto sax, clarinet, vocals; played by Rob Tite
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
Guy Lombardo and his extended Orchestra formed in London, and in 1924 the orchestra, now called Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, took a two-year residency at a Cleveland nightclub, the Claremont Tent. They billed themselves as creating “the sweetest music this side of Heaven.”
Several elements characterized the Lombardo sound: the smooth vibrato of the saxophones, led by Carmen’s alto; Carmen’s emotive singing, often satirized for its marked tremolo and precise diction; the preponderance of schottisches in the orchestra’s repertoire; and the use of the tuba instead of a double-bass; and quiet drumming, barely audible except to the other musicians.
The Lombardo’s first recording session took place in 1924 at the Gennett Studios, in Richmond, Indiana. The band then signed to Columbia and recorded prolifically between 1927 and 1931.
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.
In early 1932, they signed with Brunswick and continued their success through 1934 when they signed with Decca (1934–35). They then signed with Victor and stayed until the middle of 1938 when they again signed with Decca.
Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians are believed to have sold between 100 and 300 million records during their lifetimes. Trumpeter Louis Armstrong regularly named Lombardo’s band his favorite orchestra.