Vaughn Wilton Monroe
- Born: 7 Oct 1911, Akron, Summit Co., Ohio
- Marriage: Marian Baughman on 2 Apr 1940
- Died: 21 May 1973 at age 61
Inside the Hometown Diner, in Jeannette, a small display case contains memorabilia honoring Big Band singer Vaughn Monroe.
His smooth baritone voice continues to enchant his fans nearly 34 years after his death.
Vaughn Wilton Monroe, trumpeter, singer, bandleader and actor, graduated from Jeannette High School in 1929. He was born in Akron, Ohio, to Mabel and Ira C. Monroe. Mabel Monroe named her son after her two favorite movie stars, Vaughn Glasser and Wilton Lackaye. Ira Monroe was born in a log house in West Virginia built in 1881 by his grandfather, a descendant of President James Monroe.
There is some discrepancy on the year of Vaughn Monroe's birth. One source says he was born Oct. 7, 1911; another says 1912. However, there's no question as to his love of music.
Monroe was 10 years old and living in Kent, Ohio, when a neighborhood friend gave him an old trumpet. His mother told him he couldn't play it because the neighbors would complain. The young Monroe assured her they wouldn't. The next day, Monroe brought home a book of trumpet lessons and told his mother she owed a local music teacher $3.50.
In a True Stories magazine article of July 1948, Monroe told writer Joseph Kaye, "I went at my trumpet with surprising industry, for in three months I learned enough to render a solo at a Kent high school affair."
His father was a research engineer in the rubber industry, and the family moved quite a bit. When Monroe was about 15, his father got a job at the Pennsylvania Rubber Co., which became the General Tire and Rubber Co., in Jeannette.
He entered Jeannette High School as a junior and immediately became well known in the band, orchestra, jazz orchestra and the glee club. He also participated in basketball and track in high school and was voted senior class president.
At some point, Monroe wrote the school's alma mater, which is still sung today. He also met his future wife, Marian Baughman, whose father owned a jewelry store at 405 Clay Ave., Jeannette. The couple were close friends until they realized they were in love. They married on April 2, 1940, 12 years after they first met.
After graduating high school, Monroe went to work in a factory to save money for college. He enrolled in Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) as a voice major. At the end of his first semester, Monroe received an offer from Austin Wylie, a professional band leader, who asked him to join his band.
During the next several years, Monroe played in different bands all over the country. He ended up in Boston and formed his first orchestra with Jack Marshard as his manager. In the meantime, Monroe's brother, Bill, a singer and trombone player, had joined him in the band he fronted for Marshard.
Monroe's first orchestra recording of "There I Go," spent three weeks at the top of the Hit Parade and his orchestra was named top college band in 1940.
What became known as Monroe's theme song, "Racing with the Moon," debuted in 1941. Within the next two years, he had three No. 1 hits, "My Devotions," "When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World)" and "Let's Get Lost."
Marian Monroe often accompanied her husband when he traveled. But once their daughters Candace and Christina were born, she stayed home with them.
His career also included other hits, including "There! I've Said It Again," "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," "Ballerina" and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."
Monroe also made guest appearances on the "Ed Sullivan Show," "Texaco Star Theatre," the "Jackie Gleason Show," "The Tonight Show" and "American Bandstand." He played host to the Vaughn Monroe television show in 1950-51 and 1954, and also appeared on "Bonanza" and "The Mike Douglas Show."
Movies also beckoned. Monroe appeared in 1944's "Meet the People," "Carnegie Hall" (1947), "Singing Guns" (1950), and the "Toughest Man in Arizona" (1952). Monroe could be seen in many television commercials, owned The Meadows Restaurant and Nightclub in Framingham, Mass., and co-authored "The Adventures of Mr. Putt Putt," a children's book about airplanes and flying, published in 1949.
His niece, Karen Marquis, of Jeannette, remembers the Monroe family's beautiful home in Massachusetts.
"We visited there when I was very young," said Marquis. "He was a very loving, gentle person. I remember my aunt and uncle coming to Greensburg on the train wearing their best clothes. We went up to meet them. It was very exciting."
Marquis' mother, Katherine, was Marian Monroe's sister. Bill Monroe, of Latrobe, is the son of Bill, Vaughn Monroe's brother.
"My parents divorced when I was a year and a half old," said Bill Monroe. "My uncle Vaughn still visited my mother and grandmother, and he bought me my first BB gun when I was 8 years old."
Bill Monroe said his uncle went to flight school sometime in the 1930s. Monroe was a man of many hobbies. He liked photography, motorcycling, miniature trains, carpentry, swimming, golf, and especially flying. His earnings were large enough to permit him to be an active flying enthusiast and he owned two planes--Cantina II and Cantina III (named from first three and last four letters of his daughters' names). On dates played within three hundred miles of New York, Vaughn was able to fly home for a visit on his day off.
He often used the planes for getting from one engagement to another. "It gives me extra time for business," say Vaughn, "and it breads up the monotony of road life when we're doing one-nighters." sometimes, it breaks up the monotony too well. Vaughn had to make a forced landing in a Pennsylvania cabbage patch, after being blown about fifty miles off his course. It's the only time he'd been late on a job.
That's a pretty good record for a man who directed RCA-Victor's top-selling recording band, played a hundred one-nighters a year, usually fifteen weeks of theater dates, a dozen other week engagements at night clubs and the like, and was on the air every Saturday night for Camel cigarettes.
Vaughn married Marian Baughman, daughter of Robert M. Baughman Sr. and Carrie Merrell, on 2 Apr 1940. (Marian Baughman was born about 1912 in Jeannette, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.)
Go to the following link to here some of Vaughn Monroe's music: