Carmen Cavallaro

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Carmen Cavallaro
Carmen Cavallaro.jpg
Background information
Born(1913-05-06)May 6, 1913
New York City, U.S.
DiedOctober 12, 1989(1989-10-12) (aged 76)
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Years active1933-1989

Carmen Cavallaro (May 6, 1913 – October 12, 1989)[1] was an American pianist. He established himself as one of the most accomplished and admired light music pianists of his generation.

Music career[edit]

Carmen Cavallaro was born in New York City, United States.[2] Known as the “Poet of the Piano”,[3] he showed a gift for music from age three, picking out tunes on a toy piano. His parents were encouraged to develop the child's musical talents and he studied classical piano in the United States. As a young pianist, he toured Europe, performing in many capitals.

In 1933, Cavallaro joined Al Kavelin's orchestra, where he quickly became the featured soloist. After four years, he switched to a series of other big bands, including Rudy Vallee's in 1937.[2] He also worked briefly with Enric Madriguera and Abe Lyman.

Cavallaro formed his own band, a five-piece combo, in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1939. His popularity grew and his group expanded into a 14-piece orchestra, releasing some 19 albums for Decca over the years. Although his band traveled the country and played in all the top spots, he made a particular impact at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, which became a favored venue, and which also later became a favorite spot of George Shearing and Mel Tormé. Other venues where he drew large audiences included New York’s Hotel Astor, Chicago’s Palmer House and the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. In 1963 he had a million-seller hit recording of the song, "Sukiyaki".

One of Cavallaro's vocalists, Guy Mitchell, later became famous in his own right.

Cavallaro's single best-selling recording was his pop version of "Chopin's 'Polonaise'", Op. 53.[4]

He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

Influences and style[edit]

Cavallaro developed a piano-playing style of glittering and rippling arpeggios to augment his melody, which was often arranged in thick and lush triple- and quadruple-octave chords. His musical interests and arrangements included dance music, particularly Latin rhythms, tangos and strict tempo dancing styles, as well as some pop and jazz arrangements of classical melodies. In this, he is often cited as being influenced by pianist Eddy Duchin. Liberace was greatly influenced by both Cavallaro and Duchin.[5] All three shared a propensity for arranging classical piano themes in a pop idiom.

Cavallaro became a member of ASCAP in 1957.[citation needed] Although he wrote several songs, including "Dolores My Own" and "Anita", the most popular were "While the Nightwind Sings" and "Masquerade Waltz".

Radio and film[edit]

Cavallaro also became famous through the media of radio and film, firstly with his regular program on NBC during the 1940s, The Sheaffer Parade, of which he was the host,[2] and later in films where he played himself, starting with Hollywood Canteen (1944), then Diamond Horseshoe, Out of This World (both 1945) and The Time, The Place and The Girl (1946). His most celebrated film achievement was playing the piano music for actor Tyrone Power’s hands to mime, in The Eddy Duchin Story (1956).[2]

Personal life[edit]

Cavallaro was married to Wanda Cavallaro on 6 May 1935. They had three children (Delores Cavallaro Buscher, Paul Cavallaro and Anita Cavallaro Finkelstein) and one grandchild (Andrea Finkelstein Sherman). They were divorced on 28 December 1962.

Cavallaro died from prostate cancer on 12 October 1989 in Columbus, Ohio. He was survived by his second wife Donna S. Cavallaro and children.

CAVALLARO Donna S. Cavallaro, age 79, Friday, December 16, 2011 at Mt. Carmel West. Preceded in death by husband Carmen and brother Fr. Robert Schwenker, OMI. Survived by stepsons, Charles (Michelle), Frederick (Kristin) and Robert (Theresa);



  • 1941: I'll See You In My Dreams, Decca Records
  • 1941: All The Things You Are ..., Decca Records
  • 1942: Strauss Waltzes, Decca Records
  • 1942: Songs Of Our Times 1932, Decca Records
  • 1947: Serenade: Italian Folk Songs, Decca Records
  • 1948: Irving Berlin Songs with Dick Haymes, Decca Records
  • 1949: For Sweethearts Only, Decca Records
  • 1950: Carmen Cavallaro At The Piano, Decca Records
  • 1950: Songs Of Our Times 1921, Decca Records
  • 1950: Richard Rodgers And Oscar Hammerstein II, Decca Records
  • 1951: Guys And Dolls, Decca Records
  • 1952: Tangos for Romance, Decca Records
  • 1956: Rome at Midnight, Decca Records
  • 1956: For Latin Lovers, Decca Records
  • 1956: The Masters' Touch, Decca Records
  • 1957: Poetry In Ivory, Decca Records
  • 1958: Cavallaro With That Latin Beat, Brunswick Records
  • 1958: 12 Easy Lessons In Love, Decca Records
  • 1959: Dancing In The Dark, Decca Records
  • 1960: Informally Yours, Decca Records
  • 1960: Plays His Show Stoppers, Decca Records
  • 1960: The Franz Liszt Story. Decca Records
  • 1960: Cocktails with Cavallaro, Decca Records
  • 1961: Cocktail Time, Decca Records
  • 1962: Swingin' Easy, Decca Records
  • 1962: Hits from Hollywood, Decca Records
  • 1965: Eddy Duchin Remembered, Decca Records


  1. ^ "Artist: Carmen Cavallaro". Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 444. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ Vocalion Records # VL 73862
  4. ^ "Pop Chronicles 1940s Program #14 - All Tracks UNT Digital Library". Archived from the original on 2020-11-14. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  5. ^ Liberace joked that he stole "everything but the flashy rings" from Cavallaro.

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