Don Cornell

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Don Cornell
Cornell in 1963
Cornell in 1963
Background information
Birth nameLuigi Francisco Varlaro
Born(1919-04-21)April 21, 1919
New York City, U.S.
DiedFebruary 23, 2004(2004-02-23) (aged 84)
Aventura, Florida, U.S.
  • Jazz
  • traditional pop
Years active1940s–1990s

Don Cornell (born Luigi Francisco Varlaro; April 21, 1919 – February 23, 2004)[1] was an American singer.[2]

Early years[edit]

Born to an Italian family in The Bronx, New York, Cornell attended Roosevelt High School in the Bronx.[3]


In his teens he played guitar in a band led by jazz trumpeter Red Nichols. When he was eighteen, he was a vocalist in the Sammy Kaye band. He became a solo act in 1949. Between 1950 and 1962, twelve of his records were certified gold. These included the million-seller "It Isn't Fair",[4] plus "I'll Walk Alone", "I'm Yours", and "Hold My Hand". He appeared often on television programs hosted by Perry Como, Jackie Gleason, and Arthur Godfrey during the 1950s and 1960s.[5]

When singing at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Kentucky, he appeared many times on the Ruth Lyons television program and was a substitute host. In 1953, he was on the TV program Chance of a Lifetime.[6] He had a radio program on KGO in San Francisco in 1953.[7]

In 1959, Cornell, comedian Martha Raye, and other investors formed The Big Daddy Mining Company. The company planned to mine "a rich gold vein on a hillside near Coarsegold, California".[8]

Cornell worked as a singer into the 1990s. He and his wife founded the label Iris as a division of MCA to release songs he recorded for Coral and Dot earlier in his career. These albums include Something to Remember Me By and From Italy with Love.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

Cornell was named to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1963. In 1993, he was inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame.[5]

His 1952 hit "I" was the only single-character pop chart entry until Prince's No. 7 Billboard Hot 100 hit "7" from 1992 and the only single-letter hit until Xzibit's No. 76 Hot 100 hit "X" from 2000. "Hold My Hand" sold over one million copies and topped the UK Singles Chart in 1954.[9] Cornell's 1955 hit "Young Abe Lincoln" holds the record for highest debuting pop single (No. 25) to spend only one week on the Billboard chart.[1]


Cornell died in Aventura, Florida, from emphysema and diabetes at the age of 84.[10][11]

Hit records[edit]

Year Single Chart positions
1942 "I Left My Heart at the Stagedoor Canteen"(with Sammy Kaye) 3
"I Came Here to Talk for Joe"(with Sammy Kaye) 8
1947 "That's My Desire"(with Sammy Kaye) 2
"The Red Silk Stockings and Green Perfume"(with Sammy Kaye) 8
"The Little Old Mill"(with Sammy Kaye) 24
"Serenade of the Bells"(with Sammy Kaye) 3
"Hand In Hand"(with Sammy Kaye & Laura Leslie) 21
"I'll Hate Myself In the Morning"(with Sammy Kaye & Laura Leslie) 20
1948 "I Love You, Yes I Do"(with Sammy Kaye) 10
"Tell Me a Story"(with Sammy Kaye) 8
"Down Among the Sheltering Palms"(with Sammy Kaye) 14
1949 "Careless Hands"(with Sammy Kaye) 3
"Kiss Me Sweet"(with Sammy Kaye & Laura Leslie) 29
"Room Full of Roses"(with Sammy Kaye) 2
"Baby, It's Cold Outside"(with Sammy Kaye & Laura Leslie) 12
"It Isn't Fair"(with Sammy Kaye) 2
1950 "I Need You So" 28
1952 "I'll Walk Alone" 5
"I'm Yours" 3
"This Is the Beginning of the End" 20
"You'll Never Get Away"(with Teresa Brewer) 17 17
"I" 7 10
"Be Fair" 20
1953 "S'posin'" 28
"She Loves Me" 23 33
"Please Play Our Song" 18
"Heart of My Heart"(with Alan Dale & Johnny Desmond) 10 5
"You're On Trial" 24
1954 "Size 12" 23
"Hold Me" 26
"Believe In Me" 22
"Hold My Hand" 2 6 1
"No Man Is an Island" 21
1955 "Give Me Your Love" 28
"Most of All" 14 16
"The Door Is Still Open to My Heart" flip 22
"Stranger In Paradise" 19
"The Bible Tells Me So" 7 7
"Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" 26
"Young Abe Lincoln" 25 45
1956 "Teenage Meeting" 80
"Rock Island Line" 59
"See Saw" 57
1957 "My Faith, My Hope, My Love" 57
"Mama Guitar" 47 57
1958 "Play Some Music For Broken Hearts" 95


  1. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 121. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ Associated Press (24 February 2004). "Don Cornell, 84, Singer of Big-Band Hits". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Pops Singer Don Cornell Credits TV for Quick Fame". The Berkshire Eagle. The Berkshire Eagle. July 22, 1958. p. 14. Retrieved April 29, 2015 – via access icon
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 50. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  5. ^ a b c Eder, Bruce. "Don Cornell". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  6. ^ Blackmer, Dave (February 2, 1953). "Tele-Views". The Capital Journal. Daily Capital Journal. p. 13. Retrieved April 29, 2015 – via access icon
  7. ^ "Radio Tips". The Times. The Times. April 4, 1953. p. 9. Retrieved April 29, 2015 – via access icon
  8. ^ "To Develop Own Gold Mine Strike". The Southeast Missourian. November 3, 1959. p. 2. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  9. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 68. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  10. ^ "Don Cornell". The Gettysburg Times. The Gettysburg Times. February 24, 2004. p. 2. Retrieved April 29, 2015 – via access icon
  11. ^ "Big Band Singer on Club Circuit". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 24 February 2004. p. B4. Retrieved 6 December 2018.

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