Julius La Rosa

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Julius La Rosa
Julius La Rosa 1955.JPG
La Rosa in 1955
Background information
Born (1930-01-02)January 2, 1930
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died May 12, 2016(2016-05-12) (aged 86)
Crivitz, Wisconsin, U.S.
Genres Traditional pop music
Years active 1951–2016
Labels Cadence RCA Victor EMI
Website Official Julius La Rosa Web site

Julius La Rosa (January 2, 1930 – May 12, 2016) was an Italian-American traditional popular music singer, who worked in both radio and television beginning in the 1950s.[1]

Early years[edit]

La Rosa was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended P.S. 123K in Bushwick. At age 17, he joined the United States Navy after finishing high school, becoming a radioman. He sang in a Navy choir, at the officers club, and at bars to pay for his drinks.[2]

Arthur Godfrey and controversy[edit]

The young sailor's Navy buddies managed to promote him to Arthur Godfrey - at the time one of America's leading radio and television personalities, and himself a Naval Reserve officer, whom the Navy often accommodated as a nod to the good publicity he gave the service. The Navy buddy most instrumental in this was George "Bud" Andrews, from Omaha, Nebraska, the seaman mechanic on Godfrey's airplane. While working on Godfrey's plane, Andrews struck up a conversation with Godfrey and told him that he really should hear his buddy sing. They arranged a time for La Rosa to audition in Pensacola, Florida, where La Rosa was stationed. Godfrey was impressed, offering La Rosa a job.[2] Godfrey had La Rosa flown to New York to appear on his television show, with Godfrey ending the spot by saying, "When Julie gets out of the Navy he'll come back to see us."[2]

Discharged from the Navy on a Friday, La Rosa went to Godfrey on the following Monday, and a week later, in November 1951, he appeared on Godfrey's variety show. He was a regular on both the morning Arthur Godfrey Time (broadcast on both the CBS radio and television networks) and the Wednesday night variety show Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.

La Rosa was joining a show that was extremely profitable for the new CBS television network. CBS owner William S. Paley disliked much of the show, in which a Time magazine article found Godfrey to be vulgar and "scatological." Hearing that William Paley thought the Godfrey TV show 'lacked movement,' Godfrey brought on a line of hula dancers and leered into the TV camera: 'Is that enough movement for you, Bill?'" [3] But CBS management supported the show, which was extremely successful and inexpensive to produce.[4]

La Rosa was on Godfrey's shows from November 19, 1951 to October 19, 1953. When Archie Bleyer, Godfrey's bandleader, formed Cadence Records in 1952, the first performer signed was La Rosa. Cadence's first single, which was also La Rosa's first recording, was "Anywhere I Wander". It reached the top 30 on the charts, and his next recording, "My Lady Loves To Dance", was a moderate success. As with the other "Little Godfreys", as the cast members were known, Godfrey had discouraged La Rosa from hiring a manager or booking agent, preferring to have his staff coordinate and negotiate on La Rosa's behalf.[1] Godfrey's contracts with his artists, however, did not preclude them from doing so. After La Rosa's third recording, and a dispute with Godfrey over his failure to attend a Godfrey-mandated dance class required of all cast members (the singer claimed a family emergency), La Rosa hired his own agent and manager, Tommy Rockwell.[5]

With hit recordings and his appearances on Godfrey's shows, La Rosa's popularity grew exponentially. At one point, La Rosa's fan mail eclipsed Godfrey's. A year after La Rosa was hired, he was receiving 7,000 fan letters a week.[2] Godfrey did not react well to receiving a formal notification that La Rosa had hired Rockwell as his manager. After consulting with CBS President Frank Stanton, on the morning of October 19, 1953 (in a segment of the show broadcast on radio only), after La Rosa finished singing "Manhattan" on Arthur Godfrey Time, Godfrey fired La Rosa on the air,[1] announcing, "that was Julie's swan song with us." La Rosa tearfully met with Godfrey after the broadcast and thanked him for giving him his "break." La Rosa was then met at Godfrey's offices by his lawyer, manager and some reporters. Tommy Rockwell was highly critical of Godfrey's behavior, angrily citing La Rosa's public humiliation.[6]

Godfrey subsequently explained that La Rosa had been fired because he lacked "humility." This comment backfired badly on Godfrey. Stanton himself later admitted "maybe (the on-air firing) was a mistake." Comedians began working the phrase "no humility" into their routines. Singer Ruth Wallis, known for her raunchy double entendre novelty songs, recorded "Dear Mr. Godfrey",[7] a biting satire on the matter, which made it to #25 on the Billboard charts in November 1953. Days after firing La Rosa, Godfrey also fired bandleader Archie Bleyer, owner of La Rosa's label Cadence Records, for producing spoken word records for Cadence featuring Chicago-based talk host Don McNeill, whose Don McNeill's Breakfast Club on ABC Radio opposite Godfrey's morning show was considered a direct competitor, even though McNeill's success was nowhere on a par with Godfrey's.

After Godfrey[edit]

The firing did not hurt La Rosa's career in the short run. Ed Sullivan immediately signed La Rosa for appearances on his CBS Toast of the Town TV variety show, which sparked a feud between Sullivan and Godfrey. La Rosa's first appearance on Toast of the Town following the firing (November 1, 1953) got a 47.9 Trendex rating,[citation needed] and La Rosa would appear 12 more times on Sullivan's show that year.

Shortly after he left Godfrey, La Rosa's third recording, "Eh, Cumpari", hit #1 on the Cash Box chart and #2 on the Billboard chart, with La Rosa getting an award as the best new male vocalist of 1953. "Eh, Cumpari" was followed by another major hit, "Domani". For thirteen weeks during the summer of 1955, La Rosa had a three-times-a-week television series on CBS, The Julius La Rosa Show, featuring Russ Case and his Orchestra. The Julius La Rosa Show aired in an hour-long format in the summers of 1956 and 1957 at 8 p.m. Eastern on Saturdays on NBC as a seasonal replacement for The Perry Como Show (Como previously had La Rosa, on occasion, fill in for him during the 1954-'55 season of his CBS series).

In 1981, Peter Kelley, who handled Godfrey's commercial bookings, suggested the host reunite with cast members from his morning show and record a reunion album. Though Godfrey initially balked, recalling his disputes with La Rosa and other cast members, he agreed to a meeting, and was amenable to having La Rosa participate. La Rosa, feeling sufficient time had passed, was also amenable. At the meeting, held at Godfrey's Manhattan office, Godfrey brought up the firing and asked La Rosa why he didn't tell the 'truth' as Godfrey saw it: that La Rosa had asked to be released from his contract and Godfrey had obliged. When La Rosa started to respond by reminding him of the dance class dispute, Godfrey exploded in anger. La Rosa left, and any talk of the reunion show ended forever.

La Rosa tired of revisiting the Godfrey affair, in part because it had been rehashed so many times, but he was also known to declare publicly Godfrey was in fact the one individual who made his career. Nevertheless, La Rosa always added, "He wasn't a very nice man (to me)."[1]

Later career[edit]

Promotional photo of La Rosa for his 1957 summer replacement television show.

La Rosa appeared on a range of television shows including The Honeymooners in 1953, What's My Line?, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, The Polly Bergen Show (two episodes, including the 1957 premiere), The Merv Griffin Show and Laverne and Shirley in 1980. He starred in the 1958 film Let's Rock. In 1977 he hosted an unsold game show pilot for NBC called "Noot's Game".[8]

In the 1980s, La Rosa received a non-contract, recurring role in the NBC soap opera Another World, playing the character "Reynoldo" for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor in the Daytime Emmy Award.[9]

La Rosa eventually moved on to a long-time disk jockey position at New York popular music station 1130 WNEW and continued to sing and occasionally record. In 1998 and 1999, La Rosa was a disc jockey on 1430 WNSW based in Newark, New Jersey, [10] hosting "Make Believe Ballroom Time".[9] La Rosa, profiled by jazz critic and composer Gene Lees, continued to work clubs and release records and compact discs until the early 2000s.[citation needed] New York Times film critic Stephen Holden said "His singing is very direct and unpretentious - he can wrap his voice tenaciously around a melody line and bring out the best in it."[11] La Rosa was a frequent contributor to comedian Jerry Lewis's annual Labor Day telethon programs for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, often hosting the New York outpost of the shows.


In 2008, La Rosa said "Music is 'a very egotistical thing.'[...] 'It makes me feel good [...]' and fortunately, I have the capacity to make people feel good who hear me feeling good.'"[12]

He and his wife lived for over 40 years in Irvington, New York, until November 2015 when they moved to Crivitz.[13][14]

La Rosa died of natural causes on May 12, 2016, at age 86, at his home in Crivitz, Wisconsin.[15]



  • Julius La Rosa (RCA Victor, 1956)
  • The Port of Love (Guest Star, 1959)
  • On the Sunny Side (Roulette, 1959)
  • Love Songs à La Rosa (Roulette, 1959)
  • You're Gonna Hear from Me (MGM, 1966)
  • Hey Look Me Over (MGM, 1967)
  • Words (Metromedia, 1971)

Charting singles[edit]

Year Single Chart positions
Hot 100 CB AC
1953 "This Is Heaven" 21
"Anywhere I Wander" 4 7
"My Lady Loves to Dance" 21 16
"Eh, Cumpari!" 2 1
"Till They've All Gone Home" 23
1954 "I Couldn't Believe My Eyes" 28
"The Big Bell and the Little Bell" 32
"Have a Heart" 34
"Three Coins in the Fountain" 21
"Mobile" 21 21
1955 "Domani (Tomorrow)" 13 13
"Mama Rosa" 37
"Suddenly There's a Valley" 20 8
1956 "Lipstick and Candy and Rubbersole Shoes" 15 37
"I've Got Love" 93
"Get Me to the Church on Time" 89
"Priscilla" 31
1957 "Stashu Pandowski" 36
"Mama Guitar" 98 57
1958 "Torero" 21
1966 "You're Gonna Hear from Me" 21
1969 "Where Do I Go" 24

Cultural references[edit]

La Rosa's name was used in a joke by Coach in the sitcom Cheers, in the episode "Friends, Romans, and Accountants".


  1. ^ a b c d Ahlfors, Elizabeth. "julie'sstory". Juliuslarosa.com. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d Brenner, Elsa (March 3, 1991). "Singer Adds His Cachet to Library". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  3. ^ Staff (February 27, 1950). "Radio: Oceans of Empathy". Time. 
  4. ^ "Godfrey, Arthur: US Variety Show Host". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  5. ^ Rockwell had worked with Louis Armstrong in the twenties (Collier, John Lincoln (1985) Louis Armstrong: An American Genius Oxford. p.179 ISBN 9780195365078) and the Dorsey Brothers band in the thirties. (Spragg, Dennis M. (January 30, 2016) "Tommy Dorsey Catalog 1935' Glenn Miller Archive p.2)
  6. ^ "Julius La Rosa Lost Humility--Arthur Godfrey". Beaver Valley Times. October 22, 1953. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  7. ^ "Ruth Wallis Queen of the Party Song". Idelsounds.com. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  8. ^ "Julius La Rosa". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  9. ^ a b "julieandmusic". Juliuslarosa.com. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  10. ^ Eddings, Toby (April 18, 1999) "ACC football on one less station," The Sun News
  11. ^ "The Official Website of Julius La Rosa". Juliuslarosa.com. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  12. ^ "Julius La Rosa to headline Festa Italiana of Vandergrift". Pittsburgh Tribune. 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  13. ^ Associated Press (May 15, 2016) "Singer Julius La Rosa, fired on Godfrey show, dies at 86" New York Daily News
  14. ^ Karnowski, Steve (May 16, 2016) "Singer Julius La Rosa, ex-Irvington resident fired on air, dies" The Journal News
  15. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (May 15, 2016) "Julius La Rosa, Singer, Who Found Success After a Public Firing, Dies at 86" The New York Times

External links[edit]