I was now starting to think a lot bigger, and after playing and singing on KCBS for three years I decided to make the best and boldest decisions of my life--thus far. The first was marriage to Lois Draper, a classmate and fellow musician from Chico, California (who I ironically did not get along with at all while at State!! I found out later that she wasn't as bad as I thought at the school...strange things do happen, especially when one is young and stupid!!). Lois was a very fine flute player, who also played piano and violin. She was very talented!

 

The other decision was to make the move to the "Big Time" (Los Angeles), both decisions coming within the period of one month!. Most of my musician friends and peers in San Francisco advised me against the move, but I knew that if I was to realize my full potential in music, it would be "down south". Oh, by the way, the move was made all the more necessary because I had been fired at KCBS!! Talk about timing! Actually, great and necessary timing as it turned out.

 

Fortunately I was able to find employment as soon as I hit L.A., getting a job singing and playing on the road with a fine band, that of Frankie Carle, who had several big recording hits to his credit. I have to thank my good buddy from State, a wonderful musician named Ernie Small for getting me this job, very much needed at the time. It didn't pay a whole lot, $125.00 per week, but it was a start and mighty welcome, with only a couple of hundred bucks to my name. Lois helped mightily during this lean financial period by working as a secretary during pregnancy, and even for many years after our first child arrived, a daughter whom we named Monica, who incidentally went on to have three boys of her own in marriage, just like my mom many years before!

 

After a few years in the "Big Time" and not getting rich doing it, I seriously started thinking about going back to San Francisco. But then I thought about all those musicians in the Bay Area saying, "see, we told you so!". So I decided to stick it out, helped tremendously by my wife's encouragement and support. I was playing, along with singing in different hotels and clubs during this period, and not really enjoying much of it because I never really liked performing live! I wanted to be a studio singer!

 

But now came another one of those big breaks when I was asked by Ray Anthony to play and sing in his band. It was now the mid-50's. Ray had a fine band and a great national reputation, so it wasn't much of a decision I had to make to join the band! It wasn't too long after that when the band was asked to do a network television show for Plymouth on ABC, where Lawrence Welk was doing so well with his band. Unfortunately, unlike Welk, we only had a short run on TV due to ratings that just weren't good enough. We were on right opposite the extremely popular Friday Night Fights, and the TV audience preferred to watch the fisticuffs! It had been great experience for me, performing for a national TV audience, even though I was still not doing what I came to Los Angeles for in the first place...working as a full time studio singer. I had been on a few sessions, but I realized that getting in the real desirable work on a steady basis was going to be tough, even though I knew I had the voice and talent to do so.

 

So, here I am again working around town in hotels and clubs and doing casual work for parties, weddings, etc., when another opportunity came along. Not what I would ultimately hope for, but still a break that would lead to something better, I felt. I was asked by Freddy Martin to join his band at the Coconut Grove, the same Freddy Martin who had as his singer Merv Griffin, a few years earlier! Needless to say, Merv was now headed for bigger and better things! I remained at the Grove for several years, alternating with Freddy and Dick Stabile, who had come off a long career as musical director for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

 

It was now at this point, in 1963, that I got my first REAL big break leading to the studio ranks, when I replaced Johnny Mann in a vocal quartet on the Red Skelton TV weekly series, with Dave Rose as musical director. I have Johnny to thank for recommending me. Now I was beginning to be known as a singer, not just a musician who also happens to sing!. I was now holding on to two jobs, Skelton and the Grove, but that didn't last too long, because I was fired by Dick at the Grove when I showed up late for a rehearsal for a new big act coming in, Sammy Davis, Jr.!! It happened that the Skelton Show had run late for the first time I had been doing it, and just couldn't make it to Sammy's rehearsal in time. Dick was a real hard nose for anyone showing up late, even for a few minutes. But this turned out to be a kind of a blessing, because now all of my energy and drive would be directed toward the studio ranks. Besides, even though it was work and paid a lot of bills, I was never too keen on working six nights a week, four to five hours a night, when I knew there were bigger and better things happening in those studios! It certainly didn't happen overnight, but "the die was cast" and now I really felt that I would eventually reach my goal. When vocal contractors started hearing about me, and thinking of me as a bona fide singer and not just a musician who sings, I started getting into the mix. It was a great feeling, that things were looking up and bound to get better.

 

It was also in 1963 that Lois presented me with our second child, a boy, whom I named John, after the brother I had lost in the war. So now, things were looking even better. I'm blessed with a girl AND a boy and work is starting to pick up. So the future is looking better all the time!

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