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Retro Redux: Johnny Desmond – The Forgotten Italian Crooner

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I probably should start with an apology about the title of this piece, because implying that Johnny Desmond is forgotten is a little misleading. Even though his name might not be as familiar as some singers from the past, he is still fondly remembered by many fans.

But that being said, I did forget to include him in previous articles I've written about crooners. And even though it might have been understandable to leave him out of something like The Crooner Conundrum, it was unforgivable for me to overlook him when I wrote about Italian Crooners. Yep, that's right — like many others, Johnny Desmond was a name-changing Italian/American singer.

Born Giovanni Alfredo De Simone in Detroit, Desmond was the son of a grocer but was drawn to music. He began to have some professional success in the late Thirties as part of a quartet called the Downbeats, which later became the Bob-O-Links after linking up with Bob Crosby's band.

Within a few years, Desmond had gone solo and managed to get a job with Gene Krupa's band, but when World War II started he followed the path of many musicians and joined up with the Army's entertainment division. He was a big hit while working as a vocalist with Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Band, and became popularly known as the 'G.I. Sinatra'.

In the post-war years, Desmond surfaced on radio's popular Breakfast Club and also began churning out a lot of good-selling records, which continued into the Fifties. By then known as the 'Creamer' for his smooth baritone, he had countless Top 40 hits; among them songs like "C'est si bon," "Just Say I Love Her," "Because of You," and "The High and Mighty" (clip).

Throughout the Fifties and on into the Sixties, Desmond continued to perform, making appearances in night clubs, on TV and occasionally even on Broadway. As the years passed he began to slow down but continued to show up in guest spots from time to time. He died of natural causes in 1985, but his many fans know that Johnny Desmond is not forgotten.

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  • don leighton

    Though a keen music fan, the name Johnny Desmond meant absolutely nothing to me – Desmond? Isn’t that the guy who played with Dave Brubeck? That all changed when I walked out of Real Groovy Records ( Auckland, New Zealand, one of the few remaining treasures for collectors who like to hold their music as well as play it. I am in no way connected with RGR other than as a collector, but check their website out ) with a copy of Columbia’s cd re-issue of Once Upon a Time and Blue Smoke.
    First track All The Things You Are ” What a voice! ” I couldn’t believe I’d never (knowingly) heard him before. Imagine hearing Peggy Lee or Al Martino for the first time, that’s the impact.
    For anyone interested in nostalgia, seek out Once Upon a Time; great war time favourites, Glenn Miller arrangements ( with some subtle changes ) and in glorious natural stereo, not the gimmicky variety you sometimes find in late 50’s and early 60’s albums designed to showcase the dynamics.
    It will be a sad day when and if record stores like Real Groovy close. Where else can you pay $3 and get such lasting pleasure?

  • trey mon bien

    Nice article but Desmond did not die of ‘natural causes.’ Cancer was cause of death. Desmond was survived by his wife and two children.

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