Don Cornell Biography

Luigi Francisco Varlaro, 21 April 1919, New York City, New York, USA, d. 23 February 2004, Aventura, Florida, USA. During the late 30s Cornell sang and played guitar with several bands, including Lennie Hayton, Red Nichols and Mickey Alpert, before joining Sammy Kaye, mainly as a guitar player, in 1942. He stayed with Kaye until 1950, with a break for military service, and sang on several of the band’s hits, including ‘I Left My Heart At The Stage Door Canteen’, ‘Tell Me A Story’ and ‘It Isn’t Fair’ (a million-seller), all for RCA - Victor Records. His first solo success, ‘I Need You So’, was also on that label, but his move to Coral Records in 1951 produced several winners including ‘I’ll Walk Alone’, ‘I’ (the shortest song title ever charted), ‘Heart Of My Heart’, accompanied by Alan Dale and ex-Glenn Miller vocalist Johnny Desmond, and two more gold discs with ‘I’m Yours’ and the US number 2 hit ‘Hold My Hand’. The latter song was featured in the 1954 movie Susan Slept Here, starring Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds, and was nominated for an Academy Award, only to be beaten by ‘Three Coins In The Fountain’.

Later in the 50s Cornell had several US Top 30 entries including ‘Most Of All’/‘The Door Is Still Open To My Heart’, ‘The Bible Tells Me So’, ‘Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing’ and ‘Young Abe Lincoln’. After that the hits dried up, but Cornell’s seemingly effortless high baritone voice remained in demand for club and theatre work. He was inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame in 1993. Cornell continued working up until shortly before his death from emphysema and complications of diabetes in February 2004.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


To place an order or for customer service, call toll-free 1-800-336-4627 or outside the United States, call 1-610-649-7565
Open Monday - Friday: 7am-10pm, Saturday: 9am-9pm, Sunday: 10am-8pm (Eastern Time)