Johnny Desmond Biography

Giovanni Alfredo de Simone, 14 November 1920, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 6 September 1985, Los Angeles, California, USA. Shortly before he took off on his fatal final flight, Glenn Miller told Desmond: ‘I have great plans for you when this war is over. You’re going to be a great success’. Then Miller disappeared forever - but his prophecy was fulfilled. A performer on local radio during his childhood days, Desmond’s voice changed from tenor to baritone when he was 15 years old. He temporarily gave up his showbusiness career and settled for the security of a job in his father’s grocery store. After attending Detroit Conservatory of Music, he began appearing at local clubs both singing and playing piano before forming the Downbeats, a vocal group who were signed by Bob Crosby in 1940 and appeared with the Crosby band as the Bob-O-Links.

In common with many other Crosby vocalists they stayed only a short time with the band, and by 1941 Desmond had moved on to replace Howard Dulaney as solo singer with the Gene Krupa Orchestra. After a brief stay with Krupa he enlisted in the US Air Force soon after the outbreak of war. By 1943 he had joined Major Glenn Miller’s Allied Expeditionary Forces Band and travelled to Europe, obtaining his own BBC radio show A Soldier And A Song. The possessor of a smooth, Frank Sinatra -influenced singing style, Desmond became a popular solo performer after the war, with a long stay on the Breakfast Club show. He recorded a hit record, ‘C’est Si Bon’, for MGM Records, before switching to Coral Records and enjoyed further chart success with ‘The High And The Mighty’, ‘Play Me No Hearts And Flowers’, ‘The Yellow Rose Of Texas’, ‘Sixteen Tons’ and ‘A White Sport Coat (And A Pick Carnation)’. During 1958 Desmond appeared in the Broadway show Say Darling, and later succeeded Sydney Chaplin as Nicky Arnstein in the stage version of Funny Girl. He continued to be popular on television and in nightclubs throughout the 60s and 70s, and was working in New York a few months before his death in September 1985.

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

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