Guy Lombardo, photographed by William P. Gottlieb, 1947
|Born||Gaetano Alberto Lombardo
June 19, 1902
London, Ontario, Canada
|Died||November 5, 1977 (aged 75)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Forming "The Royal Canadians" in 1924 with his brothers Carmen, Lebert, and Victor and other musicians from his hometown, Lombardo led the group to international success, billing themselves as creating "The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven." The Lombardos are believed to have sold between 100 and 300 million phonograph records during their lifetimes.
Lombardo was born in London, Ontario. His father, Gaetano, was an amateur singer and had four of his five sons learn to play instruments so they could accompany him. Lombardo and his brothers formed their first orchestra while still in grammar school and rehearsed in the back of their father's tailor shop. Lombardo first performed in public with his brother Carmen at a church lawn party in London in 1914. His first recording session took place where trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke made his legendary recordings — in Richmond, Indiana, at the Gennett Studios — both during early 1924.
Lombardo's orchestra played at the "Roosevelt Grill" in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959, and their New Year's Eve broadcasts (which continued with Lombardo until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria) were a major part of New Year's celebrations across North America. Even after Lombardo's death, the band's New Year's specials continued for two more years on CBS.
In 1938, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. The Royal Canadians were noted for playing the traditional song Auld Lang Syne as part of the celebrations. Their recording of the song still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.
In November, 1977 Lombardo suffered a massive coronary and passed away. Victor took over the band briefly but couldn't maintain it. When Lebert severed his ties in 1979 the group finally dissolved. The orchestra was later revived in 1989 by Al Pierson, playing a mix of nostalgic tunes and modern arrangements.
Lombardo was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
Lombardo was also an important figure in hydroplane racing, winning the Gold Cup in 1946 and the Ford Memorial competition in 1948. A museum that was previously in London, Ontario was dedicated to his musical and hydroplane racing achievements. In 2002 he was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.
In his later years, Lombardo lived in Freeport, Long Island, New York, where he kept his boat, Tempo VI. He also invested in a nearby seafood restaurant (or clam shack) originally called "Liota's East Point House." It was soon "Guy Lombardo's East Point House." Lombardo later became promoter and musical director of Jones Beach Marine Theater, which is a still-popular concert venue south of Freeport - the venue was built specifically with him in mind by Robert Moses, who regarded himself as one of Lombardo's fans. Lombardo's final production at Jones Beach was the 1977 staging of Finian's Rainbow, with Christopher Hewett in the title role.
The Guy Lombardo Society is a society dedicated to preserving the music and history of Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians.
There is a bridge named after Lombardo in London, Ontario near Wonderland Gardens, as well as Lombardo Avenue in north London near the University of Western Ontario.
The birth home of Guy Lombardo is still standing in London, Ontario, at 202 Simcoe Street. A plaque to the Lombardos has been moved from the exterior wall of the Labatt Retail Store at Richmond and Horton streets in London to the store's entranceway off the parking lot, denoting the site of a subsequent home of the Lombardos.
In his later home of Freeport, New York there is a major street named for him – Guy Lombardo Avenue.
From the mid-'80s until 2007, there was a museum in dedication to Guy Lombardo in London, Ontario, near the intersection of Wonderland Road and Springbank Drive. In September 2007, due to the lack of museum visitors and funding, the museum was closed. Although the city acquired some of the exhibits, most of the collection is being stored at the home of former curator Douglas Flood. City staff have recommended that the museum not be reopened.