Toni Arden (February 15, 1924, Manhattan as Antoinette Ardizzone – May 29, 2012, Lake Worth, Florida) was an American traditional pop music singer.
Vic Damone called her "The greatest girl singer in the world." Frank Sinatra called her "A singer's singer." Often described as "a little girl with a big voice," Toni Arden enjoyed a long and productive career of recording and performing which began when she was a mere 15 years old and has continued into the new millennium.
Toni Arden was born Antoinette Ardizzone, the youngest of three children to Philip and Sabina Ardizzone, of Milano and Palermo, Italy, respectively. Having met in Italy, Philip and Sabina moved to Greenwich Village, New York, where they raised their family. From the beginning, little Antoinette seemed gifted with her father's talent for music and as a youngster, she was tutored extensively by him.
At 15 years old, Antoinette started performing solo in nightclub gigs secured for her by talent agent Lou Perry (who also managed Dean Martin and Alan King). With her mom as chaperone, she worked small clubs for about a year. At one gig at the Woodstock Hotel on 43rd Street in New York, Antoinette was given the stage name she would use for the rest of her career.
Always looking for a next step up the ladder, Toni spotted an ad in the local newspaper: a big band was looking for a girl singer for weekend shows at the Hotel Dixie. From the half-dozen girls that auditioned, Toni was chosen to front Al Trace and His Silly Symphonists. Toni was 16 years old. Toni also sang with the Symphonists on the Armed Forces Radio show One Night Stand in live band remotes from the Plantation Room in the Hotel Dixie, New York City.
Toni left Al Trace the next year to perform at the Roosevelt Grill with pianist band-leader Joe Reichman (nicknamed "The Pagliacci of the Piano"). Tommy Mercer, one of Reichman's vocalists, had heard Toni performing and suggested Reichman give Toni an audition. Toni also worked with Ray Bloch and his band, until Shep Fields, saxophonist and leader of the Rippling Rhythm Orchestra, "stole" her away. Backed by Shep's Orchestra, Toni could again be heard on the One Night Stand radio program, this time broadcast live from the Terrace Room at the Hotel New
On August 27, 1949, Toni debuted nationally on Toast of the Town. That well-received appearance secured her a Columbia Records contract. Making a name for herself, Toni was pleasing live audiences in an eight-week run at the famous Copacabana nightclub in New York, opening for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in 1949 and 1950. At Columbia, Toni worked with famed orchestra leaders Hugo Winterhalter, Xavier Cugat, Percy Faith and Paul Weston. She also recorded alongside Champ Butler, her brother Jan Arden and The Four Lads.
Once at Columbia Records, Toni immediately scored a solid chart hit with "I Can Dream, Can't I," a song made famous by Tommy Dorsey in 1938. Toni's version reached #7 in November 1949, a strong showing for a first release. Other hits included "Too Young" (which reached #15), "Kiss of Fire" (which reached #14) and "I'm Yours" (which reached #24).
In the mid-1950s she moved to Decca Records, where her biggest selling record (her only million-seller) was "Padre" in 1958. LP albums included "Miss Toni Arden," "Besame!", "Sing a Song of Italy" and "Italian Gold." She also recorded briefly for RCA Victor and Mercury Records.
Although some of her recordings were issued in Britain in the 1950s, Toni Arden did not perform here during that period. This was possibly due to the fact that she was a busy night-club act across the USA appearing in such venues as New York’s “La Vie En Rose” and “Copacabana”. She was also a regular guest on many popular television programmes like “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “The Dinah Shore Show”, and “The Bing Crosby Show”. During this time she was seen in a small number of movies.
She slowly eased into more contemporary pop music and some early rock ‘n’ roll in the late 50’s/early 60’s, including a duet with her brother Jan Arden titled “Blow out the candle”. But like most other classic pop singer she was left in the shade during the 1960’s…. But as a night club attraction and supper club headliner she was still much in demand – and always displaying versatility, vivacity and that great voice! Her last album “My World is You” came out 1981 and features songs solely written by Gladys Shelley.
She died at her home in Lake Worth, Florida, on May 29, 2012 at the age of 88.