Julius La Rosa (January 2, 1930 – May 12, 2016) was an Italian-American traditional popular music singer, who worked in both radio and television beginning in the 1950s.
Julius La Rosa is one of those singers whose appreciation for a song's lyrics and meaning harks back to the Golden Years of Frank Sinatra. The Brooklyn native got his start as a singer in 1951 under the ravenous wings of Arthur Godfrey. He was stationed at the Navy base in Pensacola, FL, where Godfrey was undergoing training to get his pilot's wings. At the time, La Rosa was singing in the enlisted men's club. Godfrey heard him and invited him to come up after his discharge to appear on his radio and television shows in New York.
Julius La Rosa's tenure on Godfrey's shows lasted from 1951 to 1953. When Archie Bleyer, Arthur Godfrey's bandleader, formed Cadence Records in 1952, the first performer signed was La Rosa. Cadence's first single, which was also La Rosa's first recording, was "Anywhere I Wander." It reached the top 30 on the charts, and his next recording, "My Lady Loves To Dance," was a moderate success, but La Rosa would hit gold with his third recording, "Eh, Cumpari" in 1953.
“Eh Cumpari” hit #1 on the Cash Box chart and #2 on the Billboard chart, and La Rosa got an award as the best new male vocalist of 1953. Like the other "Little Godfreys," as the cast members were known, Godfrey discouraged La Rosa from hiring a manager or booking agent, preferring to have his staff coordinate and negotiate on La Rosa's behalf, but Julius hired his own agent and manager: Tommy Rockwell.
With hit recordings and his appearances on Arthur Godfrey's shows, La Rosa's popularity grew exponentially. At one point, La Rosa's fan mail eclipsed Godfrey's. A year after La Rosa was hired, he was receiving 7,000 fan letters a week. On the morning of October 19, 1953 after La Rosa had finished singing "Manhattan" on Arthur Godfrey Time, Godfrey actually fired him on the air, announcing, "that was Julie's swan song with us." La Rosa tearfully met with Godfrey after the broadcast and thanked him for giving him his "break." La Rosa was then met at Godfrey's offices by his lawyer, manager and some reporters. Tommy Rockwell was highly critical of Godfrey's behaviour, angrily citing La Rosa's public humiliation.
Reporters asked television host Arthur Godfrey why he fired popular singer Julius LaRosa on the air. Godfrey answered that he had to do it because LaRosa had showed “a lack of humility.” Many decided that the notoriously egotistical Godfrey, not LaRosa, was the one who needed a lesson in that virtue.
After leaving Godfrey in 1953, La Rosa learned his job by working shows in clubs and on television. Drawing on his studies in theatre, he worked summer stock, performing in Stalag 17 and Carousel. As a singer, he put together a show called "An Evening with Julius La Rosa," which was not successful, so he hired a manager and started working shows in Las Vegas. That's when he got a call that suddenly changed his life. He was asked to do a radio show as a disk jockey for WNEW in New York in 1969, so for the next eight years, success was his for the taking. When new management arrived at the station, his contract was not renewed, so he went back to singing and summer stock again.
During 1998 and 1999, La Rosa was a disc jockey on 1430 WNSW based in Newark, New Jersey, hosting "Make Believe Ballroom Time". La Rosa, profiled by jazz critic and composer Gene Lees, continued to work clubs and release records until the early 2000s. New York Times film critic Stephen Holden said "His singing is very direct and unpretentious - he can wrap his voice tenaciously around a melody line and bring out the best in it." La Rosa was a frequent contributor to comedian Jerry Lewis' annual Labour Day telethon programs for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, often hosting the New York outpost of the shows.
La Rosa was inducted into the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008. He said, "Music is 'a very egotistical thing.''It makes me feel good 'and fortunately, I have the capacity to make people feel good who hear me feeling good.” He and his wife lived for over 40 years in Irvington, New York, until November 2015 when they moved to Crivitz.
La Rosa died of natural causes on May 12, 2016, at age 86, at his home in Crivitz, Wisconsin.
(Info edited from Wilkipedia & All Music)