GUY MITCHELL BIOGRAPHY

Obituaries


 
American singer/actor GUY MITCHELL died on 1st July, 1999 at the Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA after complications following surgery. He was 72.

GUY MITCHELL was born in Detroit on 22nd February, 1927. As Al Cernick, the son of immigrants from Yugoslavia, it soon became apparent that here was a young man with a talent for singing. At the age of 11 he was signed by Warner Brothers Pictures for grooming as a child star and regularly sang on Radio Station KFWB in Los Angeles. On leaving school he worked as a saddle maker, supplementing his income by singing wherever he could. It was at this time that Guy came to the notice of Dude Martin who signed him to sing with his Country Band on their regular radio broadcasts in San Francisco. After service in the U.S. Navy, Guy auditioned for, and was offered, the position of vocalist with the Carmen Cavallaro Orchestra. In 1947, Guy made his first recordings, using his real name, Al Cernick, with Carmen Cavallaro at Decca's Recording Studios, Los Angeles. Guy often recalled how nervous he became when he realised that his first efforts were being watched by the Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby. Sadly, illness forced Guy to leave Carmen Cavallaro and he decided to try his luck in New York.

Over the next two years he made a number of excellent records for the King label under the name of Al Grant, and was a winner on the popular Arthur Godfrey Talent Show. He managed to make a sparse living making demonstration discs for songwriters and music publishers. Guy often stated that he didn't miss many meals but he postponed quite a few!

1950 was a major turning point for Guy when one of his demonstration discs came to the attention of Mitch Miller, head of artistes and repertoire at Columbia Records. Mitch liked Guy's singing but thought that Al Cernick wasn't a suitable name for a potential hit recording artist. Mitch said "my name is Mitchell and you seem a nice guy, so we'll call you Guy Mitchell ". Guy's first five records for Columbia didn't create too much interest, but his sixth was to cause a sensation. Mitch Miller had secured two songs for Frank Sinatra to record but, with studio and orchestra ready, Frank decided that the songs were not for him. The songs were offered to Guy and "My Heart Cries For You"and "The Roving Kind" were recorded, resulting in two million sellers on one disc! Thus started a string of hits that was to span the entire 1950's - catchy songs like "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania", "Sparrow In The Treetop", "My Truly, Truly Fair", "Belle, Belle, My Liberty Belle", "She Wears Red Feathers", "Look At That Girl" and many more with the distinctive French horns of the Mitch Miller Orchestra. Guy recorded with many fine orchestras including those of Percy Faith and Glenn Osser, but it was with Ray Conniff that he scored his biggest success, "Singing The Blues". Recorded in 1956, it has sold more than ten million copies world wide and topped the American charts for no less than ten weeks. More hits followed - "Knee Deep In The Blues", "Rock-A-Billy", and launching into a new decade, another million seller with "Heartaches By The Number" in 1960. The 1950's belonged to Guy Mitchell. He recorded duets with Rosemary Clooney, Mindy Carson, and Doris Day. Thirty five of his recordings achieved hit parade status, five of them reaching the No. 1 spot in Britain. He had six, million selling discs and, by the end of the 1950's, total record sales had exceeded forty four million.

He starred in a couple of movies - "Those Redheads From Seattle" with Teresa Brewer in 1953 and "Red Garters" with Rosemary Clooney in 1954. Besides his own "Guy Mitchell Show"on U.S. Television he starred in numerous TV Specials in the U.S.A. and here in Britain. Together with Gracie Fields, he starred in the first "Sunday Night At The London Palladium" on Britain's ITV network. On his first visit to Britain, in 1952, he appeared for two weeks at the London Palladium selling every ticket within 24 hours - a box office record that still stands today. One of the highlights of Guy's career was in 1954 when he was honoured to appear in the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium before Her Majesty, The Queen and Prince Philip.

The 1960's saw a slowing of pace with Guy concentrating on acting rather than singing, although he did score some minor successes, most notably with two excellent 'country' albums "Travelling Shoes" and "Singin' Up A Storm" for the Starday label. He appeared in the NBC western television series"Whispering Smith" in which he starred with his friend Audie Murphy and he even made another movie,"The Wild Westerners".

Life had not always been easy for Guy and he had more than his share of personal problems. Two divorces, illness and injuries all took their toll and there were times when, (to quote Guy) "I've been so low that even the bottom looks like up!". By the mid 1970's Guy had decided to go into semi-retirement and concentrate on ranching. Guy had always loved the 'great outdoors' - as a young man he used to ride in rodeos - and his interest in and knowledge of horses was second to none.

At the start of the 1980's Guy appeared on a 3 hour U.S.A. television tribute to Mitch Miller. At the end of Guy's 15 minute spot the audience made it clear that he was far from being a forgotten man. As a result Guy was tempted back into the recording studios and, in 1982, an album of many of Guy's hits, newly recorded in stereo, reached No. 2 in the Dutch hit parade. This only emphasised the fact that Guy Mitchell records had never stopped selling. When persuaded to play a 'comeback tour' of Britain in 1984, even the most enthusiastic fan was staggered by the response. A capacity audience of 2000 at London's Barbican Centre gave Guy a standing ovation through three encores - scenes that were to be repeated as the tour progressed around the Country.

Such was the success that Guy returned to Britain for concerts every year throughout the 1980's and on to the mid 1990's. In 1987, to celebrate 40 years as a recording artist, his tour included a triumphant return to the London Palladium. In 1988, in addition to concerts in the U.K. and a B.B.C. radio broadcast from the London Palladium, Guy gave four sell out concerts in Dublin which were so successful that he was immediately re-booked for a further five concerts later in the year. His U.S.A. appearances included a concert in Chicago to celebrate '100 Years of the Juke Box' and a nationwide appearance on the 'Nashville Now" TV Show. Guy's 1989 tour included 17 U.K. concerts with the "String of Pearls" big band and a further five concerts in Dublin.

1990 saw Guy filming in Scotland for BBC Television. A six one hour series called "YOUR CHEATIN' HEART' gave Guy a cameo roll as Jim Bob O'May with his band 'The Wild Bunch'. Guy sang seven songs in the series which were released on BBC Records. The same year saw Guy appearing in country music concerts including headlining at the Morecambe International Country Music Festival. On New Years Eve, Guy appeared in a three hour television spectacular for ITV live from the London Palladium.

1991 saw Guy return to Australia for a most successful concert tour, radio and TV. However, Guy was involved in a serious horse riding accident that left him with fractured ribs and severe internal injuries. A period in intensive care was followed by a lengthy stay in a Sydney hospital before he was fit enough to travel home to Las Vegas. A planned UK tour had to be cancelled.

Over the following years Guy made further concert tours of both the U.K. and Australia, concerts in Florida, Chicago and at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, at the Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque, the Hacienda Hotel on the 'Strip' in Las Vegas, the Flamingo Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada, and a major tour in California with the Guy Lombardo Orchestra.

Guy was in regular demand for charity concert appearances and in the 1990's these included the Desert Charities All Star Concert in Palm Springs with Bob Hope, Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Kay Starr. Another at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, saw Guy sharing the bill with Placido Domingo, Mickey Rooney and Buddy Greco.

Throughout the 1980's and 1990's there was a steady flow of re-releases of many of Guy's earlier recordings plus a series of new records from both the U.S.A. and the U.K.

Wherever Guy appeared he had the support of an active "Guy Mitchell Appreciation Society". Since its formation in 1983 it expanded rapidly and now has a worldwide membership. The Society quarterly magazine "MITCHELL MUSIC" will continue to keep members informed about the historic career of Guy Mitchell. The success of the Society underlines the interest in one of the most popular international singing stars ever to appear in Britain.

Biography by Les Peckham - Publicity Secretary
Main Picture by Barbara Peckham - Magazine Editor
The Guy Mitchell Appreciation Society


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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