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Up date: January 10, 2012
September 28, 2008 Dino Natali phoned me from San Francisco. He is taking care of his aging Mother. We intend to get together to talk about those days and to hear his stories with the guys. It will be part of book I am writing about the Vagabonds. I have also been in touch with Roger Pearsall, who was the drummer for the boys on the Lucy Show.
I am looking for more friends that have stories about the boys. If you know of anyone, or if you have any stories, please contact me.
Larry Meeks, who wrote notes (see below for his notes) for the back cover of their album for Unique Records, sums it all up when he said they were unique. I met Al Torreri on Biscayne Bay. I was on the Miami Harbor Patrol and attending the University of Miami at the time. Al used to pass us in his Chris Craft speed boat when we were patrolling the bay. We started chatting and one time he had a problem with his speed boat and I fixed it for him. Then we started fishing in the bay in his speedboat.
One time he invited me to the Vagabond Club and introduced me to the rest of the group. The Vagabond Club was an elegant place, on the order of the Chez Paree in Chicago (The Vagabonds were Popular at the "Chez"). I started hanging out at the club.
I left the Harbor patrol and ran a forty foot yawl for a guy in advertising. I sailed up and down the coast off of Miami Beach with signs painted on the sails, advertising Coppertone. Time passed and I owned a 39 foot ketch called the "Antares." At one time I advertised Lord Flea at the Vagabond Club.
The Antares was docked in the City Yacht Basin, which was near the Vagabond Club. Al Torrieri kept his speedboat up the Miami River. We did a lot of fishing in the bay, so often he tied his speed boat alongside of the ketch so that he could get to the club and save the trip up the Miami River. When they went on the road to Las Vegas or Reno, he left his boat with me while he was gone.
The club had a lounge with a trio playing and after show time in the main room everyone gathered there and people would get up and perform. Lord Buckley was one of them. Frank Linale, their manager and band leader took me in hand, and soon I was assisting him, I became a stage hand. As well as doing their show, they brought in other acts who worked the circuit and appeared on television. The Vagabonds had many friends in show business. The last performer to play the club (1954) was their good friend, Tony Bennet. Tony sold out every show. This was the first of many times that I met Tony Bennet.
Attilio Risso, Dom Germano, Al Torrieri and Pete Peterson were the four zany guys. I have many stories about them that I am putting into my book.
Al - Tilio - Pete - Dom
Frank built the first stereophonic recording studio in Miami. He started Viva Records and recorded Jimmie Hines. He set up a recording facility in the club and recorded all of the acts that played the club. He had some great tapes of people like Eddie Peabody, Lord Buckley, Frankie Fontane, The Novelites (Art Terry, Frankie Carr & Joe Meyer) and The Dunhills (Art Stanley, Bob Roberts & Lou Spencer) to name a few of the many acts that came through. Tony Bennet was the last act to play The Vagabond Club in the fifties. Then they closed the club. I have a lot of great memories from those days.
Actually, it was Frank who took me to the Vagabond Club the first time. His wife, his son and I went for the dinner show. This was after I returned from New York. It was later that I really got to know Al Torrieri while he was running his speed boat. That was when I had the "Antares" a 39 foot ketch. I started helping Frank with stage setups and with his recording booth back stage. Later I helped him set up the first sterophonic recording studio in Miami.
The Last show before the club closed it doors featured Tony Bennet. That was the first time I met Tony Bennet. He was great. I was helping Frank set up the stage and get the sound right for Tony, so I was able to talk with him and spend time with him while he was there. Tony and the Vagabonds had been friends for a long time.
Found this on a site called Soul Detective - Check it out, it is a great site.
Pete Peterson passed away and was replaced by Eddie Peddy. They continued performing with first, Eddie Peddy, then Dino Natali. The next to go was Attilio Rizzo, a wonderful, crazy guy. When Al retired, Dom picked up some guys and continued touring. One cold winter night in New York, I was on the Blvd of the Stars near 49th street when I bumped into Dom and his group returning to their hotel. We stopped and gabbed for a few minutes before we split. That was 1968. Al Torrieri passed on in 1981. The last of the original four Vagabonds was Dominic Germano, who passed away in 1996.
In 1961 I was living in San Francisco with my wife, Paula. Al invited us up to Sonoma to attend a wedding. Sonoma is wine country and Al had a large ranch in the mountains near Kenwood. His ranch was full of vineyards. I will post photos when I get the chance. I will also post stories about those times. I moved onto the ranch and enjoyed pruning, harvesting and making wine.
Two months before Al Torrieri passed on, we went to Gardnerville, Nevada to visit Dom. They talked for hours about the past and their plans for the future. They talked about, Tony Bennet, a close friend for many years. I felt like I was at a movie seeing the final goodbyes of two old friends who had traveled an exciting, active life. it turned out it was their last meeting. The last time I saw Dom was at Al's memorial service. Harry Guardino, Peg and Jack Shatz, Donjo Medlevine and many other friends were there.
The photo on the left was taken at either the Ed Sullivan Show or the Tony Bennet Show. They performed it on both shows. They are in their bare feet, stomping grapes. Al had a vineyard and I helped make wine on the ranch. It won tasting prizes everywhere it was entered. Thus, the Grape Stomping Scene.
I am compiling all of the stories I can remember about the vagabonds for a book. If you knew The Vagabonds and have information or stories (They did some wild things.) that you would like to share, please contact me. Below is an editorial written on the back of their album, by Larry Meeks:
Written by Larry Meeks:
"Americas Daffiest Laughiest Swing Quartet" may be their billing, but even Mr. Webster failed to come up with the proper adjectives that would best describe the one and only VAGABONDS! However, reviewers coast to coast write their rave reviews in complete accord when the report that this zany foursome is something "unique"..., (and no pun intended!) what more appropriate label for their first album? (Unique Records in New York recorded the The Vagabonds)
Having appeared in practically every major night club and theatre in the country, and always to houses packed to the rafters, The Vagabonds have earned this "something unique in show business" reputation principally because of their ability to merely stand there, with deadpan expressions, and throw the audience into uproarious laughter! The musical-maniacs comprising the quartet are Attilio Risso, the expressionless accordionist: the comedy-guitarist, Dom Germano and Al Torrieri; and Pete Peterson, combination buffoon and bass player. All native Californians, the team has been tickling funny-bones since 1941 with their antics on the Bob Hope Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Abbott & Costello Show and in many top movies including: Spirit of Stanford, She Has What It Takes, Swing Out The Blues. It Ain't Hay, and People are Funny. A rarity pointed out in one of their always-terrific notices.... "they can punch out the same old numbers for seasons and still kill the people!"
After three years in the service, spending most of their time overseas entertaining wounded personnel, The Vagabonds resumed their busy professional life, and with regular appearances on The Arthur Godfrey Show, the daffy double-duo was soon giving giggles to TV-Radio audiences across the nation... and practically overnight they became on of Americas favorites!
It becomes increasingly evident each season that The Vagabonds are and institution in Miami, Fabulous vacation playground where the boys own their own plush, intimate nitery whose walls are covered with nine foot caricatures of the foursome. It was right here in The Vagabond Club that they were discovered by a talent scout during one of their laugh-a-second performances and were signed to a long-term movie contract. An ironic twist to their fabulous career is the fact that they cannot read a note of music, yet, they play everything from swing to sweet....and always in rare form!
In presenting The Vagabonds in their first album, Unique Records again follows its trend in producing recorded packages that can easily be classified as collectors' items. Included in this album are the numbers well established and made famous by the four funnymen ... such routines as their hilarious "SALT" the mere mention of which brings back to the audience memories of past performances with every word, every musical note, every gesture spurring riotous laughter. .."QUEEN'S HULA,' done with rolled-up trousers, blue serge grass skirt - another of their side-splitters ...then a complete about-face and the boys have their nostalgic side rendering "I WONDER" and their ever-so-gentle treatment of "WRONG."
Here, on record, is a seat, front-row-center for a delightful half hour of music and chuckles .... a pleasure-packed performance by the four tune-happy VAGABONDS. Notes by Larry Meeks
The Vagaonds in their dressing room
somewhere in Cincinnati, OH, at the Beverly Hills Country Club during the
1950s. Submitted by Allen Singer. I spoke to Dino Natali who was the third bass
player with the group. He told me the third one was Lenny Leavett and the guy on
the right was Babe Pier. Funny thing is that about three years ago I spoke with
Babe when he was playing the Palm Springs Follies. I knew I knew him, but
couldn't place him. He looks different now. As a matter of fact, I have a photo
of him on the Vagabond site.