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The Ames Brothers History

The Ames Brothers

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Sons of Russian Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine, the Ames Brothers were among the top selling artists of the early 1950s. Their close-harmony style had few equals, producing a chain of Top Ten hits throughout the decade. Born into a large family (five brothers and four sisters in all), the siblings were taught a love for music at an early age. Though they won several amateur singing contests during their youth they didn't turn professional until after they had finished school. All four were good students and athletes and initially chose to pursue careers other than pop stardom. Gene became a painter and a semi-pro baseball player. Vic was an actor and professional boxer. Eddie became a table tennis champ. And Joe won a full engineering scholarship to UCLA. He left after only a year, however, transferring back home to Boston College to study music. His studies eventually earned him a starring role in the Montreal Metropolitan Opera.

Avid sports fans, Eddie, Gene, and Victor, along with their cousin, Lennie, would often hang around the baseball park, where they were sometimes asked to sing. That exposure helped them land their first audition. The group, then known as the Amory Brothers, after Vic's middle name, began playing Army and Navy bases and were offered a job at the Fox's and Hound's nightclub, one of the fanciest spots in Boston. Joe eventually decided to rejoin them and the four brothers moved to New York, where they landed a job with bandleader Art Mooney. Their big break came when, while trying out a new number at Leeds Publishing one day, they were heard by an executive from Decca Records, who asked them record a few sides, which they did.

The recording ban of 1948 sidetracked their career briefly, but when the ban was finally lifted the following year they signed with Coral Records, becoming the first artist to record for that label. Their name was also shortened, to the Ames Brothers. In 1949 they scored a hit, ''Forever and Ever,'' with Russ Morgan's orchestra, and in 1950 they had their first number one, a double-sider, ''Rag Mop/Sentimental Me.'' The brothers went on to chart several more hits during the early part of the decade and ended up with a regular spot on Arthur Godfrey's television show. They also became one of the first acts to appear on Ed Sullivan's original television program, Toast of the Town. In 1956 they landed their own fifteen-minute television program, The Ames Brothers Show. It was the first television show to be shown in syndication. The brothers also worked with such bandleaders as Les Brown, Hugo Winterhalter and Esquivel.

Rock and Roll took its toll on the brother's popularity during the late 1950s. They began to chart less and less. Ed left the group in 1961 to pursue a successful acting and, later, solo singing career. The remaining brothers kept the group going and honored contracts until finally disbanding in 1964. Gene opened his own art gallery in New Jersey. Joe moved to Germany to teach music. And Vic had his own TV talk show in Arkansas for a while, later moving to Nashville to become an agent for country music stars and then vice president in charge of marketing for a tailoring company. He lost his life in January 1978 when his car skidded on ice and hit a light pole.

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Media Articles
Obituary, New York Times, Joe Ames, the Eldest Member of the 1950s Singing Group the Ames Brothers, Dies at 86