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1971: Lombardo’s trademark sound of New Year’s Eve

The Story

New Year's Eve will never sound the same again. In 1929, London, Ontario-born Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians begin a New Year's tradition when they choose to play Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight during their first New Year's Eve Party at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York. In this CBC Radio interview, Lombardo talks about his boyhood in London, Ont., and developing the arrangement behind the music.

Medium: Radio
Program: The Scene
Broadcast Date: Jan. 1, 1972
Guest: Guy Lombardo
Host: Harry Brown, Pat Patterson
Duration: 3:37
Photo: CBC Still Photo Collection

Did You know?

• Born in 1902 in London, Ontario, Gaetano Alberto Lombardo Jr.'s musical ambitions began early when his father, a tailor, put a violin in his hands. While in school, Guy started his first band with brothers Lebert, Carmen and Victor and the group soon developed a following, playing at church and other socials around their hometown. Eventually trading in his violin for a conductor's baton, by age 21 Lombardo had become the most successful orchestra leader in the city.

• In 1923, with the call of fame beckoning, the band--now numbering ten--left London to break into the United States via Cleveland, Ohio. It was there that, heeding their agent's suggestion, the Lombardo Brothers Orchestra became the Royal Canadians.

• Guy Lombardo never did forget his roots. In 1937, after a great flood inundated parts of London, Lombardo cancelled a performance in Detroit to return home and play a benefit concert for the victims.

• Auld Lang Syne was the Royal Canadians' theme song before 1929, but 1929 was the first time they played it at the stroke of midnight.

• After 33 years the Lombardo New Year's Eve Party switched from the Roosevelt Grill to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, becoming the longest running annual special program in radio history.

• At one point or another, the Royal Canadians included four Lombardo brothers and one sister.

• Once Guy Lombardo even rang in the New Year juggling between two live radio broadcasts. At the stroke of midnight he switched between CBS and NBC.

• By the 1930s Guy Lombardo and his "Royal Canadians" dance band had achieved worldwide recognition for their rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Although he was from Canada, Lombardo's music became part of America's legacy.

• The band had sold over 100 million records by 1954 and played at the inaugural balls of every U.S. president from Roosevelt to Eisenhower and again in 1985 for Ronald Reagan.
• The Royal Canadians were known for playing "the sweetest music this side of Heaven", a description coined by Ashton Stevens of the Chicago Tribune in 1928.
• In addition to his music, Lombardo was an avid speedboat racer and won a number of national championships.

• The Royal Canadians sold over 500 hit songs, more than any other musical organization. By the early 1970s total sales exceeded 300 million, confirming the status of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians as the most popular dance band of its day.

• The Lombardo Orchestra has performed for more than 1.5 billion TV viewers since they first telecast their New Year's Eve Party in 1954.

• Guy Lombardo died in November 1977 while playing an engagement in Houston, Texas and was buried in Suffolk County, New York. The baton was briefly passed on to Victor Lombardo but upon brother Lebert's retirement in 1979, the group was disbanded -- though not for long. The Lombardo estate reorganized the band in 1989 and, to this day, it continues to entertain under the direction of pianist and arranger Al Pierson.



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