Tony finds a muse in Houston and marries her. He was 38 and Annie, from Alabama was 18. This was a second marriage for both of them, however, it only lasted about 3 years. His lifestyle, narcissistic personality, and possibly the age difference played a part.
Now, back to his first love, music….
Earl Dantin, sax player and his brother Lloyd founded The Esquires, a New Orleans band. They played many clubs including the Prevue Lounge, The Monteleone Hotel, Court of Two Sisters, among others. They played with Louis Prima, Huey Long, and Bing Crosby, and performed on radio stations: WDSU & WWL. Tony Camarata wasn’t a full-time member but a sideman who traveled the Gulf Coast circuit in the 50’s.
The Esquires: L.R. Unk. on maracas, Lloyd Dantin on bass, Earl Dantin on sax, Unk. on guitar, Tony Camarata on accordion. Photo courtesy of Cennamo Woodwinds.
On the way to a Houston gig in August 1955, Tony Camarata survived a horrible bus accident where the bus flips, skids, and lands upside-down in a front yard. He spent 6 weeks in traction at La Marque Hospital, Galveston, TX, with a fractured vertebra. After his release, Tony was unable to return to work as an accordionist and music teacher, also because his $1700 custom-built accordion was destroyed in the accident. Due to some bizarre behavior and subsequent pain, he was admitted to John Sealy Hospital – chief complaint: disturbances in walking and speaking, as well as debilitating physical pain from the accident. He was evaluated physically and mentally – Sealy Diagnosis: acute brain syndrome due to bromide intoxication and abnormal function of the liver. His health was never great having both liver cirrhosis and diabetes. He had been taking various sedatives, including bromides, but also his alcohol consumption from previous years no doubt caught up to him. The psychological report (Jan. 20, 1956) basically notes that although he is “fairly rational, he is narcissistic, extremely preoccupied with his body and its functions (hypochondriac) and has a grandiose self image.” As far as family, referring to his 3 daughters, “noncontributory.” He was quite “happy with his profession and that he has his music” when asked about recreation. One of the strangest complaints mentioned, “tones on his musical instrument gives weird sensations throughout his body especially F sharp and A flat.” Overall prognosis given by the evaluating doctor when finally released: Good.
Perhaps having residual pain from the accident and having few gigs, he attempted songwriting but went back to the stage eventually. As of yet, no songs have been found but a few recordings are in the author’s archive but need to be sourced before shared on the blog.
A SELECTION OF 1950’s GULF COAST GIGS:
~Minor Quartette, Penguin Supper Club, Alexandria, LA
~Philip L. Royale, Birmingham, AL
~Organ time Trio, William Reneau, Waco, TX
~Turf Athletic Club (Balinese Room), Galveston, TX – The Turf was headquarters of the Maceo syndicate and the Fertitta family
~Tony Martin Music Agency (jobbing band), Houston, TX
~James V. Mongiardo, South Houston, TX
~Raymond Russo Orchestra, Houston, TX
~Albert Pliner Entertainment Service, Houston, TX
~Bobby Tinterow Enterprises, Shamrock Hotel, Houston, TX
~Glen Boyd Orchestra, Bellaire, TX
~Larry Lambert Orchestra – Houston, TX
~Maxims, Houston, TX
~Earl Dantin Orchestra, Old Dutch Inn – 1954
~Cheds Lounge Kenner, LA
~The Esquire Orchestra, Earl Dantin – New Orleans, LA
~Officers Club, Earl Dantin, Pensacola, FL
~Jack Tar Charcoal Lounge in Galveston, TX
~Lees Lounge, Houston, TX
~Albino Torres Orchestra, Houston, TX
~Bob Smith Orchestra, Houston, TX
~Nevelow Music Box, Galveston, TX
~Balinese Room – Victor & Anthony Fertitta Galveston, TX
~Richard Bovio Orchestra, Jack Tar Hotel – Charcoal Galley, Galveston, TX
~Henry Frank Hlavaty, Houston, TX
~Jesse L. Webb Musical Services, Houston, TX
~Dorothy Dragoo Davis, Houston, TX
~Larry Lambert Orchestra, Houston, TX
~Bob Wiley and his Orchestra, Biloxi, MS
Jobs were drying up for him on the Gulf Coast around 1960, so he headed back to his hometown, Chicago. There he met his next muse, Lela Roxy Fox, and yes, that’s her real name. She was a waitress at the Corner House who was 16 or so years his senior and also related to the family through marriage of his maternal Aunt who he later ended up living with due to his declining health.
After a long illness, Tony Camarata passed away on April 9, 1963, just a few days before his 48th birthday. Medical cause of death: acute coronary occlusion with generalized atherosclerosis adding the condition, diabetes mellitus. His loving Aunt whom he lived with at the time said he died from a broken heart, a syndrome which is thought to be real.
Tony Camarata (1915-1963) was interred in a family plot with his parents, Antonio and Pauline Camarata and maternal grandmother, Rose Massoth, at St. Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois.
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