Cohorts, Companions and Competitors

A cohort is a group of subjects who share a defining characteristic – in this case, performing and playing music. Tony had an association with many musicians over the years and most likely competed for jobs in bands or orchestras with other accordion players. The small-scale 400 page book below is a membership list of the The Chicago Federation of Musicians, a goldmine of information published in 1942. Tony and his cousin by the same name were long-standing members up until their untimely deaths in 1963 and 1964. The book describes union members, instruments played, names of arrangers, bands and orchestras. The accordion section has over 600 accordionist members alone!

Chicago Federation of Musicians Membership List, June 1st, 1942. Union Local No. 10. Book courtesy of author.

CFM Members, Anthony Camarata Jr (Tony) and his cousin, Anthony Camarata, both accordionists on page 236. Book courtesy of author.

Art Van Damme, Andy Arcari, Robert Davine, Jimmy Blade, Bobby Tinterow, Horace Heidt, Don Orlando, Bob Smith, Art Cavalieri were some of the men he either knew personally, worked with or were inspired by. Many other musicians are noted on an earlier post.

Art Van Damme

Art Van Damme, theatrical photo by Maurice Seymour, Chicago, courtesy of the author.

Several years ago, I wrote to jazz accordionist Art Van Damme (1920-2010) to see if he knew Tony since the photo was dedicated to him. Here is his response to me:

Art Van Damme Letter

Letter from Art Van Damme to author, January 10, 1997.

Tony had a long history with Jimmy Blade, pianist, arranger and band leader. In addition to their professional relationship, they were also friends. Jimmy and wife, Jean were witnesses for Tony and Lucille’s wedding in 1941. The marriage took place at the Courthouse in Colorado Springs instead of their home town, Chicago. Jimmy’s orchestra had a four-week engagement at the swank Broadmoor Hotel resort that year and again in 1942. I was fortunate to meet his daughters in Illinois a few years back to who furnished me with a wealth of stories, news clippings, and photos, some that are posted here.

Tony played with Jimmy Blade

Jimmy Blade (1907-1974), Pianist, Arranger, Band Leader. Press photo by Maurice Seymour, Chicago, courtesy of P. Blade Cella.

Jimmy Blade, pianist and band leader

Jimmy Blade relaxing while reading sheet music, “Happy in Love” composed by Same E. Fain, Published by Leo Feist Inc. 1941. Photo courtesy of P.Blade Cella.

Jimmy Blade reading “Happy in Love” sheet music and as an arranger, probably making some notes for an upcoming gig. Jimmy’s career included recording and live radio in Chicago, and later had his own show with NBC.

Jimmy Blade’s Musical Synopsis – National Broadcasting Company. Courtesy of P. Blade Cella.

Sheet Music featuring Jimmy Blade and his Orchestra. Courtesy of P. Blade Cella.

Jimmy Blade news clip, courtesy of P. Blade Cella.

Jimmy Blade had a long run at the Camellia House from 1951 to 1967, playing with various musicians over the years; Nicholas Busta – clarinet, flute, tenor saxophone, Richard Caldwell – accordion, Ray Lube – bass, Earl Schwaller – violin, who was also a sideman with Wayne King, to name a few. After Jimmy retired, Bill Snyder took the helm until 1970.

Jimmy Blade news clip, courtesy of P. Blade Cella.

Jimmy Blade news clip, courtesy of P. Blade Cella.

Jimmy Blade featured in Orchestra World magazine. Article courtesy of P. Blade Cella.


Angelo Gigante, guitarist played with Antonio and Pauline Cammarata as the third member of the Spanish Trio. Photo courtesy of Gina Gigante.

In Tony’s archives, a vintage press photo of Robert Davine, accordionist and professor of music at the University of Denver, was found. According to many Robert Davine was a true virtuoso of the concert accordion.”  I believe he was an inspiration to Tony on some level, even if they never met, or he wouldn’t have had this photograph.

Robert Davine, Accordionist (1924-2001). Theatrical photo by Excelsior, courtesy of the author.

Another vintage photo from Tony’s collection was of accordionist, Angelo “Andy” Acari, originally from San Biagio, Italy. He made a name for himself in America as soloist in theaters, nightclubs, concerts, radio and television broadcasts including NBC.

Photo from Tony M. Camarata's archive

Andy Arcari (1907-1994) Theatrical photo by Excelsior, courtesy of the author.

The Excelsior brochure was also in Tony’s archive; he may have been considering this brand of accordion, the same one that Andy played. It was common to have more than one instrument in a musician’s possession. I am lucky to have one of my father’s Reno brand accordions, not as attractive as the earlier ornate instruments that got lost or sold over the years. They were quite decorative and at one point it was fashionable to have your name on your instrument. There’s a family story that the reason the name Cammarata was altered by removing one “m” was that it was too long to fit on the one of the smaller accordions, however, most family members kept the original surname with both letters.

Accordion Excelsiola Brochure of Tony C 1955

Accordion Excelsiola 1955 Brochure from Tony’s archives, courtesy of author.

Competitors, Cohorts or Companions?

Advertisement, “Excelsior Album of Stars for 1950”

Tony Camarata Don Orando Lyle's Monte Carlo news clip crop 1947 Jan. 2.doc

Tony Camarata  as strolling troubadour at same club as Don Orlando and his Trio  in 1947.

Don Orlando, accordionist and band leader, also performed live on radio for WBBM in Chicago as well as recorded music for various record label, many that can be found online.

Tony played with Don Orlando

Don Orlando, Accordionist

Don Orlando & his Symphony Five 78 Record featuring vocals by Sam Bari, baritone.

Don Orlando and His Symphony Five. Features Sam Bari and Danny Parker. Courtesy of The Billboard Magazine, Jan. 24, 1948.

Art Cavalieri, bass player was also part of the trio “Men of Rhythm” with Tony Camarata and Sam Bari. These guys changed band names or went solo depending on available opportunities at the time. Art’s advertisement says it all, “Duo,Trio, Quartet to augment any size desirable.”

Art Cavalieri. Promotional advertisement, courtesy of T. Cavalieri.

The Velvetones, unknown violinist, Al Rhomba, accordion, Art Cavalieri on bass. Photo courtesy of T. Cavalieri.

Jobs may have been plenty in the 40s and 50s, however, the market was saturated with musicians and entertainers all vying for the same jobs and many at the same professional level. Probably a lot depended who you knew, and where you hung out — a big plus if you had a good agent. By the time rock and roll appeared in the 50s, the accordion wasn’t relevant anymore so Tony’s job prospects pretty much dried up by the early 60s. About the same time, he returned to Chicago due to ill health. In 1963, just days before his 48th birthday, he passed away.



Camarata Mid-Century Muses

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.

Tony Camarata Annie Lois Odaware kiss0001

Wedding Embrace, Jan. 2, 1954 in Houston, TX. Photo courtesy of Jim Massoth


Tony & Annie Wedding Group

Wedding Reception for Tony Camarata and Annie Lois Odaware, Jan. 2, 1954. Photo courtesy of Jim Massoth

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.

Esquires Tony Camarata Earl Dantin

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.

The Old Dutch postcard

Tony played here with the Earl Dantin Orchestra. c.1955

Old Dutch Inn Panama City, Engagement 1955

Tony Camarata played here. Panama City, FL 1955

Anthony Camarata Musician's Union Letter 1955

1955 Letter regarding payment for engagements with Earl Dantin Orchestra. Document courtesy of Florette Camarata.

The Music Box - Galveston, TX

Tony was an accordion instructor with 20 students at the Music Box in 1955. Newsclip courtesy of Eric Nevelow.


Phillip Nevelow, owner of The Music Box, Galveston, TX. Newsclip courtesy of Eric Nevelow.

Tony Camarata, accordion instructor at Nevelow's School of Music.

Tony Camarata, accordion instructor at Nevelow’s Music Box. Newsclip courtesy of The Galveston Daily News, 28 Feb. 1956, pg 5.

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.

Anthony Camarata Indy Songwriters Member Letter 1956

Tony plays around with songwriting. Member Letter 1956. Document courtesy of Florette Camarata.

Anthony Camarata Indy Songwriters Member Certificate

Tony played here

Tony Camarata Gig at Gay 90 Follies, Biloxi, MS. Newsclip courtesy of Jim Massoth, Biloxi Daily Herald, April 26, 1958.


~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.

Lela Foxie Rox500

Ms. Lela Roxie Fox

The Corner House restaurant Chicago

Lela’s employer in the early 1960s, Chicago. Image courtesy of

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.


Anthony Camarata obituary published by Chicago newspaper, April 1963. Author is not responsible for information errors. Tony’s cousin by the same name, also an accordionist (1911-1964) featured on an earlier post was a member of the Tripoli Trio.

Camarata Chicago Obit B & C

Anthony Camarata obituary published by Chicago newspaper, April 1963. Author is not responsible for information errors.

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.

~ ~ ~






Where’s Papa?

Tony Camarata at the Accordion

Tony Camarata. 1950s. Reno  accordion from Houston, now in possession of Camarata family.

There is a myth that creative people tend to have an addictive personality.Tony didn’t just experiment with drugs and alcohol but had a true addiction to drinking and also suffered from diabetes left uncontrolled which affected his physical and mental health. I imagine that losing both parents when he was 21 had an impact on his adulthood as well. Couple this with a musician’s traveling lifestyle, plus an ego-driven personality, you have a recipe for disaster. After 10 years of marriage and 3 young daughters his wife finally got fed up and filed for divorce in 1951.

Camarata Family Photo 1950

Tony Camarata home with wife, Lucille and daughters, Antoinette & Paulette. Lucille is pregnant with Florette. Chicago 1950

Dear Daughters0001

Letter from Tony Camarata to his 3 daughters, Paulette, Antoinette, Florette from the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX. Letter courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.

The University of Chicago has a scrapbook by Jimmy Granato in their jazz archives that I found during my research. It matches the one I had from my family archives that was published in the Chicago Tribune in 1950. The Dixielanders band members pictured from below from left: Ernie Kolstad (trombone), Al Reed (cornet), Jim Granato (clarinet), Joe Pep (drums),Tony Camarata (accordion). Normally, Paul Benzedian was the pianist with this band, but since he couldn’t bring the piano to the train station, they probably hired Tony to fill in.


The Dixielanders greet movie star Rebel Randall at LaSalle St. station, Chicago. Newsclip from Chicago Herald Feb. 17, 1950. Courtesy of University of Chicago – Jazz Archives

After Tony’s divorce in 1951, he headed south to Galveston, sin city on the Gulf Coast and traveled the circuit playing with various bands. He was hired as a teacher of accordion at Phillip Nevelow’s Music Store and Recording Studio in Galveston and also attempted his hand at writing music and possibly recording.

Tony Camarata Trio

Trio with Tony Camarata on accordion, unknown bass player and guitarist. Venue unknown.


Minor Quartette, Penguin Supper Club, Alexandria, LA – 1951
Philip L. Royale, Birmingham, AL – 1951
Organtime Trio, William & Frank Reneau, Waco, TX – 1952
Turf Athletic Club (Balinese Room), Galveston, TX – 1953 – The Turf was headquarters   of the Maceo syndicate and the Fertitta family
Tony Martin Music Agency (jobbing band), Houston, TX – 1953-4-5-7
James V. Mongiardo, South Houston, TX – 1953
Raymond Russo Orchestra, Houston, TX – 1953
Albert Pliner Entertainment Service, Houston, TX – 1953
Bobby Tinterow Enterprises, Shamrock Hotel, Houston, TX – 1953-4-5-7
Glen Boyd Orchestra, Bellaire, TX – 1953
Larry Lambert Orchestra – Houston, TX – 1953, 1957
Maxims, Houston, TX – 1953
Earl Dantin Orchestra, Old Dutch Inn – 1954
Cheds Lounge Kenner, LA – 1954
The Esquire Orchestra, Earl Dantin – New Orleans, LA – 1954
Officers Club, Earl Dantin, Pensacola, FL – 1955
Jack Tar Charcoal Lounge in Galveston, TX – 1955
Lees Lounge, Houston, TX – 1955
Albino Torres Orchestra, Houston, TX – 1955, 57
Bob Smith Orchestra, Houston, TX 1955
Nevelow Music Box, Galveston, TX – 1956
Balinese Room – Victor & Anthony Fertitta  Galveston, TX – 1955, 56
Richard Bovio Orchestra, Jack Tar Hotel – Charcoal Galley, Galveston, TX 1956
Henry Frank Hlavaty, Houston, TX 1956, 57
Jesse L. Webb Musical Services, Houston, TX – 1956
Dorothy Dragoo Davis, Houston, TX – 1956
Larry Lambert Orchestra, Houston, TX – 1957
Il Sorrento, Inc. Dallas, TX – 1960

Many thanks to Bert Hepler, Bandleader of Merrymakers for the nice chat we had about the Texas music scene in the 1950s.


The Balinese Room was, like many other clubs in Galveston at the time, a place to gamble illegally, but the “B-Room” was able to fend off numerous stings by Texas Rangers. Because the Rangers had to walk the long pier, their arrival was tipped off well in advance, giving players plenty of time to hide their chips and workers plenty of time to drop cloths over the tables. But, in 1957, an undercover operation finally shut down the Balinese Room, changing the Galveston scene forever. In 2001, Scott Arnold purchased the property, reopening a piece of history, but seven years later, Hurricane Ike obliterated the nightclub. (item courtesy of Michael Callahan, Houston Chronicle)

Balinese Room Galveston 385x306

Tony C Penguin Club Alexandria, LA Nov 1951 detail

The Minor Quartette with Tony Camarata, Wizard of the Accordion. Penguin Club, Alexandria, LA. 1951. Newsclip courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.

Tony played here

Tony Camarata, strolling musician at Maxim’s Restaurant, Houston, 1953. Newsclip courtesy of L. Camarata Valentich.

Town Crier by Bill Roberts

Ex-Balinese entertainer, Tony Camarata playing nightly at Lee’s Lounge, Houston, TX. 1955 Newsclip courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.

Tony played here at the Jack Tar Hotel

Tony Camarata is joining the Jack Tar’s Charcoal Galley, Galveston, TX. 1956 Newsclip courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.

Tony Camarata played here

Ched’s Lounge – Kenner, Louisiana


Tony Camarata with Tony Zale. Photo courtesy of Jim Massoth

Gulf Coast 1950’s era continues next post……….

Tony Camarata – Show Bars, Swanky Clubs, Dance Halls, Hotels

1940s music was based on the big band sound, swing and jazz. Tony was active in the music biz, however, he never became a celebrated name, employed in large part as a sideman playing supportive roles in orchestras and small combo ensembles at a variety of night clubs, dance halls and hotels. To get educated in the various venues in Chicago, I suggest this comprehensive book by Charles A. SenstockThat Toddlin’ Town: Chicago’s White Dance Bands and Orchestras, 1900-1950. “He looks at the history of the white dance bands, theater orchestras, radio studio ensembles and night club bands… He has written extensively on Chicago music and other history.”

The Tropics at Hotel Chicagoan 67 w. Madison St. Chicago, IL

Sam Bari and his “Men of Rhythm” at the Hotel Chicagoan. L. to R. Sam Bari, Ginny Stone, Tony Camarata & Art Cavalieri. c. 1946. News clip courtesy of the author, Florette Camarata

1946 Chicago

Chicago Newspaper Review – “Men of Rhythm” with Tony Camarata, accordionist, Ginny Stone, songstress, 1946. News clip courtesy of the author, Florette Camarata

Tony Camarata's gig at The Topics, Hotel Chicagoan

Tony Camarata’s gig at The Topics, Hotel Chicagoan. 1946. Photo courtesy of Massoth estate.

Press photo above dedicated to daughters; “Antoinette and Paulette, love Daddy“. Third daughter, Florette and author of this blog wasn’t’ born yet.

Sam Bari, recording artist and band leader of Men of Rhythm. Promo photo courtesy of This Week in Chicago, 1944.

Sam Bari (Salvatore Schembari), recording artist and band leader of Men of Rhythm. Promo photo courtesy of This Week in Chicago, 1940s. 

Tony applied for his social security card in 1937, soon after it was signed in to law. He noted his employer at the time as the Casino Parisien at the Hotel Morrison in Chicago. Two years later his mother Pauline who he was very close to died of heart failure at age 42. His father, Antonio died a year later at age 49. Cause of his death? The story given was that he died in a car accident where he was crushed by the steering wheel. It wasn’t until the author located his death record that noted the true cause of death; Pulmonary Tuberculosis due to Syphilitc Meningo Encephalits and place of death, Chicago State Hospital. Young Tony was an only child and wasn’t close to his Italian cousins who eventually moved to California.  His best pal was his German cousin, Paul Massoth who must have been a comfort to him as well as a fan of his music.

Anthony Camarata Social Security Application0001

Copy of Tony Camarata’s original Social Security application, 1937. Courtesy of Social Security Administration.

Accordionist For All Occasions, Also Combo

Anthony Camarata, Jr. Business Card
Courtesy of F. Camarata

Hollywood Show Lounge folder that held the photo below with Tony Camarata and the LaRussa's.

Hollywood Show Lounge folder that held the photo below with Tony Camarata and the LaRussa’s.

Tony Camarata with friends, Florence or Felicia (?) Larussa and Michael Larussa, Buffalo, NY c. 1946

Tony Camarata with Buffalo, NY friends, Felicia (Gutowski) and Michael Larussa relaxing at the Hollywood Show Lounge at 87 W. Randolph St. Chicago. 1946

Partial list of Tony’s gigs in the 30s and 40s below. Some of the clubs were fronts for prostitution and vice protected by organized crime, pretty typical of Chicago known for corruption back in the day. Most of the venues were in the Loop. Chicago’s upscale hotels housed nightclubs that featured ballroom dancing, big bands and floor shows.

1936: Trevor Tavern, Trevor, Wisconsin

Trevor Tavern. Tony Camarata in the middle. Photo courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips

Tony played here

Trevor Tavern Newsclip. The Antioch News, June 18, 1936

1937: Casino Parisien event at Hotel Morrison at 15-29 Clark Street, Chicago, IL

Casino Parisien chicago

1938: 885 Club at 885 Rush St. Chicago, IL


1938/39: CBS Broadcasting Live radio broadcast

1939: 606 Club at 606 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL

Tony played here 1939

606 Club Matchbook Covers.

1939: Silver Frolics at 400 N. Wabash.,Chicago, IL


1939: Congress Hotel at 500 S. Michigan Ave.,Chicago, IL

Tony Played at this hotel

Congress Hotel, Chicago, IL.

1940: Chez Paree Key Club at 150 E. Ontario St., Chicago, IL -The Chez Paree was a nightclub at 610 N. Fairbanks Court  known for its glamorous atmosphere, elaborate dance numbers, and top entertainers. It operated from 1932 until 1960. The Key Club was in a back room (different door and address) where illegal gambling went on – high stake dice and card games.

Chez Paree entrance at the SW corner of Ontario and Fairbanks, Chicago. Photo courtesy of The Schatz Building archive.

Chez Paree entrance at the SW corner of Ontario and Fairbanks, Chicago. Photo courtesy of The Schatz Building archive.

1940: Around Town Club at 2131 S. Cicero Ave. Cicero, IL

1940: Medinah Club of Chicago at 505 Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL

1940: University Club of Milwaukee at 924 E. Wells, Milwaukee, WI

1941: Broadmoor Hotel at 1 Lake Ave. Colorado Springs, CO

hotel broadmoor

Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, CO

Photo below: Tony and Lucy got married in Colorado while Tony was on a tour date with the Jimmy Blade Orchestra at the Broadmoor Hotel. L. to R. Jimmy Blade (pianist), Lucille Camarata, Tony Camarata, Mrs.Jean Kennelly Blade (one of the “Adorable Dancers” from Chez Paree, Chicago).

Tony Lucy Jimmy Blade and wife Sept 19410001

Wedding Day in Colorado Springs, CO. 1941. L. to R. Jimmy Blade, Jean Blade (witnesses), Tony Camarata, Lucille Camarata. Photo courtesy of Florette Camarata

Tony_Lucy_Wedding 1941 from Cella

Tony Camarata & Lucy Camarata with Jimmy Blade and Orchestra members. Colorado Springs 1941. Photo courtesy of Peggy Blade Cella.

Tony Camarata_Lucy Andersen Wedding Day 1941

Lucille Camarata, newly wed to Tony Camarata. 1941. Photo courtesy of Aunt Dot Miekle.

1941/42/43: Ambassador East at 1301 State St. Chicago, IL –The Pump Room opened in 1938 and is now the Public Chicago Hotel, owned by Ian Schrager.

pump room via crusin

1941/42 The Drake Hotel at 140 E. Walton St. Chicago, IL – Jimmy Blade Orchestra.


Jimmy Blade Ork from Peggy Blade Cella with Tony Camarata

Jimmy Blade Orchestra. Left. Jimmy Blade on piano. Right, Tony Camarata on accordion. Photo courtesy of Peggy Blade Cella. 1941/1942


Camarata Blade News Clip_1943

Chicago’s Town Tattle by Nate Cross, 1943. Tony Camarata, accordionist with Jimmy Blade’s Orchestra. News clip courtesy of the author, Florette Camarata

1942: Cazel Koch Tavern in Chicago, IL

1942: The Blackstone at 636 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL

Tony played here

The Blackstone, ad courtesy of This Week in Chicago 1942.

1942: Ivanhoe Gardens at 3000 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL

Tony played here

Ivanhoe Restaurant and Night Club founded in the 1920s as a speakeasy. After prohibition, it became a popular medieval-themed restaurant with a lower level bar known as “The Catacombs.

1943: Riviera Cocktail Lounge at 40 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL


Riviera Cocktail Lounge Matchbook Cover. Courtesy of John Chuckman blog.

1943: Hotel Chicagoan at 67 W. Madison St. Chicago, IL

tropics chicago ebay postcard front

The Tropics inside the Hotel Chicagoan.

1943: Paddock Club at 2927 N. Broadway St. Chicago, IL

Created by ImageGear, AccuSoft Corp.

Paddock Cocktail Lounge Matchbook Cover. Courtesy of John Chuckman.

1943: The Whirlaway at 1701 Ogden Ave. Chicago, IL

1943/45 Rupneck’s Restaurant at 1127 Thorndale Ave. Chicago, IL

Rupneck's Restaurant Cocktail Lounge Matchbook courtesy of Chuckman blog.

Rupneck’s Restaurant Cocktail Lounge. Matchbook Cover courtesy of John Chuckman.

1943: Preview Lounge at 7 w. Randolph St. Chicago, IL – Newspaper Review on earlier post; Will Alexander Orchestra. Will on bass. Jack Chapman, piano, Lyle Sisk, trumpet, Tony Camarata, accordion and June Price, vocals.

Preview Lounge chuckman matchbook2jpg

Preview Lounge Matchbook Cover courtesy of John Chuckman.

1943: Helsings Vandvil Restaurant at 4361 N. Sheridan Chicago, IL

1943: Elbow Room at 3777 Broadway Chicago, IL

1943: The Dome at 507 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis, MN

Tony played at the Dome

The Dome Theatre Lounge in Minneapolis

1944: Rio Cabana at 400 N. Wabash Chicago, IL

rio-cabana-400-n-wabash2 chucman blog

Rio Cabana Matchbook Cover. Courtesy of John Chuckman.

1944: Penguin Inn at 178 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL

1944: Minuet Restaurant at 943 Rush St. Chicago, IL

Tony Played here

Club Minuet ad courtesy of This Week in Chicago, 1944.

1944: Wilpolts Tavern at 5605 22nd Ave. Kenosha, WI

1944/45: Vine Gardens 614 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL


1945: Ron-Da-Voo Tavern at 106 State St. Calumet City, IL


Ron-Da-Voo Gaming Token

1945: The Capital Lounge at 167 N. State St. Chicago, IL

CAPITOL LOUNGE - 167 N_ STATE - chuckmans blog

1946: Brown Derby Theatre Café at 104 S. Wabash Chicago


1946: The Tropics at Hotel Chicagoan 67 W. Madison,Chicago. Tony plays with  Sam Bari and his Men of Rhythm.


The Tropics at the Hotel Chicagoan, ad courtesy of This Week in Chicago.

1946: Meyers Inn at 52 S. Seventh St. Minneapolis, MN

1946: Thomas F. Aliota Restaurant in Kenosha, WI

1947: Drum Cocktail Lounge at 114 N. Dearborn St. Chicago, IL

1947: Panda Club 2521 Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL

Panda Club Tokens - Good for 5 cents in drinks only.

Panda Club Tokens – Good for 5 cents in drinks only.

1947/49: Club Lucky at 1824 Wabansia Chicago, IL – once served as a speakeasy during prohibition with a hardware store as a front.

ClubLuckyWaiterpic online

1947: Silver Spur Club at 4839 N. 79th Phoenix, AZ

1948: Marie’s Cocktail Lounge at 5707 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL

1948: Club Moderne at 5950 W. Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL

1948: James Restaurant at 1035 Lawrence Ave. Chicago, IL



Next post will feature more of Tony Camarata’s gigs, 1950s.


Tony Camarata – Stage Bars & Theatre Lounges

Our Town Magazine 1943 cover pageOur Town Entertainment magazine cover (November 19-26, 1943) features band member Tommy Decker of the Decker Foursome who played with Tony Camarata, Dick Bunn and Lorie Andrea at the Dome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tommy was a “Versatile guitarist-vocalist heading his own aggregation, packing them in at the Dome.” (original magazine courtesy of the author)

Billboard Magazine Date Page

Tony Camarata on Accordion

The Billboard Magazine review. Nov. 27, 1943, page 25.

The review above was in The Billboard Magazine featuring the Tommy Decker Quartette. Tony Camarata on Accordion – Gal mentioned is Lorie Andrea, stage name of his wife, Lucille Camarata who toured with him from time to time.


The Billboard Magazine – Jan. 2, Aug. 28, Nov. 27, 1943 – Tony Camarata and others reviewed.

Our Town Magazine 1943

Our Town Magazine pg. 2 Tony Camarata & Lorie Andrea (aka Lucille Camarata) 1943

Our Town Entertainment magazine review by Kid Flash at The Dome in 1943: “Tommy Decker, an on-the-beam guitarist, aided and abetted by Tony Camarata on the accordion, Dick Bunn, bass violinist and Lorie Andrea (stage name of Lucille Camarata, Tony’s wife) who lent her gorgeous, you-know-what to the frivolities. All in all, they’re definitely solid and were worth waiting for – to coin a phrase.”

Lorie Andrea, stage name of Lucille Camarata

Songstress Lorie Andrea, stage name of Lucille Camarata (photo courtesy of Florette Camarata)

In the 1930s and 1940s the accordion was a popular instrument in small combos and big bands.Tony Camarata as well as his father Antonio and cousin Tony made full-time professional careers as accordionists. Tony was a member of the CFM, the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10 from 1933 until his death in 1963. Members carried union cards – sometimes called traveling or transfer cards that gave a traveling musician the legal right to work around the country. The document below mentions Saxaphone as one of Tony’s instruments, however, no image exists showing him playing a sax. He may have played the mouth organ, a harmonica. It was found with his personal effects when he died.

Muscian's Union Card

Chicago Federation of Musicians Union Membership document (pg. 1) for Anthony Camarata – courtesy of Chicago Public Library CFM Archives. Thanks to Christopher Popa, Music Librarian.

The Billboard Magazine

The Billboard Magazine

The Billboard Magazine 1943

The Billboard Magazine – Aug 28, 1943 page 25 – Reviewed by Preview Lounge features Will Alexander Orchestra.

The Preview Lounge at 7 W. Randolph Street in the Chicago Loop was a popular venue that opened in July 1943. It was the fourth lounge owned by Al Martin who certainly knew what it took to keep the crowds dancing and drinking in the Loop. Will Alexander and his orchestra; Lyle Sisk, trumpet, Tony Camarata, accordion, Jack Chapman, piano, June Price, vocals get the joint going.


News clip courtesy of the author.

The Billboard Magazine

The Billboard Magazine 1943

The Billboard Magazine Display Advertisement. Jan. 2, 1943, page 84

Will Alexander’s music “makes you want to dance”. Will Alexander and his orchestra; Lyle Sisk, trumpet, Tony Camarata, accordion, Jack Chapman, piano, June Price, vocals will get you on your feet!  Night clubs and other entertainment venues thrived as a necessary distraction during the war years.

Many musicians contributed to the war effort and Tony was no exception. He didn’t serve in the military but did his small part by entertaining the wounded soldiers recovering at Vaughan General Hospital in Hines, Illinois.

Tony Camarata Vaughan Hospital Entertainer

Certificate of Merit October 19, 1944. Vaughan General Hospital, Hines, IL Courtesy of author