Anthony (Tony) Camarata, the only child of Antonio and Pauline was born April 11, 1915. Don’t get confused with his older cousin by the same name, Anthony Camarata, born April 1, 1911, also featured on this blog. Both grew up in musical households in the same apartment building on 22nd Place in Chicago, one in the upstairs flat, one downstairs. Following the musical path of their fathers, both played the accordion, became professional entertainers, and may have played at some of the same venues. This must have been confusing for the booking agents!
Tony Camarata on a tricycle ride. c. 1917 or 1918. Photo courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.
Young Tony with father in front of family car. Photo courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.
Tony with accordion, in front of his parents. Photo courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips.
Antonio, a Sicilian catholic and Pauline were not particularly religious, I suspect, but they did have an association with Santa Maria Incoronata in Chicago. This is the same Catholic church where his brother Charles and Julia wed in 1910 and had their children baptized. No marriage certificate or wedding photo for Antonio & Pauline was ever found, only a license to marry, dated March 6, 1915, a little over 3 weeks after son, Anthony was born! Pauline, even though in a relationship with Antonio, was considered an unwed mother in those days and if the marriage was ever solemnized at the church, it would not have been performed in public with baby in tow, not in 1915! It would have been in a private room away from disapproving eyes or maybe they went to City Hall, but still, no document has been found to date. Baby Anthony was baptized at Santa Maria Incoronata as Anthoninum Cammerata (Latin) on June 19th,1915 with Uncle Charles and Aunt Julia as patrini, godparents.
Anthony Camarata – Holy Communion 1922
Anthony’s Cross, possibly from his Communion in 1922, a lifelong keepsake.
Tony tucked away his crucifix and picked up his accordion to play his first professional nightclub gig at Club Alabam in Chicago. Save the prayers for later, much later. No curfew for this 14 year old! The main theme of this decade was the Roaring 20s. The country was full of good times and rebellion with things like jazz, bootlegging (response to Prohibition), flappers, high spirits, and a strong economy, until 1929 when the stock market crashed.
“Club Alabam at 747 Rush Street had been a night club with roots back in the 1920s. Through Prohibition, World War II, into the mid-1960s, it had been a comfortable place to eat and drink for Chicagoans and visiting entertainers such as Jimmy Durante, Tony Curtis, William Bendix and Carol Channing. It was also a pleasantly shady place with a history of police raids for gambling and after-hours drinking.” (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune)
Club Alabam (formerly at 747 Rush St., Chicago) in the wee hours. Photo courtesy of calumet412.com
Tony Camarata Press Photo c. 1928. Photo by Theatrical Chicago. Photo courtesy of author, Florette Camarata.
The Camarata Four: Young Tony Camarata, Pauline, Henry Pietro, Antonio Camarata. Photo courtesy of Paul Massoth estate.
L to R: Tony Camarata, Unknown banjo player, Unknown guitaris, Antonio Camarata in 1928. Photo courtesy of Paul Massoth estate
Anthony with father Antonio Camarata. c. 1928. Photo courtesy of P. Camarata Phillips
Camarata Four: Tony Camarata, Antonio Camarata, Pauline Camarata, Henry Pietro. Photo courtesy of Massoth estate>
Teenage Tony with friends, joined by some fans in Chicago.
Camarata Four publicity postcard (1930-33). Photo courtesy of Florette Camarata.
Tony’s musical career continues to develop throughout Prohibition, the Depression and beyond…