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.

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.

 

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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.

c.1943

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.

1940s

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