Vallee, Rudy

Vallee, (Hubert Prior) Rudy

(1901–86) band leader, singer; born in Island Pond, Vt. Intending to become a pharmacist, he took up the saxophone; while at the University of Maine and then Yale he formed his own band. After graduation he continued with his band and by the late 1920s he began to enjoy great popularity as a vocalist with a genteel style that made him the first to be called a "crooner." One of his first hits was "The Vagabond Lover," which became his nickname and the title of his first movie (1929). He was also known for carrying a little megaphone. For three decades he enjoyed a successful career on radio, in movies, in Broadway musicals, and with a solo nightclub act. During World War II he joined the Coast Guard and conducted a band. His style of singing went out of fashion by the late 1950s but he enjoyed a reprise in the 1961 hit musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; he recreated the role in the 1967 movie version. He also formed a talent agency and music publishing company.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.