Johnny Desmond, 1950s Crooner

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Career summary on Johnny Desmond

Johnny Desmond was an American traditional pop singer, born Detroit, Michigan. His notable hits were “Guilty”, “Because Of You”, “Nina Never Knew”, “Woman”, “Play Me Hearts and Flowers”, “Yellow Rose Of Texas”, and “Sixteen Tons”, among many others. Other artists’ version of Desmond’s recordings were more popular; for example, his song “Guilty” was an even better hit for Margaret Whiting, Tony Bennett’s cover of “Because Of You” went to #1, and “Heart of My Heart” gave the Four Aces a #7 hit. But some of Desmond’s own covers also outdid the previous versions such as Teresa Brewer’s “The Picnic Song” and Jose Ferrer’s “Woman”. Desmond had also appeared regularly on the TV shows Hit Parade and Face The Music, as well as made guest appearances on The Gisele MacKenzie Show. He died in 1985, aged 65.

Early life and career

Traditional pop and jazz crooner Johnny Desmond was born Giovanni Alfredo De Simone in Detroit, Michigan on November 14, 1919.

He had been passionate about music since he was younger, and in 1939 formed his own vocal quartet The Downbeats, which later became the Bob-O-Links when they were hired by Bob Crosby’s band. Even during his service in the US Army during the Second World War, he still continued his singing career, being a member of Glenn Miler’s Army Air Forces Orcehstra in the early 1940s. His postwar career started from being a member of Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club, a local radio variety show in Chicago. Then his career took off with almost all of his singles making it to the Top 40.

Then the hits came in bundles…

His first charting single was “Guilty,” which peaked at #12 on the Billboard pop charts in 1947. It was followed by other Top 40 hits: “Don’t Cry Joe (Let Her Go, Let Her Go, Let Her Go)” (at #22), “C’est si bon (It’s So Good)” (at #25), The Picnic Song (at #20), “Just Say I Love Her” (at #24) and “A Bushel and a Peck” (at #29).

The rest of the 1950s brought Desmond more highly-placed hits: “Because of You” (at #17), “I Want to Be Near You” (at #30), “Nina Never Knew” (at #19), his first Top Ten hit “Woman” (at #9), “The High and the Mighty” (at #17), “Play Me Hearts and Flowers” (at #6), his bigggest hit “Yellow Rose of Texas” (at #3) and “Sixteen Tons” (at #17) Desmond’s last charting single was “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)” which was only a minor pop hit. Most of his hits were covers of other artists’ songs — Margaret Whiting, Tony Bennett, Tennessee Williams, and many others.

Johnny Desmond on the stage and screen

Aside from singing, Desmond also made appearances on the small screen. The dashing crooner was a featured member of Don McNeill’sBreakfast Club. He also guested on the Faye Emerson’s Wonderful Town, CBS TV series during the early 1950s. In 1957 Desmond also made a guest appearance on The Gisele MacKenzie Show, joining star Boris Karloff. Desmond was also part of the regular cast in Sally,NBC’s short-lived sitcom starring Joan Caulfield. He was also featured on other television programs such as Hit Parade and Face the Music.

Desmond also acted on stage for some time. He made a Broadway appearance inSay, Darling and Funny Girl.

Desmond passed away from cancer, in Los Angeles, California on September 6, 1985. He was 65 years old.

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