Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Leo DeLyon Plays the (Lorain, Ohio) Palace – December 1954

Although the Morning Journal's current Mary Lee Tucker Clothe-a-Child program depends on cash donations to purchase warm winter clothing for school-age children, its original source of income (when the program first started in the 1920 and well into the 1950s) was a gala Christmas benefit show. It was usually at the Palace Theater and featured local bands (such as Jimmy Dulio and his band).

The emcees for these shows were often up-and-coming performers (like Bob McFadden) who went on to have great careers.

Recently I was digging around on microfilm and discovered that one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera voice artists – Leo DeLyon – hosted the show back in December 1954 at an early stage in his career. (Do you remember which animated TV characters he voiced? If you don't, I'll reveal it shortly.)

Anyway, it was announced on the front of the Lorain Journal of November 18, 1954 that Leo DeLyon would be hosting the show (below). (Note that on the same page the infamous Dr. Sam Sheppard murder trial was underway.)

Here is the text of the article about Leo DeLyon (below). It provides a nice biography of him at that stage of his career.   
Comic, Pianist, Singer
Versatile Leo DeLyon Will Spark Yule Show
That Versatile Gentleman Leo DeLyon, comic, pianist and singer, is coming to town. He will bring a fresh, sensational type of humor to his Lorain audience when he serves as master of ceremonies for the annual Mary Lee Tucker Christmas benefit show.
Three Hour Show
Announcement of his acceptance for the sparkling three hour vaudeville show sponsored by the City Club was made today by Gus Athanasoff, show director.
The show, a one night stand, is scheduled for 8 p. m. Dec. 8 in Palace theater.
Foremost trade observers have tabbed DeLyon for immediate success. His first New York engagement resulted in a wave of press notices that pushed all other amusement news in the background.
His voice, remarkably versatile in tone and depth, performs the almost unbelievable trick of going from deep basso to extreme soprano in a few notes.
Nine Different Voices
He has sung in nine different voices and can do an entire opera from start to finish. He seldom sticks to the straight and narrow, however, with the result of his efforts coming out as pure, hilarious comedy.
Sitting at the piano, DeLyon can look like a concert musician, a ragtime honky tonker, or like the zany character he really is.
Once he starts playing, it's every man for himself and may the walls hold together. He gets more laughs per line than any other comedian in the business.
New Jersey Native
Born in Paterson, N.J., 23 years ago, DeLyon displayed a remarkable talent for music. In 1942 he began his professional career with a small band in the Borscht Circuit of New York State.
Though he played piano in the group for 12 weeks, it was not until the final day the leader found DeLyon could not read music.
It seemed unbelievable that a thorough and talented keyboard stylist like DeLyon had faked his way through the summer. While admitting that DeLyon was adequate, the maestro convinced him that piano lessons could make the future brighter.
Winner of an Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout radio show, DeLyon in one of the fastest Broadway hit appearances in history went from the Strand theater to the Roxy theater, then to the Carnival.
Capacity Crown In London
At the Carnival he was instrumental in helping establish that club as one of the foremost in Gotham. He also played the New Yorker, in New York City and in such other locations as the Oriental theater in Chicago.
Nor has he limited his activities to this side of the Atlantic. He played to packed audiences in the Paladium in London and the Empire in Glascow.
He is kept busy playing theaters, night clubs and TV guest appearances and is readying a new format for his own show on TV that is expected to go on very soon.
Appearing with DeLyon on the benefit show will be the best of local talent selected through auditions. Second of three auditions for talent will be Sunday at 1 p. m. in Sons of Italy hall, 15th at Reid.
More than 20 acts appeared for the first audition held last Sunday. Final chance for talent to try out for a spot on the show will be Nov. 28, also at 1 p. m. in Sons of Italy hall. 
Tickets on Sale Saturday
Funds raised through the show will be used to spread Christmas happiness to young and old throughout Lorain county. They will provide gifts and entertainment for county home and children's home residents as well as patients in rest homes, hospitals and Pleasant View sanatorium.
Tickets for the show, all reserved seats, will go on sale Saturday, selling for $1.50 each or $1.25 each in blocks of 10.
Orders are being taken at The Journal office for patron tickets selling at $2.50 each.
The Mary Lee Tucker Christmas benefit show was a smash, with a packed audience of close to 2,000 at the Palace Theater. The nationally known vocal quartet, The Crew Cuts, came on near the end of the two and a half hour show. Jimmy Dulio's 13 man band performed, as well as the Tracey Twins.
Leo DeLyon held the whole show together with his emceeing. As the Journal noted the next day, "DeLyon, a master of versatility, highlighted his offerings with a deal that involved simultaneous whistling of one tune and humming of another. He demonstrated a wide vocal range and ability to imitate all manner of sounds, human and otherwise; he tickled the ivories, and he pretty well managed to keep his listeners in a happy frame of mind with his fast change of pace comedy routine."
Do you remember which Hanna-Barbera characters he provided the voices for? If you're a big Top Cat fan like me, then I'm sure you'll remember both of the cool cats on the show that he voiced: Spook (the beatnik cat with the necktie) and Brain (the dumb one wearing a T-shirt).
Happily, Mr. DeLyon is still with us today. Here is a link to his Facebook page.

1 comment:

danduderino said...

thanks for posting about pops...
~dan delyon