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Lou Monte (April 2, 1917 – June 12, 1989) was an Italian American singer best known for a number of best-selling, Italian-themed novelty records which he recorded for both RCA Records and Reprise Records in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also recorded on Roulette Records, Jubilee Records, Regalia Records, Musicor Records, Laurie Records, and AFE Records.
Monte developed a following playing clubs in and around the New Jersey area. When World War II broke out, Monte had to put his career on hold and enlisted in the Army. When he was discharged, he started his club date schedule and caught the attention of radio station WAAT AM in Newark, New Jersey. Seeing Monte's potential, the station gave him his own radio show. The show offered Monte a chance to refine his act and he soon gained a sizable following. The radio station rewarded him by convincing its sister TV outlet to give him some airtime.
Beginning with this exposure, Monte made a couple of recordings on local labels. Joe Carlton was an A&R man for RCA Victor Records and heard the Italian minstrel performing in a spaghetti joint south of Secaucus. He liked Monte's singing style and the way he accompanied himself on the guitar. He offered Monte a contract with RCA Victor which lasted seven years. Joe Carlton would go on to start Carlton Records.
Monte's first big hit came in 1954, with the release of his version of "Darktown Strutters' Ball". In 1962, Monte would release his first million-seller, "Pepino the Italian Mouse", which was awarded a gold disc. Sung in a pastiche of both Calabrese and English, "Pepino the Italian Mouse" tells the humorous tale of a mischievous mouse who lives within the walls of a man's kitchen and who comes out at night to eat cheese, drink wine, frighten Lou's girlfriend when she comes over...and befriends the cat, sent out to catch him.
The "flip side" of the single featured another Italian-American hybrid novelty song called "What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed The Delaware?)." The song presumes that George Washington was cold, tired, hungry and without a change of underwear on his famous trip. At one point in the song, "Washington" complains that the pizzas his wife Martha baked were as "cold as ice". His solution? "Sell them to the Indians for only half the price." He then asks his boatsmen to row faster because "tonight I'm posing for my picture on the dollar bill."
Monte's other famous novelty records include "Dominick the Donkey," a Christmas staple in many Italian-American households and "Pepino's Friend Pasqual (The Italian Pussy-Cat)," the sequel to "Pepino" followed by "Paulucci, the Italian Parrot" and Paul Revere's Horse (Ba-Cha-Ca-Loop). "Lazy Mary," a remake of the traditional Italian song "Luna Mezzo Mare," tells the tale of a conversation between a young woman who wishes to be married, and her mother. The somewhat risque song mixes English and Italian verses. The two use double entendre to compare the occupations with the sexual appetites of the various suitors. It peaked at number 12 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart. "Lazy Mary" is routinely played during the seventh inning stretch at New York Mets games (both at Shea Stadium and now at Citi Field), immediately after "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."
"Dominick the Donkey" has enjoyed more recent success in the UK, thanks to its extensive use on The Chris Moyles Show in reference to Newsbeat newsreader and regular show contributor Dominic Byrne during the Christmas season. During the week leading up to Christmas of 2011, the show suggested hinted that users download the song from iTunes and Amazon. This led to the song being the number two song on iTunes between 19 December 2011 and 25 December 2011. "Dominick the Donkey" reached number 3 in the midweek charts on 21 December 2011, before being confirmed at number 3 in the UK Official Christmas Chart for 2011, only beaten by the X-Factor winners (Little Mix) and a charity record by the Military Wives. Dominic the Donkey did however outsell several rival chart campaigns most notably campaigns supporting Nirvana's rerelease of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which made number 11, and unsigned YouTube blogger Alex Day, who reached number 4.
Monte made TV appearances on syndicated programming such as The Mike Douglas Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and the Merv Griffin Show.
Monte resided in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, where his fan club was based. He contributed to the founding of the Lou Monte, Jr., leukemia laboratory at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in memory of his son who died of the disease at age 21.
Monte's 1971 recording "I Have An Angel In Heaven" was highly popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s satellite radio version of the "Music Of Your Life."
Monte is interred in the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. After his death, his surviving son Ray continued to sing his songs in concert for some time. His son is a professional drummer who plays for many bands, including the New York Showband.
(*)Promotion release to radio stations only.
Lou Monte Sings for You (196x) RCA Victor EPA-4177
Lazy Mary (196x) RCA Victor EPA-5105
Lou Monte Darktown Strutters Ball RCA Victor EPA-568
Pepino, the Italian Mouse & Other Italian Fun Songs (1961) Reprise # R-6058 EP
Lou Monte Sings for You (1957) RCA Victor LPM 1651
Here's Lou Monte (1958) RCA CAMDEN Cal-455
Lou Monte Sings Songs for Pizza Lovers (1958) RCA Victor LPM-1877
Italian House Party (1959) RCA Victor LPM 1976
Italiano USA (1960) Roulette R-25126 / SR-25126
Lou Monte Sings the Great Italian American Hits (1961) Reprise R-6005 / R9-6005
Lou Monte Live!!! In Person (1962) Reprise R-6014 / R9-6014
Pepino, the Italian Mouse & Other Italian Fun Songs (1962) Reprise R-6058 LP
Spotlight on Lou Monte & Botti-Endor Quartet (1962) SDLP-149 Stereo Spectrum Records / Design Records
More Italian Fun Songs From Lou Monte & The Gang (1963) Reprise R-6099 / R9-6099
Lou Monte's Golden Hits (1964) Reprise R-6118 / RS-6118
The Mixed-Up Bull from Palermo (1965) Reprise R/RS-6155
The Best of Lou Monte (1966) RCA Victor LPM 3672 / LSP 3672
Lou Monte Sings Good Time Songs (1967) RCA Victor LPM-3705 /LSP-3705
Lou Monte, Fun Italian Style (197X) Tele House CD-2046 (2 LP set)
Lou Monte Discovers America (1976) Tele House CDS-1
Lou Monte's Greatest Hits (1977) Laurie Records LES-4005
Shaddap You Face (1981) AFE Records AFE-7500
Pepino Meets Babalucci (198?) LSFD Records
Here's Lou Monte (CD) (1997) BMG/Special Music # CDA1-0455 (RCA Victor Re-release of the album by the same name)
The Very Best Of Lou Monte (1997) Taragon Records BMG Special Products (RCA Victor re-release) TARCD-1030 DRC1-1428
Lou Monte Sings Songs for Pizza Lovers/Lou Monte Sings for You (1999) Collectable Records Corp. BMG Special Products (RCA Victor re-release) COL-CD-2745 DRC1 2333 Songs from(The Album "Songs For Pizza Lovers" was originally released in 1958 as RCA 1877)
(The Album " Lou Monte Sings for You" was originally released in 1958 as RCA 1651)
(Bonus Tracks originally released in 1958 as selections from the Album RCA 1976-"Italian House Party".)
Lou Monte The Best Of RCA VICTOR Recordings (2003) Taragon Records BMG Special Products (RCA Victor re-release) TARCD-1101 DRC23075
Lou Monte's Golden Hits (2004) Collectables COL-CD-6156 (Re-release of the album by the same name) (Reprise Re-release of the album by the same name
The Mixed Up Bull From Palermo And Other Italian Fun Songs (2004) Release Collectable COL 6716 (Reprise Re-release of the album by the same name.)
Lou Monte Sings for Your...Again (2002) Ronray Records*
Lou Monte's Greatest Hits Part 2 (2007) Ronray Records*
Plus 6 more tracks of outtakes.
Soundtracks Two musical soundtrack albums were made with various recording artist under "Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre Presents".
Radio Station Program Recordings
This record was used for commercial breaks with the singer informing the public of the upcoming "News", "Weather", "Time", etc.