Bandleader Art Mooney led one of the most popular orchestras around during the post-war years, but his biggest success came after he changed styles. He’d led a solid swing band for a few years, but found the magic formula to widespread popularity when he changed to a feel-good type of music, one that featured sweet and familiar tunes and often included audience-pleasing singalongs. His band subsequently scored several Top Ten hits, topped by “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” which hit #1 in 1948.
Mooney was born in either Lowell, MA, or Brooklyn, NY — sources vary — but in any case he learned to play sax while growing up, and by the early 1930s had embarked on a professional music career. He spent some time as a member of various forgettable outfits and by late in the decade had become the leader of his own band, finding mixed success in the years leading up to World War II.
After his war-time service Mooney put together a first-class swing band, one that featured solid arrangements and some future stars, including — at one time or another — Dean Martin, Fran Warren, the Ames Brothers, and even Sid Caesar, who was a talented saxophonist in his early days. But Mooney and his band didn’t really click in a big way until he took a new road that led to the sounds of the past. He soon began spinning out hit records on songs like the chart-topping “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” along with “Baby Face,” and “Bluebird of Happiness.”
Mooney continued to find success into the next decade, with Top Ten hits on “Babe” and “Honey-Babe,” followed by another #1 hit with “Nuttin’ For Christmas” in 1955, but things began to slow after that. His band continued to enjoy a lot of popularity by adapting its music in an attempt to keep with the latest, including country and rock and roll. But even though the group continued recording for the next decade or so, it gradually wound down and mostly became a nightclub band. Mooney later owned a restaurant for a while and also spent some time leading the late Guy Lombardo’s orchestra, but eventually retired. He died in 1993 at age 82.