Regular visitors to the GMC know that I’ve always had a soft spot for Italian-American Crooners, and today’s spotlight falls on a guy who certainly qualifies. Although his name is not as familiar as some from the era, Alan Dale (who was born Aldo Sigismondi) was a pretty big singing star in the post-war years and beyond. Unfortunately, he ran into some snags along the way.
A Brooklyn native whose immigrant father had forged a career in America as a comedian and radio personality, young Aldo made his singing debut on his father’s radio show in 1934. Although he was just nine years old (and fainted afterwards, a early sign of his lifelong health issues) he became a regular on the show. But as he grew up he didn’t necessarily see himself pursuing a musical career, and at one point even thought he’d try journalism. However, he ended up quitting high school and bouncing around for a while before deciding to fall back on his singing. By then he was in his late teens and World War II had been underway for several years, but even though his health issues might have spared him from the draft, they didn’t keep him from performing. As the newly-named Alan Dale, he soon found work singing in a Coney Island casino and a year later stepped into the role of a big band singer, working for one of the biggest names around, Carmen Cavallaro.
But even though it was the beginning of a long period of success for the singer, it seemed that things never went as smoothly as he might have liked. A sensitive young man who was often ill in addition to being homesick, he was miserable as part of a touring band company, so when Cavallaro later dissolved his band to take advantage of Hollywood opportunities, Dale was more than ready to return to Brooklyn. As it turned out, he was able to stick closer to home for the next couple of years while still building his career, appearing regularly in local clubs with the George Paxton Orchestra and also making a few records with the group. By 1947 he was ready to break out on his own as a solo artist.
It wasn’t long before Alan Dale was one of the most popular singers around, promoting records like “Kate” and “Oh Marie” into charting success via radio and TV appearances, and climbing up near the top of fan polls of singers. He even hosted his own show for a while, which in turn led to a high-profile spot as the star of a CBS musical quiz show. Over the next couple of years he continued to spin out good-selling records, but in 1950 his health issues — which were never far away — resurfaced, and he collapsed on live TV.
He eventually had surgery for a bleeding ulcer but the 1950s had a lot of ups and downs for the singer. Midway through the decade he enjoyed some of his biggest records, on songs like “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” and “Sweet and Gentle,” and even made a movie (video below) but he also had long periods of inactivity. At one point he was hospitalized after being pushed down a flight of stairs, and Confidential magazine strongly hinted a Mafia connection. There were also rumors of various problems behind the scenes and of Dale being blackballed by the powers that be. Eventually things smoothed out a little but by the 1960s Dale’s star power was in definite decline. It didn’t help when he published his autobiography in 1965, naming names and giving his side of his many disputes, but he did continue to perform when and where he could in later years. He was 76 when he died in 2002.