Johnny Desmond

The Early Years

Glenn Miller

The Creamer

Royal Command Performance

The Actor

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Vocals in the UK


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Johnny was born Giovanni Alfredo de Simone in Detroit, November 14th, 1919, the son of Italian immigrants Peter and Lillian De Simone who originated from Sicily. He was the youngest of four children, two boys and two girls.  
At the age of 11 he began singing in his parent's grocery store between doing his chores - sweeping the floor and stacking fruit.  One day a customer heard him singing and told his parents that she thought his boy soprano voice would be perfect for him to appear on the local radio station. It was a program for talented children. He was so good that they signed him up straight after the audition.  From then on he was to be known as Johnny Desmond. He was then featured on a show called Uncle Nick's. One day, when he was 15 years old (while he was singing 'I'm Laughing'), his voice changed! He became a baritone overnight and was very disappointed. He'd hoped to become a tenor!
Johnny then took special courses in dramatics, tap dancing and piano. After graduation from North Eastern High School in Detroit, he took singing lessons and studied for a year at The Detroit Conservatory of Music. At 17 he began looking for a job. He had very little luck and to get into radio he took juvenile parts on The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger shows.
A trial period as a song and dance man convinced him this wasn't to be his career. In 1939 he organized a quartet, named them The Downbeats. Johnny got them on WWJ. He was the only one who could read music, so he also did the group's arrangements. For extra money he sang with local bands.
His first break came in late 1940. Bob Crosby came to town, Johnny's group, the Downbeats auditioned and were hired. Crosby changed their name to The Bob-o-links. On the road two weeks their girl singer got homesick and went home. They auditioned girls in every town, finally settling on attractive, blue-eyed brunette Ruth Keddington. She later became Mrs. Desmond. The Bob-O-Links were Johnny Desmond, Tony Paris, Ruth Keddington and Eddie Levine
Shortly after Ruth joined them, Johnny decided he wanted to do solo work. He left Crosby and went to New York. He tramped the streets with no success. He says he was "the loneliest and brokest guy in N.Y."
His folks had faith in him and saw him through the dark days. Finally Johnny got a job with Gene Krupa replacing Howard Dulaney as the solo singer with Krupa's orchestra.
Krupa was preparing to go into the N.Y. Paramount ('Dec.'41) when Johnny called Ruth and asked her to come to New York. With a steady income he could once again think about marriage.
Krupa was doing seven shows a day, but Johnny managed to get a marriage license between shows! He and Ruth were married after the last show, on January 3 1942.