Lou Monte

Italian-American guitarist, songwriter, singer, and crooner Lou Monte, best known for his Italian-themed novelty songs for RCA and Reprise Records in the late '50s and early '60s (he also tracked for the Roulette, Jubilee, Regalia, Musicor, Laurie, and AFE record imprints during his lifetime), was born Louis Scaglione on April 2, 1917. He started his singing career in New Jersey clubs, broke things off to serve in World War II, and then returned to the circuit after his discharge, earning his own radio show on Newark, New Jersey's AM station WAAT, where he polished his act, eventually moving to television. He signed with RCA Victor Records, coming up with his first hit in 1954 with a version of "Darktown Strutters' Ball," but it was the million-selling "Pepino the Italian Mouse" in 1962 that set the tone for Monte's career thereafter. Sung in a Jersey pastiche of Calabrese and English, it was the first of many such singles and albums from Monte that mined similar territory, including "Dominick the Donkey," which became a Christmas staple, particularly in Italian-American households, and ensured Monte his place in pop history. Monte died in 1989 in Pompano Beach, Florida. ~ Steve Leggett

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