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About Tony Martin
A popular crooner of the 1940s and '50s, Tony Martin's deliberate delivery and romantic ballads were more in keeping with vintage movie musicals than the currents that would shape the pop music of the last half of the 20th century.
He was born Alvin Morris on December 25, 1913 in San Francisco, California to Jewish immigrant parents. He received a saxophone as a gift from his grandmother at the age of ten. In his grammar school glee club, he became an instrumentalist and a boy soprano singer. He formed his first band, named "The Red Peppers", when he was at Oakland Technical High School, eventually joining the band of a local orchestra leader, Tom Gerun, as a reed instrument specialist, sitting alongside the future bandleader Woody Herman. He attended Saint Mary's College of California during the mid-1930s.
After college, he left Gerun's band to go to Hollywood to try his luck in films. It was at that time that he adopted the stage name, Tony Martin.
He was a featured vocalist on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio program. On the show Gracie Allen playfully flirted with Tony, often threatening to fire him. She'd say things like "Oh Tony you look so tired, why don't you rest your lips on mine." In the movies, he was first cast in a number of bit parts, including a role as a sailor in the movie Follow the Fleet (1936), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He eventually signed with 20th Century-Fox and then Metro Goldwyn Mayer in which he starred in a number of musicals. At the same time, between 1938 and 1942, he made a number of hit records for Decca.
Martin was featured in the 1941 Marx Brothers film (their last for MGM), The Big Store. In it, he played a singer and performed Tenement Symphony, which was written by Hal Borne who became his long-time musical director.
In World War II, he first joined the United States Navy, but as a result of rumors (without any factual basis) that he had gotten an officer's commission through bribery he left the navy and joined the United States Army Air Forces. As a corporal he was assigned to Capt. Glenn Miller's band, then was promoted to technical sergeant in the Air Transport Command and stationed in India, where Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner, commanding the Hump Airlift, put him to work as an entertainer, forming a troupe of amateur talent from the command and taking it around the various bases to perform. Though he had an outstanding record in the military, the rumors hurt his professional reputation and the major record labels refused to sign him. He eventually signed with Mercury Records, then a small independent run out of Chicago, Illinois. He cut 25 records in 1946 and 1947 for Mercury, including a 1946 recording of "To Each His Own" which became a million-seller. This prompted RCA Victor records to offer him a contract, which he signed in 1947 after satisfying his contract obligations to Mercury.
He appeared in many film musicals in the 1940s and 1950s. His rendition of "Lover Come Back To Me" with Joan Weldon in Deep in My Heart - based on the music of Sigmund Romberg and starring José Ferrer - was one of the highlights of that film. As of 2010 Martin is still doing live performances.
In 1937 he married Alice Faye, with whom he had starred in several films and in 1941 they were divorced. Martin was married to Cyd Charisse from 1948 until her death in 2008 – 60 years - one of the longest Hollywood marriages on record. They had one son together - Tony Martin Jr., born in 1950. He also adopted Charisse's son, Nicky, from her previous marriage.