Vincent Lopez
Raised in St. Cecile Lodge #568

As Mr. Lopez says: "In Tin 'Pan Alley, when a composer gets an idea for a song, he almost thinks of a girl he connects the song with -' Sweet Sue,' 'Cecelia,' 'Rose Marie.' With me, it's the other way around. A pretty girl makes me think of a song, like the first pretty girl in the fashion makes me think of the burr and a touch of heather in 'Roamin' In the Gloamin'."

When Vincent was six years old, this sensitive son of a Spanish aristocrat and Portuguese musician was sent to public school and started on the road to musical mastery. Each day he had to practice playing the piano for three hours; this was increased to six hours daily during summer vacations. "I always wanted to play and romp like other kids, but my father didn't approve of children `wasting' their time on games," Vincent told me. "I always loved music, but I didn't want to practice continually, yet I had to.

"My parents loved simple music and I took after them in this respect. Even today I still prefer the simple folk songs to the more complicated modern melodies."

When he was 16, Vincent landed a job as secretary to the head of a milk company. In the evenings he played piano in various cafes. Those were probably the hardest days of his life. From nine o'clock in the morning until four o'clock in the afternoon, Lopez worked at the milk company. Each night he played piano from nine oclock until four the next morning. Realizing he couldn't stand the strain of both jobs, the boy resigned his position with the milk company. That same night he was fired from his piano-playing job for falling asleep. When his father upbraided him, Lopez left home.

Things looked dark, but not for long. He was hired to play piano in a restaurant at Sheepshead Bay, near Coney Island, for $25 a week. Later he landed the pianist's job with the five-piece orchestra then at the Pekin Restaurant on Broadway. Now he was 19 and the salary was $35 weekly.

Three months later he was asked to take charge of the orchestra and things began to happen. He augmented the band and several bandsmen who were later to bcome famous were in his organization at various times. Just while everything was moving along smoothly a new sensation in music hit New York. It was the Dixieland Jazz Band. It had noise and rhythm. Lopez liked the rhythm and took it with him when his own orchestra moved along from place to place.

Two seasons of vaudeville with Pat Rooney and Marian Bent taught him showmanship. Next, he was engaged to play in the dining room of the Hotel Pennsylvania. Lopez hired an arranger for his band, J. Bodealt Lampe. Lampe was years ahead of his time and his novel orchestrations put the band in the front ranks among its contemporaries. It was there Lopez introduced lighting effects for the first time in New York.

Lopez doubled his boys into the local vaudeville theatres. He had the different instruments in his orchestra "talk" back and forth to each other when the band played "Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean.° He was booked into the Palace Theatre at $750 a week. He remained 11 weeks at $1,500 a week. While there, a back stage curtain puller suggested that he add scenic effects and this was done, for the first time in New York, marking another triumph for showmanship in music.

For three years he remained at the Hotel Pennsylvania and doubled his orchestra into nearby theatres and, later, night clubs. With tireless energy he rehearsed and directed his men. He made phonograph records. One night without warning he was asked to play over the radio.

"Hello, everybody, Lopez speaking!" became a byword overnight and he continued to play for radio by popular demand. In 1925 Lopez gave the first Symphonic Jazz concert at the Metropolitan Opera House and that same year took his orchestra to London, where he was wildly acclaimed.

There is no age to Lopez or his music. Both have a universal appeal. "The next year will be notable for many changes in our musical ideas," he remarked. "I don't know yet what these changes will be but I feel them developing. As for myself I am far from my goal and I don't exactly know what it is either except that I must do something to make a great and lasting impression in my chosen field."

Lopez, who signed a contract for $1,000,000 with the Hotel St. Regis, where he remained for eight years; Lopez, who has done as much as any man to set the styles in popular song and dance music, feels within himself that he has accomplished so little. Perhaps this is the trait which accounts for his greatness, and he is a great musician.

Courtesy of Big Bands & Big Names