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Obituaries : Lanny Ross; Sang in Golden Age of Radio

Times Staff Writer

Lanny Ross, whose pristine tenor voice propelled him to an enduring stardom in radio’s Golden Days and whose boyish good looks were spotlighted in three films and a short-lived TV series, is dead.

The classically trained singer who made his signature song, “Moonlight and Roses,” a perennial favorite, was 82 when he died Monday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

He had been admitted there after suffering two strokes.

From 1932, when “Show Boat” brought radio listeners some remarkable variety programs, until 1949, when “The Swift Show” was dropped from television, Ross’ voice was one of the most often heard in the land.

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Variety of Shows

He was featured on his own “The Lanny Ross Show,” “Your Hit Parade,” “The Packard Show” (“Ask the man who owns one”), and “Troubador of the Moon.”

Lancelot Patrick Ross was born the son of an actor and a concert pianist. He began singing in New York City churches as a teen-ager.

He enrolled in Yale University and was using the money he earned as a singing student to pay his way through law school.

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But after being heard on radio and touring Europe as a member of the Yale Glee Club he began getting offers. By 1931, when he completed his law degree, NBC offered him his own show at a salary far greater than that being offered by law firms.

So instead of standing in courtrooms, Ross found himself standing in front of microphones as “Show Boat” came “puff-puff-puffin’ along.” With Charles Winninger as “Captain Andy,” the program was an elaborate example of early radio as it re-enacted 19th-Century entertainment along the rivers of America. And it made Ross famous.

Studied Music

Ross enrolled in graduate school at the Juilliard School of music while continuing to establish himself as a professional singer.

He and Paramount signed a contract in 1934 that produced several pictures, including “Melody in Spring,” “College Rhythm,” “The Lady Objects” and “Gulliver’s Travels.”

Back on radio, he was one of the first hired when “Your Hit Parade"--which was to evolve from radio to television--first went on the air in 1935.

Ross also appeared on Broadway in “Petticoat Fever” in 1936 and later in “Pursuit of Happiness” and “Green Grow the Lilacs.”

He was discharged as an Army major after World War II and moved to television in 1948 on “The Swift Show” (also known as “The Lanny Ross Show”), a musical revue sponsored by the meat-packing firm. It went off the air the following year.

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He retired from regular appearances in the early 1970s but continued doing occasional shows, including a tour with Harry James called “The Big Broadcast of 1937.”

Ross was married in 1935 to his manager, the former Olive White, who died in 1984.


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