Archie Bleyer, the successful musical director and arranger who became the subject of controversy when he and singer Julius LaRosa were fired by Arthur Godfrey from Godfrey’s national television program 35 years ago, has died.
The founder of Cadence Records, a label that helped launch the careers of Andy Williams, the Everly Brothers and the Chordettes, died Monday at a rest home in Sheboygan, Wis.
He was 79 and had been ill for several years, family friend Julian MacAssey of Los Angeles told the Associated Press.
Bleyer was best known as the on-camera musical director and sometimes comic foil for Godfrey on the old “Arthur Godfrey and His Friends,” which featured among other variety entertainers the Chordettes, a female vocal quartet. Bleyer later married Chordettes singer Janet Ertel.
Although many at the time felt his involvement with Ertel, coupled with LaRosa’s professed love for Dorothy McGuire, another Godfrey singer, led to their dismissal, Godfrey denied it.
“They were no longer humble,” Godfrey said. LaRosa, Godfrey said, refused to take some of the dance lessons assigned him. Bleyer’s outside activities were said to have angered Godfrey.
After leaving Godfrey’s show in 1954, Bleyer founded Cadence Records, which produced hits through the late 1960s until it was dissolved after Bleyer’s retirement.
Hits for Label
Cadence hits for the Chordettes included “Mr. Sandman” in 1954 and “Lollipop” in 1958. In 1956, brothers Phil and Don Everly, sons of radio gospel performers, signed with Cadence and released “Bye Bye Love,” their first hit.
Other Cadence hits for the duo included “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” and “When Will I Be Loved.” Andy Williams’ first hit for Cadence was “Canadian Sunset” in 1956, followed by “Butterfly,” “Are You Sincere,” and “Lonely Street.”
Other talent on the Cadence label included Johnny Tillotson, who had hits with “Poetry in Motion” and “It Keeps Right on A-Hurtin’ ” and comedian Vaughan Meader, whose “The First Family,” spoofing President John F. Kennedy and his family, sold more than 5 million copies after its release in late 1962.
Bleyer was the son of a professional trumpeter who played for both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic orchestras, MacAssey said.
“He was studying to be an engineer at Columbia University, but found he could make more money by arranging music,” MacAssey added. Bleyer also conducted, and worked on such Broadway shows as “Best Foot Forward” and “The Earl Carroll Theater Cafe.”