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Russ Columbo

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Camden, New Jersey, United States

Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo (January 14, 1908–September 2, 1934), better known by the name Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune, “You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love,” and the legend surrounding his early death.

Columbo was born in Camden, New Jersey, United States the twelfth child of Italian immigrant parents. He started playing the violin while still very young, and debuted professionally at the age of 13. He left high school at 17 to travel with various bands around the country. He sang and played violin in numerous nightclubs.

By 1928, at the age of 20, Columbo began to participate in motion pictures. In several of his early films, his voice and violin were overdubbed to create the illusion that various popular entertainers were musical. Eventually, he did obtain some feature work in front of the camera, but he slowed down his activities in cinema to pursue other interests.

Columbo tried to run a nightclub for a while, but the venture was unsuccessful. In 1931, he traveled to New York with his manager, songwriter Con Conrad. Conrad secured a late-night radio slot with NBC. This led to numerous engagements, a recording contract with RCA Victor records, and tremendous popularity with legions of mostly female fans. The type of singing that was popularized by the likes of Columbo, Rudy Vallee, and Bing Crosby is called crooning. Columbo disliked the label, but it caught on with the general public. It gained popular credence, despite its initial use as a term of derision for the singers employing their low, soothing voices in romantic songs.

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