I’ve had the privilege of working with some show biz legends in my varied careers over the years. Two of the nicest were George Burns and Bob Newhart. Both were very genuine people, just like the characters they portrayed, and extremely funny. This week at the I met another legend, and he was also very funny.
His name is Rudy Favaloro, and Helen Ofield of the suggested I meet him. She told me that Favaloro, in his younger days, had toured worldwide with the Ray Anthony orchestra and was in a vocal group called the Axidentals. Ofield said he was a total charmer, and a bit of a character. Sounded like a good story.
I typed Rudy Favaloro into my search box, hit enter, and nothing of interest came back. He must have used a stage name, or he really is a character. This was my first question to him when we met. He told me, “I went by Sandy Rogers. Who can pronounce Favaloro?”
Favaloro is a short, rounded man with an easy smile and clever manner. The born storyteller in him came out when I asked how he got involved in music.
“The way the story goes is when I was baby I would not talk. The doctors thought I was deaf and dumb.," he said. "Then one day I was sitting in the parlor and heard my sister playing the piano, walked over, climbed up in her lap, and played note for note the keys she had just played. Turned out I had a perfect ear.”
Favaloro soon was talking, and as a teenager started singing. He left his native Brooklyn by enlisting in the Coast Guard during World War II. He joked that our country was lucky no one invaded during his watch.
After the war and now living in San Francisco, Favaloro’s interest in music took off in dramatic fashion. His career was launched as a singer when he became part of a jazz vocal group called The Axidentals. The group produced several albums (featuring Maynard Ferguson on trumpet) and was very popular during the 1950s. The Axidentals toured internationally and played many premier venues in the United States, including the Copacabana in New York City.
After playing a date in Germany during their heyday, the quartet of singers stopped by a small club for a late dinner. To their surprise, they heard their song “Bells Are Ringing” being performed live by a local group. In a once-in-a-lifetime moment they walked on stage, much to the utter astonishment of the performers, and joined them in finishing the song. Favaloro (then known as Sandy Rogers) said it brought down the house.
For five years in the early 1960s, the multitalented Favaloro had a new career as the pianist for the Ray Anthony orchestra and again toured the world. Anthony, who had played with Glen Miller, was a great self-promoter with movie-star good looks. Favaloro noted that Anthony was a nice guy, and it was a joy working with him.
His career took yet another turn when he became a music teacher at an exclusive private school in Burbank. He said working with the children was very rewarding, as was meeting their famous parents from the nearby studios.
After retiring, Favaloro moved to Spring Valley. He often comes to the Lemon Grove Senior Center for lunch and activities. He also occasionally entertains the group by playing piano for birthdays and other events. Here is short video clip of “Sandy Rogers” on the Senior Center’s old upright.
When leaving, I told Favaloro (who doesn’t own a computer) that he will be on the Internet now, and people will be able to find him. He quipped, “I didn’t do it.”