b. 20 December 1900, Newark, New Jersey, USA, d. 22 July 1971. Fio Rito began playing piano at an early age and also dabbled in songwriting when he was still in his teens. In the '20s he formed a band in collaboration with Dan Russo, which they named the Oriole Terrace Orchestra. Russo's best-known contribution to popular music was as co-writer of the Al Jolson hit Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo Bye)’. During the '30s Fio Rito was sole leader of a band which played engagements at prestigious venues such as the St Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Although Fio Rito employed a number of competent sidemen and he was an adequate performer on Hammond organ, the band's book was heavy with vocal numbers. His singers included Betty Grable, who later became a film star (and married Harry James), and a vocal group, Kay Swingle and Her Brothers (one of whom, Ward, later formed the Swingle Singers). For a number of years Fio Rito had his own radio show, HOLLYWOOD HOTEL. His compositions include Laugh, Clown, Laugh and I Never Knew. Although shifts in musical taste meant he was unfashionable before the end of the '40s, Fio Rito was still playing, in Las Vegas, in the '60s. He died in 1971.
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