Date added: 4 Oct 2017
In the age of the crooners, Phil Brito's name was known far and wide. Starting in the late 1930s, he was a radio regular, fronting a variety of bands with his effortless baritone. Sometimes the songs were in English, sometimes in Italian, and his most famous numbers -- "Mama" and "Come Back to Sorrento" – were English-language versions of Italian classics.
The son of Italian immigrants, his real name was Philip Colombrito, he was born in West Virginia, where his father had sojourned to find work in coal mines. But his family was living in Orange when, at the age of 13, he sang at a talent show sponsored by a local Moose Lodge.
By the age of 17, he was traveling with bands. In that era, large bands that played pop and dance music were in huge demand, and Phil Brito's popularity grew steadily over the years. While he worked with Jimmy Dorsey, one of the famous Dorsey brothers, he also spent many years working for band leaders now only remembered by aficionados: Houston Ray, Lloyd Huntley, Al Donohue and Jan Savitt.
With Donohue in the late 1930s, Phil Brito had a regular engagement at New York's prestigious Rainbow Room. He also appeared frequently at a club called the Blue Mirror in Newark.
He was particularly popular among his fellow second- generation Italian-Americans. "He was in the mold of somebody like Vic Damone, this second-generation of Italian singers who would interpret these old Neopolitan songs, but also transition into more popular songs," In early 1949, Mr. Brito was named one of 10 "outstanding Italian-American men in the United States".
Brito appeared in the movie "Square Dance Katy" and continued to perform concerts and appear on television throughout the 1950s. He also had his own network radio show, which he broadcast live from the San Marino Hotel in Miami Beach.
By the mid-1960s, however, the golden era of crooners was over. Only a handful -- such as Frank Sinatra -- retained their status as household names.