Lucille Ball Sings Wildcat

In 1961 singer John Hemmer was enjoying success as a new member and replacement singer in The Four Voices, a Columbia Records signed all-male harmony quartet first formed in the 1950s. The group won popularity through appearances on the Arthur Godfrey Show, later touring across the United States, and also appearing on other broadcast variety shows of the period.

Between out-of-town performances, John Hemmer and Four Voices founder and friend, Frank Fosta, along with pal, fellow Columbia Records singer, Johnnie Ray, spent their off-time in New York City, where each lived.

At the same time, Lucille Ball was in New York performing in the musical production of Wildcat (1960), which would mark the film and television star’s Broadway debut. The show, with book by N. Richard Nash, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, music by Cy Coleman and produced by Ball and Nash, was originally staged in Philadelphia where is opened to positive reviews in October of 1960. The show moved to the Alvin Theatre for it’s New York City opening in December of 1960. The Broadway premiere was not met with as much enthusiasm as in Philadelphia. The show would close in the spring of 1961 due to a variety of complications, including a ski accident Ball suffered leaving her in a leg cast.

Here Hemmer recalls an evening in Manhattan he’d never forget. He would often recall how the show business community was small back in the day and that everybody knew everybody. “If you were in the business”, he’d say, “sooner or later you’d cross paths”.

*Please let us know about any suggested edits or fact corrections to this article. We care about accuracy. Contact us through the John Hemmer Archive Credits page.

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Kirsten

Kirsten is a documentarian and archivist influenced by interests in mid-century political and cultural history, non-fiction filmmaking and the preservation of personal heritage and cinema art legacies.