James Melton on Apple Music

James Melton

With a clean-behind-the-ears demeanor similar to that of Richard Crooks, John Charles Thomas, or Nelson Eddy, concert and operatic tenor James Melton usually catered to what has been described as a "musically middlebrow audience," emitting romantic airs and popular ballads with sugary precision. He was born on January 2, 1904, in Moultrie, GA. His parents, who were both musicians, raised him in Citra, FL, where he handled melons and hogs. In 1920, he graduated from high school in Ocala, then attended a series of colleges in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. He received vocal instruction from Gaetano de Luca in Nashville from 1923 to 1927, then moved to New York where he studied with Beniamino Gigli's teacher, Enrico Rosati. Melton also dabbled in dance band activities, blowing saxophone in a college jazz ensemble and performing with Francis Craig's Orchestra in Atlanta in 1926. The following year he landed in New York City and began singing on the radio without getting paid. He joined Roxy's Gang, a cabaret group led by Roxy Rothafel, worked with the Sieberling Singers, and made records for Victor singing second tenor with the Revelers and for Columbia with the same group under the pseudonym of the Singing Sophomores. His first recordings under his own name were made for Columbia in the autumn of 1927. Melton received further voice training from pianist Michael Raucheisen in Berlin, gave his first concert performance at Town Hall in New York on April 22, 1932, and embarked on a U.S. and Canadian concert tour with George Gershwin in 1934. Melton continued to perform on the radio, as a "Voice of Firestone" on The Firestone Hour beginning in 1933; on Ward's Family Theater in 1935; The Sealtest Sunday Night Party in 1936; The Palmolive Beauty Box Theater in 1937; The Song Shop in 1938; The Telephone Hour in 1940; and The Star Theater in 1944. He also appeared in movies, including Stars Over Broadway (1935), Sing Me a Love Song (1936), Melody for Two (1937), and the 1944 MGM all-star motion picture revue Ziegfeld Follies. After intensive voice training with Angelo Canarutto, Melton's operatic career took off in 1938 when he appeared with the Cincinnati Zoo Opera Company as Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly and with the St. Louis Opera Company as Alfredo in Verdi's La Traviata. He worked with the Chicago Civic Opera from 1940 to 1942, appearing with Helen Jepson in Butterfly; with Lily Pons in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor; and in Flotow's Martha. In December 1942, Melton debuted at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York as Tamino in Mozart's Magic Flute. Continuing to perform at the Met through 1947, Melton spent the 1950s making records, singing in nightclubs, appearing on television, and collecting rare automobiles. His last noteworthy stage production was Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince. He passed away in New York City on April 21, 1961. ~ arwulf arwulf

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