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Ace Brigode

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If a bandleader thought of himself as more of a showman than a musician, perhaps it is only appropriate that he seems to be remembered more for a voice-over on a tomato sauce commercial than any of his music. Such is the case with Ace Brigode, whose Ace Brigode & His Fourteen Virginians toured widely and recorded prolifically beginning in the roaring '20s. The group's activities seems to have created stronger memories of particular songs than the actual group that recorded them. Much of this can be attributed to the practices of the era's record companies, which signed exclusive contracts to deliver product to individual stores. If another store wanted the record, then they had to get it under another name; meaning potential recognition for Ace Brigode & His Fourteen Virginians was lost when recordings by the band came out under bogus names such as the Denza Dance Orchestra and the Corona Dance Orchestra. Mathematically advanced members of the public may have also objected to a band advertised as having 14 members, when sometimes there were 19 or only ten. All of this is a possible explanation for why Brigode is remembered for asking the question "who put eight great tomatoes in that itty-bitty can?" on a Contadina radio and television ad, at least by trivia buffs, while the group that recorded chestnuts such as "Yes Sir! That's My Baby," "Wait 'Til It's Moonlight," "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," and "Alabamy Bound" is largely forgotten. The group was originally formed in 1921 and was based out of Charleston, WV. Brigode kept his Virginians of varying numbers performing for some 25 years after that, including appearances on hit radio programs such as the White Rose Gasoline Show and lengthy stints at classy hotels, including a four-year stand at New York City's Monte Carlo. The group was known for vocal features as well as instrumental pyrotechnics. The arrangement of "Goin' Home" was a crowd favorite, including a vocal mob of sidemen engaged in call and response with a scat-singing lead vocalist. Brigode's was most receptive to the radio performances and that medium's potential for commercial success, and he began focusing on the creative world of jingles and product tie-ins. He became involved in management and promotional activities in Cleveland, OH, when the band folded in 1945. When Brigode died in 1960, the media at the time reported that President Eisenhower went into a short period of seclusion in his office, listening to an old 78 of Brigode's "Sleeping Beauty's Wedding." At least he didn't ask for a copy of the tomato sauce commercial. A group named the Virginians may have also been a spin-off involving some of Brigode's players as well as the man himself, but the group's recordings are so totally obscure that nobody knows for sure. ~ Eugene Chadbourne