Known in the "Roaring Twenties" as "the crooning Troubadour", Nick Lucas was one of the early stars of American popular music. He was a well-established, influential singer and guitarist. Nick would become one of the most popular crooners on radio.
Nick Lucas was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1897. His birth name was Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese. At an early age, Nick learned to play the guitar, the mandolin, and the banjo. He, along with his brother Frank, would play Italian weddings and Italian christenings. They would play on street corners and in saloons. Nick became a very popular recording artist, renown both for his beautiful, sincere singing and his exceptional guitar playing. His guitar playing was very advance for the age.
Nick was among the earliest solo jazz guitar players, and made the first solo jazz guitar record for Pathe in 1922. Nick wrote original compositions for the recording, "Picking the Guitar," and "Teasin' the Frets." These songs would blaze a trail for many generations of guitarists to come. In 1922, Nick would also introduce the song, "Yes, We Have No Bananas," while playing for the Russo-Fiorito Orchestra at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. This orchestra was heard over the entire country on Chicago's WEBH radio station.
Fellow guitarist, Eddie Lang would often speak about Nick's fast runs, and graceful playing.
In 1923, Nick discovered that he needed a guitar that would both project and provide a balanced sound for his vocalizations. He approached the Gibson Company and had a special guitar built for him. This guitar became known as the Nick Lucas Special. This model was the first custom-made signature guitar. Gibson kept this model in continual production from 1927 to 1940. Delta blues great, Charley Patton played a Nick Lucas model.
His 1926 tour of Europe set records for the time at the London Palladium, and the Cafe de Paris. Nick never performed again in Britain.
When Nick appeared in the 1929 Gold Diggers of Broadway, he introduced two songs of note, "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine," and "Tiptoe thru the Tulips." This last became his only number one hit, selling more than 2 million records. Warners offered Nick a seven-year contract. Nick turned it down. The contract then went to Dick Powell. Nick eventually made a series of shorts for Universal and Warners.
In the 1940, Nick was often heard on radio shows of the period, singing a playing his most popular songs. He also played 100 consecutive weeks at Hollywood's El Captain Theater. In the 1950, Nick played shows in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe. He also often appeared on television in shows such as the Ed Sullivan show.
Nick appeared in the 1974 film, The Great Gatsby. In it, he sang, "I'm Gonna Charleston Back To Charleston," "When You And I Were Seventeen," and "Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue." The film won an Oscar for the best music.
Nick Lucas died in Newark, New Jersey, on July 28, 1982. During his career, Nick sold over 84 million discs, the bulk of them in the 1920's. Nick left behind him a great musical legacy that influenced many other musicians to come after him.
"..I began on simple chords like most everybody, and then I studied for a year on the Nick Lucas book." -Joe Pass
"Me and my younger brother, John, used to listen to that record, "Picking The Guitar" and "Teasing The Frets." We'd play it over and over again. And boy, we'd say, "Can't that fellow play! Wow!!" " -Merle Travis
"I've been the luckiest guy in the world. If you disc jockeys had been on hand when Nick Lucas first hit his stride he'd be the biggest name in show business." -Bing Crosby
"We fellows in the field of western music know that Nick Lucas pioneered with guitar music. He can do two of the old favorites and throw a blanket of nostalgia over any audience in America." -Eddie Dean
Name: Nick Lucas
Known for: The Great Gatsby
BirthDay: 22, Aug ,1897