Sunday, June 29, 2008


He had a golden voice. Then he needed an iron lung.

The words "crooner" and "gutsy" rarely cross, but they do in the case of star-crossed Ronnie Deauville. Ronnie's "Smoke Dreams" album has one of the most iconic images in the world of "lounge erotic" album covers, but almost nobody who treasures that cover knows that after its release, Deauville actually standing and singing was a dream, not reality. He actually sang from a wheelchair.

He was born Henry Deauville (August 28, 1925). His mother Marie was an actress and his sister Sheryl had some minor success (notably a hooker role in "Irma La Douce") but he became the star of the family. After Marine Air Corps service in World War 2, and now re-named Ronnie, he became the big band singer for orchestras led by Glenn Gray, Tex Beneke and ultimately Ray Anthony. “Sentimental Me” was a hit in 1950 and “Be My Love” made the charts in 1951. The Ray Anthony "Capitol Collectors Series" CD features him on "Nevertheless," "Can Anyone Explain," and "Autumn Leaves."

Before there was an Elvis, there was Ronnie, with that slick shiny black hair, the provocative curl to the lip, the bedroom eyes, and a charming voice. There would be quite a few tall, dark and handsome guys making the ladies swoon; guys who seemed to come from the same general mold (Vic Damone, Eddie Fisher, Frankie Vaughan, Dean Martin). Ronnie was sure to be right up there, maybe even on top.

Ronnie had assembled a pretty impressive number of singles and was ready for his first long-play album. 1956 was the year "Smoke Dreams" came out. But it was also the year that his dreams went up in smoke. In September of 1956 he got into a collision with a car that had veered into his path, and the impact threw him out of his vehicle and into the street. How could it get worse? While recuperating in the hospital, he was diagnosed with polio. Doctors weren't sure exactly how this happened...if it was somehow triggered by the accident, if his immune system was weakened...but the result was that the smooth-voiced crooner spent a year in an iron lung.

Paralyzed from the neck down, he fought back, and miraculously regained enough breath control to sing again. An ordinary chair could be substituted for his wheelchair, as in an artfully done TV rendition of "Aoha 'oe," where romantic Ronnie is viewed in a sailor cap, seemingly in a cabin on board a boat, sitting at the port hole, dreaming of Hawaiian dancers (double-exposed as nostalgic visions in his mind). Check YOUTUBE for that one.

On November 6, 1957 Ralph Edwards told his story on "This Is Your Life." There are a few clips of it on YouTube,  including a heartbreaking opener, where he sings "Laura," and the camera pulls back to reveal him in the wheelchair, his hands almost limp. Era issued several singles, as Steve Allen, Jerry Lewis, Jack Paar and others helped him get continued TV exposure. The Era labels "Smoke Dreams" album cover preserved the fantasy of the handsome singer being able to stand. Ronnie's inspirational story led to another record contract, with Imperial.

Ronnie's 1959 album for Imperial featured a big close-up of the handsome star on the cover. It would be his last album. "Romance with Ronnie" offered such songs as "Tormented," "Blame Your Eyes," and "Dream Girl." On his smooth cover of "Unchained Melody," he was able to hit the challenging high notes with ease. The liner notes referenced his car accident and comeback, but did not mention his chair-bound condition.

A combination of breathing ability, the difficulty of attracting female fans to a handicapped male singer, the physical problems of getting around to clubs or TV dates...led Ronnie to move behind the scenes, doing song-dubbing for less talented movie stars. He eventually retired to Florida with his wife and children, and passed away from cancer on Christmas Eve, 1990.

Your download? His single of "Laura," one of his most effective performances, along with the title cut from the "Smoke Dreams" album.
Laura-Smoke Dreams Instant download or listen on line. No code words, porn ads or pop-ups.


Anonymous said...

I've included your Ronnie Deauville download in a recent blog post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Your bio of Ronnie Deauville is distored and inaccurate in many ways. I don't know who you are, but you need to get the facts straight about the Deauville Family. Ronnie's mother, his sister Sheryl and most of the family were in show business. Ronnie had a wonderful voice, and was on the way up when the polio hit. His sister Sheryl made her way in Show business since the age of six months old, I understand doing many films that seem to be not listed. She also became a designer, I believe. It was a prolific family with Ronnie having the most glorious voice of his time. Get your facts straight and don't publish a half story about a wonderful singer that came from a wonderful family...

Ill Folks said...

Anything that isn't factual, feel free to correct.

The article is about Ronnie, not Sheryl, so anyone who wants additional info on her can probably check her name on the IMDB.Com.

And thanks, Dr. Chilledair...those wanting more of Ronnie's work will find plenty of his singles on that site!

annonymous said...

I knew the Deauville family well. Your caption on the photos is incorrect. You should correct it. You say "Early Photo Trick: Ronnie appears to be standing? This is on the bottom left next to smoke dreams. RONNIE WAS STANDING FOR THE COVER OF THE was done prior to his accident!!! Your incorrect to say that it appears that he is standing when again, he was...check you facts before publishing information please....

Ill Folks said...

Thanks for the update on the "Smoke Dreams" cover, which I've amended.

That was definitely a time-line error. "Smoke Dreams" apparently was in stores either shortly before or after the accident.

Typical example of how even the best blogs don't do rigorous fact-checking and certainly don't have paid proofreaders questioning anything.

There were no resources on Ronnie at the time the piece was written and sadly, as of this amended comment, there still isn't the official website he deserves.

Viagra said...

What a shame that he became paralyzed!