Ames Brothers quartet topped 1950s charts

Joe Ames, the bass anchor of the 1950s hit group The Ames Brothers, died Dec. 22 in Germany. He was 86.

He had been living in Germany for more than 40 years during his second career in opera and as a music consultant for ZDF TV in Germany.

Ames, along with his brothers, Gene, Vic and Ed, formed a chart-topping quartet throughout the 50s, never falling out of Billboard’s Top 100 for more than 10 years.

The Ames Brothers also had their own television show in 1955, which became the most highly syndicated show of its time.

The four brothers were the first vocal group to be signed to Coral Records, a newly-formed division of Decca, and scored eight gold records for that label, and later for RCA Records, with the songs “Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” “You, You, You,” “Rag Mop,” “Sentimental Me,” “Melodie D’Amour” and “It Only Hurts for a Little While.”

They also recorded song titles for films including “Marjorie Morningstar,” “Suzy Wong” and “Man on Fire” with Bing Crosby.

The Brothers disbanded as an act in the early ’60s, with each pursuing separate careers. Three of the brothers, Joe, Vic and Gene, recorded two additional albums as a group. The three also had a television show in Houston, Texas in the early 1960s, called “The Ames Brothers Show.”

Joe Ames moved to Germany in 1965 and began a second career in opera, one of his first loves.

Ames was born Joseph Urick in Malden, Mass. The four brothers were the last born in an impoverished family of 11 children. The boys began singing harmony around the dinner table, and in their teens, were discovered by a talent agent who soon had them singing in upscale nightclubs and touring military bases.

Joe Ames was offered roles with the Metropolitan Opera Touring Company, but decided to join his three brothers to see if they could make a go of it.

This strong-voiced, masculine quartet of three baritones and a bass, quickly set themselves apart from 50s falsettos and went on dozens of national tours, appearing at the Cocoanut Grove, the Copacabana and the Sahara in Las Vegas. They made frequent guest appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “American Bandstand” and “The Steve Allen Show.”

The brothers appeared with performers from Lucy and Desi to Marilyn Monroe, and performed and recorded with bands and band directors like Les Brown, Guy Lombardo, Juan Esquivel and Hugo Winterhalter.

Ames is survived by his wife, Ingeborg Heittman-Ames; a daughter and a granchild. His only remaining brother is singer/actor Ed Ames of Los Angeles.

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