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First Time Ever in Broadcast History...

The Amazing Life of Russ Columbo!

Four phenomenal hours of facts, fantasies and fantastic music!

Russ Columbo

Since this very special WYYR.com presentation was originally broadcast in April 2010, there's been whirlwind of enthusiasm for Russ Columbo and his music.

We, and Russ Columbo historian, Damon Leigh have literally been  inundated with emails from all over the world!

Due, in large part, to the enthusiastic response to these broadcasts, Damon Leigh has founded The Russ Columbo Society.

Hollywood celebrities such as Hugh Heffner, Herb Jeffries, Gina Eckstine, Paula Kelly Jr and many others are lending their support to acheive our primary goal...

To insure this great American entertainment icon is, at long last, awarded his long overdue star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!  

Please click the following links for further information:

  Russ Columbo on Facebook

The Russ Columbo Society

Here now is our special unprecedented Russ Columbo 4 hour presentation.

Parts I & II

Hollywood songwriter and Russ Columbo historian, Damon Leigh, joins your host Chris Valenti to help unravel some of the myths and mysteries surrounding this great man’s charmed life, meteoric musical career, and tragic violent death at the tender age of twenty-six.

More intriguing than the JFK Assasination!

Part I    Two Hours

Part II    Two Hours

Damon Leigh 

Our Special Guest Damon Leigh

Bill Cwiklo's Russ Columbo Blog

Best Russ Columbo Book: A Prisoner of Love

As mentioned during the show by historian Damon Leigh, this is the best book to get. Unfortunately author Mr. Tony Toran passed away just after completing this amazing book! Yet another mystery! 

Short Biography for Russ Columbo

Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo(January 14, 1908 – September 2, 1934), better known as Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune, "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love," his compositions "Prisoner of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words", and the legend surrounding his early death.

Early life and career

Columbo was born in  Camden, New Jersey, the twelfth child of Italian immigrant parents, Nicola and Giulia (Julia) Colombo. He started playing the violin while still very young, and debuted professionally at the age of 13. He left high school at 17 to travel with various bands around the country. He sang and played violin in numerous nightclubs.


By 1928, at the age of 20, Columbo began to participate in motion pictures, including a Vitaphone short in which Columbo appeared as a member of Gus Arnheim and His Orchestra. Eventually, he did obtain some feature work in front of the camera, but he slowed down his activities in cinema to pursue other interests.

Singer and composer

Columbo did 7 vocals while with Arnheim as a member of the string section; 6 for OKeh and only 1 for Victor "A Peach Of Pair" on June 18, 1930, a few months before Bing Crosby joined the band, along with Al Rinker and Harry Barris as "The Rhythm Boys".

Columbo tried to run a nightclub for a while, but the venture was unsuccessful. In 1931, he traveled to New York with his manager, songwriter Con Conrad. Conrad secured a late-night radio slot with NBC. This led to numerous engagements, a recording contract with RCA Victor records, and tremendous popularity with legions of mostly female fans. The type of singing that was popularized by the likes of Columbo, Rudy Vallee, and Bing Crosby is called crooning. Columbo disliked the label, but it caught on with the general public. It gained popular credence, despite its initial use as a term of derision for the singers employing their low, soothing voices in romantic songs.

Russ Columbo composed the songs "Prisoner of Love", "You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)" with Con Conrad, Gladys Du Bois, and Paul Gregory, "Too Beautiful For Words", recorded by the Teddy Joyce Orchestra in 1935, "When You're in Love", "My Love", "Let's Pretend There's a Moon", recorded by Fats Waller and Tab Hunter, and "Hello Sister". "Prisoner of Love" is a standard that has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Art Tatum, Perry Como, the Ink Spots, Mildred Bailey, Teddy Wilson with Lena Horne on vocals, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, and James Brown. Perry Como had a no.1 hit on Billboard with his recording. James Brown had a Top 20 pop hit and performed the song on the Ed Sullivan show and in the concert movie The T.A.M.I. Show (1964).


On September 2, 1934, Columbo was shot under peculiar circumstances by his longtime friend, photographer Lansing Brown. Columbo was visiting him at the studio one day. In lighting a cigarette, Brown lit the match by striking it against the wooden stock of an antique French dueling pistol. The flame set off a long-forgotten charge in the pistol chamber containing a lead balll. The ball ricocheted off a nearby table and hit Columbo in the left eye, killing him almost instantly. Columbo's death was ruled an accident, and Brown exonerated from blame. His funeral mass was attended by numerous Hollywood luminaries, including Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard.

However, the news was withheld from his mother by his brothers and sisters for ten years due to her previous heart condition; it was feared that the news would prove fatal to her (she died in 1944). They used all manner of subterfuges to give the impression that he was still alive, including faked letters from him and records used to simulate his radio program.

In 1995, 61 years after Columbo's death, singer Tiny Tim released an entire album in tribute to Columbo, titled Prisoner Of Love (A Tribute to Russ Columbo), which he recorded with the group Clang.

Columbo is interred in the  Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemeteryin Glendale, California. 

The Russ Columbo Society


Glenn MillerHarry JamesCab CallowayJimmy DorseyLouie ArmstrongLes Brown with Doris DayFrances LangfordSammy KayeThe Ink SpotsThe ModernairesBing CrosbyTex BenekeTommy DorseyFrank SinatraBob EberlyHelen ForrestRay eberleyKitty KallenBunny BerriganGene KrupaConnie HainesAlvino ReyThe Mills BrothersThe Andrews SistersAnita O'DayKeely SmithBillie EckstineCount_BasieDickHaymesVincent LopezWoody HermanHelen O'Connell