jabw_vintage/report no. 33

the Starita family

this page first published by John Wright, 31 August 2004
last update 10 November 2007vintage@jabw.demon.co.uk

Starita family contacted
John Wright: I'm very excited to say that we have been contacted by the Starita family. Record collectors and fans of dance bands will be familiar with the names of Al, Ray and Rudy Starita, all Italian-Americans and all important musicians in the British dance band scene. So it was with some surprise that I was contacted by the daughter of Julio Starita. Julio was previously unknown to me, because he is not listed as having made records, but Julio too was active in the Britsh dance band scene. His daughter Barbara Starita-Vincent wrote: "I am the younger daughter of the youngest Starita brother, Julio, who was also a musician. Dad played sax and piano. He sailed to London to play in his big brother Ray's band in the early thirties and then traveled to Johannesburg, So. Africa where he lived and played music for a couple of years. I believe dad and his band were employed by a large hotel. Eventually he returned to the states where he met my mother Dorothy. Dad, the last surviving member of his family passed away September 2001. He was 88 and had a very interesting and long life". 

Thanks to Barbara we were later contacted by Dick Starita, son of Al Starita.

Dick provided us with a good timeline of activity for Al Starita after he returned to USA:

AL STARITA

In 1921 the Starita brothers formed a band in the Boston, USA area.
1923: Al and Ray Starita travelled to Britian, were soon playing with the original Savoy Orpheans.
1925-1928: Al Starita led and recorded prolifically with the Kit-Cat Band
1928-1929: led and recorded with the Piccadilly Players

1934-1941: Played primarily in New England and New York. Mentioned playing frequently at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City.

1942-1943: Went on tour with the USO in the States. Played for several bands including the Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. When he was with Carmen Cavallero he played in Florida and loved it so much he decided to move here. The bus stopped in West Palm Beach - he got off!

1944-1960: Led society orchestras and small combos. Played many war benefit gigs in Florida. Played for the Vice-President at a huge ball. Settled down with a large orchestra at the Pennsylvania Hotel in West Palm Beach for a few years. Formed a small combo and a permanent gig at the Okeechobee Bar and Grill in West Palm Beach right where the present Kravit Center stands today. He featured his big bass sax - people came from all around to hear it. Stayed there until his death.

Al always had a day job:
1) Ran his own catering service out of our house
2) Repaired church and house organs in Palm Beach
3) Opened a music studio, teaching all instruments.
4) was the band director at St.Ann's School
5) Worked in the photo-offset printing business- eventually for the Palm Beach Post-Times. He also wrote a column for the paper.

We put Dick Starita in touch with Ned Newitt who has produced a couple of CD's featuring the London bands led by Al Starita. Not surprisingly Dick was delighted when he was able to listen to his father's bands, restored excellently by Ned. You can visit Ned's site at: Mellotone.

Dick also reported that he remembers Ray Starita. "I knew Ray from frequent visits to his huge entertainment complex in Manchester, New Hampshire. This was in the 40's and 50's. I remember him playing the wonderful Hammond Organ at his home".

Percussionist brother Rudy Starita worked in Britain for over 20 years. Dick has added: "After his wartime leading all-girl orchestras in England Rudy moved back to Florida permanently sometime in the late 40's . He opened an antique shop in Palm Beach where he imported art objects from around the world. He sometimes played gigs with Al. His son, Michael, became a drummer and played with Al and several other bands. He became a stockbroker, moved to Denver, and died a few years ago.

I am delighted to say that Dick Starita has also preserved several photos of Al Starita and his brothers. Some of these are currently viewable at the Starita Gallery page

RAY STARITA

And now Donna Orr has written to us with information on her father, Ray (Renata) Starita:

Born 2/8/1904 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA
Died 2/1/1967 in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA (Prostate Cancer)
Married to Evelyn (Sheridan) Starita (my mother) Divorced in 1962. Two children Donna and Robert. Robert passed away in 2004 at age 60 - Navy career for 28 years, never married. Donna is living in Sebring, Florida. One child, Missi and her husband Tony, and they have two sons.

My father was a loving father, a very gifted musician, an expert horseman, businessman, loved boating, entrupreneur, extremely funny, caring and very generous with his time and money to the needy. He loved all kinds of music and could play several instruments. Many nights I would fall asleep to the sound of him playing the wonderful sounds of the organ.

He owned and operated the Bedford Grove in Manchester, NH from 1936 until his death in 1967. Included at this property was the Carousel Ballroom, with an outdoor dance floor and shell, "Chat & Chew" Restaurant, Bowling Alley, Bedford Grove Drive-In, Rollerskating Rink, two barns full of horses and several smaller businesses. He also owned a summer home in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee at the Weirs, where he had his 33 foot Chris Craft boat called "The Carousel", a bowling alley, along with a boat yard.

I have several recordings of his band(s), including quite a few with Columbia Records "Piccadilly Revels Band", which he directed and played tenor saxophone; several with Columbia Records with his Ambassadors Band with vocals; and Sterno Records with his Ambassadors.

Donna has preserved several photos of Ray Starita. Some of these are currently viewable at the Starita Gallery page


Any information on the careers of Al, Ray, Rudy and Julio Starita will be much appreciated and will be included in full biography web pages. Please e-mail John Wright with any information


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