SHOW BUSINESS

FRANK VIRTUE aka FRANK VIRTUOSO

FRANK VIRTUE was one of the founders behind the postwar pop music boom in Philadelphia. A prodigiously talented guitarist and bassist, as well as a gifted arranger, he was working professionally while still in college and became a bandleader during a year spent in the United States Navy. In 1947 he founded the Frank Virtuoso Trio. By 1959 this band had evolved into The Virtues, the instrumental band responsible for the 1959 single "Guitar Boogie Shuffle." Virtue left the group, disbanding it, in 1962 and went into production, founding his own studio where he occasionally recorded a descendant group of sorts, the Virtuoso Orchestra, as well as such singles as Eddie Holman's "Hey There Lonely Girl," among numerous other artists. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff were later major producers based at Virtue's studio. 

Frank Virtue was born on January 21, 1923. He played the violin as a child and took up the guitar and the double bass as a teenager. He continued with the latter as a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra and studied orchestration at Temple University. He enlisted in the Navy in 1945 and became bandleader of the Regular Navy Dance Band in Bainbridge, Maryland. He was discharged in 1946 because his father, who had been diagnosed with cancer, could no longer support his family. Virtue considered putting together a big band but, due to financial constraints, assembled an amplified trio instead, with Ralph Frederico on the piano and Steve Rossi on the guitar. Virtue named the band the Virtuoso Trio after their formation in 1947.

The Virtuoso Trio toured the regional club circuit for the better part of a decade, playing as far as Canada and making regular appearances on Philadelphia radio and television. They appear to have been the house band at Chubby's Cafe in West Collingswood, New Jersey in 1949 and 1950. They performed as a backup ensemble for Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney, Dick Haymes, June Christy, and others. When local Pennsylvanians Bill Haley & the Comets hit big in the mid-1950s, Virtue found a receptive audience in the teenagers who loved the nascent rock & roll craze.

By this time, the group's lineup had expanded, with Virtue on the bass, John Renner on the saxophone, Jimmy Bruno on the guitar, Joe Vespe on the drums, and Dave Kaplin as an occasional vocalist. Under the name the Virtues, they released a rock reworking of Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith's country hit "Guitar Boogie" in 1958 under the title "Guitar Boogie Shuffle", on the Hunt label. The instrumental became a major hit in the U.S., peaking at #27 on the Black Singles chart and #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. The single also became a sheet music smash, selling well worldwide. Several singles followed "Flippin", "Boogie Woogie", "Vaya con Dios" but none of them succeeded; the group was signed by ABC-Paramount, but their only return to the charts was with the 1962 release "Guitar Boogie Shuffle Twist" which reached #95 in the United States pop charts.

Towards the end of 1962, Virtue disbanded the group and primarily pursued a career as a record producer and recording engineer.  His original studio, in the basement of his house on Fayette Street, was where "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" was originally recorded. He opened a new business, Virtue Recording Studios, located at 1618 N. Broad St., which became one of the top studios in Philadelphia for a number of years until closing in the early 1980s. He produced and mixed (with his wife Mary Anne Virtue) groups such as "Society's Child", a top 40 band from the Wilmington, Delaware area. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, among others, produced records at Virtue's studio before moving on the the Sugma Sound studio. The song "Hey There, Lonely Girl" by Eddie Holman was produced at the studio, as were "That's Life" and "Who Stole the Keeshka?" by Gabriel & the Angels. In later years Virtue Studios was the home of a number of rap groups, including Dr. Roxx & Co.

Collectables Records released a collection of Virtues instrumentals in 1993 as Guitar in Orbit..

Bob Eberly appeared at Chubby's Cafe on Mt. Ephraim Avenue and Collings Road on the first two weekends in January of 1950. Also on the bill at Chubbys on those dates were The Four Blues with Arthur Davey and the house orchestra, and the Frank Virtuoso Band, perhaps better known somewhat later as Frank Virtue and the Virtues. Over the next six weeks the Frank Virtuoso Band shared the stage with Savannah Churchill, June Christy, Art Lund, Bill Darnel, Dick Todd, Billy Hays, Eve Young, Emilie Longacre, Artie Russell's New Yorkers, and the Doles Dickens Quintet

Philadelphia Inquirer

June 13, 1994

Frank F. Virtue, 71, Musician Of Many Eras

By Mark Jaffe,
 INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Frank F. Virtue, 71, a Philadelphia musician and record producer whose career stretched from the big bands of the 1940s to the street rap of the 1990s, died Saturday at Nazareth Hospital.

Mr. Virtue was a 15-year-old living in South Philadelphia when he began to play the guitar. Within a few years, he added the bass to his repertoire.

The big-band sound dominated the popular music of his early-adult years. In 1945, he played with the Regular Navy Dance Band while stationed in Bainbridge, Md.

Upon leaving the service, he decided, according to liner notes on one of his albums, that big bands had no future, that they were "too expensive to maintain."

In 1946, inspired by the Nat King Cole Trio, Mr. Virtue formed a trio of his own, the Virtues, and embarked on a career playing local clubs and television shows. The trio appeared at the Latin Casino, the 500 Club, and Chubby's in the Philadelphia area.

The band also backed such famous singers as Rosemary Clooney, Dick Haymes and Don Cornel and even appeared with the Three Stooges at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.

The Virtues were a regular on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and could be seen on such popular local TV broadcasts as The Grady & Hurst Show and The Plymouth Auto Show.

In 1959, Mr. Virtue capped his career with his song "Guitar Boogie Shuffle," which reached No. 3 on the Billboard chart and No. 1 in sales of sheet music. The song sold more than two million copies worldwide.

Mr. Virtue opened his own recording studio in 1962 at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. The song "Hey There, Lonely Girl" by Eddie Holman was produced at the studio, as were "That's Life" and "Who Stole the Keeshka?" by Gabriel & the Angels.

More recently, Virtue Studios was the home of a number of rap groups, including Dr. Roxx & Co.

"He was always on the go, always interested in the music business, and never had any intention of retiring. Why, he was in the studio recording just last week," said Mr. Virtue's daughter, Maryann Lanciano, of Alden.

Survivors include his wife, Mary C.; another daughter, Linda Vitacolonna of Holland, Pa.; a brother, Nicholas, and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. tomorrow at Hollen Funeral Home, 3160 Grant Ave. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. at Maternity BVM Church, 9220 Bustleton Ave. Burial will be in Our Lady of Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.

A APartail List of Recordings 

as Frank Virtuoso

Rollin' and Rockin'

Toodle-oo Kangaroo

Mountaineer Twist

as Frank & the Virtues or as The Virtues

Guitar Boogie Shuffle

Guitar on the Wild Side

Guitar Shimmy

Pluckin Plankin' Boogie

St. Louis Blues

Guitar in Orbit
Frank Virtuoso's Rockets
Rollin' and Rockin'
Frank Virtuoso & his Men of Virtue
I'm Going Home

as The Teem-sters for TEEM Soda

The Penn State Twist
The Teem Mashed Potatoes
Written, Arranged and Produced by Frank Virtue
Jimmy Roma - Beyond the Galaxy
Produced by Frank Virtue
Bill Horton - No One Can Take Your Place
Bill Horton - I Wanna Know
The Thrillers - Detroit City SOul

RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE