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Liberace

Liberace (born Wladziu Valentino Liberace) was the most flamboyant, popular easy listening pianist of the '60s and '70s by a wide margin. His campy, theatrical appearance and performances often disguised his prodigious talent.

Liberace was a child prodigy born to a musical family. His father, Salvatore, played French horn in John Philip Sousa's Concert Band, as well as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Instead of following in his father's footsteps and playing horn, Wladziu Liberace decided to play piano instead. Liberace was exceptionally gifted at piano, earning strong words of praise from Ignace Paderewski, which helped him land a scholarship at the Wisconsin College of Music at the age of seven; he retained his scholarship for 17 years, the longest period of time in the history of the academy. When he was 11, he debuted as a concert soloist. When he was in his teens, he was performing with symphony orchestras.

Instead of following the accepted path of classical recitals and university courses, Liberace chose to be a showman. At encores at his concerts, he began playing novelty songs like "Mairzy Doats." To ensure that he had widespread appeal as an entertainer, he took elocution lessons in order to mask his Polish accent.

During World War II, Liberace performed in a variety of overseas entertainment units. When he came back to America, he began performing in clubs, playing and singing with dance bands. While he was on the club circuit, he began performing under the sole name of Liberace.

In 1940, he moved to New York City, where he became a fixture on the club circuits. However, his stint in New York wasn't particularly successful, as the Musicians Union banned the pianist after he began playing counterpoints to certain records played over the club's sound system. Undaunted, Liberace moved to California. While he was playing at a local hotel, he was spotted by Decca Record executives who offered him a contract. Decca attempted to make Liberace into a big-band leader, but it was unsuccessful. In the late '40s, he signed with Columbia Records and, under the direction of producer Mitch Miller, recorded an over-the-top rendition of "September Song." Along with a live concert album, the single helped bring Liberace to a national audience.

Liberace became a star in the '50s, both through his records and assorted television and film appearances. His appearance and repertoire were becoming increasingly campy, as he dressed himself in rhinestone, gold lame, furs, and sequins while playing everything from Gershwin and show tunes to lounge jazz and light classical pieces, with a candelabra placed on his piano. Liberace's star rose rapidly in the early '50s, as he had his own television show, appropriately titled The Liberace Show. His celebrity reached a peak in the mid-'50s. Not only did he star in the 1955 film Sincerely Yours, a movie about a deaf concert pianist, but he was mentioned in "Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes and he published his own cookbook. In 1956, Liberace celebrated his 25 years in show business with an extravagant concert at the Hollywood Bowl. That same year, he made some headway in the U.K. market, playing three Royal Command Performances.

Though it was a heady time for the pianist, 1956 was also the year that his star began to dim somewhat. Cassandra, a columnist for the English tabloid The Daily Mirror, inferred that Liberace was homosexual. He sued the paper and won, yet he still made an effort to tone down his appearance. However, the public didn't want a subdued Liberace, and he reverted to his kitschy showmanship in the early '60s.

Liberace didn't have any more pop hits in the '60s,'70s, and '80s, yet he continued to sell out concerts around the world and sell a number of records, even though he never earned the favor of the critics. In 1982, a former chauffeur and bodyguard sued the pianist for palimony; the case was settled out of court. Liberace remained a celebrity and a popular performer until his death in 1987. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

My all time favorite piano player of all time
A truly gifted man, I grew up watching The Liberace Show
alycehanlon
I remember watching The Liberace Show as a toddler in the mid 50's. I LOVED listening to his piano and especially loved when he blew the audience a kiss at the end of each concert!! I'd tell my mom he was blowing ME a kiss!
reyn9655
Lauren Bacall
He was incredible. I was 7 years old when I went to his TV show for my birthday he sang Happy Birthday to me and Autumn Leaves. He was my favorite since age of 3. It was so exciting that my parents took me to see him for my birthday. I saw him in Vegas a number of times, many times on my birthday. I am now in my 60's and to this day his music helps me through stressful days. I have many of his albums. Wonderful pianist and showman.
Wonderful artist
Will never get tired of the greatest talents showmanship

You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss. A si is just a si. The fundamental rules apply as time goes bye. It's still the same old story. A fight for love and glory. A case of do or die. The world will always welcome lovers as time goes bye. Moon light and love songs never out of place. Passion and ????? jealousy and hate. Woman needs man and man must have his mate. That no one can deny...... Casa Blanca, Humphrey Bogart/Loren Bacall. Here's look'in at ya kid.
There are some great and wonderful stations on Pandora but for me this is the greatest with the most beautiful performances and memories. Thank you Pandora.
I was just wondering if Liberace is on YouTube. His show were sooooo elegant and warm. Do you remember Korla Pandant? He was great too.
Well here I go again.....I was just getting ready to wax enthusiastic about the maestro but alas I've already beaten myself to it....and it was good too and I still mean it. So, just scroll down, enjoy and the next time your out axe somebody about Liberace.... h u h ? ? ? ? DMB.
I love Liberace, and me and my piano teacher talk about him all the time. I have this recurring dream where he has dinner with me at my house, and throughout the meal I beg him to play piano for me. After dinner he agrees, and then walks over to my piano. Just as his fingers are reaching toward the keys I wake up. It's the worst thing ever.
Always enjoyed Liberace in every concert and particularly in the 50's
I remember when I was young, and spent a year in the wheel chair, I could not wait until 1PM to watch his TV show. I had a piano but had to have a candelabra too. He was a great pianist, showman and person. I wish I had every album he ever made .
Reading the bio, you'd think that Liberace was somewhat of a has-been after the 1950s and NOTHING could be further from the truth! He was one of the biggest concert draws and Vegas headliners right up until his death. He appeared frequently on the top late night TV shows and was truly one of a kind. What an enormous talent and wonderful man.
This is another of Pandora's gifts to the culture. A fine artist and being not gone lost and forgotten but still here to be remembered and enjoyed. Good grief, 52 years ago. Pass the Geritol DMB
I have always considered that Liberace was a girly man, but what a magificent, warm, funny, talented, lovable human being he was. I am very glad that I was alive in the first days of black and white television and that I came to know and enjoy who he was. You can see it in his face. One of his shows with his outragious but elegent dress, candeloberas , banter with the never seen brother George and magnificent music and style was a gift that remains in your heart for the rest of your life. DM
Say! Does anybody remember Ina Ray Hutton and her all girl band or Spade Cooley? I just found Spade. DMB
Liber-ah-che e had elegance, talent, class, style, grace, showmanship, a great candle holder and a brother named George. He was another of the great talents to grace the early days of television. DMB
bortiz1954
Liberace was a little before my time, however I began later to see the prodigy he was.
sparrish14
survyr1
I grew up with Liberace's music - loved it then - love it now. One of the best musical entertainers ever.
He brought a musical piece of sunshine to our minds and imaginations back then. His showmanship was delightful.
mihunter2
Leave a comment…
mihunter2
Liberace was the MAN! He showed alot of musicians the way. Lee's shows were a must see in my Moms house and we all love him and do.
Re Liberace: I was working at NBC when a co-worker asked me if I wanted tickets to see him at Radio City Music Hall as he couldn't go. I took piano lessons for 6yrs classical, 2yrs violin and school orchestra, self taught spanish guitar for years, Stand-up bass viol in USAF jazz quintet, watched "Voice of Firestone Symphany Orchestra" and the Liberace TV shows. I had to accept the tickets! Center, front 1st mezzenine with my wife who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. What a terrific show he gav
One of a kind...no one today can compare to Lee in terms of talent, showmanship and star quality.
Who cares if he was gay? He was a great entertainer.
I have a magnet with a picture of him in all his pimped out glory & it says "Got Bling?"
I share my birthday with Liberace. :o)
marilyncurti s 1 2 3 4
I hear this wonderfully talented man play songs familiar to my family. Long ago when both my mom and dad were with us in the family living room we silently shared the magic of his music. As I listen tonight I am filled with both love and longing for my parents. thanks for the memories dear liberace. marilyn, daughter of Vernon and Mary.
love rhapsody in blue. a awesome entertainer i remmember when i was 6 years old watching him and his brother george on tv at the end of the show liberace would always say "I want to thank my brother george for playing here tonight good night and god bless.
"In fact, the buttons are the most expensive part of the outfit. They're real diamond buttons....b u t I couldn't come out in just in the buttons. Coax me! See - on the front are the L - I - B - E - R - A and on the back, here are the C and the E. Are ya lookin' at the buttons?"
Liberace's artistry elevates me, and grandly I smile. The flamboyance of his music was also reflected in the originality of his attire, attesting to his successful showmanship as an entertainer, which since has been unequaled. More availability of Liberace on Pandora please. 02/07/09. Thank you.
This man was a staple in our house. Everything stopped to watch the Liberace show! He was an awesome piano player and a wonderful performer. I have loved him since I was a kid. Thanks for this...
awesome!
Love the music. How do I find a pianist, last name Burger,was with Gaither Gospel for yrs. Would like to have him on my station.
rgspops
We saw him twice in Las Vegas over a 5 year span and both shows were knockout. He was a GREAT Showman.
nevadacarrie
3 cheers for liberace

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