Herman Arthur LaDone (1911-1992) was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Italian immigrants from Potenza, Italy: mother Anna Martocci LaDone (1874-1938) and father Herman LaDone (1861-1928).
Herman, Jr. was brought up in the north end of Hartford. He became quite an entertainer in the Hartford area, playing with his cousin Joe as a banjo duo. Herman also performed as a comedian at the Bushnell Memorial imitating Joe Penner with his duck. As a guitarist, he played with the Landerman Brothers Agency and also performed with Van White’s Bluebirds, a dance orchestra in the 1930’s.
In 1936 he married Loretta Tamburro of Hartford. In 1949 they moved to Westbrook, Connecticut with their three children; John, Judie, and Betsy. They bought a restaurant in the center of Westbrook, naming it The Jetty Restaurant. The Jetty became a hot spot along the shoreline for Italian food and pizza and also for the entertainment that happened there, especially on Saturday nights.
The Henry Burr Trio was featured at The Jetty on Saturday nights. The band would play for dancing, including square dancing with the caller Dot Day. The place was always jammed; and, at 11:00 p.m. the patrons would all start shouting, “We want Herman” “We want Herman”. Then, Herman would appear in a grass skirt with his pants rolled up and wearing a short blond wig. In his hand would be a cigarette holder and a huge martini glass with a whole lemon in it. He always had a fun look, and everyone would be hooting and hollering. He would make funny jesters and sing the old standards, like “The Sheik of Araby”; “My Gal Sal”; “All of Me”; “Sleepy Time Down South” and many others. This was a great time for everyone.
Being Herman’s son, I also enjoyed watching my dad perform. People would say that I was my dad’s best audience. As time went by and I improved on the trumpet, my dad and I would get together to play some of the old standards. He had such a great beat that when he played he would always put me to task. He was a great inspiration to me, along with my mother. They both encouraged me to go on with my music.
Written by John T. LaDone
(January 2, 2014)