Ed Ames, the youngest member of the popular 1950s singing group the Ames Brothers, who later became a successful television and musical theater actor, has died. He was 95 years old.
The last survivor of the four singing brothers, Ames died on May 21 of Alzheimer’s disease, his wife, Jeanne Ames, announced on Saturday.
“He had a wonderful life,” she said.
On television, Ames was probably best known for his role as Mingo, the Oxford-educated Native American in the 1960s adventure series “Daniel Boone” which starred Fess Parker as the famous pioneer. He was also the focus of a bit of “The Tonight Show” which – thanks to his painfully odd aim with a hatchet – became one of the show’s most memorable surprise moments.
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Ames had guest roles on television series such as “Murder, She Wrote” and “In the Heat of the Night”, and frequently toured in musicals, performing popular songs such as “Try to Remember” and the song that became his biggest hit single. , “My cup is overflowing.”
As part of the 1950s music scene, he and his brothers were one of many pop quartets that included the Four Aces, Four Lads, Gaylords, Hilltoppers, Lancers, Four Knights, Ink Spots and, always from an era earlier, the Mills. Brothers. But the Ames Brothers – Ed, Joe, Gene and Vic – had a unique tone: they were basses and baritones, not tenors.
Their recordings of “Rag Mop”, “Sentimental Me” and “Undecided” became big hits, and they launched a successful career appearing on television variety shows, recording 40 albums and performing in music clubs. night and auditoriums across the country.
By the end of the decade, rock ‘n’ roll had topped the pop charts and singing quartets were in decline. The Souls, meanwhile, were fed up with the constant traveling and absence of their growing families. The finale for Ed came when he arrived home unannounced and his wife called their 3-year-old daughter, “Who is that?” The girl replied, “One of the Ames brothers.”
“It did,” he told a reporter. “My brothers and I agreed that we all had it and we had to go our separate ways.” The group, which earned $20,000 a week, played its last engagement at Sahara in Las Vegas on New Year’s Day 1961.
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Ed’s efforts to establish himself as a solo singer were not immediately successful and he turned to acting. He nearly lost his home before landing a role in a production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
In the long-running musical “The Fantasticks,” he sang “Try to Remember,” which became one of his theme songs. He joined the traveling company of Gower Champion’s “Carnival” and transferred to the New York company until the show’s final performance.
In a role that foreshadowed his future role in ‘Daniel Boone’, he then gained attention as a stoic Native American in the 1963 Broadway play ‘Flight Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ starring Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder in Ken Kesey’s adaptation of the novel.
Ames made a lot of money in Las Vegas casinos and hotel supper clubs and toured extensively in the musicals “Man of La Mancha”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “South Pacific” and “I Do, I Do”.
“I Do, I Do” provided his biggest hit single, “My Cup Runneth Over”, a gold record breaker in 1967. He had another hit in 1968 with “Who Will Answer?”
It was during his run on “Daniel Boone” that he contributed what has been called the longest sustained laugh in “The Tonight Show” history.
For a 1965 episode, he was persuaded to demonstrate the ax throwing skills he learned as a Mingo. The silhouette of a cowboy was painted on a piece of wood, and Ames threw a hatchet at the target. It lands squarely on the cowboy’s crotch.
Ames was born Edmund Dantes Urick in Malden, Massachusetts, the youngest of 11 children, four of whom died in infancy. Their parents were Ukrainian immigrants and their mother taught the children to read Shakespeare and appreciate the music they heard every Saturday on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts.
The four youngest boys started singing at local events as the Urick Brothers. Ed was still in high school when they moved to nightclubs, but at 6 feet tall with a deep voice, he was able to pass for 21.
In New York, comedy writer Abe Burrows advised a name change because Urick was hard to remember. Ames was the choice of the brothers.
After the four brothers separated, the other brothers also continued to perform and record, but were less noticed than Ed. Vic died in 1978, Gene in 1997 and Joe in December 2007.
Ames and his first wife, Sara Cacheiro, had three children: Sonja, Ronald and Linda. The couple divorced in 1978 and in 1998 he married Jeanne Arnold.
Contributor: Bob Thomas, The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Death of Ed Ames