Al Alberts: Lead singer with the Fifties harmony group the Four Aces

Led by Al Alberts, the Four Aces were an American harmony group who dominated the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid-1950s, most famously with the million-selling theme songs from the films Three Coins in the Fountain and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. A mainstay of the group from its inception in 1949, Alberts and his strong tenor also graced such evergreens as "Stranger in Paradise", "Mister Sandman" and "A Woman in Love". He left the group in 1956 but failed to establish himself as a solo artist and eventually turned to a career in broadcasting. From 1968, he hosted Al Alberts' Showcase, a Saturday afternoon television talent show featuring children singing and dancing, which aired in the Philadelphia area. The programme ran for 32 years and featured early appearances by Teddy Pendergrass, who died last week, and Sister Sledge.

He was born Al Albertini in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1922, and went to South Philadelphia High School, as did Mario Lanza. In his teens, he played piano and sang on the Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, a radio variety show. This made a big impression on him and planted the seed for the television programme he would later develop with his wife, Stella.

After studying for a degree in finance at Temple University, also in Philadelphia, he enlisted in the US Navy as a radio operator. He met Dave Mahoney, a tenor who also played the saxophone, and they began singing to while away the hours as their ship patrolled the Newfoundland area. They made a pact to form a vocal group and, on their return to civilian life, teamed up with Louis "Lou" Silvestri, who sang bass and drummed, and Rosario "Sod" Vaccaro, a baritone who also played the trumpet. They took the name of a roller-skating club, started performing at local colleges and met two songwriters, George Hoven and Chester Shull, the composers of a ballad called "(It's No) Sin" which soon became an audience favourite in the Four Aces' set.

The group decided to record the song, Alberts helping to finance the session at Philadelphia's Reco-Art Studios and the release of the track on their own Victoria label in 1951. Fortuitously, a local radio DJ was in love with Hoven's daughter, Vera, and gave "(It's No) Sin" regular spins. Other stations picked up on the single, and other acts covered the song. Eddy Howard's version eventually topped the US charts in 1952 while the Four Aces peaked at No 4 – a notable achievement for a small label.

Decca offered them a deal and the Four Aces started an incredible run of US hits with "Tell Me Why" and "Perfidia (Tonight)", two of their eight Top 30 singles in 1952, which also included "Should I" and a cover of "Heart and Soul", a 1938 chart-topper for bandleader Larry Clinton. They matched that feat in 1953 and broke through internationally the following year with "Three Coins in the Fountain", the Oscar-winning composition written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn for the film of the same name. Frank Sinatra's version topped the UK charts while the Four Aces made No 5 in Britain.

Vocally and visually, they were a slick act, their stage routines and TV appearances masterminded by the Hollywood choreographer Jon Gregory. Fittingly, their next big hit, the glorious "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing", was another movie title song, this time penned by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster for the doomed romance starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones and directed by Henry King in 1955. It also won the Academy Award for Best Song.

The Four Aces featuring Al Alberts, as they were billed on their Brunswick UK releases, toured Britain. They also met a young Paul Anka in Ottawa but turned down the opportunity to record the compositions he offered them. Despite the onslaught of rock'n'roll, the group managed to score nine US hits in 1956, but Alberts felt their time in the limelight was up. He left and was replaced by Fred Diodati.

The other founding members quit in the 1960s, and when Alberts, Mahoney, Silvestri and Vaccaro reconvened in 1975 they had to call themselves the Original Four Aces featuring Al Alberts, while a court ruled that Diodati's group could continue touring as the Four Aces. The Original Four Aces retired in 1987 and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. The group's highly evocative songs such as "The Gang That Sang Heart of My Heart" have been used in films like Pleasantville, the 1998 morality tale about US suburbia starring Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon and directed by Gary Ross.

Al Alberts' Showcase made the most of his talent as a crooner, performing the likes of the Jersey Shore classic "On the Way to Cape May", and of his ability for putting at ease young performers dressed up to the nines by eager parents. With his white pompadour and gleaming smile, he was known as "Uncle Al" on the set. "I have never gotten to the point during an audition where I said, 'OK, kid, that's enough'," he said in 1985. "I let them have their three minutes in the sun."

After retiring to Florida in 2000, he wrote and self-published his autobiography, Al's Song. He still found time to record a one-hour radio show devoted to harmony groups which was syndicated throughout the US. He died of complications from kidney failure.

Pierre Perrone

Al Albertini (Al Alberts), singer, television host: born Chester, Pennsylvania 10 August 1922; married Stella 1953 (two sons); died Arcadia, Florida 27 November 2009.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living