Arthur Tracy, radio's "Street Singer" who delighted millions of listeners in the 1930s with his sweet, flexible tenor, has died. He was 98.
Tracy died Sunday at Mount Sinai Hospital.
His stardom came almost instantaneously after he got a tryout on CBS in 1931. His show was often on the air several times a week, and his records sold in the millions.
"Around the corner and down your way comes the Street Singer," the announcer would say. His theme song was "Marta, Rambling Rose of the Wildwood."
In a 1982 New York Times interview, Tracy said he got his nickname when he read about a play called "The Street Singer."
"There was the identity I was looking for. For fear of plagiarism, I added ' . . . of the Air.' But after a couple of weeks, I was told that you can't copyright the English language, and I cut it back to the Street Singer."
His repertoire was varied: love songs, ballads, hit pop tunes. He sang in several languages and always with the perfect diction of the professionally trained artist.
In the mid-1930s, Tracy made a highly successful tour of English music halls, then stayed on to appear in four films, among them "Command Performance" and "The Street Singer."
He returned with the outbreak of World War II, and after the United States entered the war he entertained American troops.
But he gradually became less active as a performer as he became more and more interested in his real estate investments, which made him millions.
He had a comeback of sorts in the early 1980s when a recording he made of "Pennies From Heaven" was used in the movie of the same name.
Publicity about the film led to a gig at a popular local nightspot, the Cookery, and a small role in the 1988 film "Crossing Delancey."
Tracy was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1996. His autobiography, "The Street Singer," is to be published this year by Harold Martin & Redman.