The story of Sandler & Young would make a fantastic motion picture or, at the very least, a fascinating documentary. They remain one of the most overlooked and underappreciated acts from the '60s and '70s, yet they sold millions of records and have a very loyal and dedicated following, even two decades after they stopped performing together.
Ralph Young was born Ralph Israel in the Bronx, NY, in 1918. He got his first industry job in the mailroom at Warner Bros. Studios in Brooklyn. From there, her graduated to singing for such big-band leaders as Teddy Powell, Tommy Reynolds, Shep Fields, and Les Brown, with whom he had his first hit record, "'Tis Autumn." Pursuing a solo career, Young recorded sides for practically every major label in the industry, not once matching the success of his hit with Brown. Although his recordings were not setting the charts on fire, he certainly had a style and flair missing from many of his contemporaries. One of his albums, Folk Songs for You and Me, is actually in the Library of Congress. By the end of the '50s, Young's career had reached a nice level, but had stalled. After an unfortunate incident on Broadway, he returned to performing in theaters and nightclubs. By 1963, he had been performing in Las Vegas and had signed on as performer in Casino de Paris, a lavish European revue that was headed for his current hometown.
Meanwhile, halfway across the world, Tony Sandler (born Lucien Santele in Belgium) had also reached a comfortable level of success. He began his career as a young soprano in Les Petits Chanteurs +á la Croix de Bois, one of the most famous Gregorian choirs in Europe. While growing up, he studied medicine, advanced mathematics, Latin, Greek, French, German, Flemish, English, Italian, and Spanish before enlisting in the Belgian Air Force. At the age of 17, he recorded his first single, "Song of the Sea," which was a hit throughout Europe. Once he finished his military service, Sandler turned to show business, recording and starring in musicals and movies. He was also a popular tourist attraction on the Riviera as well as the host of his own TV show in Germany. In 1963, he was chosen to star in a European stage show/revue that was due to debut in Las Vegas. The show was called Casino de Paris.
During rehearsals, Sandler and Young became fast friends and would spend hours singing together. It was this time that they discovered that there was real magic when they sang together. They began to incorporate Sandler's many dialects into their repertoire. Young would sing the English words while Sandler would sing the lyrics in whatever language the song had originally been written in, whether it was French, Spanish, or Italian. They also began to practice singing in countermelody, where Sandler would sing a song in one language, while Young would sing a completely different song in English, the melodies being completely different while blending together beautifully. These two styles were not new, but Sandler and Young had vocally perfected them and they became their musical calling card.
After Casino de Paris ended, they took their act to the nightclub and dinner theater circuit. After a slow start, things began to pick up and before either of them realized it, they were the talk of the town. Signing to Capitol Records, the duo's first hit was their interpretation of "Dominique," which went on to sell a million copies. Throughout the '60s, the duo seemed unstoppable -- tour after tour, album after album, and TV appearance after TV appearance. Their albums were impossibly cool mixtures of standards, "new" songs, and covers of recent hits. Even when the backing band seemed to be going through the motions, Sandler & Young never gave their performances less than 100-percent, adding passion, honesty, and magic to each and every song. When these two gentlemen sang together, it was magic. Their heartbreaking version of "Can I Trust You?" is one of the most melodic and touchingly wonderful performances the duo ever committed to vinyl.
Their popularity cooled down a little, but the duo continued performing throughout the '70s, even setting up their own label and releasing albums once their Capitol contract had ended. Even those albums contained some fantastic songs and performances, proving that even on an independent label, magic happens. By the early '80s, Ralph Young had experienced fame and fortune beyond his wildest dreams and decided to retire from show business. Tony Sandler, who was 20 years younger than Young, headed out as a solo performer and continued to tread the boards. On August 22, 2008, Ralph Young passed away at the age of 90. ~ Steve "Spaz" Schnee
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