Julius La Rosa began his career as a radioman in the U.S. Navy. There, his sailor friends recognized his talent and pushed him on Arthur Godfrey, a Naval Reserve Officer, who was one of the biggest stars in American television and radio at the time. Godfrey heard La Rosa in Pensacola, Fla., and offered him a job on the spot, flying him to New York to appear on Godfrey’s television show.
After La Rosa was discharged from the Navy, Godfrey hired him for “Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.” La Rosa became one of the “Little Godfreys,” a group of the show’s regular performers, and soon La Rosa was receiving more fan mail than Godfrey himself. When Godfrey’s bandleader Archie Bleyer formed his own record label, La Rosa was the first to be signed and his “Anywhere I Wander” became the first Cadence Records release.
Godfrey urged the performers on his show to use him for their representation, but after a dispute, La Rosa hired manger Tommy Rockwell to renegotiate his contract. On Oct. 19, 1953, Godfrey announced during his morning radio show that La Rosa’s performance of “Manhattan” would be his swan song. La Rosa had to have the term explained to him and was shocked at being fired. The on-air incident severely damaged Godfrey’s credibility but helped further launch La Rosa’s career. His third recording with Cadence Records, “Eh, Cumpari,” hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts and Ed Sullivan signed him for appearances on his show.
La Rosa continued to record music and appeared on television shows such as “Hollywood Squares,” “The Dean Martin Show” and “What’s My Line?” In the 1980s, he appeared regularly as Renaldo on the soap opera “Another World” and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for the role. He later spent many years as a radio DJ.