14, 1919-September 6, 1985) was born
Giovanni Alfredo De Simone in Detroit, Michigan. As a boy, he sang on a
local radio station, but at age 15 he quit to work at his father's
grocery. He still retained a love of music, however, and went to the
Detroit Conservatory of Music briefly before heading to the night club
circuit, playing piano and singing.
In 1939 he formed his own singing group. The group was first called the Downbeats, but after being hired to work with Bob Crosby's big band in 1940, it was renamed the Bob-O-Links. The group appeared on fifteen commercial recordings by the Crosby orchestra, including two charted hits, "You Forgot About Me" (which reached #15), and "Do You Care?" (#18).
In the middle of 1941, however, Johnny decided to leave the Bob-O-Links to go solo. He became the featured vocalist for Gene Krupa's band, replacing Howard Dulaney, in September, recording over a dozen songs, the last of which was "All Those Wonderful Years," a song from the movie Keep 'em Flying, which reached #21 on the US charts.
In 1942 he enlisted in the United States Army, but his military service was in fact a continuation of his singing career. He was a member of Glenn Miller's Army Air Forces Orchestra and from November 1943 until some time in 1944 he toured Europe, mainly serving as a replacement for Tony Martin. He made a number of radio broadcasts with the Miller band and was even given his own show by the British Broadcasting Corporation, "A Soldier and a Song."
When the war ended, he took a job on The Breakfast Club, a radio variety program out of Chicago. He made a number of charted hit recordings: "Don't You Remember Me?" (recorded 1946, reaching #21 on the charts), "Guilty" (recorded December 6, 1946, reaching #12), "C'est si bon" (recorded May 11, 1949, reaching #25), "Don't Cry, Joe" (recorded May 21, 1949, reaching #22), "Just Say I Love Her" (recorded January 20, 1950, reaching #24), "The Picnic Song" (recorded April 1, 1950, reaching #20), "Because of You" (recorded February 10, 1951, reaching #17), and "Woman" (recorded September 15, 1953, reaching #9). On September 24, 1953 he joined with Don Cornell and Alan Dale to record "The Gang that Sang 'Heart of My Heart'," a #10 hit on the chart. During this time he was switching recording companies frequently. The 1946 recordings were made for RCA Victor, the 1949-51 recordings for MGM, and the 1953 recordings for Coral Records.
It should be noted that in the 1940s and 1950s, many artists would record the same song at about the same time, and some of the songs mentioned as chart hits for Desmond were also major hits for other singers. Thus "Guilty" (#12 for Desmond) was an even bigger hit for Margaret Whiting, with a #4 position. "Because of You" (#17 for Desmond) was a #1 hit for Tony Bennett. And the Desmond/Dale/Cornell version of "Heart of My Heart" reached #10, but the Four Aces' version peaked at #7 on the charts. On the other hand, in some cases, Desmond's version was the biggest hit. Teresa Brewer also recorded "The Picnic Song" but her version did not chart. "Woman" was recorded by José Ferrer (back to back with a recording of "Man" by his wife, Rosemary Clooney), but Desmond's was the bigger version in the US (though the UK charts favored the Ferrer recording). In addition, Desmond also recorded a number of versions that did not chart of songs that became hits for other singers: "Mister and Mississippi" (a hit for Patti Page) and "Too Young" (a hit for Nat King Cole), for example.