Guy Lombardo treasure trove languishes in storage

11:53 AM, Dec 31, 2013   |    comments
An album cover of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.
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Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Guy Lombardo's legacy still hasn't found a home.

It's been nearly a year since our partners at The Fort Myers News-Press wrote about a treasure trove of items belonging to the late big band leader, languishing for about 40 years in two South Fort Myers storage units.

The story sparked nostalgia and renewed interest among baby boomers and others in the orchestra that brought the New Year in nationally and internationally for nearly 50 years. But no takers.

The descendants of Lombardo family, who live in Fort Myers and on Sanibel Island, wanted to see the items on loan to a place that would care for them as archives and display them to the public.

But the road has been bumpy. Initial contact between some interested groups and the Lombardos sputtered out; family members can't pursue the search full time because of work and other obligations. Other obstacles include lack of a focused plan on what to do with the items, how they should be archived, what legal arrangements need to be made and where the money will come from.

"It's very difficult," said Gina Lombardo, of Fort Myers, Guy Lombardo's niece. People or entities she's talked with don't have enough space for the items, and the family doesn't know whether they should be separated, she said. Should they go to a university, and if so, should it be a university in the U.S. or Canada, where he is from?

"There is this conundrum of all this memorabilia of a time gone by and it has nowhere to live," said John Crampton, creative director of BlueMoon Productions/Moon Fuel Inc. in Toronto. Crampton often spends time on Sanibel and contacted Gina about the Lombardo legacy. "My interest was leaning toward a documentary about the dilemma of what to do with the assets of someone's astonishing life," he said. "A remains of the day kind of thing. We had a pleasant chat over coffee."

Nothing came of the conversation.

The band was a partnership between four brothers, Guy, Carmen, Victor and Lebert Lombardo. Carmen was the songwriter, penning many of their hits. He also created the orchestra arrangements and sang. Lebert played trumpet.

Baby boomers will have memories of the band, whether their first encounter was dancing to their music or hearing it in their parents' or grandparents' homes.

They became an institution, first on radio and then TV, synonymous with the midnight ball drop in Times Square. Lombardo earned the nickname "Mr. New Year's Eve." The band brought in the New Year from 1929 to 1977 with the signature song, "Auld Lang Syne."

After Guy's death in 1977, the legacy and rights to the orchestra passed from brother to brother. Lebert, the last remaining brother, died on Sanibel in 1993. All music, memorabilia and rights to the orchestra passed to Lebert's children, Gina; Elizabeth Lombardo of Fort Myers; and Carmen Lombardo of Sanibel.

None of the siblings are in the music business. Gina has spearheaded the move to find a home for the items.

They include at least 100 manila envelopes stuffed with original band orchestrations handwritten by Carmen; at least 40 boxes of reels of 35 millimeter films, plus many loose, large reels of 16mm films of episodes of the band's 1950s TV show.

But most people who contact her about the items are looking for memorabilia such as objects and awards, Gina said.

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