Listening to Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians on radio, and later, watching them on TV, was a ritual in many homes across the country on New Year’s Eve. Lombardo’s orchestra played at the Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 (radio’s first nationwide New Year’s eve broadcast) to 1959, and from then until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Because of the popularity of the show, Lombardo was called, “Mr. New Year’s Eve”.
On December 31, 1956, the Lombardo band did their first New Year’s TV special on CBS. The program (and Lombardo’s 20 subsequent New Year’s Eve TV shows) included a live segment from Times Square showcasing the arrival of the New Year.
By the middle 1970s, the Lombardo TV show was facing competition, especially for younger viewers, from Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, but Lombardo remained popular among viewers, especially older ones.
Even after Lombardo’s death, the band’s New Year’s specials continued for two more years on CBS. The Royal Canadians’ recording of the traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne,” still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.
This show — the 48th annual broadcast — rang in the new year 40 years ago with guests Billy Eckstine and Carol Lawrence, and reporter Ben Grauer in Times Square. It was Lombardo’s final holiday appearance. Were you watching?