Though he had a relatively successful career as a singer, actor, songwriter, emcee, and disc jockey, modern audiences probably best remember Bob Haymes as the younger brother of Dick Haymes. While Dick became one of the most well-known singers and actors of the 1940s, Bob spent most of his career in second-tier bands and low-budget musicals. Despite being a talented vocalist, Bob never managed a hit. He also lacked the natural acting talent of his brother. He tried hard, but never found lasting success.
Haymes was born in either White Plains or neighboring Greenburgh, New York, in 1923. His mother, Marguerite, had a difficult delivery, with the newborn Haymes supposedly weighing twelve pounds and having a head size of seven and three-quarters. Marguerite was Irish but raised in the United States. She had married Argentinian cattle rancher Benjamin Haymes in 1917 and had given birth to Bob’s older brother, Dick, the following year. Benjamin was over thirty years older than Marguerite, and Marguerite, who was outgoing and had been a performer before her marriage, never adjusted to her new life in Argentina, always feeling like an outsider.
In 1922, Marguerite contacted an old admirer in New York and asked for his help to leave. The admirer, a well-respected businessman and a retired general, arranged for her to travel on a freighter, and she surreptitiously left her husband and moved to the United States with Dick. Benjamin refused to grant her a divorce, however, and the two remained married until his death in 1933. Marguerite remained close to her secretive benefactor after arriving, which resulted in Bob.
Throughout the 1920s and into the early 1930s, Marguerite dragged Dick and Bob across the Americas and Europe as she attempted various endeavors such as breaking onto the Broadway stage and operating dress shops in Rio de Janeiro and Paris. She vacillated between a number of wealthy lovers, often leaving her sons in the care of others or sending them to boarding schools in the United States, Switzerland, and Canada.
Dick got the show business bug and began singing as an amateur in the early 1930s, making an attempt to get into the movies in 1935. In 1937, the family settled in California, where Marguerite hobnobbed with movie stars. Dick once again tried unsuccessfully to get into the picture business and sang, without pay, on Los Angeles radio station KHJ. The family returned to New York later that year, where Bob decided to pursue a singing career as well.
Haymes jumped between several bands in his early years. In early 1941, he landed a singing job with Carl Hoff, but by mid-year he had joined Bob Chester, where he stayed until November. In January 1942, he joined Orrin Tucker as part of a vocal department reshuffle that involved the firing of popular singer Bonnie Baker. Haymes made his debut with Tucker on February 10, remaining until June. He then joined Freddy Martin, where he replaced Stuart Wade, who had gone into the army.
As part of Martin’s band, Haymes made his screen debut in the Columbia musical What’s Buzzin’, Cousin?, filmed in late 1942 and released the following year. The young singer impressed the studio, and they signed him to a contract. Scheduled to appear in the film Doughboys in Ireland, Haymes had to pull out unexpectedly after he received his draft notice in January 1943. He managed a deferment, however, and was assigned the lead in the musical Two Señoritas from Chicago. He then appeared in a series of musical films before earning his first straight acting assignment in 1944’s Mr. Winkle Goes to War.
The draft board finally caught up with Haymes in June 1944, and he reported to the Army Air Force on the thirteenth of that month, two weeks before the birth of his second child, a daughter, on June 30. Haymes returned to civilian life in mid-1945, greeted by a divorce suit from his wife. He agreed to give her and his two children forty percent of his gross earnings, buy them a new home, and name them beneficiaries of a $40,000 life insurance policy. Haymes claimed it was a big settlement, though his wife lamented that she still had to get a job, a reflection on his career prospects post-war.
After his return from the service, instead of simply picking up where he’d left off, Haymes changed his professional name to Robert Stanton and made a fresh start. He returned to Columbia, where he made six films over the next two years. By 1947, however, his film career had faltered and ended.
Haymes continued singing and began a new career as a songwriter. He also began to appear as an emcee on various radio and early television programs. By 1950, he had gone back to using his real name again professionally, recording on the King label that year. In early 1951, he joined New York independent radio station WNEW as a singing disc jockey, beginning yet another phase of his career. His show proved popular and in mid-1952 CBS hired him away for their flagship station, WCBS, where he remained through at least 1955.
In early 1952, Haymes tried his hand at television, first with the DuMont network sustaining program Date on Broadway. In March, Haymes joined Dorothy Loudon and Les De Lyon in It’s a Business, a DuMont sitcom about two turn-of-the-century popular musical composers. The show received bad reviews and was cancelled after only ten episodes. Haymes went on to emcee the DuMont variety show Strawhatters in June.
Haymes recorded with Lisa Kirk on RCA in 1952 and solo on the Bell label in 1953. By 1957 he was back at WNEW, where he fades away into show business history. Haymes was later diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, perhaps better known as Lou Gherig’s disease. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 65.
While most online biographies give the birthplace of Bob Haymes as White Plains, New York, Ruth Prigozy’s biography of Dick Haymes lists neighboring Greenburgh as Bob’s birthplace. ↩︎
A hat size of 7¾ is 24¼ inches or 62 centimeters. ↩︎
Benjamin’s name was listed as father on Bob’s birth certificate. It wasn’t until after his real father’s death that Bob learned the truth. ↩︎
A Billboard article noting his hiring by Tucker mentions that Haymes had been part of the Quintones. If true, it’s unknown when or how. It would have been either prior to April 1941, when the Quintones joined Charlie Barnet, or after November 1941, when he left Chester. The original Quintones broke up in October 1941, however, so if the latter was the case it would have been with one of the many like-named outfits that sprang up after the original group’s demise. ↩︎
Bob Stanton was also the name of a popular sportscaster during the 1940s. IMDb’s page for Haymes mistakenly lists credits for the other Bob Stanton with those of Haymes. ↩︎