Though not well remembered today, Buddy Di Vito served as vocalist for Harry James during much of the mid-1940s. Di Vito proved popular with audiences and critics, though he failed to turn this success into national stardom. After leaving James, he returned to his native Chicago, where he worked on the local circuit as both a singer and a bandleader into the 1960s.
As a youth, Di Vito delivered newspapers and studied singing with Russell Brookes. In 1942, he joined the Gay Claridge orchestra at Chicago’s famous Edgewater Beach Hotel, where he was heard over the radio. He remained with Claridge into at least early 1943, and by late 1943 he had become part of Eddie Oliver’s band at the same location. Di Vito’s big break came in January 1944 when James hired him to replace the recently drafted Buddy Moreno. Down Beat reported that Di Vito was 23 years old at the time and unmarried.
Di Vito became a fixture with the James band over the next three-and-a-half years, sticking around through its several reorganizations and his multiple brushes with the draft. Both James and Di Vito received draft notices in early 1944, with James breaking up the band in April. When both men found themselves reclassified as 4-F, James quickly reformed his orchestra with Di Vito returning. Di Vito was drafted a second time in November and left the band, with Billy Usher replacing him. Again, however, he was reclassified as 4-F, and he returned to James, with Usher being released. Di Vito received a third draft notice in January 1945, and for the third time he was reclassified 4-F. James didn’t bother to replace him on this occasion, simply bringing in Jimmy Cook to sub until Di Vito returned.
When James took a six-week vacation in January 1946, Di Vito kept busy with a series of one nighters, including a run at the Silver Frolics club in Chicago with singing cousin, Mike Di Vito. James announced another six-week break in November which eventually dragged on for five-and-a-half months. During this extended vacation, Buddy again worked solo until James finally reorganized in April. According to one review, Di Vito was so well-received in Milwaukee as a single that he had to beg off after five encores.
During his time with James, Di Vito placed high in several reader and professional polls, including second place in the category of best male band vocalist in Down Beat’s 1944 contest. He remained with James until December 1947, when he finally went out on his own. Returning to Chicago, he debuted an eleven-piece orchestra in May 1948 which played the Upper Midwest and northern Great Plains region. Female vocalists included Jean Charles, Loretta Downes, and Gloria Van. The outfit was active through mid-1949 but by July of that year had disbanded.
Di Vito continued to sing in the Chicago area through at least 1966, briefly forming a new orchestra in 1956 which remained active through early 1958. He recorded on Tower Records in 1951, the Chance label in late 1953, and the Trio and Carol labels in 1954. Di Vito co-wrote his 1954 Trio recording “Give Me Your Heart for Christmas.”
Di Vito’s last name proved difficult for the press and record labels, who variously misspelled it De Vito, Devito, DiVito, or Divito.