“Jesus, My Friend” Tony M and the Jazz Sounds of Salvation (1993) is the first album from Jazz crooner Tony Monaco.
Following his colossal career on Broadway as world-renowned song and dance man Tommy Morton, and an equally impressive film and television career in Hollywood spanning over three decades, Tony Monaco found himself dancing on Hollywood street corners with Reverend Glenn Adkins singing “Walkin’ In The Light,” Tony’s composition that shepherded the completion of 9 more original songs for the album.
From “Here Is My Hand” to “Born Again” to “Walkin’ in the Light,” Tony Monaco croons with a profoundly sincere passion for “Jesus, My Friend,” while precision sprinklings of Bill Evans-like piano intricacies by Frank Scott (Hollywood pianist and long-time arranger for Lawrence Welk) in “How Do I Know” and occasionally throughout the album help orchestrate this joyful new chapter in Tony Monaco’s life.
Tony Monaco is a Broadway song and dance man of Jewish, Irish, Italian decent whose amazing born-again Christian experience makes some of the major motion picture characters he's played pale in comparison. Born and raised on Manhattan's mean streets, Tony would ride the subway to the Paramount Theatre on Broadway to soak up Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey band. After the show he slipped his shoeshine box out from under his seat and beat it to 42nd Street to dance on the corner for nickels and dimes like his hero Gene Kelly.
Early on, Monaco and eight-time Tony Award-winning choreographer Bob Fosse rented a New York City dance rehearsal studio together – because neither had the money to pay for it on their own – hoping to land a Broadway show. Bob eventually started a trio, and Tony at age 16 achieved a childhood desire of being on stage when he became part of the hoofing chorus of “Are You With It?,” followed by “High Button Shoes” (with Phil Silvers), “Make Mine Manhattan” (with Sid Caesar), “Angel in the Wings” (with Elaine Stritch), “Lend An Ear” (with Carol Channing), “The Littlest Revue” (with Joel Grey), and toured the country as Joey in the Richard Rodgers national production of “Pal Joey.”
This resulted in his first film for 20th Century Fox co-starring opposite David Wayne in George “Jessell's Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie.” His outstanding reviews in that film led to a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures and a co-starring role with Rosemary Clooney, Anna Maria Alberghetti and opera star Lauritz Melchior in Paramount's “The Stars Are Singing.” A screen test for MGM gave him the coveted dramatic lead opposite Tallulah Bankhead and Helen Hayes in “Main Street To Broadway,” garnering a “Time” magazine review calling Tony "a junior Marlon Brando." He later went on to tour in Barbra Streisand's first Broadway show, “I Can Get It For You Wholesale,” co-starring Lillian Roth and Larry Kert, and produced by David Merrick.
Tony guest starred in scores of top TV shows like “Dr. Kildare” with Richard Chamberlain, a fellow classmate in Hollywood where they studied acting with Jeff Corey, to an Emmy-nominated performance with Dean Jones in “Target: Corruptors” and on to Michael Landon's “Highway to Heaven” TV series. An opportunity in production gave Tony the honor of being the Associate Producer on Dalton Trumbo’s Cannes Festival award-winning film “Johnny Got His Gun,” which launched the acting career of Timothy Bottoms whom Tony chose.
Further production interests brought him into a six-year association with Quinn Martin Productions as Buddy Ebsen’s Dialogue Director and Script Supervisor on the ‘70s hit TV detective drama “Barnaby Jones.”
But it was really in his two amazing original musical theatre productions, “Come Follow Me” and “The Road to Damascus,” that Tony was able to begin sharing his love for the Lord.
The Jazz Sounds of Salvation started in the late ‘70s with friend and legendary Jazz bassist Arnold Fishkind (Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Les Brown, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Barnet, Dean Martin, Bob Hope), who introduced Tony to pianist and arranger Bobby Corwin at The Vineyard Christian Fellowship where Corwin was working with Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Keith Green. Corwin has been musical accompanist for some of the most well known singers, among them Peggy Lee and Anita O'Day, and served as guest conductor for the George Burns show at the McCullum Theatre in Palm Springs, as well as joining the late Henry Mancini in performances. His relationship with his famous song writing father-in-law, Johnny Mercer, where he notated the music that Johnny composed, prepared him for his twenty-plus-year association with Tony.
Tony founded the Jazz for Jesus record label as an outlet to make available the flood of songs that were coming into his mind. To date he has released 10 albums on the label.
TONY MONACO’S TESTIMONY
When the Lord touched my life with visions and physical healings, I had no words to explain them. Like the Rabbi Saul of Tarsus (who was struck by a blinding light and became St. Paul), all I knew was Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I didn’t do anything to become “born again.” I didn’t even know I was. The Lord said, “You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.” I couldn’t believe it. At 49 years of age, after a merry-go-round soul search for peace, God showed me the meaning of Shalom! And why not? I had a Jewish mother, Sadie Beekman (from New Yaak, no less), and her father, Noah.
My father, Tom Morton (a Dixieland drummer and singer), had changed his name of Monaco for show business reasons. But a childhood promise to my Italian grandfather, Nicholas Monaco, caused me to change Morton to Monaco while I was under contract to Paramount Pictures in the middle of a thriving movie career. But the words Jesus spoke in The Bible came alive in my spirit, “What profits a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?”
Years on the Broadway stage emulating stars like Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly brought me to Hollywood, where films at 20th Century Fox, Paramount and MGM gave me a promising future. But a drinking problem always sabotaged my goals. On September 1, 1975, at 12:30 a.m., God had mercy on me when Michael, a twenty-one year-old crewmember on the set of ‘70s hit TV detective drama “Barnaby Jones” – where I’d been working for years as Buddy Ebsen’s Dialogue Director and Script Supervisor – led me in a prayer to ask God to reveal Himself to me. At that moment the Spirit of God fell upon me and knocked me to the ground. What followed was 17 days of visions, an indescribable awareness of the living God, and a series of miraculous experiences.
Buddy began carrying around his own script that he was to learn because I was weeping so much, and ultimately saved me from being fired from the show. I’d been stopped five times for drunk driving, not once getting a ticket. And at the end of the season the crew dragged me into our cast party, put me into a neck lock and poured beer down my throat. I had to spit it out. It turned to vinegar while I was drinking it. They got me another beer, but it, too, turned to vinegar. The cameraman sitting with a can of Coors offered it to me saying, “It’s your brand!” I tasted it and spit it out. Vinegar!
I took my last drink on February 17, 1976, my birthday! On March 15, 1987, my mother accompanied me to the first AA meeting I ever attended, where a voice told me “You’re gonna work this program!” I’ve been overcoming my opponent ever since, “One Day At A Time” – the title of a song I wrote that’s on my “I Saw A Miracle” album.
In the Gospel of John, 21:25 (AMP), John concludes his Gospel this way; “And there are also many other things which Jesus did. If they should be all recorded one by one [in detail], I suppose that even the world itself could not contain (have room for) the books that would be written.” The past nearly four decades could fill a book.
Hopefully, my testimony of songs will speak to your heart about the love I know God can reveal to you as lovingly as He did for me.