Angelo Frank Cammarata Sr., 67, helped form local singing group

March 14, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Angelo Frank Cammarata Sr., whose singing entertained local audiences for more than five decades at wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs, died of cancer Wednesday at his Perry Hall home. He was 67.

A founder of the singing group The Romanos, he sang tenor and played the drums at thousands of Baltimore social engagements.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Chapel Street, he was introduced to music while playing in the old St. Paul's Parochial School Drum Corps on Caroline Street. While attending Clifton Park Junior High School, he was drawn to the popular vocal groups of the day, including the Four Aces and the Ames Brothers.

After performing in a Little Italy amateur show, Mr. Cammarata and his older brother, Pasqualino "Pat" Cammarata, decided to form their own group. They were eating at the Roma and took the Fawn Street restaurant's name, added three letters and created their name. It stuck for more than 50 years.

"We read very little music," said his brother, who lives in Baltimore. "We picked our stuff off the radio and records. We had good keyboard players. If we could hear the song, we could sing it. Then we played our hearts out. We loved the vocal groups and the popular songs."

The brothers were booked into Glen Burnie's Sunset, where they made $15 each per night. Angelo played the drums and Pat played the bass. They both sang -- Angelo was a tenor -- and made an appearance on a local television show for amateurs with host Bailey Goss. They soon had engagements at the old Green Dolphin on Pulaski Highway, the Coronet Lounge at St. Paul and Centre streets, and Bittner's in East Baltimore.

In time, they expanded their group into a quintet, backed by a female singer.

After several years, they abandoned working at taverns and nightclubs to perform at private parties.

"The people wanted to hear us sing. That was our selling point," said his brother. "We dared to do the Top 40. Maybe we weren't great musicians, but we could pack a dance floor. Our audiences loved us. We played late into the night as long as a request came in, and we never stopped. We played until they shut the doors on us. The hall owners could get plenty annoyed."

After singing at a duckpin bowling banquet at the old Eudowood Gardens about 40 years ago, Mr. Cammarata and his brother became the house group for the Eastwind, Northpoint and Martin's West banquet halls, where they appeared for many years.

"He was accommodating and good-natured," said Marty Resnick, owner of Martin's Catering. "He could play music from the 1940s and the 1950s through the 1990s. He made it fun. The Romanos were an integral part of our business for many years."

In the 1970s, the Romanos were a warm-up band for appearances by the Drifters, the Platters, Kenny Rogers, Count Basie and Mercer Ellington at Martin's West.

"We sang the songs people wanted to hear -- `My Baby Does the Hanky Panky' and `Sugar Sugar' -- and also numbers popularized by Fats Domino and Elvis Presley," Pat Cammarata said.

The Romanos also were the opening act for an Al Martino concert at the Italian Festival at Rash Field in the Inner Harbor.

"In the early 1980s, we were so much in demand, we split up peacefully into two groups so we could supply the demand," said Angelo Cammarata's son, Rodney E. Cammarata of Perry Hall. "Angelo and Pat each led their own group with their children. We played the same music. There was enough Romanos to go around that way."

Mr. Cammarata was singing at an anniversary party in the fall when he complained that he did not feel well and had trouble recalling the lyrics, family members said. Later that night, he received a diagnosis of cancer. He never performed again.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Fullerton.

In addition to his brother and son, survivors include his wife of 45 years, the former Theresa D'Aurora; three other sons, Angelo F. Cammarata Jr. and Gino A. Cammarata, both of Perry Hall, and Glenn R. Cammarata of Crownsville; two sisters, Josephine Palone of Baltimore and Mary Clark of Atlanta; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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