Buddy Greco, Jazz Pianist, Vocalist and Las Vegas Mainstay, Dies at 90

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Buddy Greco

The swinging entertainer from Philadelphia had a hit in the 1960s with a version of "The Lady Is a Tramp."

Buddy Greco, a jazz pianist, vocalist and Las Vegas mainstay who recorded more than 60 albums and had a hit with a version of "The Lady Is a Tramp," has died. He was 90.

Greco died Tuesday in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported

Survivors include his wife, singer Lezlie Anders; they performed together for years, most recently on stage in the show Fever! The Music of Miss Peggy Lee.

Greco toured and recorded with famed bandleader Benny Goodman, performed on dozens of TV variety shows and was a popular act at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas. He often sat in with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. of The Rat Pack and collaborated with Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Lena Horne and many others.

Born in South Philadelphia, Greco, whose father was an opera critic, began singing on the radio at age 4 and playing the piano at age 6. In 1946, he signed with the Musicraft record label and with his Three Sharps had his first hit with "Ooh! Look-a There, Ain’t She Pretty." He then spent a few years with Goodman.

In a 2007 interview, Greco said he was offered jobs for much more money but was urged by his dad to work with Goodman. "My father said, 'You go with Mr. Goodman and learn your craft, and you're going to thank me.'" 

At Columbia Records in 1962, Greco recorded a finger-snapping rendition of Rodgers & Hart's "The Lady Is a Tramp," which became his signature tune. A year later, he appeared at The Royal Variety Performance for the Queen on the same bill as The Beatles and Marlene Dietrich.

Greco signed with Sinatra’s Reprise Records and in 1966 recorded the albums Big Band & Ballads and From the Wrists Down, in which he was accompanied by a 60-piece symphony orchestra in London.

Buddy Greco and His Jazz Friends was recorded in 1992 with fellow greats including Grover Washington Jr., Ernie Watts, Buddy DeFranco, Jack Sheldon and Toots Thielemans.

Greco's other notable songs included "Around the World," "Girl Talk," "MacArthur Park" and "The More I See You."

Greco hosted his own TV special in 1965 and two years later starred with comedian George Carlin and drummer Buddy Rich on the CBS variety show Away We Go, a summer replacement series for The Jackie Gleason Show. In 1969, he tried his hand at acting, appearing opposite Adam West in the crime drama The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Greco met Anders at the Desert Inn, where she was a lounge singer, and they married in 1995. They opened Buddy Greco's Fine Dinner Club in Cathedral City, Calif., in 2006 and ran the place for three years before it closed.

In November, a frail-looking Greco appeared at his induction into the Las Vegas Entertainment Hall of Fame.

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