Frank F. Virtue, 71, Musician Of Many Eras

Posted: June 13, 1994

Frank F. Virtue, 71, a Philadelphia musician and record producer whose career stretched from the big bands of the 1940s to the street rap of the 1990s, died Saturday at Nazareth Hospital.

Mr. Virtue was a 15-year-old living in South Philadelphia when he began to play the guitar. Within a few years, he added the bass to his repertoire.

The big-band sound dominated the popular music of his early-adult years. In 1945, he played with the Regular Navy Dance Band while stationed in Bainbridge, Md.

Upon leaving the service, he decided, according to liner notes on one of his albums, that big bands had no future, that they were "too expensive to maintain."

In 1946, inspired by the Nat King Cole Trio, Mr. Virtue formed a trio of his own, the Virtues, and embarked on a career playing local clubs and television shows. The trio appeared at the Latin Casino, the 500 Club, and Chubby's in the Philadelphia area.

The band also backed such famous singers as Rosemary Clooney, Dick Haymes and Don Cornel and even appeared with the Three Stooges at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.

The Virtues were a regular on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and could be seen on such popular local TV broadcasts as The Grady & Hurst Show and The Plymouth Auto Show.

In 1959, Mr. Virtue capped his career with his song "Guitar Boogie Shuffle," which reached No. 3 on the Billboard chart and No. 1 in sales of sheet music. The song sold more than two million copies worldwide.

Mr. Virtue opened his own recording studio in 1962 at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. The song "Hey There, Lonely Girl" by Eddie Holman was produced at the studio, as were "That's Life" and "Who Stole the Keeshka?" by Gabriel & the Angels.

More recently, Virtue Studios was the home of a number of rap groups, including Dr. Roxx & Co.

"He was always on the go, always interested in the music business, and never had any intention of retiring. Why, he was in the studio recording just last week," said Mr. Virtue's daughter, Maryann Lanciano, of Alden.

Survivors include his wife, Mary C.; another daughter, Linda Vitacolonna of Holland, Pa.; a brother, Nicholas, and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. tomorrow at Hollen Funeral Home, 3160 Grant Ave. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. at Maternity BVM Church, 9220 Bustleton Ave. Burial will be in Our Lady of Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.

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