By DON GLYNN email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — When job opportunities appear hopeless, many people start looking elsewhere, even if it means moving far away from the hometown.
That was the dilemma that Caroline Vincinette LoTempio and her brother Nino faced in the early 1940s. Their parents, convinced of their children’s impressive talents for music, followed a friend’s suggestion and the whole family headed to Los Angeles. Except for a short relocation to the Cataract City — a temporary bout of homesickness — the LoTempios decided they really belonged in L.A.
Caroline was destined to gain fame as April Stevens, a recording artist, as she recounts in a delightful autobiography, “Teach Me Tiger,” a song she recorded in 1959, By the way, it’s still being played today and making money. “That song was never a hit, but it is by far may most famous solo outing,” she reveals in her book.
The author rightly credits her bother for his crucial role in the duo’s rise to stardom. “Nino would think of the notes and harmonies, write them down and teach them to me,” April said, “He is truly a great talent and an exceptional saxophonist,” she added.
Over the years, April and Dino developed numerous contacts with headliners in the entertainment industry. One example: They were at a small table at a cozy bar one evening — waiting to a table in the dining room — when they invited a pretty young gal with long dark hair sitting alone to join them for a drink. Turned out it was Cher and before long she and Nino would be dating a few times. Eventually, of course, Cher and Sonny Bono would make history together.
It took a while for April and her brother to get recognized amidst the scramble in the highly competitive field they had chosen to make a living. But the wait was worth every minute when a promoter at Atlantic City Records in New York City was thrilled with their recording of “Deep Purple” in 1963. “I love that record, and I’m going to make sure all of the disc jockeys I know play it because, if it’s played, people will buy it.” the promoter predicted. “And he was right,” April said. Nino’s song, “I’ve been Carrying a Torch for You So Long That I Burned a Great Big Hole in My Heart” was on the back side of the record (The longest title ever put on the “B” side of a No. 1 record, April quipped). Before “Deep Purple” was released, the duo was known as April Stevens and Nino Tempo, but then they decided to change the order and identify the team as Nino Tempo and April Stevens.
They cherish the memories of that night, May 12, 1964, at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel. Nino had a date as did April. “But we really didn’t expect to be fortunate enough to win,” she said, “I had just put some food in my mouth when they announced the ‘Best Rock and Roll Record’ (”Deep Purple”) for 1963,” April said, “There was thunderous applause. The audience was so happy for us!”
What’s really impressive about April’s autobiography is the modest way she introduces celebrities that she and Nino met in their career. One of their best friends was Cary Grant, an occasional guest for a spaghetti dinner at their home in L.A. Grant was also fond of their parents, Sam and Anna, and appreciated their hospitality (especially the wonderful cooking). Some of their other friends in those exciting days: Phil Spector, guitarists Tommy Tedesco (a Niagara Falls native) and Glen Campbell, the Righteous Brothers, Ozzie and Harriet and David Nelson, to name a few.
FOOTNOTE: Sam LoTempio, the father of April and Nino, operated a small grocery store near 15th Street and Pine Avenue before the family went to the West Coast. “It was very successful,” April states. As for her mom, Anna, “She was a spitfire when she needed to be, but was the sweetest. softest, warmest lady you would ever want to meet,” April, 84, said.
TRIVIA QUIZ: (Answer to Thursday question) President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
GPS MAY HELP: A reliable source swears this happened ... An aide to former Sen. John Kerry called a Washington, D.C. airport to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii. After reviewing all the cost information, the caller asked, “Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?” Hopefully that aide is not still on the payroll planning global flights for Kerry, now the U.S. Secretary of State.Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.