This collection comprises papers, photographs, and a scrapbook, documenting the career of Nick Ricci and his musical group in the mid-1930s. There are contracts and business correspondence, a receipt for membership in the Chicago Federation of Musicians in 1936, and a handwritten log of income. The photographs are mostly promotional portraits of the group; there are also some stage shots of them as part of a larger ensemble, including their performance with the Chef Milani show. There is a large poster (3-1/2 by 2-1/3 feet) for the “Skipper” Don Mills show featuring the Four Gondoliers as well as “Blib and Blob” and others, from April 1934, which was originally stored folded in the scrapbook. The collection also includes Nick Ricci’s violin. These materials were donated to the American Vaudeville Museum by his sons, Larry Ricci, Paul Ricci and Henry Ricci.
Nick Ricci was part of a Seattle musical group known originally as the Four Gondoliers and later the Three Gondoliers, or simply the Gondoliers. Two other members were Henry Ricci and Al Maletta (b.1914). Nick played violin, and the others played accordion and clarinet / saxophone. A fourth member, Henry Maiorano, also played accordion, but left the group sometime in 1934. Their nicknames were Icky, Wicky, Wacky and Woo. They were still in high school when they began performing.
Their first performance that is documented in this collection is the Black Ball Line and Egyptian Theatre radio and stage contest in Seattle, in August 1933. As winners of a McKesson opportunity contest, the Four Gondoliers played in vaudeville acts with Skipper Don Mills, of Portland, around Oregon, northern California, and Washington in early 1934. The act was called Don Mills and His Wonder Stars, and included a dozen other performers. By mid-1934 they were performing with Chef (Joe) Milani’s cooking musicale show, in venues including Oakland and Los Angeles. By 1936 they called themselves the Three Ritto Brothers, and were touring the Bert Levey Circuit of Vaudeville Theatres. They also used the name The Three Italian Street Singers.
Information about Nick Ricci’s later life is not provided. Al Maletta later moved to Yakima and started an accordion studio, according to information from the Yakima Valley Museum.
49 1 Papers, 1933-1936
49 2 Photographs, 1933-1936
49 3 Scrapbook, 1933-1936
49 4 Scrapbook (reference copy)
box Oversize Poster, 1934
50 Violin in case with two bows, extra parts (bridge, strings, rosin, etc.)