Born Edwin Jack Fisher, August 10, 1928, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Joe (a vegetable and fruit vendor) and Kate Fisher; married Debbie Reynolds, 1955 (divorced); married Elizabeth Taylor, 1958 (divorced); married Connie Stevens, late 1960s (divorced); married fourth wife; children: actress Carrie Fisher (with Reynolds). Military service: U.S. Army, 1951-53. Addresses: Management--Neal Hollander Agency, 250 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10016.
Skyrocketing to fame after he was "discovered" by Eddie Cantor in 1949, Eddie Fisher replaced Frank Sinatra as the number-one "bobby-soxer" singing idol in the early 1950s. His innocent good looks, strong and straightforward voice, and choice of material made him one of the most popular recording artists of the first half of the decade. From 1950 to 1956 Fisher recorded 35 Top 40 hits, including 19 in the Top Ten and four that reached Number One on the U.S. Hit Parade.
Although Fisher is Jewish, his style has been compared to those of famous Italian tenors and baritones. Fisher's booming voice hardly needed a microphone to carry to the back rows of big theaters, and his early nickname of "Sonny Boy" reflected his fondness for singing in a style reminiscent of Al Jolson. Fisher has been described as having a freewheeling approach and lack of musical of musical discipline that often tested the patience of his accompanists.
According to George Simon in The Best of the Music Makers, "The title of Fisher's biggest hit record, 'Any Time,' reflects rather accurately his unpredictably wandering rhythmic beat that for years musicians tried valiantly to follow as he gaily and unconcernedly created his own time by decimating or elongating musical measures." Although Fisher's rhythm difficulties and his unsubtle singing approach sometimes resulted in unfavorable appraisals by critics, the crooner's deficiencies did not deter millions of fans from buying his records.
Edwin Jack Fisher started singing at a young age while growing up in a poor section of south Philadelphia. Much of his musical development took place while singing in the local synagogue, and by age seven he was performing in local amateur contests. He has said that an early role model for his powerful delivery was his father, who used to yell to customers when selling fruits and vegetables from his truck. At age 13 Fisher won first place in a contest on a local radio show. As a teenager he appeared often on radio stations around Philadelphia, earning as little as 15 cents a week for his efforts. He performed regularly at clubs until the late 1940s, but got little recognition outside the Philadelphia area.
After landing a singing job with Buddy Morrow's band at age 17, he went with the band to New York City and tried out at the famed Copacabana nightclub. Although Fisher was turned down by the club because he hadn't yet turned 18, the club's director, Monte Proser, was impressed and introduced him to Milton Blackstone, an agent who started representing the singer. Blackstone landed Fisher some work, but he performed only sporadically over the next few years.
Fisher's timing was perfect when he sang at Grossinger's in New York state's Catskills on Labor Day of 1949. Singer Eddie Cantor was in the audience for the show, and he found Fisher's style so appealing that he invited him to join his traveling tour. Fisher then signed on with Cantor's radio show, and his continued exposure landed him a recording contract with RCA- Victor in 1949. By 1950 the singer had his first hit, "Thinking of You," and his popularity grew with remarkable speed from that point on. His first million-seller was the 1951 release "Any Time," a song originally performed in the early 1920s.
Fisher's induction into the army in 1951 did not slow the flowering of his fame. In fact, well-publicized photographs of him in uniform helped seal his image as a heartthrob for teenaged girls. Fisher was soon put to work on the recruiting effort for the Korean War, and he appeared often on television to promote enlistment. Variety said at the time, "His fresh, clean-cut handling of ballads is solid lure to the younger crowd, both male and female, and his wearing of the army khaki adds a glamour touch."
Fisher returned to the recording studio when he had furloughs during his two-year hitch, and while in uniform managed to record ten hits that racked up sales of seven million records. By the time he was released from active duty in 1953, he had become one of the most popular recording artists in the United States. Among his blockbuster songs of that time were "Lady of Spain," "Outside of Heaven," and "Wish You Were Here" in 1952, followed by "I'm Walking Behind You" and "Oh, My Papa" in 1953.
During the first five years after Cantor helped bring him into the big time, Fisher's recording sold over ten million records. From 1952 to 1954, he made four albums that soared into the Top Ten. A frequent headliner at major nightclub and a featured guest on highly rated television programs, Fisher began starring on his own television show, "Coke Time and the Chesterfield Supper Club," with comedian George Gobel in 1953. Gobel and Fisher starred in alternate weeks on the show, which stayed on the air for four years. He later appeared in films, including Bundle of Joy in 1956 and Butterfield 8 in 1960.
Fisher was particularly successful with recordings of songs from Broadway shows. His rendition of "Heart" from Damn Yankees reached Number Six on the Hit Parade in 1955. But by 1956 his fame began to fade. Although his records sold enough to keep him in the recording studio, the rise of rock and roll left him behind as a teen idol. At this point his name appeared less on the marquis than in newspaper gossip columns reporting on his various marriages. Fisher married actress Debbie Reynolds in 1955, then abruptly left Reynolds to marry actress Elizabeth Taylor in 1958 after Taylor's husband, film producer Mike Todd, was killed in an airplane crash.
Legal and financial problems besieged Fisher in the early 1960s, and his performances dwindled. He managed to reach the Hit Parade again in 1966 with "The Games Lovers Play," but that was his last song to make the charts. He continued trying to make a comeback but had become a has-been before turning 40 years of age. In his autobiography, Fisher claimed that he was not cut out for superstardom. He blamed the relentless attention and other trappings of celebrity for his downfall, even claiming that the press had forced him to marry Debbie Reynolds. After his marriage to Taylor ended, Fisher married, then divorced, singer Connie Stevens in the late 1960s.
After he stopped recording, Fisher remained in action as a concert performer. In early 1994 he filed a $10 million lawsuit against companies that he said had illegally taped and sold a recording of one of his live concerts. A phenomenon who enjoyed spectacular fame but became old musical news while still a young man, Eddie Fisher still ranks high among singers in terms of record sales, and he bridged the gap between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley as the top teen singing idol of the 1950s.
by Ed Decker
Eddie Fisher's Career
Pop singer. Performed in local amateur shows and on radio while in high school in Philadelphia, 1940s; won Horn and Hardart Children's Hour radio contest, 1941; began singing between acts at the Broadway Paramount Theatre, New York City, 1946; became singer with Buddy Morrow's band, 1945; sang with Charlie Ventura's band, 1946; won Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout contest, 1948; discovered by Eddie Cantor while performing at Grossinger's in the Catskills, NY, 1949; began singing on Eddie Cantor's radio show, 1949; signed recording contract with RCA Victor, 1949; had first hit, "Thinking of You," 1950; had first million-selling record, "Any Time," 1951; recorded four Top Ten albums, 1952-54; recorded 35 Top 40 hits and appeared frequently on major television shows and in top nightclubs, 1950s; starred in television show "Coke Time and the Chesterfield Supper Club," 1953-57; staged minor comeback with hit "Games That Lovers Play," 1966; performed sporadically during 1970s.
Eddie Fisher's Awards
Named America's most promising new male vocalist in a national poll of disc jockeys, Billboard, 1950; five gold records, 1951-56.
- Selective Works
- Singles "Wish You Were Here," 1952.
- "I'm Walking Behind You," RCA-Victor, 1953.
- "Oh, My Papa," RCA-Victor, 1953.
- "I Need You Now," RCA-Victor, 1954.
- "Dungaree Doll," RCA-Victor, 1955.
- "Heart," RCA-Victor, 1955.
- "Games That Lovers Play," RCA-Victor, 1966.
- Albums I Love You, RCA-Victor, 1955.
- I'm in the Mood for Love, RCA-Victor, 1955.
- As Long as There's Music, RCA-Victor, 1958.
- Eddie Fisher at the Winter Garden, Ramrod, 1963.
- Eddie Fisher Today!, Dot, 1965.
- Games That Lovers Play, RCA-Victor, 1966.
- People Like You, RCA-Victor, 1967.
- Fisher, Eddie, My Life, My Loves, Harper & Row, 1981.
- Green, Myrna, The Eddie Fisher Story, P. S. Eriksson, 1978.
- Simon, George, T., with others, The Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.
- Periodicals Billboard, April 2, 1994.
- Look, March 23, 1954.
- People, September 25, 1992.
- Time, September 4, 1950.
- Variety, May 20, 1953; March 31, 1954.