Thursday, September 5, 2013

Remembering Rosa Rio June 2, 1902 - May 13, 2010

At the time of her death, Rosa Rio was one of the oldest performers in the music industry.

Born Elizabeth Raub, she began her music career by providing the background music in the old silent movies.  She became a leading organist on radio and in soap operas and also provided music in the theater and motion pictures.

Rosa was raised in New Orleans and began playing the piano (by ear) at the age of four and began taking lessons at the age of 8.

Following high school, Rosa enrolled at Oberlin College where she studied music education and then at the Eastman School of Music.  While at Eastman, she married a fellow organist and professor.  The two had a son but eventually divorced.  She took on the stage name of Rosa Rio because it looked good on the theater marquee.

She performed for the theater in Syracuse, New York( Loew's theaters) as well as the Brooklyn Fox Theatre and the Brooklyn Paramount.  She then moved to New Orleans and worked for the Saenger Theatre when Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer" was released that ended the silent movie era.
Rosa Rio instruction book

Rosa also worked for radio and was known as "Queen of the Soaps" having performed the background music for 24 soap operas and radio shows.  During her prime, she played between five and seven shows a day.  Among them were"My True Story" "Bob and Ray" and "When A Girl Marries"  Rosa also hosted her own radio show during World War II called "Rosa Rio Rhythms"  Her life was extremely hectic during those days when she had to run from studio to studio in a matter of seconds.

She began moving into television having performed in the soap opera "As The World Turns" and "The Today Show"  She had a difficult time with television because there were fewer opportunities than radio for jobs and advancements.

Rosa Rio began teaching music and opened a school for singing, as well as, organ and piano.  It was once estimated that Rosa provided accompaniment for over 370 silent films.

Rosa Rio's Tribute program
Over the years, Rosa Rio never revealed her age and refused to celebrate her birthday.  One evening, while performing in the Tampa Theatre, she revealed her age.  She performed in the Tampa Theatre until the age of 107.  Had she lived one month, she would have been 108 years old at the time of her death on May 13, 2010.

Her life was celebrated on June 5, 2010 in her 2nd home, the Tampa Theatre with "A Tribute to Rosa Rio."  The tribute (program pictured) was a true celebration that included lyrics that she adapted in the 1960's to "What A Wonderful Night This Has Been" and was always used at the conclusion of her concerts.  The tribute also included video clips of her performances and local dignitaries from the theatre and other musical associations made remarks about her life.

Her resting place is unknown.

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