Ten years before Hogan's Heroes, Robert Clary made his name as a French crooner
The comedic singing star joined the Capitol Records roster in 1950.
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In 1950, Capitol Records typed up a press release about one of its latest signings. "The young French singing star has been creating a sensation in the east with his comic interpretations of American songs," the label wrote. "Physically he is best described as another Mickey Rooney because of his slight stature and bounding personality. Thus, Robert Clary was introduced to the music world.
His brief biography then detailed his harrowing background. Born to a large family of 12 children, Clary lost his parents and most of his siblings to Nazi concentration camps. Clary himself was imprisoned at Buchenwald. When the war ended, the young man returned to Paris, "homeless and hungry."
A few short years later, Clary was cutting records with an orchestra. The songs he recorded were brought to America on a "wire spool" and immediately snatched up by Capitol Records.
The recording giant began releasing a series of singles by the Frenchman, including "Cecila," "Alouette," "C'est Si Bon," and "Put on an Old Pair of Shoes." In 1955, Clary released his debut LP, Meet Robert Clary, which featured a mixture of jazzy tunes in English and en français.
Clary showed off his scat skills on "Le Feutre Taupe" as his personality oozed out of the grooves. A lighthearted, continental tone runs throughout the platter. There's even a tune from The Wizard of Oz. His singing and comedy skills landed him on American television. As far back as 1950, Clary was appearing on variety shows such as The Ed Wynn Show and The Colgate Comedy Hour. He landed gigs on Broadway concurrently, popping up in New Faces of 1952.
Of course, in 1965, Clary nabbed the role of Corporal Louis LeBeau on Hogan's Heroes, joining a cast filled with other Holocaust survivors. In 1966, the stars of Hogan's Heroes collaborated on an album called Hogan's Heroes Sing The Best Of World War II. Clary chipped in with "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree" and "The Last Time I Saw Paris." Today, Clary is the last surviving cast member of the sitcom.
Meet Robert Clary can be found on streaming services. Listen to the first track below.