You've heard of "My Three Sons," now consider "My Two Dads," a tale of two men who both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, both in show business, and both claiming parenting rights to one son. Steve March-Torme has the happy distinction to be the son of crooner Mel Torme, and the stepson of Hal March, actor, comedian and radio and television personality.
Steve is a product of both dads, by inheritance, osmosis and observation. They both were supportive, without pressure, of anything he wanted to do. As for show business, they both encouraged him, without any pressure. Most importantly, they both "instilled a great sense of self-esteem, making me feel secure in my skin. If they'd been CPAs or plumbers, I don't know if I would be singing on stage. I definitely inherited my ears and my voice and I learned from watching them both perform."
When Steve was two, his parents divorced and he grew up with Hal March as his step-dad. He formed his first band, of many, when he was only 13 and they knew three songs. With the Rolling Stones as inspiration, their first gig was a gathering at the YMCA that they barely survived. By sixteen, the band had a name "Shades of Sound," was influenced by the British Invasion and entertained at bar mitzvahs and school dances.
His early life he "grew up with Borscht Belt comedians so I knew more about Buddy Hackett than Buddy Rich. Hal loved having funny people over for dinner, so our house was filled with the humor of Milton Berle, Lucille Ball and Jan Murray." When the family moved to Beverly Hills, he palled around with high school chums like Desi Arnez, Jr., Dean Martin, Jr. and Carrie Fisher. His friendship with Desi is still strong today as they just played golf last month.
Actor/comedian Fred Willard served as his buddy, helping Steve practice and perfect his fast ball pitching for two turns at the Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1985 and 1989, earning gold medals against Venezuela and Canada. Willard who loved baseball met him at a junior high school field to get him in shape and prepare him for the competitions.
While the cereal Rice Krispies is known for "snap, crackle and pop," Steve March-Torme is known as a jazz singer with a "snap, sizzle, pop." He describes his style of music as "jazz pop," with smooth sounds, characterizing his voice as sensual and elastic. While his dad's music was influenced by the Big Band era, like Benny Goodman and Count Basie, using scat singing to make his musical points, Steve grew up in a different era, listening to The Beatles, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Nat King Cole. He considers himself "a hybrid of the two, being elastic in his improvisations."
In his twenties and thirties, he had the opportunity to appear with his dad Mel in concert, which he recalls as being "a little intimidating. Subconsciously I wanted to show people that I could sing. My only regret is that he didn't live long enough. We worked well together harmonically, but we didn't get too many chances as a duo."
One duet that they did complete was a jazz tune, recorded in just two takes, of "Straighten Up and Fly Right." Once Mel was finished the second time around, he announced "I'm going to lunch" and walked out of the session. Unfortunately that great musical event was not repeated.
In his act, with full symphony orchestras and in night clubs, Steve March Torme talks a little about his dad Mel. He has even designed a show "Torme Sings Torme," as a tribute show, using arrangements by Marty Paige. He is careful it is not the "Mel, Jr. show," to establish himself as his own man with his own talents.
Those talents will be on display four times in the month of November, all over Connecticut, and Steve hopes you stop by to say hello. He will be flying in from his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, definitely not The Big Apple or Hollywood, where he and his family live, near his wife's relatives. Since he has to get on a plane to do any work, he's happy to live in a nice safe little town like Appleton, just eight minutes to the airport.
Look for Steve and his "Snap, Sizzle, Pop" at the Sage American Grill and Oyster Bar, 100 South Water Street in New Haven (203-787-3466), with no cover, on Tuesday, November 5 at 6:30 p.m. Next up is the Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield on Friday, November 8 at 8 p.m., $35 (203-438-5795). The next night, Saturday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m. will find him crooning at Nelson Hall in Elim Park, 150 Cook Hill Road, Cheshire, $32 (203-699-5495). Last up is a visit to the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, affectionately known as The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook on Sunday, November 10 at 3 p.m., $30 (877-503-1286).
Come hear Steve March-Torme share family stories about his two famous dads and learn what he inherited from both, by birth and assimilation. Perhaps he'll sing a selection of his own composed songs, a few he's adapted from his dad as well as favorites from Broadway to Bernstein to Bennett.