Ed Ames, singer of the Ames Brothers and star of “Daniel Boone”, dies at the age of 95


Ed Ames, the youngest member of the popular 1950s singing group The Ames Brothers, who went on to become a successful actor on television and musical theater, has died. He was 95.

Ames, the last survivor of the four singing brothers, died of Alzheimer’s disease on May 21, his wife Jeanne Ames said on Saturday.

“He had a wonderful life,” she said.

On television, Ames is probably best known for his role as Mingo, the Oxford-educated Native American in the 1960s adventure series Daniel Boone, in which Fess Parker played the famous frontier man. He was also the subject of an episode on “The Tonight Show” which – thanks to his painfully eerie aiming of the hatchet – became one of the show’s most memorable moments of surprise.

Ames has had guest roles on television series such as “Murder, She Wrote” and “In the Heat of the Night” and has toured extensively in musicals, performing such popular songs as “Try to Remember” and the song that became his biggest hit single, ” My cup is overflowing.”

Part of the 1950s music scene, he and his brothers were one of numerous pop quartets that included the Four Aces, Four Lads, Gaylords, Hilltoppers, Lancers, Four Knights, Ink Spots and, from an earlier era, the Mills Brothers . But the Ames Brothers – Ed, Joe, Gene and Vic – had a unique tone: they were basses and baritones, not tenors.

Their recordings of “Rag Mop,” “Sentimental Me,” and “Undecided” became big hits, and they launched a busy career appearing in TV variety shows, recording 40 albums, and performing in nightclubs and auditoriums across the country.

By the late 1950s, rock ‘n’ roll had overtaken the pop charts and the number of vocal quartets was on the decline. The Ameses, on the other hand, were fed up with the constant traveling and being away from their growing families. The finale for Ed came when he got home unexpectedly and his wife called out to their three-year-old daughter, “Who’s there?” The girl replied, “One of the Ames brothers.”

“That did it,” he told a reporter. “My brothers and I agreed that we were all affected and should go our separate ways.” The $20,000-a-week group played their last engagement at the Sahara in Las Vegas on New Year’s Day 1961.

Ed’s efforts to establish himself as a solo singer were not immediately successful and he turned to acting. He almost lost his house before landing a role in a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

He sang “Try to Remember” in the long-running musical The Fantasticks, which became one of his theme songs. He joined the touring company of Gower Champions “Carnival” and transferred to the New York company until the show’s final performance.

In a role that foreshadowed his future role in Daniel Boone, he then gained attention as a stoic Indian in the 1963 Broadway play One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder in the adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel.

Ames earned top dollar in Las Vegas casinos and hotel supper clubs, and toured extensively in the musicals Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific, and I Do, I Do.

“I Do, I Do” yielded his biggest hit single, “My Cup Runneth Over,” which went gold in 1967. He had another hit in 1968 with “Who Will Answer?”

During his appearance on Daniel Boone, he contributed to the so-called longest laugh in the history of The Tonight Show.

For a 1965 episode, he was persuaded to demonstrate the hatchet skills he learned as a mingo. A silhouette of a cowboy was drawn on a piece of wood, and Ames threw an ax at the target. It landed right in the cowboy’s crotch.

Ames was born Edmund Dantes Urick in Malden, Massachusetts, the youngest of eleven children, four of whom died in infancy. Her parents were Ukrainian immigrants and her mother taught the children to read Shakespeare and to appreciate the music, which they heard on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts every Saturday.

The four youngest boys began singing as the Urick Brothers at local events. Ed was still in high school when they moved into nightclubs, but as a heavyset, five-foot-tall man with a deep voice, he could pass as 21.

In New York, comedy writer Abe Burrows recommended a name change because Urick was hard to remember. Ames was the brothers’ choice.

After the four brothers separated, the other brothers continued to perform and record, but received less attention than Ed. Vic died in 1978, Gene in 1997 and Joe in December 2007.

Ames and his first wife, Sara Cacheiro, had three children: Sonja, Ronald and Linda. The couple divorced in 1978 and in 1998 he married Jeanne Arnold.

The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

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