Ed Ames, the youngest member of the popular 1950s singing group, the Ames Brothers, who later became a successful actor in television and musical theater, has died. He was 95 years old.
Ames, the last survivor of the four singer brothers, died on May 21 of Alzheimer’s disease, his wife, Jane Ames, said Saturday.
“He had a wonderful life,” she said.
On television, Amis was probably best known for his role as Mingo, an Oxford-educated Native American in the 1960s adventure series Daniel Boone, which starred Fess Parker as the famous frontiersman. He was also a bit of a center on “The Tonight Show” which – thanks to his agonizing hack aiming with an ax – became one of the show’s most surprising and memorable moments.
Ames has had guest roles on TV series such as “Murder, She Wrote” and “In the Heat of the Night,” has made frequent tours in musicals, and has performed such popular songs as “Try to Remember” and the song that became his biggest hit single, “Me A cup for those who seek it.”
As part of the 1950s music scene, he and his brothers were one of several pop quartets that included the Four Aces, Four Ladies, Gaylords, Hilltoppers, Lancers, Four Knights, Ink Spots, and still from an earlier era, the Mills Brothers. But the Ames brothers—Ed, Joe, Gene, and Vic—had a unique tone: They were bass and baritone, not tenor.
Their recordings of “Rag Mop”, “Sentimental Me”, and “Unspecified” became huge hits, launching a career full of appearances on television variety shows, recording 40 albums and playing in nightclubs and ballrooms across the country.
By the end of the 1950s, rock and roll had overtaken the pop charts and quartet singing had declined. Meanwhile, the Ames grew tired of the constant travel and absence from their growing family. Ed’s final end came when he unexpectedly arrived home and his wife called their 3-year-old daughter, “Who is he?” The girl answered, “One of the Ames brothers.”
“This is what I did,” he told a reporter. “My brothers and I both agreed that we all got it and should go our separate ways.” The group, who was making $20,000 a week, played their last engagement in the desert in Las Vegas in New Year’s 1961.
Ed’s efforts to establish himself as a solo singer weren’t immediately successful and he turned to acting. He almost lost his home before finding a role in Arthur Miller’s production of ‘The Crucible’.
In the long-running musical “The Fantasticks,” he sang “Try to Remember,” which became one of his theme songs. Join Gower Champion’s “carnival” travel company and fly to New York’s company until the final show.
In the role that heralded his future role in Daniel Boone, he next attracted attention as the stoic Native American in the 1963 Broadway play One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder in an adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel.
Amis has racked up top money in Las Vegas casinos and hotel supper clubs and has toured extensively in the musicals “Man of La Mancha,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “South Pacific,” and “I do, I do.”
“I Do, I Do” delivered his biggest hit single, “My Cup Runneth Over,” a gold record winner in 1967. He had another hit in 1968 with “Who’ll Answer?”
During his run on “Daniel Boone” he contributed to what has been called the longest continuous laughter spell in “The Tonight Show” history.
For a 1965 episode, he was coaxed into demonstrating the hatchet-throwing skills he learned as Mingo. A cowboy silhouette was drawn on a piece of wood, and Ames threw a hatchet at the target. It landed directly on the cowboy’s crotch.
Ames Edmond Dantes Auric was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the youngest of 11 children, four of whom died in infancy. Their parents were Ukrainian immigrants and their mother taught the children to read Shakespeare and to appreciate the music they heard every Saturday in a Metropolitan Opera broadcast.
The four younger boys began singing at local events as the Urick Brothers. Ed was still in high school when they moved to the nightclubs, but because he was a six-foot-tall husky with a deep voice, he managed to make it past 21.
In New York, comedy writer Abby Burrows advised a name change because Auric was hard to remember. Ames was the brothers’ choice.
After the four brothers broke up, the other brothers also continued to perform and record, but they got less notice from Ed. Vic passed away in 1978, Gene passed away in 1997, and Joe passed away in December of 2007.
Ames and his first wife, Sarah Kashiro, have three children: Sonya, Ronald, and Linda. The couple divorced in 1978, and in 1998 he married Jane Arnold.
The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas was a contributor to this report from Los Angeles.
This version corrects the name of Ames’ first wife to Sara Kashiro.
“Typical beer trailblazer. Hipster-friendly web buff. Certified alcohol fanatic. Internetaholic. Infuriatingly humble zombie lover.”