Gennaro Louis Vitaliano grew up in the Bronx. He sang while he worked shining shoes which led his boss to pay for singing lessons. He appeared on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour in 1950 and began singing in nightclubs. He began performing as Jerry Vale.
Paul Insetta signed Jerry to a management contract and arranged for him to record some demo records he had written. Paul was also the road manager for singer Guy Williams, who introduced Jerry to Mitch Miller at Columbia Records. Jerry soon began recording for Columbia Records. He reached #29 on the Hot 100 in 1953 with You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart, his third single for the label.
Ten more singles followed in the next three years, but only three of them charted before Jerry recorded the biggest hit of his career. In 1955, Eddy Arnold was the first artist to record You Don’t Know Me. Jerry’s version charted first and peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 in 1956. Two months later, Eddy’s version reached #10 on the Country chart. Ray Charles released his version of the song in 1962 and his single became the most successful one when it topped the Hot 100.
Jerry had difficulty following up on his hit single. The best he could manage for the rest of the fifties came in 1957 when he reached #45 on the Hot 100 with the single Pretend You Don’t See Her.
Oddly enough, Jerry’s only other top forty entry on the Hot 100 came during the peak of the British Invasion. He recorded Have You Looked Into Your Heart in 1964 and the single peaked at #24 in early 1965. The song also reached the top of the Adult Contemporary chart and was the first of 27 top forty singles on the AC chart. His last visit to that chart came in 1971.
He continued recording albums and had over forty studio albums released by 1974.
Jerry appeared in films but primarily playing himself in the Martin Scorsese films Goodfellas and Casino in the nineties. He also appeared as himself in two episodes of the television show Growing Pains. His music was in constant demand for film soundtracks, and they included several of his songs in the recent Netflix film, The Irishman.
A stroke in 2002 cut short his performing career. He eventually died in 2014.
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