Rosa Rio has a very special in my heart. I knew Rosa from 1953 to her passing in 2010. She was 107 years young and only 3 weeks away from her 108 birthday. Rosa had a delightful spirit if life. At the age of 106 Rosa was still performing concerts on the mighty theatre organs. She could at 2 hour concert, with no intermission ,visit with the audience, take pictures and then go to dinner and be the life of the evening!
Rosa Rio had a remarkable career and Rosa.was one of the early Hammond artists who popularized having an organ in your home.
Rosa started performing on the Mighty Theatre Organ accompanying the Silent movie and also concertizing throughout the world. When radio became popular the organ was the perfect instrument to accompany all the soap operas, game shows, interview shows and comedy shows. Rosa created the accompaniment for 40 famous weekly and daily shows including My True Story, Lorenzo Jones and Bob and Ray. Her most famous show was The Shadow.
This next statistic is amazing.
Rosa created the musical scores for over 370 silent movies!!!!!
ROSA and DENNIS Rosa and I performed together for the first time doing The Battle Of The Silents. Two organists using all their tricks of the trade accompanying the same movie at the same time! We had a ball. Our adrenaline was racing thru our minds. We had a 3 minute standing ovation. What an honor that was for me. I was in my 50’s and she was in her eighties and believe me it took all I had to stay up with Rosa. I can still see her smile as we both did the same run at the same time.
After that concert we went for a little snack. Rosa started to reminisce about her early years. She said when she first started doing the shows all the music was done live as the musicians union forbade any prerecorded music. There was no rehearsal time. You had to know your craft. Some shows that were broadcasted had to be performed several times to accommodate the different time zones.
Rosa received the script of the show about 5 minutes before show time. Sometimes their would be some suggestions from the director but usually Rosa created the accompaniment to go with the actors reading. Her favorite actor was Orson Wells. She said he was a super talented genius and he had a wonderful sense of humor.
Rosa also played organ on the Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge radio show on ABC.
This picture shows Rosa and myself on the a Theatre Organ elevator at the Tampa Theatre moments before she played a full concert . She was 107 at this time! I believe this is the last picture taken of Rosa.
God Bless Rosa Rio.