Jimmy Durante was born in New York City on February 10, 1893. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade to become a professional pianist, earning the nickname “Ragtime Jimmy.”
Durante was known for his mangled English, raspy voice and oversized nose. His comedic and musical talent, along with the instant chemistry he enjoyed with Garry Moore, made Durante one of the biggest radio stars of the 1940s.
Durante was already a huge star in vaudeville and film when he made his radio debut on September 10, 1933. He was such a hit as a fill in for Eddie Cantor on The Chase and Sanborn Hour, that he was immediately offered his own show. The Jimmy Durante Show enjoyed success both as a solo act and as a comedy duo, with Moore serving as Durante’s on-air sidekick from 1943 to 1947. He ended each episode with his mysterious trademark farewell, “Good night, Mrs. Calabash—wherever you are.”
Durante was also one of the most beloved people in show business, prompting an acquaintance to say, “You could warm your hands on this man.”
Jimmy Durante died on January 29, 1980.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.