It was announced that actor/singer Ed Ames died last Sunday at his home in L.A. at 95 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Ames’ most famous acting role was as Mingo (trivia: his full name was Caramingo), the Cherokee sidekick to Fess Parker on the 1960s TV series “Daniel Boone.” That also led to his most iconic on-screen moment. He was demonstrating tomahawk-throwing on “The Tonight Show” (he’d actually never done that until he found out the show wanted it, so he got in one day's practice.) His first throw landed with a "thwap!" right on the target’s crotch, setting off what is believed to be the longest recorded laugh in TV history, which Johnny Carson extended by quipping, “I didn’t know you were Jewish.”
Ironically, despite his casting in Native American roles, Ames actually was the son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants. He was gifted with a stunning baritone voice, and his first career was singing with his older brothers Vic, Gene and Joe. The Ames Brothers were a very successful pre-rock vocal quartet who at one point had eight songs on the Billboard charts at once. Their hits include “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” which isn’t really as naughty as it sounds, and the double-sided #1 single, “Rag Mop”/“Sentimental Me.” Ed later went solo, recorded a number of albums in the MOR genre, and had several hits, including “Try to Remember” and “My Cup Runneth Over.” Johnny Carson loved his version of “Try to Remember” so much, he had him sing it on his show every night for a week (sans tomahawk throwing.)
In addition to musical variety shows and nightclubs, Ed Ames performed on theatrical stages and in acting roles in TV shows like “Murder She Wrote” and "The Rifleman."
If you’ve never heard Ed Ames’ music, I highly recommend it. His voice was one of the most powerful ever set to record. While I’ve always loved his versions of “Try to Remember” and “My Cup Runneth Over,” which are easy to find on YouTube or other streaming services, I always like to give you something that other obituaries won’t mention. So let me recommend listening to this single from 1968, “Who Will Answer (Aleluya #1.”)
You might find it moving, inspiring, baffling or just unsettling, but I guarantee you will be astounded by that incredible voice.