Even before making his name on Broadway, Art Lund had won over audiences with his suave vibrato and smooth baritone voice, as sweet as the violins that accompany him on his hit record “Mam’selle.” As a figure in musical theater, he is best known as Joe in the original production (and some later revivals) of The Most Happy Fella.
Born Arthur London in 1915 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Lund earned degrees from Eastern Kentucky University and the United States Naval Academy. He found work early on as a vocalist with a band led by clarinetist Jimmy Joy. A better-known clarinetist whom Lund would later sing with was Benny Goodman, with whom he cut several records, including “Blue Skies,” “On the Alamo,” and (in duet with Peggy Lee) “Winter Weather” and “If You Build a Better Mousetrap.” In addition to his work with the King of Swing, Lund sang and recorded with bandmaster and trumpet king Harry James.
It was in 1947 that Lund scored his greatest triumph as a jazz vocalist, when he recorded “Mam’selle,” a tender ballad by Mack Gordon and Edmund Goulding that went to the top of the charts. A series of successful records followed, including “Peg o’ My Heart,” “You Call Everybody Darling,” “On a Slow Boat to China,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Crying in the Chapel.”
In 1956 Lund made his debut in a Broadway musical, creating the role of Joe in Frank Loesser’s ambitious musical The Most Happy Fella. Joe is the young, handsome, restless foreman man who works for the central character, Tony, a vineyard owner who marries a much younger woman, Rosabella. Though Joe and Tony are friends, Joe eventually sleeps with Rosabella and gets her pregnant, which leads to a turning point in the musical. Nominated for several Tonys, The Most Happy Fella is one of Loesser’s finest works, and the original cast recording was royally issued on three discs by Columbia.
Later Broadway credits for Lund include the musicals Destry Rides Again, Donnybrook!, and Sophie, as well as the play The Wayward Stork. Lund was also slated to play Doc Golightly in a production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s that foundered before actually opening.
In the 1950s, he made several guest appearances on television shows, including “Tonight!” (the forerunner of “The Tonight Show”) and “The Bell Telephone Hour.” He also acted in numerous television shows from the 1950s to the 1980s, among them “I Love Lucy,” “Wagon Train,” “The Name of the Game,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Rockford Files,” “Kojak,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Baretta,” “The Paper Chase,” “The Winds of War,” and “Knight Rider.”
In addition to his work on television, Lund had parts in several films, including Head On, The Last American Hero, Baby Blue Marine, The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, and It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, as well as the blaxploitation movies Black Caesar, Brother on the Run, and Bucktown.
Lund died in Salt Lake City in 1990.