The German bandleader never dreamed he would catapult a young U.S. Army lieutenant to Hollywood fame that night in a Munich nightclub when he favored his customers with an American love ballad.
Songwriter Bob Lardon, of 69-16 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village, couldn't have been more surprised, either.
Bob befriended the musicians while stationed overseas and left the music with them.
Just so I could hear my own piece played once in a while, he explained.
The song was so well-received that the bandleader played it even when Lieutenant Lardon wasn't around.
It was the English lyrics that caught the ear of an American GI who dropped in that evening. Pvt. Vic Damone couldn't get to the bandleader fast enough when the piece was over.
In no time, Bob, stationed in France, got a note from the bandleader explaining that some American singer was singing the song and seemed interested.
While all of fate's machinations were at work, Bob's song was competing with hundreds of others in a European songwriting contest.
A Contract is Made
The interested American singer and Bob soon got together and signed a contract for Vic to record Will You Marry Me?
That was chapter one. From there it went to Hollywood via Vic and on to MGM and producer John Pasternak. Now screenwriters are building a plot around the song for a movie by the same title, which will co-star Jane Powell and Damone.
Needless to say, Will You Marry Me? won the contest by a sweep.
Born in Brooklyn, Bob has been writing music and lyrics for 14 of his 24 years.
He is the grandson of John Niederstein, founder of the Niederstein Restaurant in Middle Village, which his mother now runs. His only interest in the business is eating the food.
Since his discharge in July, Bob has been busy as an engineer for the New York Port Authority, but every spare minute is devoted to composing. He is working on some pieces now which he hopes may be used in the movie.
Busy With His Band
As a student at Grover Cleveland High School and Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., he never bothered fooling with music in school. Outside of school, he was busy with his band.
I was drumming with my own band when I was at V.M.I., he said, and we were voted the most outstanding dance band in the South.
Bob's father had been a professional violinist but wasn't eager to have his son become involved in the field. So Bob never got much training from teachers or books.
I just picked it up somewhere along the way, he remarked.
Bob's boyish smile and crew haircut make him look more like a collegiate than a successful songwriter.
That's probably the way publishers feel when Bob pops in with a pianist and begins singing his compositions in a pleasing baritone.
Bob wrote Will You Marry Me? the same way he creates most of his work. While out driving his car the song was born and 30 minutes later was finished. No pencil and paper, he just carries songs around in his head till he gets time to write them down.
It may be a year before MGM is ready to release Will You Marry Me? but Bob philosophically comments, I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer.