Eddie Fisher, Edwin John “Eddie” Fisher (August 10, 1928 – September 22, 2010) was an American entertainer. He was the most successful pop singles artist of the first half of the 1950s , selling millions of records and hosting his own TV show.
Fisher left his first wife, actress Debbie Reynolds, to marry Reynolds’s best friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, when Taylor’s husband film producer Mike Todd died. This event garnered scandalous and unwelcome publicity for Fisher. He later married Connie Stevens. Fisher is the father of actresses Carrie Fisher (with Reynolds), Joely Fisher (with Stevens), and Tricia Leigh Fisher (with Stevens).
Eddie Fisher, fourth of seven children, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Russian-born Jewish immigrants Gitte (later Kathrine “Katie”) (née Winokur) and Joseph Tisch. His father’s surname was originally Tisch, but was anglicised in use by the time of the 1940 Census. To his family, Fisher was always called “Sonny Boy”, a nickname derived from the song of the same name in Al Jolson’s film The Singing Fool (1928).
Eddie Fisher attended Thomas Junior High School, South Philadelphia High School, and Simon Gratz High School. It was known at an early age that he had talent as a vocalist and he started singing in numerous amateur contests, which he usually won. He made his radio debut on WFIL, a local Philadelphia radio station. He also performed on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, a popular radio show which later moved to TV. Because he became a local star, Fisher dropped out of high school in the middle of his senior year to pursue his career.
By 1946,Eddie Fisher was crooning with the bands of Buddy Morrow and Charlie Ventura. He was heard in 1949 by Eddie Cantor at Grossinger’s Resort in the Borscht Belt. After performing on Cantor’s radio show he was an instant hit and gained nationwide exposure. He then signed with RCA Victor.
Eddie Fisher was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951, sent to Texas for basic training, and served a year in Korea. From 1952 to 1953, he was the official vocal soloist for The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own) and a tenor section member in the United States Army Band Chorus (an element of Pershing’s Own) assigned at Fort Myer in the Washington, D.C. Military District. During his active duty period, he also made occasional guest television appearances, in uniform, introduced as “PFC Eddie Fisher”. After his discharge, he became even more popular singing in top nightclubs. He also had a variety television series, Coke Time with Eddie Fisher (NBC) (1953–1957), appeared on The Perry Como Show, Club Oasis, The Martha Raye Show, The Gisele MacKenzie Show, The Chesterfield Supper Club and The George Gobel Show, and starred in another series, The Eddie Fisher Show (NBC) (1957–1959, alternating with Gobel’s series).
A pre–rock and roll vocalist, Fisher’s strong and melodious tenor made him a teen idol and one of the most popular singers of the early 1950s. He had 17 songs in the Top 10 on the music charts between 1950 and 1956 and 35 in the Top 40.
In 1956,Eddie Fisher costarred with then-wife Debbie Reynolds in the musical comedy Bundle of Joy. He played a dramatic role in the 1960 drama BUtterfield 8 with second wife Elizabeth Taylor. His best friend was showman and producer Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash in 1958. Fisher’s affair and subsequent marriage to Taylor, Todd’s widow, caused a show business scandal because he and Reynolds had a very public divorce. Due to the unfavorable publicity surrounding the affair and divorce, NBC canceled Fisher’s television series in March 1959.
In 1960, he was dropped by RCA Victor and briefly recorded on his own label, Ramrod Records. He later recorded for Dot Records. During this time, he had the first commercial recording of “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. This technically counts as the biggest standard Fisher can claim credit for introducing, although it is rarely associated with him. He also recorded the albums Eddie Fisher Today and Young and Foolish (both 1965).
The Dot contract was not successful in record sales terms, and he returned to RCA Victor and had a minor single hit in 1966 with the song “Games That Lovers Play” with Nelson Riddle, which became the title of his best selling album. When Fisher was at the height of his popularity, in the mid 1950s, singles, rather than albums, were the primary recording medium. His last album for RCA was an Al Jolson tribute, You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet.
In 1983 he attempted a comeback tour but this was not a success. Eddie Fisher’s last released album was recorded around 1984 on the Bainbridge record label. Fisher tried to stop the album from being released, but it turned up as After All. The album was produced by William J. O’Malley and arranged by Angelo DiPippo. DiPippo worked with Eddie countless hours to better his vocals but it became useless. His final recordings (never released) were made in 1995 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. According to arranger-conductor Vincent Falcone in his 2005 autobiography, Frankly: Just Between Us, these tracks were “…the best singing of his life.” Fisher performed in top concert halls all over the United States and headlined in major Las Vegas showrooms. He headlined at the Palace Theater in New York City as well as London’s Palladium.
Eddie Fisher created interest as a pop culture icon. Betty Johnson’s “I Want Eddie Fisher For Christmas”, containing references to a number of hit songs, reached #28 in the Music Vendor national survey during an 11 week chart run in late 1954.
Fisher has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for recording, at 6241 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for television, at 1724 Vine Street.
Eddie Fisher suffered from knee, back, hearing, and eyesight problems in his later years, the last of which were worsened by a botched cataract removal operation, and so he rarely appeared in public. According to friends, he remained mentally vigorous and kept himself busy following news and politics, and singing his old songs while friend George Michalski played the piano. Michalski had worked on several occasions over the years to help Fisher get his name back on the music charts.
He said “The ’60s passed Eddie by; he missed that entire era of music. I’d play a Beatles song like Something for him and he’d think I wrote it.”
Eddie Fisher broke his hip on September 9, 2010, and died 13 days later on September 22, 2010, at his home in Berkeley, California, due to complications from hip surgery. He was 82 years old.
After his death he was cremated and his ashes were buried alongside the grave of his wife, Betty (who died on April 15, 2001), at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park.
His second wife, Elizabeth Taylor, died six months and one day after Fisher, on March 23, 2011.