Nick Lucas

Nick Lucas
Background information
Birth name Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese
Born (1897-08-22)August 22, 1897
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Died July 28, 1982(1982-07-28) (aged 84)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Genres Jazz, traditional pop
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1910–1966
Labels Brunswick, Pathé, Durium, Cavalier
Associated acts Duke Ellington, Jimmie Noone, Wilber Sweatman, Spirits of Rhythm
Notable instruments
"Nick Lucas Special"

Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese (August 22, 1897 – July 28, 1982) was known as "the grandfather of the jazz guitar".


Lucas was born into an Italian family in Newark, New Jersey. In 1922, at the age of 25, he gained renown with his hit renditions of "Picking the Guitar" and "Teasing the Frets" for Pathé Records. In 1923, Gibson Guitars proposed to build him a concert guitar with a deeper body. Known as the "Nick Lucas Special," it has been a popular model with guitarists since. In the same year, he began recording for Brunswick and remained one of their exclusive artists until 1932. He became known as "The Crooning Troubadour".

In 1929, Lucas co-starred in the Warner Bros. musical, Gold Diggers of Broadway, in which he introduced the two hit songs "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips". The latter became Lucas's theme song. The same year, Lucas was featured in the studio's all-star revue, The Show of Shows. Lucas turned down Warner Bros. seven-year contract offer, which went instead to fellow crooner Dick Powell.

In April 1930, Warner bought Brunswick and gave him his own orchestra, billed on his records as "The Crooning Troubadours". This arrangement lasted until December 1931, when Warner licensed Brunswick to the American Record Corporation (ARC). The new owners were not as extravagant as Warner Bros. had previously been and Lucas lost his orchestra and eventually left Brunswick in 1932. He made two recordings for Durium Records in 1932 for their Hit of the Week series. These would prove to be his last major recordings.

Lucas spent the rest of his career performing on radio, in night clubs and dance halls. He made a number of recordings for small or independent labels, including Cavalier Records, where he was billed as the "Cavalier Troubadour." In 1944 he reprised some of his old hits in Soundies movie musicals, and filmed another group of songs for Snader Telescriptions in 1951. He signed to Accent Records in 1955 and stayed with the label for 25 years.[1] In 1974, his renditions of the songs, "I'm Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston", "When You and I Were Seventeen" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" were featured on the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby (1974).

Lucas became friends with Tiny Tim, who considered him an inspiration and who borrowed "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" as his own theme song. Lucas sang the song with him when he married Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Lucas died in Colorado Springs, Colorado of double pneumonia, three weeks before his 85th birthday.


  1. Pitts, Michael; Hoffmann, Frank; Carty, Dick; Bedoian, Jim (2001). The Rise of the Crooners: Gene Austin, Russ Columbo, Bing Crosby, Nick Lucas, Johnny Marvin and Rudy Vallee. Scarecrow Press. p. 155. ISBN 9781461707127.
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