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Tony Reese papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Tony Reese was a popular performer both in Philadelphia and nationally. He was born Attilio Resci in Troia, Foggia, Italy, in 1919 to Giusseppe and Vincenza Recsi. At the age of seven, he and his family, including his mother, grandmother, sisters Edith and Rose, and brother Corradino, emigrated from Italy to Philadelphia where they settled in the southern portion of the city. He attended John Wayne Grammar School, Audenreid Junior High School, and South Philadelphia High School. For a short time he worked for a local optician, but he entered the U. S. Army at the start of World War II. He attained the rank of sergeant, served in the Pacific Campaign, and received a Bronze Star and Victory Medal in the Medical Corps.

Reese returned to Philadelphia upon being discharged from military service. He found work as an entertainer in local clubs. In Wildwood, New Jersey, he met fellow entertainer Pepper Davis. Davis’s original name was David Asner. He was from Baltimore and entered show business at a young age. Upon recommendation from a friend, Reese and Davis performed together.

Davis and Reese stuck together and became a very popular comedy team that performed nationally and internationally throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to appearing at venues in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, they toured the U. S. for an extended run of shows, gave a command performance for Prince Ranier and Princess Grace of Monaco, and performed at the Palladium in London, England, for a year. The duo also made numerous television appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Steve Allen Show, The Tonight Show, and the Dean Martin Show. Additionally, they appeared as themselves in The George Raft Story (1951) and Where the Boys Meet the Girls (1965). Another highlight of their career was as headliners in “Hello America,” a stage production based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After twenty-three years together, Reese and Davis decided to part ways. Davis went on to pursue a film career while Tony Reese returned to Philadelphia. He met and eventually married Francine Cirincione. He also teamed up with another performer named Pasquale D’Orio. Together as Pasquale and Reese they performed together for several decades at a number of local establishments.

Reese died in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in January 2013. He is buried at Cherry Hill's Locustwood Memorial Park.

The Tony Reese papers are housed in eleven boxes and span the bulk of Reese's career as a professor entertainer. While the collection dates from the 1950s to 2000s, it's centered on the earlier part of Reese’s career from the late 1950s to the late 1960s and his work with Pepper Davis as the comedy duo Davis and Reese. Comprising the bulk of the collection are files on comedy routines, which contain scattered correspondence and musical arrangements for songs used during their acts. There are also programs and advertisements for Davis and Reese’s shows, as well as some photographs of the duo and of Reese himself. Save for biographical items and obituaries, there are no papers in the collection that significantly document Reese’s personal life.

The collection has been divided into two series. The first series, Comedy routines and personal papers (Boxes 1-4 & 11 and Flat File 1), contains professional biographies on Davis and Reese used for press releases, press photographs of the duo in action as well as single and group headshots, and a group of telegrams Reese received when he was on the road during the 1950s and 1960s (Box 1, Folders 1-4). Making up most of this series are comedy routines, which are subdivided into those written by the duo (Box 1, Folders 8-14) and those written by others for them (Box 2, Folders 1-29). Each folder is identified by the titles of the skits it contains. The scripts are usually typed, though some are handwritten, and many contain annotations, corrections, and other edits. Some of the folders of routines written by other authors contain letters to Reese. Please be advised that a number of the comedy routines contain mature themes that some readers may find offensive, including sexual innuendo, drug references, and stereotypical portrayals of women and various ethnic groups.

Comprising the remainder of Box 2 and Boxes 3 and 4 are chronologically arranged folders that house programs and advertisements featuring David and Reese. These date from the 1950s to the 1990s. Posters of a similar nature can be found in Flat File 1. At the end of the series is a box (Box 11) containing audio-visual items that include comedy and song recordings, as well as two movies on DVD that featured Pepper and Reese: The George Raft Story (1961) and Where the Boys Meet the Girls (1965)

The second series, Musical arrangements (Boxes 5-10), is comprised of handwritten or printed music that was either sung by Reese and/or Davis or used to accompany their performances. Scattered among the arrangements are a few published pieces of music. This portion of the collection is arranged alphabetically by song title.

Gift of Francine Reese, 2013.

Accession number 2013.095.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto.
Finding Aid Date
; 2014
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Francine Reese.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright may apply to some of the materials in the collection, especially the published music, movies, and recordings. Please contact HSP's Rights and Reproduction department for questions concerning the use of potentially copyrighted items.

Collection Inventory

Biographical material, 1996, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Obituary and memorial, 2013.
Box 1 Folder 2
Photographs, circa 1960-circa 1980.
Box 1 Folder 3
Telegrams, 1955-1966.
Box 1 Folder 4
Routines - "$64,000 Question," "Fred Hack Amateur Hour," "The Shirley Bit," "Pot Commercial," "Peter Minuet and Chief White Cloud," "Jean Claude Schwartz".
Box 1 Folder 5
Routines - "Gimme a Dame Who's Dressed," "Catman," "Butler Sketch," "Benito", undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
Routines - "David & Goliath," "Roulette Blades," "Moon Crossovers," "Astrology Routine," "Wildwood Seniors", undated.
Box 1 Folder 7
Routines - "Sportscaster," "Olympic Torch Runner," "American Bit," "Good Times," "The Shirley Bit," Miscellaneous pieces, "Bullfight Bit," "The Airline Pilot," "Fighter Bit", undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
Routines - "Sherlock Holmes," "Mike Malice Interview," "I Can Do Better," "Animal Psychiatry," "Olympic Torch Runner", undated.
Box 1 Folder 9
Routines - "Washington and Cornwallis," "Valuable Bull," "Danger--Author at Work," "Dale and Jack Routines," "Touche", undated.
Box 1 Folder 10
Routines - "Work Session with Corbett Monica," "The Magnificent Flying Fools," "Wright Bros.," "Used Car Salesman," "Crazy House," "Texas", undated.
Box 1 Folder 11
Routines - Impressions, Openings/lead-ins/thank yous, "Calypso," "Insurance Salesman," "Intro to Drum Solo," "Pantomine", undated.
Box 1 Folder 12
Routines - The Ed Sullivan Show, undated.
Box 1 Folder 13
Routines - The Dinah Shore Show, undated.
Box 1 Folder 14
Morey Anderson, 2012, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Arnold M. Auerbach - "I'll Take the Check", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 2
John Barbour, undated.
Box 2 Folder 3
Jack Borden and Mort Dean - "Slumlord Bit", 1964, undated.
Box 2 Folder 4
Joey Carter - "The Newsboy," "Evolution of Rhythm", undated.
Box 2 Folder 5
Dee Caruso - "Prison Piece," "Bobo Helinsky", 1962, undated.
Box 2 Folder 6
Eli Cass - "The World's Greatest Insurance Salesman", undated.
Box 2 Folder 7
Irv Cohen, 1958.
Box 2 Folder 8
Dick Curtis - "Man on the Street Bit", 1954, undated.
Box 2 Folder 9
Eddie Davis - "The Break" (special material for Louis Prima and Rocky Graziano), undated.
Box 2 Folder 10
Phil Davis - "Astronuts" (pilot script), "The Chosen Two", 1961, undated.
Box 2 Folder 11
Stanley Davis - "White House Chef Interview", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 12
Hal Fimberg - "Song Bit," "Convict Sketch", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 13
Bruce Howard - "The Lemon", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 14
Sheldon Keller - "Roller Skating Sketch", 1965, 2012.
Box 2 Folder 15
Saul Loeb - "Two-Man Astronaut Routine," "Adam", undated.
Box 2 Folder 16
Bill Majeski - "Animal Psychiatrist", undated.
Box 2 Folder 17
Jerry Mayer - "American Indian Athlete," "Ethiopian, " "The Pole Vaulter from Egypt," Misc. Indian routine, 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 18
Bob McCowell, undated.
Box 2 Folder 19
Victor Melore - routine used in The George Raft Story, 1961.
Box 2 Folder 20
Sidney Miller - "Musical Bond", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 21
Jerry Portner and Ron Clark - "Golf Bit", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 22
Milt Rosen - "Duke Costanza", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 23
Michael Ross and Bernie West - "The Art Western," "Who Can Eat," "Davis & Reese Routine", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 25
Howard J. Tedder, undated.
Box 2 Folder 26
Kay Thompson - "We're a Couple of Gentlemen", 1955, 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 27
Harry Wilinsky, undated.
Box 2 Folder 28
Jerry Winnick - "People in the Know," "Hollywood and the Movies, "The Olympic Skier," "People in the News," "Jokes", 2012, undated.
Box 2 Folder 29
Program line-ups, undated.
Box 2 Folder 30
Programs and advertisements, 1953-1956.
Box 2 Folder 31-34
Programs and advertisements, 1957, 1959-1965.
Box 3 Folder 1-14
Programs and advertisements, 1966-1970, 1972-1973, 1980, 1995, undated.
Box 4 Folder 1-11
"Classic Club" program [St. Francis Hospital Celebrity Golf Classic], circa 1987.
Box 10 Folder 19
Posters, 1960, undated.
Oversize Flat file 1
Audio-visual items, 1961, 1965, 1969, 1977, undated.
Box 11
Box inventory

Phonographic record (33 1/3 RPM): The Comedy World of Pepper Davis and Tony Reese (1969)

Phonographic record (45 RPM): "Just About This Time Tomorrow"/"Lesson in Love" (undated) [3 copies]

Phonographic record (45 RPM): "The Roots of My Name"/"Theme for a Woman" (1977)

DVD: The George Raft Story (1961)

DVD: When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965)

CD: The Comedy World of Pepper Davis and Tony Reese (LP to CD transfer, 2009)

Cue sheets, undated.
Box 5 Folder 1
"Affair Medley", undated.
Box 5 Folder 2
"Ain't We Got Fun", circa 1951.
Box 5 Folder 3
"Ann", undated.
Box 5 Folder 4
"April Showers", undated.
Box 5 Folder 5
"Astrology", undated.
Box 5 Folder 6
"Baby Won't You Please Come Home", 1946, undated.
Box 5 Folder 7
"Battle Hymn Medley", undated.
Box 5 Folder 8
"Because of You", undated.
Box 5 Folder 9
"Begin the Beguine", undated.
Box 5 Folder 10
"Big Fat World", undated.
Box 5 Folder 11
"Bill Bailey", 1954.
Box 5 Folder 12
"Birth of the Blues", undated.
Box 5 Folder 13
"Bows", undated.
Box 5 Folder 14
"C & W Medley", undated.
Box 5 Folder 15
"Cabaret", undated.
Box 5 Folder 16
"Calla Calla", undated.
Box 5 Folder 17
"Cha Cha Cha", undated.
Box 5 Folder 18
"Chicago", undated.
Box 5 Folder 19
"Come Rain Come Shine", undated.
Box 6 Folder 1
"Confessin'", undated.
Box 6 Folder 2
"Dames", undated.
Box 6 Folder 3
"Did I Ever Really Live?", 1966-1967, undated.
Box 6 Folder 4
"Didn't We", undated.
Box 6 Folder 5
"Don't Worry About Me", 1954, undated.
Box 6 Folder 6
"Drum Dance Routine", undated.
Box 6 Folder 7
"Ebbtide", undated.
Box 6 Folder 8
"Feet", undated.
Box 6 Folder 9
"Fighter", 1953, undated.
Box 6 Folder 10
"Foggy Day", undated.
Box 6 Folder 11
"Fools Rush In", undated.
Box 6 Folder 12
"For Once in My life", 1965.
Box 6 Folder 13
"Friends", 1961.
Box 7 Folder 1
"Get Happy", undated.
Box 7 Folder 2
"Girls", undated.
Box 7 Folder 3
"Gonna Live Till I Die", 1952.
Box 7 Folder 4
"Good Times", undated.
Box 7 Folder 5
"He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother", undated.
Box 7 Folder 6
"I Believe in Music", undated.
Box 7 Folder 7
"I Can Give You Anything But Love", undated.
Box 7 Folder 8
"If", undated.
Box 7 Folder 9
"If He Walked into My Life", undated.
Box 7 Folder 10
"The Impossible Dream", undated.
Box 7 Folder 11
"It All Depends on You", undated.
Box 7 Folder 12
"It's Great to be Back" [From The George Raft Story], circa 1961.
Box 7 Folder 13
"I've Got My Love", undated.
Box 7 Folder 14
"I've Got to be Me", undated.
Box 7 Folder 15
"The Lady's in Love with Me", undated.
Box 7 Folder 16
"Just Say I Love Her", undated.
Box 7 Folder 17
"Leroy Brown", undated.
Box 7 Folder 17
"Learning the Blues", undated.
Box 7 Folder 18
"Let Me Try Again", undated.
Box 7 Folder 19
"A Lot of Livin' To Do", undated.
Box 8 Folder 1
"Love for Sale", 1948, undated.
Box 8 Folder 2
"Love is a Many Splendored Thing", undated.
Box 8 Folder 3
"Make 'Em Laugh", 1974, undated.
Box 8 Folder 4
"Mala Femmena", undated.
Box 8 Folder 5
Marlboro commercial, undated.
Box 8 Folder 6
"Mammy", undated.
Box 8 Folder 7
Mills Brothers spots, undated.
Box 8 Folder 8
"Mr. Bojangles", undated.
Box 8 Folder 9
"A Musical Revue", undated.
Box 8 Folder 10
"My Way", 1966, undated.
Box 8 Folder 11
"Never Make Eyes", undated.
Box 8 Folder 12
"Newley Medley", undated.
Box 8 Folder 13
"Old Man River", 1958, undated.
Box 8 Folder 14
"One For My Baby", undated.
Box 8 Folder 15
"Oogie's Bows", undated.
Box 8 Folder 16
Openers, undated.
Box 8 Folder 17
Prisoner bit, undated.
Box 8 Folder 18
"Rainy Day", undated.
Box 8 Folder 19
"Record Song", undated.
Box 9 Folder 1
"Rock-A-Bye", undated.
Box 9 Folder 2
"Rock & Roll", undated.
Box 9 Folder 3
"Row Row Row", undated.
Box 9 Folder 4
"Shadow of Your Smile", undated.
Box 9 Folder 5
Silent Movie bit, undated.
Box 9 Folder 6
"Sitting on the World", undated.
Box 9 Folder 7
"$64,000 Question", undated.
Box 9 Folder 8
"Some of These Days", undated.
Box 9 Folder 9
"Sometimes I'm Happy", undated.
Box 9 Folder 11
Sponsor routine, undated.
Box 9 Folder 11
"Strike Up the Band", undated.
Box 10 Folder 1
"Sweet Caroline", undated.
Box 10 Folder 2
"Tea for Two", undated.
Box 10 Folder 3
"The Way We Were", undated.
Box 10 Folder 4
"This is My Life", undated.
Box 10 Folder 5
"Time of Your Life", undated.
Box 10 Folder 6
"Turntable", undated.
Box 10 Folder 7
"Two Gentleman", undated.
Box 10 Folder 8
"Vaudeville", undated.
Box 10 Folder 9
"Walk Alone", undated.
Box 10 Folder 10
"West Side Story", undated.
Box 10 Folder 11
"What's Next?", undated.
Box 10 Folder 12
"What Now My Love", undated.
Box 10 Folder 13
"When You're Smiling", undated.
Box 10 Folder 14
"Wonderful Day", undated.
Box 10 Folder 15
"Wrap Your Troubles", 1954, undated.
Box 10 Folder 16
"You are the Sunshine of My Love", undated.
Box 10 Folder 17
"You're Nobody Till", undated.
Box 10 Folder 18

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