Sang with Big Bands as Ted Perry
November 15, 2005
— Theodore G. Erdel —
Theodore G. Erdel, a local singer under the name of Ted Perry whose career spanned 50 plus years, died of pancreatic cancer on October 12, 2005. He was 84 at the time of his death.
His professional career started in 1939 at KQV Radio on a weekly program where he sang popular ballads of the day. A year later, he was with the Gay Carlisle Band, singing at the New Penn Nite Club near South Park.
In 1941, he left to sing with the Mickey Ross Orchestra, and from 1943-1945 he was on the west coast as a featured vocalist with the Shep Fields Orchestra. Another local talent, Joe Negri, also appeared with Shep Fields.
Returning to the Pittsburgh area, Mr. Erdel sang with many local orchestras, including Baron Eliot, Clyde Knight, and Maurice Spitalny to name a few. He also played the Ankara, The Old Casino Theatre, and the 7th Avenue Lounge, where he was accompanied by Erroll Garner on piano.
For several years he sang with the Lee Kelton Orchestra over radio station WJAS. Kelton was the staff orchestra and Mr. Perry was featured vocalist.
As the Big Band era waned, Mr. Erdel continued to sing at local clubs, lounges, country clubs and proms.
In addition to his Big Band career, Mr. Erdel sang with the Pittsburgh Opera. His career with the opera, as chorister and companairo, spanned nearly 40 years, and his repertory of 57 operas made him one of the leaders in the baritone section during that time.
His musical career started with his first love, the liturgical music of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Mr. Erdel sang for more than 60 years in his church and he often said it was his profound belief in his church and its music that gave him the strength and inspiration to sing. He considered his talent a gift from God that he was to share with others. In the Serbian community, he had one name recognition – Tosho – and sang at functions and programs throughout the U.S. and Canada.
As Tosho, Mr. Erdel has sung with most of the great tambura bands in the area including the Balkan Serenaders, Kosovo, Marty Kapugi, Plave Mjesec, Popovich Brothers, and Dave Zupkovich. He worked on and off with Danny Kukich and in 1957 they recorded the now classic Neven Kolo and Kao Lepi San, still heard on Serbian jukeboxes. Tosho recorded Kao Lepi San for his dad, since it was one of his favorites.
In 1992, Susan Wuchenich Parker, one of his biggest fans, asked if he would sing at her wedding – and he didn't disappoint. Fifty-one years later, Ted Perry Erdel showed he still had the style, talent and elegance that made him popular so many years ago.
Mr. Erdel also worked for 30 plus years for Allegheny County, starting in the Office of the Treasurer. Later, he was an aide to Leonard Staisey, and then worked with the Board of Viewers. In 1971, he was elected as Democratic Chairman of the 16th Ward. Mr. Erdel worked tirelessly to help promote the Democratic Party, but he was also always concerned with helping people in his ward. He did whatever he could to help the “little guy,” never seeking or wanting publicity or fanfare for his successes.
He was predeceased by his wife Mary Jane (Davies), and his brother, George T. He is survived by his daughter Merrie Ann Hesselroth (Lee), in Minnesota, a grandson Peter John, and many nieces and nephews.