A tribute to Mel Torme', a man who loved Colts
Every so often, I would get calls from various persons in the entertainment field. Such was the case one day in 1991, when a man called me inquiring about some restoration work. The man turned out to be Mel Torme', a musical idol of my parents and one that I enjoyed when I was young and under their influence. We would sing his songs, especially "The Christmas Song" that he had written in the late forties. It always brought thoughts of home back to me when I was in the service.
I learned from his call that he was an avid collector of Single Action Colts, having over 100 at the time. We discussed his project, a Custer range frame that needed everything to be correct. It was like rebuilding a model T from the frame up. Mel liked it because one of the numbers in the 4xxx range serial was upside down, a factory error. To make a long story short, he eventually received it, was very happy, and inquired if I were going to attend the next Vegas antique show. If so, I would be his guest and gain early entry, etc.
Naturally, I was thrilled to accept his invitation, and I expected to meet him at the show door. Instead, as I was getting off the elevator, he was getting on. I recognized him, although he was shorter than I thought he would be, and after an introduction, he excitedly asked me to lunch where we could talk "Colts".
The restaurant in the Sahara was the only place for a hot meal, and the line waiting for a table was 20 deep. Mel led me past all these people, gave the hostess a nod, and we followed her to a large booth, one that held at least 10 persons. This is where we had our lunch. I looked back at the line of people waiting, they were glaring at us. "Who the hell are those guys"? they must have thought.
We had a good lunch, and I learned quite a bit about his early career and collecting activities. In the 50s, he played in Cleveland, and would check out all the local gun shops in and around town. He said his hotel room would be full of guns, and the maid would be a little shocked to see them all, but he always tipped them well.
He was also a great Walthers and Luger collector, having as many of them as the Colts. All his guns were either extremely rare pieces or in high condition. He confided that a previous divorce had cost him his last collection, which contained more guns, and he was working on rebuilding a new one.
Mel said he wished he possessed the skills to work on guns, but he never had enough time. His other hobby of model railroading took up what was left of his time after his family and career. He did shoot a lot during his lifetime, usually finding a place locally near the club he might be playing in.
In the show, he kindly introduced me to all his fellow collectors, indicating that I was "the best" as he put it. I was embarrassed then a little as I am now telling it, but as he said, "Hey, no one else is gonna blow your horn if you don't"!
Like all of us true collectors, Mel loved a good deal. When one of my clients offered a rare 32-20 flattop with a ten inch barrel, Mel "stepped up to the plate" We restored the gun, and it lettered as one of only two 32-20 flattops ever manufactured. He sure had a nose for good colts!
I think a year before he passed away, I caught him on the tonight show. He did a song with such clarity and control, I could barely believe it. His talent was incomparable, and the "velvet fog" as he was called, (he didn't really care for that tag) will be surely missed. Those Vegas shows are just not the same without him there, but, I think he walks the aisles right along side of us, don't you?