From authors to actors and bandleaders, Attleboro has contributed its share to the molding of popular culture over the past 100 years.

Notables include Grammy winning hitmaker Ray Conniff, Broadway, movie and opera star Robert Rounseville and biographer and novelist William Manchester.

But the Attleboro area’s part in America’s artistic legacy isn’t just a recent development.

One of the most influential early American composers during the late 1700s and early 1800s, Daniel Read, was born in Attleboro, although most of his working life was spent in Connecticut.

Read, who served in the Revolutionary War, was a prolific writer of hymn tunes, which also formed the basis for the popular music of the time.

The contribution of Attleboro-born artists to music would remain a strong theme throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Rounseville, endowed with a remarkable tenor voice, applied himself to a career as an opera singer, but eventually found himself in even greater demand for Broadway musicals, as well as on the silver screen and eventually in television.

Robert Rounseville

One of tenor Robert Rounseville's albumns.

In 1956, he reached the pinnacle of his career, starring in the movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s stage musical “Carousel” and on stage in the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.

Rounseville returned to a major Broadway production in 1965 when he played the priest in the musical “Man of La Mancha.”

Another Attleboro artist would have an even bigger impact on American music.

Joseph Raymond “Ray” Conniff, born in 1916 to a musical family, found initial success as a big band trombonist with Artie Shaw and other orchestras.

But his talents as an arranger, composer and innovator raised his status to a musical visionary.

He eventually would produce some of the biggest hits of the 1950s, boosting the careers of a number of legendary artists.

Following service in the Army in World War II, Conniff was hired by Mitch Miller of Columbia records arranging tunes and working in the studio with such recording stars as Rosemary Clooney, Marty Robbins, Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell and Johnnie Ray.

Using his orchestra to back popular recordings, Conniff helped to engineer a string of hits by popular artists of the day including Don Cherry’s “Band of Gold,” “Just Walkin In The Rain” by Johnny Ray, “Moonlight Gambler” by Frankie Laine and “A White Sportcoat and a Pink Carnation” by Marty Robbins.

Conniff struck real gold, however, when Miller paired him with then-unknown singer Johnny Mathis. “Chances Are” and “It’s Not For Me To Say” were just two of the legendary hits crafted under Conniff’s supervision.

But Conniff was just getting started.

With Miller’s encouragement, Conniff began recording in his own right, both as a leader of orchestra and choral groups.

His easy listening formula struck a chord with the Greatest Generation and sold tens of millions of records throughout the ’50s and ’60s.

Conniff’s crowning honor came in 1965 when he and his chorus won a Grammy award for the record version of “Somewhere My Love,” the theme from the hit movie “Doctor Zhivago.”

Author William Manchester experienced the 20th century as few other Americans had — coming to grips with its gritty reality as a Marine in the battle for Okinawa, and later writing intimate biographies of some of the century’s most influential figures.

Manchester, born in 1922, served on both Guadalcanal and Okinawa, where he was wounded in action. He later wrote about his wartime experiences in “Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of The Pacific War.”

But Manchester, who moved from Attleboro to Springfield, is better known for his books dealing with historical figures who shaped the 20th century.


Author William Manchester in his Wesleyan University office in Middletown, Conn., circa 1979-80. Manchester was the author of award winning biographies on Winston Churchill and Douglas MacArthur and the controversial chronicler of President Kennedy's assassination. (AP Photo/Wesleyan University, William Van Saun)

After returning from World War II, Manchester joined The Baltimore Sun where he met H.L. Mencken and wrote a biography of the legendary journalist.

He later wrote hefty biographies of controversial Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur and former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

But the Attleboro-born author is best known as the author of “The Death of a President,” dealing with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Widow Jacqueline Kennedy sued to prevent publication of the book, but later relented — reportedly after Manchester agreed to remove some portions of the manuscript dealing with Kennedy’s personal life.

Recommended for you