Thursday, 21 January 2021

Mac Davis born 21 January 1942


Scott Mac Davis (January 21, 1942 – September 29, 2020) was an American country music singer, songwriter, and actor. 

Born in Lubbock, Texas, he was the son of Edith (nee Lankford) and Thomas “TJ” Davis. His father, a builder, owned an apartment complex called the College Courts, where Davis lived with his parents and sister, Linda. He described his father as “very religious, very strict and very stubborn”. A keen football player, he often found himself involved in fist fights. He graduated from Lubbock high school aged 16, and left the city to move in with his mother in Atlanta, she having divorced and remarried. 

Inspired by the example of Lubbock’s most famous son, Buddy Holly, whom he recalled seeing driving through Lubbock in a brand new black and pink Pontiac convertible, Davis angled to break into the music business and, after dabbling with a local Atlanta band, the Zots, he joined the Vee-Jay record company in 1961 before being hired as a regional manager for Liberty Records in 1965. 

In 1966 he became a plugger for Liberty’s music publishing division in Hollywood, trying to sell other writers’ songs while also slipping in demo recordings of his own material. He was subsequently hired as a staff writer by Nancy Sinatra’s fledgling publishing company B-n-B Music and was able to place his material with artists including Bobby Goldsboro, Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, OC Smith and Sinatra herself. He also performed frequently in her stage shows. 

In 1968, Elvis Presley recorded Davis' "A Little Less Conversation," and soon the King was requesting more of his work. After notching a Top 40 hit with Davis' "Memories," Presley reached the Top Five in 1969 with the songwriter's "In the Ghetto," a single from the landmark From Elvis in Memphis LP. Davis also arranged the music for Presley's first television special before signing his own recording contract in 1970. In that year, he released his first chart single, "Whoever Finds This, I Love You," from his debut album, Song Painter. 

Presley took In the Ghetto to No 3 on the US chart in 1969, with Don’t Cry Daddy reaching No 6 later the same year. Both songs reflected Davis’s personal experiences. Don’t Cry Daddy recalled the breakup of his parents’ marriage, while In the Ghetto was based on memories of his Lubbock childhood, when he used to play with a young black boy and gained an early inkling of the social ills of poverty and racism. In the Ghetto triggered a major comeback for Presley after several fallow years, and has since been recorded by more than 170 artists, including Dolly Parton, Solomon Burke, Sammy Davis Jr and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. 

                              

In 1970 Davis wrote I Believe in Music while at a party at Lulu and Maurice Gibb’s home in London. He also wrote the song "Watching Scotty Grow", which Bobby Goldsboro made a #11 hit single in early 1971.  In 1972, Davis scored a number one pop hit with "Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me," which also reached the country Top 20. Davis was named Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. 

His crossover success continued throughout the decade, with singles like 1974's "Stop and Smell the Roses," 1975's "Burnin' Thing," and the following year's "Forever Lovers" scoring with listeners in both camps. Between 1974 and 1976, Davis hosted a musical variety show for NBC television, followed by a string of specials; in 1979, he also starred in the film North Dallas Forty with Nick Nolte. 

Davis' success continued in the early '80s; "It's Hard to Be Humble," the title track of his 1980 album, was the first of four consecutive Top Ten country hits that culminated with his biggest country single up to that point, "Hooked on Music," the next year. In 1980, he also starred in a TV movie, Cheaper to Keep Her. A co-starring role opposite Jackie Gleason and Karl Malden in 1983's disastrous The Sting II effectively ended Davis' career in Hollywood, and by 1985, he had recorded his last Top Ten hit, "I Never Made Love ('Til I Made Love with You)." 

After a period of alcoholism and rehab, he made a breakthrough on Broadway when he took over the title role in the musical The Will Rogers Follies in 1992, an event he described as “the biggest turnaround in my life”. In 1994 he released his final album of original material, Will Write Songs for Food. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 and was still able to inspire younger artists well into his eighth decade. 

More recently, after years of inactivity on the charts, Mr. Davis enjoyed a revival as a songwriter, collaborating with Bruono Mars with whom he wrote the 2012 pop hit “Young Girls” which was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. 

Mac Davis died in a Nashville hospital on September 29, 2020, falling ill after heart surgery; he was 78 years old. He was buried in Lubbock, Texas. (Edited from The Guardian & AllMusic) 

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Piney Brown born 20 January 1922


Columbus S. Perry (January 20, 1922 – February 5, 2009), better known as Piney Brown, was an American R&B and blues singer and songwriter, who has been described as a "fine, big-voiced shouter". He released a string of singles between 1948 and 1988 and issued two albums late in his career. His songs have been recorded by Little Milton and James Brown. Less famous than Big Joe Turner or Wynonie Harris, Piney Brown was a gifted blue shouter who recorded a long string of singles and CDs, spanning a career of five decades. 

Perry was born in Birmingham, Alabama  and raised by his mother who was a housekeeper in Kansas City, Missouri. As a young boy he started to sing in a Gospel group The Young Blue Jays while attending a lot of Vaudeville and Tent Shows. There he met the famous Vaudeville artist Shepherd Sam who taught him how to dance, sing, tell tales, acrobatics. 

At the end of the 1930's, Colombus tried his luck in Kansas City with no success but he had there the opportunity to watch and meet many of the blues and jazz acts of the time. It was here that he took the stage name Piney Brown from a club owner. He then went to Baltimore around 1940, singing and dancing in several night clubs of this big harbour. He even replaced at the Royal Theatre and backed by the Lucky Millinder Orchestra, an ill Wynonie Harris from who he knew all the songs.

In 1946, he formed a singing and dancing duo with Estelle Young. Estelle took the stage name of Caldonia (cashing on Louis Jordan's hit) and Colombus Perry became Piney Brown, the title of a smash hit by Big Joe Turner about a famous Kansas City bartender! The duo enjoyed some success and Piney Brown started to tour across the USA with several shows, sharing the bill with Billy Eckstine, Gatemouth Brown, Percy Mayfield, Lester Young and even a very suspicious (at first) Big Joe Turner. 

Thanks to Sonny Thompson, Piney made his recording debut in 1947 for Miracle. Of the four songs that were recorded, only one was released, which was “That's Right, Little Girl", issued by Esquire Records in the UK several years later. Perry was invited to make a session the next year at New York for the prestigious Apollo label of Bess Berman, cutting several sides in 1948, including the single "Morning Blues" backed with "Gloomy Monday Blues". “My Baby's Gone” enjoyed some success and Piney appeared at many famous clubs and venues like the Apollo Theatre, the Cotton Club, while embarking of several tours of US Military bases. 


                              

In 1953 Brown recorded "Ooh You Bring Out the Wolf in Me" backed with "Don't Pass My By" for Jubilee Records and "Walk-a-Block-and-Fall" backed with "Whispering Blue" for King Records. None of his records made the national charts, but they sold well locally, and Brown was a top-performing attraction who regularly toured the country. He performed with the young guitarist Albert Collins in the early 1950s. 

In the music polls in the Pittsburgh Courier, Brown was regularly nominated as the "top blues artist". He performed as a duo with Billy Brooks, and they played for a time at the Club DeLisa in Chicago, as a result of which both of them recording for Duke Records. In 1959, Brown recorded "Sugar in My Tea (Cream in My Coffee)" backed with "My Love" for Mad Records, a label founded by Tommy "Madman" Jones two years earlier. 

After an unsuccessful attempt to own a night club in Kansas City, Piney had to come back to Birmingham to help his aging mother, although he continued to tour more locally. Then he recorded for the Heart label and helped launch Jerry McCain career. In 1964, Piney finally settled down permanently in Dayton (Ohio) where he married, singing at local clubs (The Village) or US Air Force bases while still recording for the small Dayton label, Deep Groove in a style more and more leaning towards Soul and Funk (Everything but you). During the late 1960's Piney also recorded several sessions for John Richbourg's 77 label in Nashville, backed by a young Country band. 

When Delmark reissued his Jubilee tracks, Piney contacted the Chicago label for his royalties. Delmark spread the news among blues buffs around the world and after a lengthy article and interview on the British Juke Blues magazine,  Piney embarked himself on several tours of Europe. In 2000, after 48 years apart musically, Brown and Wiley reunited to perform at the Blues Estafette, in Utrecht, Netherlands. Brown's debut album, My Task, was issued in 2004. His last album, One of These Days, was issued by Bonedog Records, of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in 2006. Brown supported its release by playing some local gigs. 

Another album was programmed for Delmark but Piney Brown died on February 5, 2009, at the age of 87, in Dayton, Ohio, his home since 1963. 

(Edited from Brian Baumgartner @ Juke Blues #48 & Wikipedia) 

Here’s a collage of Piney Brown performing his classics with the Bonedog Allstars... McKeesport, PA., 2006.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Shirley Ellis born 19 January 1929


Shirley Ellis (January 19, 1929 – October 5, 2005) was an American soul music singer and songwriter of West Indian heritage. 

Shirley Marie O'Garra was born to William H. and Petra (Smith) O'Garra. Her father was a native of Montserrat, and her mother was born in the Bahamas. Shirley had three full siblings, Joyce, Bertram and William Jr., and four half siblings, Reginald, Suzanne, Joycelyn and Berbian. 

June 16, 1954, was a proud day for twenty-five year old singer-songwriter Shirley Ellis, when she registered her first songwriting copyrights with Library Of Congress. This she hoped would be the start of a successful songwriting career that would transform her fortunes and help her escape from the abject poverty of life in the Bronx. 

Although Shirley Ellis had embarked upon a career as a songwriter, she hadn’t given up hope of making a career as a singer, and every weekend left her home in the Bronx, and sang with the jazz and calypso band The Metronomes. Sometimes, Shirley Ellis entered talent contests, and in 1954 followed in the footsteps of Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald when she won the Amateur Night at the Harlem Apollo singing Hoagy Carmichael's Skylark.  This gave Shirley Ellis’ career a huge boost. 

By late-1955, Shirley Ellis had already written songs for some of high-profile groups and artists, including The Sh-Booms, The Chords, Heartbreakers and Scott and Oakes. Just a year after registering her first song, Shirley Ellis’ star was already in the ascendancy, and she had just met and married her husband. This was Alphonso Elliston, who was the lead singer of The Chords, who enjoyed a hit with Sh-Boom in April 1954. It was through her husband’s cousin that Shirley was introduced to songwriter Lincoln Chase who became her manager and songwriting partner. They penned Shirley’s first single in 1961, “A Beautiful Love” but it failed to trouble the national charts. In 1962, she released a single on Mercury, under the name of Shirlee May, entitled ‘Lonely Birthday’ b/w ‘Little Sally Walker’. 

But by 1963 Shirley signed a deal with musical publisher Al Gallico, who secured her a recording contract with Kapp Records’ imprint Congress where they shortened her surname Ellison to Ellis. She was paired with producer Hutch Davie and entered the studio on the ‘13th’ of September 1963 to record a novelty song penned by Lincoln Chase, The Real Nitty Gritty. By the time the single was released, The Real Nitty Gritty had been shortened to The Nitty Gritty. When the song was released in October 1963, Shirley Ellis’ sophomore single started climbing the charts and buoyed by an appearance on American Bandstand eventually reached number eight on the US Billboard 100 and four on the US R&B charts. 


                              

Other hits followed "The Name Game" (1964, US no. 3) and "The Clapping Song" (1965, US no. 8 and UK no. 6). "The Clapping Song" was another novelty song, which was arranged and produced by Charles Calello. When it was released, it reached number eight in the US Billboard 100 and six in the US R&B charts, and sold over a million copies. This resulted in Shirley Ellis receiving her first ever gold disc. 

By then, Shirley Ellis was a familiar face on American television and regularly appeared on American Bandstand, Hullabaloo, The Mike Stone Show and Shindig.  Despite her chart success other releases were disappointing. Although commercial success eluding Shirley Ellis she was signed by Columbia Records, on the advice of Calello, who was the company’s A&R Department producer. Columbia Records would become Shirley Ellis’ new home for the next two years. 

It wasn’t until 1967 that Shirley’s “Soul Time” reached sixty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-one in the US R&B charts. Given the quality of Soul Time, the single deserved to fare better. For the follow-up to Soul Time, Shirley Ellis recorded Sugar Let’s Shing-A-Ling. 

However, commercial success again eluded Shirley Ellis’ latest single which also lent its name to her third album so she left Columbia Records and although she was reported to have pacted with the Bell label, no records were forthcoming. She retired from the music industry in 1968 and never seemed to have looked back, only occasionally belting out a tune at block parties. 

Cover versions of her hits have been recorded by Madeline Bell, The Belle Stars, Laura Branigan, Aaron Carter, Gary Glitter, Ricardo Ray, Pia Zadora, and Gladys Knight and the Pips (a version of "The Nitty Gritty", produced by Norman Whitfield). 

She died on October 5, 2005 in New York City at the age of 76. 

(Edited from various sources mainly Dereks Music Blog)

Monday, 18 January 2021

Johnny Costa born 18 January 1922

Johnny Costa (born John Costanza; January 18, 1922 – October 11, 1996) was an American jazz pianist. Given the title "The White Art Tatum" by jazz legend Art Tatum, Costa is best known for his work as musical director of the children's television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. 

Costa learned to play accordion at age seven and was reading music three years later. Frank Oliver, Costa's high school music teacher, urged him to learn the piano after discovering that Costa had perfect pitch. Costa graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in music and in education. In case he failed as a musician, Costa prepared himself to teach. On the day of his graduation, he began work as the house pianist for a radio station in Pittsburgh. Eventually he performed the same role for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. He provided piano and organ music for many programs, eventually teaming with Fred Rogers to arrange and perform the music heard on Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood. 

Costa appeared along with guitarist Joe Negri on the 1954 Ken Griffin TV series 67 Melody Lane. Johnny and Joe played two numbers, "After You've Gone" and "Little Brown Jug", the latter with Ken Griffin at the organ. Costa's first recording was The Amazing Johnny Costa, a Savoy LP released in 1955. Savoy also released “Johnny Costa and His Trio” in 1955.   Working with producer Bob Theile Costa also released three albums in 1955 on Coral Records: "Johnny Costa Plays Piano Solos", "Johnny Costa Plays for the Most Beautiful Girl in the World", and “Costa Living”.  Costa continued to record releasing “A Gallery of Gershwin” on Coral (1958) and “In My Own Quiet Way" on Dot in 1959.  In the early-60s he recorded two LPs on Dot Record working with Sonny Lester and Milt DeLugg. He recorded two 45s for J. Arthur Rank, one was the theme song for the movie “Conspiracy of Hearts”. 

Art Tatum with Johnny and Helen Costa

Record producer Bob Theile got Johnny a twice-a-year gig at the Embers Room in NYC that last ed for seven year.  Theile also got Johnny on Steve Allen's Tonight Show.  Costa made his first appearance on the NBC Tonight Show on December 14, 1955 performing the songs “After you’re Gone” and “Froggy Day”.   In 1962 Wlliam Steinberg invited Costa to perform as a soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony. It was the first of several symphony appearances that he made over the years. 

                               

Although his increasingly lucrative career was beginning to bring him international attention, the amount of time away from his family and friends led him to live and perform only in western Pennsylvania. He stopped travelling and gave up his job as musical director of The Mike Douglas Show. He returned to Pittsburgh and remained there for the rest of his life. 

Johnny Costa with Fred Rogers

Costa served as musical director, arranger, and keyboardist for the children's television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood from the program's debut in 1968 until his death in 1996. The program's creator and host, Fred Rogers, regarded Costa as one of the most gifted musicians he had ever met. Rogers' choice was surprising because Costa's style was regarded as too complicated and sophisticated for a children's program. Costa accepted the job without hesitation because it wouldn't require him to travel away from Pittsburgh, and because Rogers offered him the same amount he needed to pay his son's college tuition ($5000). 

Although Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a children's program, Costa insisted on not playing "baby" music. He believed children understood good music and that he could experiment with his own musical styles and techniques, even for a children's program. Each day, Costa and his trio (Carl McVicker Jr. on bass, Bobby Rawsthorne on percussion) played live in the studio for the filming. In addition to the show's recognizable main theme, they played the trolley whistle, Mr. McFeely's frenetic Speedy Delivery piano plonks, the vibraphone flute-toots (on a synthesizer) as Fred fed his fish, dreamy celesta lines, incidental music, and Rogers' entrance and exit tunes. 

In 1990, jazz pianist Dick Hyman, without Costa’s knowledge, mailed a DAT tape of a Costa recording session produced by Bill Hillman to Hank O'Neal president of Chiaroscuro Records.  Chiaroscuro Records was the label that had released the recordings of Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams.  O’neal signed Costa to his label releasing the tape on CD as "Classic Costa" in 1991.  Chiaroscuro Records released Costa’s "Flying Fingers" (1992) and "A Portrait of George Gershwin." (1994). Costa recorded in one session of first takes a collection of Johnny Mercer tunes entitled “Dream: Johnny Costa Plays Johnny Mercer” that was released in 1996.  His final recording was “Christmas Reflections” released in 1997. 

The City Theater honoured Costa as the first recipient of its Performance Award for outstanding performances from western Pennsylvania arts.  Dick Hyman and Peter Nero performed at the ceremony.  Costa was inducted into Pittsburgh Jazz Society Hall of Fame.  Costa died of aplastic anemia in Pittsburgh on October 11, 1996 at age 74.    (Edited from Wikipedia & Pittsburgh Music History) 

Here’s a 1954 clip from Ken Griffin's 67 Melody Lane  with Johnny Costa & Joe Negri performing  "After You've Gone" + "Little Brown Jug" (with Ken.) The man chatting with Ken is Sterling Yates, who became a jazz buff radio dj at Pittsburgh's KDKA. The lady at the end was Aunt Harriet from Batman and Robin.  '67 Melody Lane' was a syndicated limited-run TV show produced in Chicago.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Irene Daye born 17 January 1918


Irene Daye (January 17, 1918 -November 1, 1971) was an American jazz singer. 

Born Irene Endyke in Lawrence, Massachusetts, singer Irene Daye landed her first professional singing job with orchestra leader Dan Murphy shortly before her high school graduation in 1935. She flew back to her hometown on graduation night to receive her diploma.

She remained with Murphy two-​and-a-half years before joining Mal Hallett. Five months after she began with Hallett, bandleader Gene Krupa heard her sing at an engagement in Philadelphia and asked her to try out for his group. When her night’s work with Hallett had ended, she made a 4 a.m. audition and landed the job. 

With Krupa, Daye found success. She had an attractive voice and a lightly swinging style, and improvised with subtlety while respecting the melody and words of the songs she interpreted. She quickly became one of the top vocalists in the country. Daye recorded 63 songs while with Krupa. She made each tune seem worthwhile, even the duds, and had success with "Jeepers Creepers," "Bolero at the Savoy," "The Lady's in Love with You," "Drummin' Man," "The Rumba Jumps," "Rhumboogie," and "Yes, My Darling Daughter." On January 17, 1941, during what would be her final record date with Krupa, she had her biggest hit, "Drum Boogie." Her voice is also heard singing "Drum Boogie" in the movie Ball of Fire, although she was ghosting for actress Barbara Stanwyck. 

                          

                               

She remained with Krupa from 1938 to 1941 when she quit at the age of 23 so that she could travel to the West Coast and marry left-​handed trumpeter Corky Cornelius. If she had stayed with Krupa's band, which was on the brink of making it big, she probably would have been featured on "Let Me Off Uptown" instead of her replacement, Anita O'Day. 

While Cornelius joined the Casa Loma Orchestra, Daye sang for Sam Donahue, who had also recently left Krupa to front his own band again. After her stint with Donahue, Daye happily settled into the life of a housewife, giving birth to a daughter in 1943. 

Sadly, Cornelius passed away from nephritis in August of that year, and Daye returned to singing. She auditioned for Charlie Spivak and was performing with the band by October. With Spivak, Daye found even greater success, making several hit records with the band, including “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” “Golden Earrings” and “I’ll Never Say Goodbye.” Daye also found romance. She and Spivak were married in 1950. 

In the late 1950s, Spivak and Daye moved to Miami, Florida, where he fronted a small outfit with Daye managing his business affairs. Illness forced him to retire briefly in 1963. After recovering, he led bands in Las Vegas and Miami before organizing another small outfit in 1967 that played regularly at the Ye Olde Fireplace restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, with Daye as vocalist. Daye battled cancer during the last years of her life, finally losing her fight in 1971, age 53. 

During the height of her singing career, she was ranked in official music publications as one of the leading female vocalists. One of the top compliments ever paid her came from Bing Crosby, who said, "Irene Daye is one of the finest girl singers I have ever heard." 

(Edited from Bandchirps & All Music)

Here’s a clip of "The Call Of The Canyon" with Gene Krupa Orchestra featuring Babe Wagner on Trombone. The vocals are by Irene Daye & Howard Dulany. (1941) 

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Conny Vandenbos born 16 January 1937


Jacoba Adriana Hollestelle (16 January 1937 – 7 April 2002), known professionally as Conny Vandenbos, was a popular Dutch singer. She had her first radio hit in 1966 and continued to make hit recordings throughout the 1970s. She represented the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest 1965 with the song "'t Is genoeg" (Tis Enough). 

Conny Vandenbos started her career in the AVRO children's choir and made her solo debut in February in the KRO radio programme Springplank, a showcase for young talent, in which she performed French chansons.

After her performance at the Belgian Knokkefestival in 1961, Conny signed a recording contract with Philips. She also performed in the first episode of the Rudi Carrell show. In 1962 she participated in the preliminary rounds of the Eurovision Song Contest, where she finished in third place with Zachtjes. In 1961 she appeared on Bruce Low 's VARA show. At the end of 1964 she got her own television show, "Call me Conny" for the Dutch public broadcaster NCRV. 

In 1965 she represented the Netherlands at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "t Is Enough", reaching eleventh place. A year later she had her first hit "I am happy without you". Meanwhile, Conny's record company tried to make her more known abroad and they let her sing in English and German. However, real success at an international level was not forthcoming. The single "Where Are They Now" released in August 1968, reached 31st place in the Colorado Hit Parade, but that was it in the US. In 1971, Vanderbos moved to Hoevelaken, Gelderland. 


                              

In 1974 she switched from Phonogram to record company Basart Records International. A short time later, she released an album, A Woman of Our Time. During this period, most of her hits were Dutch translations of foreign songs such as "Een roosje, m'n roosje", which was a translation of "Daisy a Day" by Jud Strunk. She also released a German version of the song. 

In 1976, she received an Edison Golden Harp for the album “Zo wil ik leven”. In the eighties she had a theatre program together with Ted de Braak and performed in André van Duin 's revue. She also had her own tour de chant and was frequently seen on television. She also played roles in musicals. In 1979 she was elected Woman of the Year in Belgium. In 1980, while back with Philips Records, Conny released an album of songs by Janis Ian titled Conny Vandenbos zingt Janis Ian. A duet with Janis Ian, "Don't Leave Tonight", reached number 17 in the Dutch charts in December 1980.

In 1989 she had a small success in the Netherlands with “Stapelgek op je” with Wim Rijken. In 1993 she received gold for her album 14 Greatest Hits Van Conny Vandenbos.

In the nineties she presented radio programs with Radio Noordzee (National) (Tea with Conny, every working day between 2 and 4 pm), Omroep West and Radio M Utrecht. In 1998 she was a presenter at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. In 2000, she was honoured with a tile in the Rotterdam Walk Of Fame. 

In 1959 Conny married Wim van den Bos. The couple had a daughter. In 1965 the marriage came to an end, but because she was now known by the name Conny van den Bos, she decided to keep that name. From now on, the name was written together as Conny Vandenbos. She now considered this a stage name, no longer her ex-husband's name. Her second marriage was to Ger Faber, bass player of the band Leedy Trio, with whom she had one son. 

Vandenbos died in Amsterdam on April 7, 2002 at the age of 65, two weeks after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She is buried at Rusthof Cemetery in Leusden.    (Edited from Wikipedia)

Friday, 15 January 2021

Jerry Wald born 15 January 1918


Jerry Wald (January 15, 1918 – September 1, 1973) was an American clarinetist and band leader. 

Jervis Wald was born in Newark, New Jersey and started on soprano saxophone at the age of seven, later taking up alto sax and clarinet. His role model was "the king of the clarinet", Artie Shaw. This reflected strongly in his playing and led to comparisons being drawn, which Jerry eventually came to resent. In 1941, he formed his own orchestra in New York, enjoying lengthy residencies at the Lincoln Hotel and at the Panther Room of the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. 

The band's theme song was "Call of the Wild". A number of good arrangements were provided by Ray Conniff and Jerry Gray. Sidemen included several illustrious former Shaw alumni, notably saxophonist Les Robinson, guitarist Art Ryerson, bassist Sid Weiss and trumpeter Bernie Privin. A good swinging outfit, Wald's 15-piece band adopted a more progressive sound by the late 1940's. Recording contracts were with Decca, Majestic and Columbia. Moreover, Wald was featured on the Robert Q. Lewis radio show. 

Jerry Wald’s orchestra never made the big time. Nonetheless, he had several notable vocalists on his roster during its existence. A reviewer gave the name of Wald’s vocalist during his first Roseland engagement in 1942 as Francis Wayne. Wayne, who later sang for Woody Herman and married Neal Hefti, was still an unknown at the time. Anita Boyer had joined the band by mid-​1942, however, and was Wald’s most notable canary. 

She stayed until December, when Lillian Lane replaced her. Lane remained until at least February of 1943. Betty Bonney was singing by July 1943 and stayed through at least November of that year. Ginnie Powell had replaced Bonney by December. Male vocalist Dick Merrick remained with Wald for many years, though he left for the McFarland Twins’ band in late 1942, returning to Wald in May 1943. Johnny Bond replaced him in the interim. 


In 1944, Wald changed his sound and added a six-​piece string section to his orchestra. Powell served as female vocalist until she left in October of that year. By 1945, though, Wald was back to his old sound. Vocalists were Merrick, who sang ballads, and Kay Allen, who handled pop tunes. The pair of singers fell in love and later married. 


                             

Wald also briefly had a major asset in Billie Rogers. This female trumpet player and vocalist had formerly played with Woody Herman and then led her own band, joined Wald in March 1945. One of the very few women to play in a male band, Rogers’ sensational trumpet playing and bluesy vocal style were highlights of Wald’s 1945 group. Rogers only stayed a few months however, leaving in October to front her own combo. 

Jean Porter with Jerry Wald 

In 1946, Wald’s band began a noticeable decline. April reviews panned vocalist Anne Russell. Merrick left that month as well, replaced by Bill Raymond. Mary Nash also sang in 1946. Wald disbanded his jump orchestra in November of that year during the big band bust, when many notable leaders hung up their batons, and formed a sweet orchestra. Vocalist was Nick Delano. Jimmy Vanni had replaced him by June. The band appeared in four movies and one short, including "Little Miss Broadway" (a 1947 Columbia Pictures film, not the 1938 Shirley Temple 20th Century-Fox feature). The new group struggled, and in January 1949 Wald formed a short-​lived bop orchestra before opening a night club. 

Jerry Wald (left) with Gordon MacRae, Mel Tormé ,
Marion Hutton, and Jerry Jerome 1947

In May 1950, Wald formed a new sixteen-​piece orchestra in Los Angeles with Carolyn Grey, ex-​Woody Herman vocalist, joining the group in March 1951. In 1952, Chris Connors was female vocalist and recorded 6 sides for Decca. In 1953, Wald did a 10-inch "Tops in Pops" LP for an MGM subsidiary, Lion.  In 1955 Kapp records  released "Listen to the Music of Jerry Wald and His Orchestra."  He finished off his recording career with some 45s for smaller companies, Todd (Moon Over Miami / Sheba) and his own Waldork label (The Creeper / Nightmare) in 1958. 

He later moved back to New York and worked in both radio and television. He died on 1st September, 1973 (age 55) in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.   

(Edited mainly from Bandchips  & IMDb)

Date of death sourced from h**ps://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/mastertalent/detail/108248/Wald_Jerry