Dave Apollon (February 23, 1898 - May 1972) was a Russian mandolin player.
Today Dave Apollon is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential mandolinists of the Twentieth Century, whose more notable recordings/performances include Two Guitars, Hora staccato by Grigoraş Dinicu and Zigeunerweisen aka "Gypsy Airs" by Pablo de Sarasate. His styles include Gypsy and various kinds of European Folk Music. He is also regarded as one of the first jazz mandolinist, with such memorable recordings as Who and St. Louis Blues.
Apollon was born in the city of Kiev which was, at the time, part of Russia. At an early age he played the violin but abandoned the instrument after taking a fervent interest in an old bowl back mandolin his father kept in the house.
He began playing the mandolin at a young age and apparently taught himself. When he was 13 he met a renowned italian mandolinist who was touring Russia, and Dave managed to persuade the man to help him. He taught Dave how to hold the pick and a few other “tricks” that would later serve him well. By the time Dave was 14, he was playing well enough to organize his own ensemble to entertain in a Kiev movie theatre.
In 1919, Dave Apollon decided to escape the hardships of the Russian Revolution and made his way to America. Dave performed in vaudeville where he floored audiences with stunning virtuosity, In 1926 he met a group of filipino string players who had just lost their job in another show. He immediately hired them to be his “orchestra” and began working up the routines and musical numbers that would be part of his show.
In 1930, Dave embarked on a motion picture career, filming the first of six musical shorts. 1932 saw the release of his first recorded material, a mélange of American ragtime rhythms and Russian folk music.In 1937, Apollon married Danzi Goodell. He also opened a nightclub -- Club Casanova -- on Manhattan's Upper East Side. While the mandolin was still a part of his life, only a few singles were released during this period. He was also featured in Universal’s “Merry Go ‘Round of 1938”, his only full-length American film. He was also a popular night club performer throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s. Dave Apollon was the first “new world” mandolinist. He was the first to technically master the instrument and at the same time adapt this technique to an extremely wide variety of music.
In 1941 he was a member of the touring company of "Boys and Girls Together". In 1946, he met and played with legendary gypsy musician Django Reinhardt. Apollon considered Django the greatest guitarist he had ever heard, and their unique duet took place at an uptown Manhattan nightclub during Djangoís tour of the U.S. with Duke Ellingtons Orchestra. After opening the swank "Cotillion Room" of New York Cityís Hotel Pierre in 1947, he recorded his most popular vaudeville number, "St. Louis Blues" with Laverne Gustafson.
As the fifties approached, Apollonís act declined in popularity, although he frequently made radio and TV appearances as a soloist. With job opportunities more plentiful on the West Coast, Dave packed up his family, which now included sons Mike and Leo, and moved to Hollywood where he found a nucleus of musicians to perform with, including Jimmie Haskell, who went on to become one of Hollywoodís leading arrangers and orchestrators. In 1956, Apollon produced his first long-playing album "Lots of Love," on his own label, Romance Records. The album was a success in Las Vegas, where it garnered lots of radio play.
An invitation to play at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas led to year-round employment there and lasted until 1963. He recorded three albums for the "Coral" label in the early sixties. Billing himself as "The World's Greatest Mandolin Virtuoso", Apollon's dancing and playing performances were a big hit with the Las Vegas audiences. His Las Vegas experiences were the last performances of his colorful life. After leaving the Desert Inn, failing health kept him from performing, and he never recorded again.
Dave Apollon died peacefully in his home in Las Vegas in 1972, after a career that spanned over fifty years. He was cremated along with his very first mandolin, the one he had played as a boy back in Kiev. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia & dawgnet.com)