Tommy Reynolds (17 January 1917 – 30 September 1986) was an American clarinettist and bandleader who emulated the style of fellow clarinettist Artie Shaw.
Reynolds was born Anthony Rinaldo in Akron, Ohio, on Jan. 17, 1917, the son of Italian immigrants Salvatore and Nancy Rinaldo. One of 11 siblings, he grew up in a home on Wabash Avenue, where Akron General Medical Centre stands today.
Musical talent ran in the family: Three of the Rinaldo brothers were destined to become band leaders. It took some coaxing to get little Anthony interested, however. He began violin lessons at the age of 6, but found his calling in the 1920s when he attended an Akron concert featuring a specialty clarinet act. The music was so enthralling that he switched instruments, rededicated himself to lessons and mastered the clarinet in six months.
He played lead clarinet in the South High School band and earned extra cash by performing in local groups. Anthony and his younger brother Frankie, who played saxophone, became well known in Northeast Ohio. While travelling to the South in the mid 1930s there were a lot of places that would not book them because of the ethnic name, so the Italian-American teens changed their stage names from Rinaldo to Reynolds and it made it a lot easier for them to play some of the clubs and dance halls in the South.
A popular band leader in Ohio, Frankie later formed the Frankie Reynolds Orchestra, organized and directed the Akron Pops Orchestra and operated Frankie Reynolds Music on West Exchange Street. He passed away in 2006 at age 89. Joe Rinaldo, who played drums for 40 years, led the Joe Rinaldo Orchestra and the Good Times Band, which served as the house band at Akron's Tangier and Fairlawn Country Club.
Tommy Reynolds studied briefly at the University of Akron before quitting to pursue a career in music. His reputation as a clarinettist was growing. His first break came in 1939 when he replaced Woody Herman in Isham Jones' band. After a few months, he decided to strike out on his own.
In Cleveland, he formed Tommy Reynolds and Your Band of Tomorrow, a name inspired by the futuristic 1939 World's Fair in New York. The band played in East Coast ballrooms and appeared on live radio broadcasts. They signed a deal with Columbia subsidiary Vocalion and recorded such songs as Marcheta, Deep Night, I'll Tell It to the Breeze, Once Over Lightly and the band's theme, Pipe Dreams.
Changing its name to Tommy Reynolds and His Orchestra, the 14-piece band travelled from coast to coast. Besides listening to radio broadcasts and seeing his big brother perform in Akron, Rinaldo travelled to the Roseland in New York. Reynolds shared the stage with a revolving cast of musicians and singers. Some of the notables included trumpeters Billy Butterfield and Pee Wee Erwin, saxophonists Serge Chaloff and Illinois Jacquette, drummer George Wettling and vocalist Mary Ann McCall. Future orchestra leader Nelson Riddle got his start at age 18 as a trombonist in Reynolds' band. Hal Linden, the future star of TV's Barney Miller, sang and played clarinet.
Reynolds performed in radio shows with Abbott and Costello, Jerry Colonna, Martha Raye and the Mills Brothers. He substituted for Les Brown in a two-week tour with Bob Hope in Canada.
He released some of his featured tunes in sheet music and also filmed at least six songs for ''Soundies,'' a 1940s version of music videos that captured the orchestra at its peak. He also recorded songs for the Okeh, Derby and Atlantic labels. Reynolds' orchestra continued to work steadily until the mid-1950s. The band leader bowed out just when rock 'n' roll was coming into vogue.
Reynolds and his wife, Alberta, settled in Danbury, Conn. Around 1955, he accepted a job as music director at WOR-AM radio in New York and directed the program Bandstand USA, which aired on 500 stations.
Later, he served as music director at WOR-TV and program director at WOR-FM. He remained with the RKO Company for the rest of his life. Tommy Reynolds was 69 when he died Sept. 30, 1986, in Manhattan after a long illness. (Info edited from Akron Beacon Journal)
Here’s a soundie of Tommy Reynolds duetting with Phyllis Lane (now Phyllis Kluger) The dancer is Rose Marie McGill Circa mid 40’s.