Archive for Bandleaders

Cab Calloway

Posted in Ferncliff Cemetery with tags , , on November 15, 2021 by Cade

December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994

Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was one of the most prominent jazz bandleaders of the swing era of the 1930s and ’40s. He was most closely associated with the famed Cotton Club in Harlem where he and his band started by filling in for Duke Ellington when Ellington was on tour. Cab grew up in Baltimore and often found himself in trouble for playing dice or skipping school. Eventually, he found a more positive outlet for his energies: singing. Despite his mother’s protests (she wanted him to be a lawyer like his father) Cab continued to pursue music. He met and worked with greats like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie and moved to New York City. After a stint at the Savoy, his band broke up and he joined The Missourians and jumped to the Cotton Club.

Continue reading

Buddy Rich

Posted in Westwood Memorial Park with tags , , on February 14, 2014 by Cade

rich1September 30, 1917 – April 2, 1987

Bernard “Buddy” Rich played the drums. He played the drums really, really well. He had a temper. He (allegedly) liked to fire musicians in the middle of sets if the need arose. He played with all the big names like Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. He also led his own bands. And he had a bit of a temper.

Continue reading

Lawrence Welk

Posted in Holy Cross Cemetery with tags , on November 9, 2013 by Cade

welk1March 11, 1903 – May 17, 1992

“A one and a two . . . “

Lawrence Welk may be the most famous accordion player of all time.

He’s probably the most famous German-speaking accordion player of all time.

And, he’s MOST DEFINITELY the most famous German-speaking accordion player of all time from North Dakota.

Continue reading

Jimmy Durante

Posted in Holy Cross Cemetery with tags , , on October 15, 2013 by Cade

durante1February 10, 1893 – March 29, 1980

James Frances Durante and his nose were born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. Young Jimmy dropped out of school to become a jazz and ragtime pianist. Something he was very good at. By the time he was 27, Durante had his very own New Orleans Jazz Band. But, his piano chops aside, Jimmy Durante was most famous for being a comedian. His self-deprecating humor – he called himself “The Great Schnozzola” because, well… – intentionally butchered language and staccatoed speech patterns earned him fame on the Vaudeville stages, the radio and, ultimately, film and television. Continue reading

Duke Ellington

Posted in Woodlawn Cemetery (Bronx) with tags , , on October 1, 2013 by Cade

ellington1April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington began playing piano at the age of 7 and never looked back. He wrote his first song at 15 and went on to become one of the most influential and prolific artists in American music at large, let alone within the genre with which he was most closely associated: Jazz. Nicknamed “Duke” because of his swagger and the way he dressed – even at a young age – Ellington led his orchestra for nearly a half century. He gained national exposure while playing on the radio from Harlem’s famed Cotton Club in the late 1920s. He wrote and recorded songs at a near unprecedented pace. He worked with greats in all genres from Frank Sinatra (Francis A. & Edward K.) to Louis Armstrong  and constantly stretched himself into new musical territory. Continue reading

Chico Marx

Posted in Forest Lawn Glendale with tags , , , on September 5, 2013 by Cade


March 22, 1887 – October 11, 1961

Leonard “Chico” Marx was the oldest of the legendary Marx Brothers comedy team.  Born in New York City, Chico (pronounced “Chick-o”) and his brothers performed from an early age in vaudeville with their uncle.  All of the brothers were talented musicians, but it was the more-or-less accidental discovery that they were hilarious that eventually launched them into super-stardom.  Chico adopted a stage persona of a rural Italian who dressed in baggy clothes and Bavarian hat. Continue reading

Rudy Vallée

Posted in St. Hyacinth Cemetery with tags , , on July 3, 2013 by Cade


July 28, 1901 – July 3, 1986

Hubert Prior “Rudy” Vallée was a singer, radio host, actor and bandleader perhaps most widely regarded as the first “crooner.”  Like many of his successors, his soft, smooth voice was one that would have been completely useless in the days before the invention of the microphone.  But, as it were, when you come along during the height of radio, you don’t need to be that loud.  Of course, not all live venues at the time had microphones, so Rudy would tend to improvise and sing through a megaphone – something that became a bit of a trademark. Continue reading

Benny Goodman

Posted in Long Ridge Union Cemetery with tags , on July 2, 2013 by Cade


May 30, 1909 – June 13, 1986

The undeniable “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman was one of the most important and successful musicians and bandleaders of the Big Band jazz era. Throughout the 1920’s and early ’30’s, Goodman played clarinet in bands and as a session musician alongside titanic contemporaries like Bix Beiderbecke, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. Taking the arrangements of a successful but stalled-out African-American bandleader/arranger named Fletcher Henderson, Goodman was able to bring a broad popularity to what would become Swing music. Continue reading

Ozzie and Harriet Nelson

Posted in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills with tags , , on March 26, 2013 by Cade


March 20, 1906 – June 3, 1975
July 18, 1909 – October 2, 1994

Oswald Nelson and Harriet Hilliard were married in 1935.  Harriet was a singer in Ozzie’s band (he also sang and played saxophone) and the two began a foray into show business that would entertain millions for decades.  Their biggest success was by way of the 1940’s radio program The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet which followed the Nelsons and their two sons, David and Ricky (portrayed by actors until 1949).  The popularity of the show and the dawn of a newfangled medium led, of course, to the 14-year running television sitcom of the same name – this time, with each of the four Nelsons portraying him/herself as America watched the family grow up on a box in their living rooms.

Continue reading

Tommy Dorsey

Posted in Kensico Cemetery with tags , on March 4, 2013 by Cade


November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956

American trombonist and bandleader Tommy Dorsey not only gave the world Big Band era  hits like “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Marie” and “In the Blue of the Evening,” he also stole incorporated a number of huge stars into his band over the years.  Drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, as well as a little-known vocalist named Frank something-or-other all sat in with Tommy.  He also funded a young Glenn Miller’s first band.  So, he kind of was a big deal for a while. Dorsey may have been known as “The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing” but his perfectionism and unsteady demeanor made him a chore to work with. Or so I’ve heard.

Continue reading