Phyllis Diller

Phyllis Diller (July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012[2]) was an American actress and comedienne. She created a stage persona of a wild-haired, eccentrically dressed housewife who makes self-deprecating jokes about her age and appearance, her terrible cooking, and a husband named “Fang”, while pretending to smoke from a long cigarette holder. Diller’s signature was her unusual laugh.

Phyllis Diller and Liberace at the piano

Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, the daughter of Frances Ada (née Romshe) (January 12, 1881 – January 26, 1949) and Perry Marcus Driver (June 13, 1862 – August 12, 1948), an insurance agent.[3] She has German and Irish ancestry (the surname “Driver” had been changed from “Treiber” several generations back).[4] Her mother was about twenty years younger than her father.[5] Diller was raised a Methodist.[6] Diller attended Lima’s Central High School, then studied for three years at Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. She then transferred to Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, where she met fellow “Lima-ite” and classmate Hugh Downs.

Diller was a housewife, mother, and advertising copywriter. During World War II, Diller lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan, while her husband worked at the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant. In the mid-1950s, she made appearances on The Jack Paar Show and was a contestant on Groucho Marx‘s quiz show You Bet Your Life.[7]

Although she made her career in comedy, Diller had studied the piano for many years. She decided against a career in music after hearing her teachers and mentors play with much more ability than she thought that she would be able to achieve. She still played in her private life, however, and owned a custom-made harpsichord.

Diller began her career working at KROW radio in Oakland in 1952. In November of that year, she began filming a television show titled Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker.[8] The 15-minute series was a BART (Bay Area Radio-Television) production, directed for television by ABC‘s Jim Baker. In the mid 1950s, while residing in the East Bay city of Alameda, California, Diller was employed at KSFO radio in San Francisco. Bill Anderson wrote and produced a television show at KGO-TV called “The Belfast Pop Club,” which was hosted by Don Sherwood. “Pop Club” was a half-hour show that combined playing records with “experts” rating them, and dancing girls encouraging audience participation. The show was an early advertisement for Belfast Root Beer, known today asMug Root Beer. Anderson invited her onto his show on April 23, 1955 as a vocalist.[9]

On the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969

Diller first appeared as a stand-up at The Purple Onion on March 7, 1955 and remained there for 87 straight weeks. Diller appeared on “Del Courtney’s Showcase” on KPIX television on November 3, 1956. After moving to Webster Groves, in St Louis in 1961, Diller honed her act in St. Louis clubs such as Gaslight Square’s Crystal Palace. Mid-1960s – St Louis was always home to her. Getting her first start on the Charlotte Peters Show in St Louis, were many got their start. Diller’s fame grew when she co-starred withBob Hope in 23 television specials and three films in the 1960s: Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!Eight on the Lam, and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell. Although only Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! performed well at the box office, Hope invited Diller to perform with him in Vietnam in 1966 with his USO troupe during the height of the Vietnam War.

“The Magic of Believing”

Throughout the 1960s, she appeared regularly as a special guest on many television programs. For example, she appeared as one of

the What’s My Line? Mystery Guests. The blindfolded panel on that evening’s broadcast included Sammy Davis, Jr., and they were able to discern Diller’s identity in just three guesses. Also, Diller made regular cameo appearances making her trademark wisecracks on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Self-deprecating to a fault, a typical Diller joke had her running after a garbage truck pulling away from her curb. “Am I too late?” she’d yell. The driver’s reply: “No, jump right in!”

Though her main claim to fame is her stand-up comedy act, Diller has also appeared in other films besides the three mentioned above, including a cameo appearance as Texas Guinan, the wisecracking nightclub hostess in the 1961 film Splendor in the Grass. She appeared in more than a dozen, usually low-budget, movies, including voice work as The Monster’s Mate in the Rankin/Bass animated film Mad Monster Party (1967), co-starring Boris Karloff.

Diller also starred in two short-lived TV series: the half-hour sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton (later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show) on ABC from 1966–1967, and the variety show The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show on NBC in 1968. More recent television appearances for Diller have included at least three episodes between 1999–2003[10] on the long-running family drama 7th Heaven, in one of which she got drunk while cooking dinner for the household, and a 2002 episode of The Drew Carey Show,[10] as Mimi Bobek’s grandmother. She posed for Playboy, but the photos were never run in the magazine.[11] Her voice can be heard in several animated TV shows, including The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)[10] as herself, Hey Arnold! as Arnold’s grandpa’s sister Mitzi, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002)[10] as Jimmy’s grandmother, and on Family Guy in 2006[10] as Peter Griffin’s mother, Thelma Griffin.

Diller in 1973

Beginning December 26, 1969,[12] she had a three-month run[13] on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! (opposite Richard Deacon)[14] as the second to last in a succession of replacements for Carol Channing in the title role, which included Ginger RogersMartha RayeBetty Grable, and Pearl Bailey. After Diller’s stint, Ethel Merman took over the role until the end of the show’s run in December 1970.[15][16]

In 1993, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Talking about her “look.”

In 1998, Diller provided the vocals for the Queen in Disney/Pixar‘s animated movie A Bug’s Life. In 2005, Diller was featured as one of many contemporary comics in a documentary film, The Aristocrats. Diller, who avoids blue comedy, did a version of an old, risqué vaudeville routine in which she describes herself passing out when she first heard the joke, forgetting the actual content of the joke.

In 2000, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television[17]

Singing “You’re Different”

In 2003, after hearing of the donation of Archie Bunker’s chair to the Smithsonian Institution, Diller opened her doors to the National Museum of American History and offered up some of her most iconic costume pieces and her gag file, a steel cabinet with 48 file-drawers containing more than 50,000 jokes and gags typewritten on index cards by Diller during her career. From August 12-October 28, 2011, the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the National Museum of American History displayed Diller’s gag file and some of the objects that became synonymous with her comedic persona-an unkempt wig, wrist-length gloves, cloth-covered ankle boots and a bejeweled cigarette holder.[18]

On January 24, 2007, she appeared on The Tonight Show and performed stand-up, before chatting with Jay Leno.

Diller had a cameo appearance in an episode of ABC’s Boston Legal on April 10, 2007. She appeared as herself, confronting William Shatner‘s character Denny Crane, alleging to have had a torrid love affair with him. They seemed to have enjoyed a romantic moment in afoxhole during World War II.

Phyllis Diller arrives at Korat Air Base, Thailand for the Bob Hope Christmas show in 1966.

Diller was a member of the Society of Singers, which supports singers in need. In June 2001 at the request of fellow Society member andproducer Scott Sherman, she appeared at Kansas City and Philadelphia Pride events. The mayor of Philadelphia officially proclaimed June 8, 2001, as “Phyllis Diller Day.” She was presented an official proclamation onstage to a standing ovation. In 2006, Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom proclaimed February 5, 2006 “Phyllis Diller Day in San Francisco,” which she accepted by phone.

She also recorded at least five comedy LP records, one of which was Born To Sing, released as Columbia CS 9523.

Although known for decades for smoking from long cigarette holders in her comedy act, Diller was a lifelong nonsmoker, and the cigarette holders were stage props that she had specially constructed. Diller, a longtime resident of the Brentwood area of Los AngelesCalifornia, credited much of her success to Bob Hope, in large part because he included her in many of his films and his Vietnam USO shows. She was an accomplished pianist as well as a painter. Diller, a longtime resident of the Brentwood area of Los AngelesCalifornia, credited much of her success to Bob Hope, in large part because he included her in many of his films and his Vietnam USO shows. She was an accomplished pianist as well as a painter. Diller was married and divorced twice. She also dated Earl “Madman” Muntz, a pioneer in oddball TV and radio ads. She had six[19]children from her marriage to her first husband, Sherwood Anderson Diller. Her first child was Peter (b. 1940;[20] d. 1998 of cancer).[21]Her second child Sally, born in 1944,[19] has suffered from schizophrenia most of her life.[22] Her third child, a son, lived for only two weeks in an incubator.[23] A daughter, Suzanne, was born in 1946,[24] followed by another daughter Stephanie (b. 1948[25] d. 2002 of a stroke)[26] and a son Perry (b. 1950).[27]Diller’s second husband was actor Warde Donovan (born Warde Tatum), whom she married on 7 October 1965 and divorced the following year; they apparently re-married and divorced for a second time in 1974.[28] Her youngest son Perry, now 62, oversaw her affairs until her death. Diller is not the mother of actress Susan Lucci, nor TV personality Dorothy Lucey, despite urban legends to that effect, frequently passed through viral emails under trivia headings such as “Did You Know…?”[29] The husband frequently mentioned in her act, “Fang”, was entirely fictional, and not based on any of her actual husbands.

On her tv series, The Pruitts of South Hampton

Diller candidly discussed her plastic surgery, a series of procedures first undertaken when she was 55. In her 2005 autobiography, she wrote that she had undergone “fifteen different procedures”.[30] Her numerous surgeries were the subject of a 20/20 segment February 12, 1993.

Diller suffered medical problems, including a heart attack in 1999. After a hospital stay she was fitted with a pacemaker and released. A bad fall resulted in her being hospitalized for neurological tests and pacemaker replacement in 2005. She subsequently retired from stand-up comedy appearances.

On July 11, 2007, USA Today reported that she had fractured her back and had to cancel a Tonight Show appearance, during which she had planned to celebrate her 90th birthday. On January 4, 2011, she appeared on CNN‘s “Anderson Cooper 360” as part of a panel of comedians.

She died in her sleep August 20, 2012 at the age of 95, She was found by her son who said she had a smile on her face.

Rest soundly Ms Diller. You have made millions of people laugh and enjoy life more because of your inimitable talent, class and style.

Sources: wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com

Marvin Hamlisch

By Robert Simonson
Playbill.com 07 Aug 2012

Marvin Hamlisch, who achieved theatre immortality as the composer of the iconic musical A Chorus Line, died Aug. 7 following a brief illness. He was 68.

Mr. Hamlisch’s other theatre works included the musicals They’re Playing Our Song, Jean Seberg, Smile, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. He also wrote songs for Nora Ephron‘s playImaginary Friends. His latest show, The Nutty Professor, recently opened in Tennessee. But it was with the groundbreaking A Chorus Line—which told of the frustrations and worries of a group of anonymous dancers trying out for a Broadway musical—that he made his mark as a theatre figure.

He was already famous as an all-around wunderkind when he began work onA Chorus Line. A child prodigy, he was accepted into Juilliard at the age of six—the youngest child ever to be welcomed by the august Manhattan institution. His first Broadway job was as rehearsal pianist for Funny Girlstarring Barbra Streisand—a professional relationship that would last his entire life. Producer Sam Spiegel hired him to play piano at his parties, where he made connections, leading to his writing his first film score, for “The Swimmer” starring Burt Lancaster. Many more film scores followed.

It seemed his fate to brush up against show-business legends while on his way up the ladder. He wrote songs for Liza Minnelli, worked with Judy Garland and was accompanist and straight man for Groucho Marx during a 1974-75 tour.

“The Entertainer”

Professional acknowledgment came easy in his early years. Before he was 30, he had received three Oscars, for his score and song to “The Way We Were” and his adaptations of Scott Joplin ragtime tunes in “The Sting,” which helped usher in a Joplin revival. And that was all in 1973. He began to be a regular guest on talk shows and was called “the best-known movie composer since Henry Mancini.”

Mr. Hamlisch is one of only 11 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. On top of this, he also won the Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line.Aside from director-choreographer Michael Bennett, Mr. Hamlisch was by far the most accomplished and famous artist invited to participate in the creation of A Chorus Line. The unorthodox show—a prime example of what came to be known as the “concept musical”—derived from 30 hours of taped confessions of a group of theatre gypsies and chorines. From these recordings, Bennett shaped a show about the strivings, hopes, dreams and fears of the unsung and uncelebrated members of the theatre community. The show was trail-blazing in eschewing a linear plot, dealing with contemporary issues such as homosexuality and abortion in frank terms, and lacking a single headlining star.

“One” from “Chorus Line”

Hamlisch was drafted by Bennett and paired with the fussy, eccentric lyricist Ed Kleban, a former executive at Columbia Records with no previous theatre credits. It was an odd couple pairing if there ever was one, but it produced a timeless result. The score was episodic, with each song telling the life story of one or more characters. The show included two modern classics: the hopeful “What I Did for Love,” which Kleban and Mr. Hamlisch reportedly wrote under protest, as they considered it a commercial “sell-out” number; and “One,” the show’s finale. It’s throbbing, hop-step opening vamp is one of the best known theatre anthems in musical history, and is known to millions.

“The Way We Were”

Marvin Hamlisch was born June 2, 1944, into a musical family. His father Max Hamlisch was an accordionist and band leader. He began playing piano when he was five. “I started studying music at the age of five and a half,” he remembered later. “My older sister was taking piano lessons. When her teacher left our apartment, I would get up on the piano bench and start picking out the notes that were part of my sister’s lessons.” His song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” written while he was a teenager, was a hit for Lesley Gore in 1963.

He followed up A Chorus Line with another hit, though one of a far smaller scale. They’re Playing Our Song had lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and a book by Neil Simon. The two-character musical was based on the real-life relationship between Hamlisch and Sager, and follows the two mismatched songwriters—he is focused and all business, she is flightily and distracted—as they go through a series of bumps in forging both a professional and romantic relationship. After a tryout in Los Angeles, it ran for two-and-a-half years on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical.

 

“Tits and Ass” Chorus Line

Mr. Hamlisch’s untrammeled string of successes during the 1970s were such that he had a hard time following them up. The next 30 years of his career were something of an anti-climax. That A Chorus Line proved one of the greatest popular successes of all time, and was accorded the title of “genius work” by critics, meant no other show he composed could quite measure up.Jean Seberg, a musical about the life of the actress, failed in London and never came to New York. The Broadway runs of Smile (1986) and The Goodbye Girl (1993) were both underwhelming. Sweet Smell of Success(2002), based on the classic 1950s film about Broadway’s seamy underbelly, ran only two months.

His many film scores included “Ordinary People,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “Three Men and a Baby,” “Ice Castles,” “Take the Money and Run” and “The Informant!” He co-wrote the song “Nobody Does It Better” for the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

In recent years, he composed some classical works, and frequently conducted major symphony orchestras.

Other Sources: YouTube, IMDB.com

Jack Teagarden

Weldon Leo “Jack” Teagarden

(August 20, 1905 – January 15, 1964), known as “Big T” and “The Swingin’ Gate”, was a jazztrombonist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist, regarded as the “Father of Jazz Trombone”.[1] 

Born in Vernon, Texas, his brothers Charlie and Clois “Cub” and his sister Norma also became noted professional musicians. Teagarden’s father was an amateur brass band trumpeter and started young Jack on baritone horn; by age seven he had switched totrombone. He first heard jazz music played by the Louisiana Five and decided to play in the new style.

Teagarden’s trombone style was largely self-taught, and he developed many unusual alternative positions and novel special effects on the instrument. He is usually considered the most innovative jazz trombone stylist of the pre-bebop era, and did much to expand the role of the instrument beyond the old tailgate style role of the early New Orleans brass bands. Chief among his contributions to the language of jazz trombonists was his ability to interject the blues or merely a “blue feeling” into virtually any piece of music.

By 1920 Teagarden was playing professionally in San Antonio, including with the band of pianist Peck Kelley. In the mid 1920s he started traveling widely around the United States in a quick succession of different bands. In 1927, he went to New York City where he worked with several bands. By 1928 he played for the Ben Pollack band.

Within a year of the commencement of his recording career, he became a regular vocalist, first doing blues material (“Beale Street Blues“, for example), and later doing popular songs. He is often mentioned as one of the best white male jazz vocalists of the era; his singing style is quite like his trombone playing, in terms of improvisation (in the same way that Louis Armstrong sang quite like he played trumpet). His singing is best remembered for duets with Louis Armstrong and Johnny Mercer.

“Stars Fell On Alabama”

In the late 1920s he recorded with such notable bandleaders and sidemen as Louis ArmstrongBenny GoodmanBix Beiderbecke,Red NicholsJimmy McPartlandMezz MezzrowGlenn Miller, and Eddie Condon. Glenn Miller and Teagarden collaborated to provide lyrics and a verse to Spencer Williams’ Basin Street Blues, which in that amended form became one of the numbers that Teagarden played until the end of his days.

“Jeepers Creepers” With Louis Armstrong

In the early 1930s Teagarden was based in Chicago, for some time playing with the band of Wingy Manone. He played at theCentury of Progress exposition in Chicago. Teagarden sought financial security during the Great Depression and signed an exclusive contract to play for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra from 1933 through 1938. The contract with Whiteman’s band provided him with financial security but prevented him from playing an active part in the musical advances of the mid-thirties swing era.

Teagarden then started leading his own big bandGlenn Miller wrote the song “I Swung the Election” for him and his band in 1939.[2] In spite of Teagarden’s best efforts, the band was not a commercial success, and he was brought to the brink of bankruptcy.

In 1946 Teagarden joined Louis Armstrong‘s All Stars. Armstrong and Teagarden’s work together shows a wonderful rapport, in particular their duet on “Rockin’ Chair”. In late 1951 Teagarden left to again lead his own band, then co-led a band with Earl Hines, then again with a group under his own name with whom he toured Japan in 1958 and 1959.

“Peg O’ My Heart”

Teagarden appeared in the movies Birth of the Blues (1941), The Strip (1951), The Glass Wall (1953), and Jazz on a Summer’s Day(1960), the latter a documentary film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. He was an admired recording artist, featured on RCA Victor,ColumbiaDeccaCapitol, and MGM Records discs. As a jazz artist he won the 1944 Esquire magazine Gold Award, was highly rated in the Metronome polls of 1937-42 and 1945, and was selected for the Playboy magazine All Star Band, 1957-60.

Teagarden was the featured performer at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1957. Saturday Review wrote in 1964 that he “walked with artistic dignity all his life,” and the same year Newsweek praised his “mature approach to trombone jazz.”

“I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues”

Richard M. Sudhalter writes (in ‘Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz’, Oxford University Press, 1999): “The late trumpet player Don Goldie, who spent four years in Teagarden’s band and had known him since childhood said that he ‘always got a feeling that a lot of happiness was locked away inside Jack, really padlocked, and never came out…”

“Jack Teagarden died, alone, of a heart attack complicated by bronchial pneumonia in his room at the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans on January 15, 1964. He was only 58. “I sometimes think people like Jack were just go-betweens,” Bobby Hackett told a friend. “The Good Lord said, ‘Now you go and show ’em what it is’, and he did. I think everybody familiar with Jack Teagarden knows that he was something that happens just once. It won’t happen again. Not that way…”

“…Connie Jones, the New Orleans cornetist working with Jack Teagarden at the time of the trombonist’s death, was a pallbearer for the wake, held at a funeral parlor on leafy St. Charles Avenue: ‘I remember seeing him there in a coffin, a travelling coffin. They were going to fly him to Los Angeles for burial right after that. The coffin was open and I remember thinking ‘Boy he really looks uncomfortable in there’.

“‘Not that he was that tall. Maybe five foot ten or so, at most. But he was kinda wide across the shoulders – and most of all he just gave you the impression he was a big man, in every way. In that coffin, – well, I can’t really explain it, but he seemed to be scrunched up into a space that was too small to contain him'”.

He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.

The coda of Teagarden’s recording career is the album Think Well of Me, recorded in January 1962 and made up of his singing and trombone playing, accompanied by strings, on compositions by his old musical associate Willard Robison: available on Verve CD 314 557 101-2.

Jack Teagarden’s compositions included “I’ve Got ‘It'” with David Rose, “Shake Your Hips”, “Big T Jump”, “Swingin’ on the Teagarden Gate”, “Blues After Hours”, “A Jam Session at Victor”, “It’s So Good”, “Pickin’ For Patsy” with Allan Reuss, “Texas Tea Party” with Benny Goodman, “I’m Gonna Stomp Mr. Henry Lee” with Eddie Condon, “Big T Blues”, “Dirty Dog”, “Makin’ Friends” with Jimmy McPartland, “That’s a Serious Thing”, and “Jack-Armstrong Blues” with Louis Armstrong, recorded on December 7, 1944 with the V-Disc All-Stars and released as V-Disc 384A.

Sources: YouTube, IMDB.com, NMDB.com, Wikipedia

Leroy Anderson

Leroy Anderson (June 29, 1908 – May 18, 1975) was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur FiedlerJohn Williams described him as “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”[1] 

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Swedish parents, Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, who was a church organist. He continued studying piano at theNew England Conservatory of Music. In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard University, where he studied theory with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, harmony with George Enescu, composition with Walter Piston and double bass with Gaston Dufresne. He also studied organ with Henry Gideon. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929 and Master of Arts in 1930.

Anderson continued studying at Harvard, working towards a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages. (Anderson spoke English and Swedish during his youth but he eventually became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.) During this time he was also working as organist and choir director at the East Milton Congregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arranging for dance bands around Boston. His arranging work came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler in 1936 and Anderson was asked to show Fiedler any original compositions.[2] Anderson’s first work was Jazz Pizzicato in 1938.[3] Fiedler suggested that a companion piece be written and thus Anderson wrote Jazz Legato in 1938.[4]

In 1942 Leroy Anderson joined the U.S. Army, and was assigned to Iceland as a translator and interpreter. Later in 1945 he was assigned to The Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. But his duties did not prevent him from composing, and in 1945 he wrote “The Syncopated Clock[5] and “Promenade.” Anderson was a reserve officer and was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. In 1951 Anderson wrote his first hit, “Blue Tango,” earning a Golden Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.

His pieces and his recordings during the fifties conducting a studio orchestra were immense commercial successes. “Blue Tango” was the first instrumental recording ever to sell one million copies. His most famous pieces are probably “Sleigh Ride” and “The Syncopated Clock”, both of which are instantly recognizable to millions of people. In 1950, WCBS-TV in New York City selected “Syncopated Clock” as the theme song for The Late Show/ the WCBS late-night movie. Mitchell Parish added words to “Syncopated Clock”, and later wrote lyrics for other Anderson tunes, including “Sleigh Ride”, which was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946. The Boston Pops’ recording of it was the first pure orchestral piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart.[6] From 1952 to 1961, Anderson’s composition “Plink, Plank, Plunk!” was used as the theme for the CBS panel show I’ve Got A Secret.

Anderson’s musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally makes use of sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper. (Krzysztof Pendereckialso uses a typewriter in his orchestral music, in “Fluorescences,” but with a decidedly less humorous effect.)

“Sleigh Ride” performed by Ella Fitzgerald

“Forgotten Dreams”

Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it had weak spots. In 1988 the Anderson family decided to publish the work. Erich Kunzel and theCincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this work; three other recordings have since been released. It is a conservative Romantic work in sonata form, heavily influenced by Rachmaninoff and American popular music, and somewhat resembles Copland‘s tonal works in style.

“Typewriter Song”

In 1958, Anderson composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks did not achieve commercial success. Anderson never wrote another musical, preferring instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including “The Typewriter,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” and “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby” are performed by orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations.

“The Syncopated Clock”

“Belle of the Ball”

Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For “The Typewriter” Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played.

Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omicron chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969.

In 1975, Anderson died of cancer in Woodbury, Connecticut[7][8] and was buried there.[9]

For his contribution to the recording industry, Leroy Anderson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1620 Vine Street. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and his music continues to be a staple of “pops” orchestra repertoire. In 1995 the Harvard University Band’s new headquarters was named the Anderson Band Center in honor of Leroy Anderson.

In 2006, one of his piano works, “Forgotten Dreams”, written in 1954, became the background for a British TV advertisement for mobile phone company ‘3’. Previously, Los Angeles station KABC-TV used the song as its sign-off theme at the end of broadcast days in the 1980s, and Mantovani‘s recording of the song had been the closing theme forWABC-TV‘s “Eyewitness News” for much of the 1970s.

The Typewriter was used as the theme song for Esto no tiene nombre, a Puerto Rican television comedy program -loosely based on the US television series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In– produced by Tommy Muñiz between the late 1960s and late 1970s.

“Sleigh Ride”  from the best -Mel Torme -who also co-composed, “The Christmas Song” with Nat King Cole.

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com, leroyanderson.com

WORKS

  • Alma Mater (1954)
    1. Chapel Bells
    2. Freshman on Main Street
    3. Library Reading Room
    4. Class Reunion
  • Arietta (1962)
  • Balladette (1962)
  • Belle of the Ball (1951)
  • Birthday Party (1970)
  • Blue Tango (1951)
  • Bugler’s Holiday (1954)
  • Cambridge Centennial March of Industry (1946) (written for organ)
  • Captains and the Kings, The (1962)
  • Chatterbox (1966)
  • Chicken Reel (1946)
  • China Doll (1951)
  • Christmas Festival, A (1950) (original version was 9:00, later shortened in 1952 to 5:45)
  • Clarinet Candy (1962)
  • Classical Jukebox (1950)
  • Concerto in C Major for Piano and Orchestra (1953) (withdrawn by the composer, and released posthumously)
  • Cowboy and His Horse, The (1966)
  • Do You Think That Love Is Here To Stay? (1935)
  • Easter Song (194-) (written for organ)
  • Fiddle-Faddle (1947)
  • First Day of Spring, The (1954)
  • Forgotten Dreams (1954)
  • Girl in Satin, The (1953)
  • Golden Years, The (1962)
  • Goldilocks (musical) (1958) (some numbers in the Suite did not appear in the original musical, and some numbers from the musical are not in this Suite)
    1. Overture (1958)
    2. Come to Me (1958)
    3. Guess Who (1958)
    4. Heart of Stone (Pyramid Dance) (1958)
    5. He’ll Never Stray (1958)
    6. Hello (1958)
    7. If I Can’t Take it With Me (1958)
    8. I Never Know When to Say When (1958)
    9. Lady in Waiting (1958)
    10. Lazy Moon (1958)
    11. Little Girls (1958)
    12. My Last Spring (1958)
    13. Save a Kiss (1958)
    14. Shall I Take My Heart and Go? (1958)
    15. Tag-a-long Kid (1958)
    16. The Pussy Foot (1958)
    17. Town House Maxixe (1958)
    18. Who’s Been Sitting in My Chair ? (1958)
  • Governor Bradford March (1948) (published posthumously)
  • Harvard Fantasy (1936)
  • Harvard Festival, A (1969)
  • Hens and Chickens (1966)
  • Home Stretch (1962)
  • Horse and Buggy (1951)
  • Irish Suite (1947 & 1949)
    1. The Irish Washerwoman (1947)
    2. The Minstrel Boy (1947)
    3. The Rakes of Mallow (1947)
    4. The Wearing of the Green (1949)
    5. The Last Rose of Summer (1947)
    6. The Girl I Left Behind Me (1949)
  • Jazz Legato (1938)
  • Jazz Pizzicato (1938)
  • Love May Come and Love May Go (1935)
  • Lullaby of the Drums (1970) (published posthumously)
  • March of the Two Left Feet (1970)
  • Melody on Two Notes (~1965)
  • Mother’s Whistler (1940) (published posthumously)
  • Music in My Heart, The (1935)
  • Old Fashioned Song, An (196-)
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm (1947)
  • Penny Whistle Song, The (1951)
  • Phantom Regiment, The (1951)
  • Piece for Rolf (1961)
  • Pirate Dance (1962) (optional SATB chorus)
  • Plink, Plank, Plunk! (1951)
  • Promenade (1945)
  • Pussy Foot Ballet Music, The (1962)
  • Sandpaper Ballet (1954)
  • Saraband (1948)
  • Scottish Suite (1954)
    1. The Bluebells of Scotland
    2. Turn Ye To Me
  • Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March (1973)
  • Serenata (1947)
  • Sleigh Ride (1948)
  • Song of Jupiter (1951)
  • Song of the Bells (1953)
  • Suite of Carols for Strings (1955) (six carols)
  • Suite of Carols for Brass (1955) (seven carols)
  • Suite of Carols for Woodwinds (1955) (six carols)
  • Summer Skies (1953)
  • Syncopated Clock, The (1945)
  • Ticonderoga March (1939) (Anderson’s only work written for concert band)
  • To a Wild Rose (1970) (arranged from the song by Edward MacDowell) (published posthumously)
  • Trumpeter’s Lullaby, A (1949)
  • Typewriter, The (1950)
  • You Can Always Tell a Harvard Man (1962)
  • Waltz Around the Scale (1970)
  • Waltzing Cat, The (1950)
  • Wedding March for Jane and Peter (1972)
  • What’s the Use of Love? (1935)
  • Whistling Kettle, The (~1965)
  • Woodbury Fanfare (1959) (for four trumpets)

André Previn

André George PrevinKBE (born Andreas Ludwig Priwin; April 6, 1929)[1] is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings.

Previn was born in Berlin, Germany , the son of Charlotte (née Epstein) and Jack Previn, who was a lawyer, judge, and music teacher.[2] He is a distant relative of the composerGustav Mahler. The year of his birth is uncertain. Whilst most published reports give 1929,[1] Previn himself has stated that 1930 is his birth year.[3] This situation is because the family lost Previn’s birth certificate when they left Germany in 1938. His elder brother was director Steve Previn. The Previn family, which was Jewish, emigrated to the United States in 1939 to escape the Nazi regime in Germany.

“It Could Happen To You”

In 1939, his family moved to Los Angeles, where his great-uncle, Charles Previn, was music director of Universal Studios. André grew up in Los Angeles and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943. At Previn’s 1946 graduation from Beverly Hills High School he played a musical duet with Richard M. Sherman; Previn played the piano, accompanying Sherman (who played flute). He first came to prominence by arranging and composing Hollywood film scores in 1948. Coincidentally, 21 years later, both composers won Oscars for different films, both winning in musical categories. In the mid-to-late 1950s, and more recently, Previn toured and recorded as a jazz pianist. In the 1950s, mainly recording for Contemporary Records, he worked with Shelly Manne,Leroy VinnegarBenny Carter, and others. An album he recorded with Manne and Vinnegar of songs from My Fair Lady was a best-seller (see My Fair Lady (Shelly Manne album)). As a solo jazz pianist, Previn largely devoted himself to interpreting the works of major songwriters such as Jerome KernFrederick LoeweVernon Duke, and Harold Arlen. Previn made two albums with Dinah Shore as arranger, conductor, and accompanist in 1960, and another, the unjustly neglected “Duet”, with Doris Day in 1961. He made appearances onThe Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford as well as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. He collaborated with Julie Andrews on a collection of Christmas carols in 1966, focusing on rarely heard carols. This popular album has been reissued many times over the years and is now available on CD. His main influences as a jazz pianist include Art Tatum,Oscar Peterson, and Horace Silver. Previn has also recorded classical piano compositions by MozartGershwinPoulencShostakovich, and others.

“Laura” -Remember these recordings from the 1960’s with full string orchestras. It was funny then – its funny still, though lovely.

In 1967, Previn succeeded John Barbirolli as music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In 1968, Previn began his tenure as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), serving in that post until 1979. During his LSO tenure, he and the LSO appeared on the BBC Television programme André Previn’s Music Night. From 1976 to 1984, Previn was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO), and in turn had another television series with the PSO entitled Previn and the Pittsburgh. He was also principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 1988.

In 1985, he became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Although Previn’s tenure with the orchestra was musically satisfactory, other conductors including Kurt SanderlingSimon Rattle, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, did a better job at selling out concerts. Previn clashed frequently with Ernest Fleischmann (the orchestra’s Executive VP and General Manager), most notably when Fleischmann failed to consult him before naming Salonen as Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra, complete with a tour of Japan. Because of Previn’s objections, Salonen’s title and Japanese tour were withdrawn; however, shortly thereafter, in April 1989, Previn resigned. Four months later, Salonen was named Music Director Designate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, officially taking the post of Music Director in October 1992.[4] 

“What’s This Thing Called Love” (not sure what all the silly photos are about, but listen to this guy tear up the piano!! Phenomenal, understated jazz pianist!

Previn has composed film scores and other musical works, including concertos for piano, violin, cello, and guitar. He has also adapted and conducted the music for several films, some of them stage-to-film adaptations, such as My Fair LadyKismetPorgy and Bess, and Paint Your Wagon. Several were written especially for film, including the Academy Award-winning Gigi. Several of the film scores were collaborations with his second wife, Dory Previn.

In later years, he has concentrated on composing classical music. He collaborated with Tom Stoppard on Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,[5] a play with substantial musical content, which was first performed in London in 1977 with Previn conducting the LSO. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, premiered at the San Francisco Opera in 1998. His second opera, Brief Encounter, based on the 1945 movie of the same name, was premiered at Houston Grand Opera on May 1, 2009. His numerous other classical works include vocal, chamber, and orchestral music.

“Honeysuckle Rose”

Previn’s many recordings include the three ballets of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Swan LakeThe Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker), and the complete symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, all with the LSO. With the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he made other recordings of music by Sergei Prokofiev (most notably, the Symphonies 1 and 5, the score to Alexander Nevsky, and the Symphony-Concerto for Cello & Orchestra with Heinrich Schiff as soloist), symphonies and other pieces by Antonín Dvořák, and works by contemporary composers including William KraftJohn Harbison, and Harold Shapero. His recordings of works by RachmaninoffGershwinWilliam Walton, and Shostakovichhave been particularly prized.

He has made jazz recordings in two periods of his career: in the 1950s and early 1960s and then again since the 1980s. With bassist David Finck he has recorded a collection ofGeorge Gershwin standards (“We Got Rhythm: Gershwin Songbook”) and Duke Ellington classics (“We Got It Good & That Ain’t Bad: an Ellington Songbook”), both on theDeutsche Grammophon label. Previn became known to a broad public through his television work. In the United Kingdom, he worked on TV with the London Symphony Orchestra. In the United States, “Previn and the Pittsburgh” showed him in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Previn is particularly remembered in Britain for his performance as “Mr. Andrew Preview” (or “Privet”) on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1971, which involved his conducting a performance of Edvard Grieg‘s Piano Concerto with Eric Morecambe as the comically-inept soloist. (At one point “Mr Preview” accuses Eric Morecambe of playing the wrong notes; Eric retorts that he has been playing “the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.”) Because of other commitments, the only time available for Previn to learn his Morecambe and Wise part was during a transatlantic flight, but the talent he showed for comedy won high praise from his co-performers. At a concert in Britain afterwards, Previn had to stop the playing of the concerto to allow the audience time to stop giggling as they remembered the sketch. Previn himself notes that people still recall the sketch years later in the UK, where “Taxi drivers still call me Mr Preview”.

“I’ll String Along With You.”

Previn has been married five times. His first three marriages, to Betty Bennett (with whom he had two children), to Dory Langdon, and then to Mia Farrow, kept him in the public eye. Previn and Farrow had three biological children, twins Matthew and Sascha, born February 26, 1970, and Fletcher, born March 14, 1974. In 1973 and 1976, respectively, Previn and Farrow adopted Vietnamese infants Lark Song and Summer “Daisy” Song (born October 6, 1974). Lark died on Christmas Day of 2008.[6] He is also the adoptive father of Soon-Yi Previn, who was adopted from Korea at age 8 (born October 8, 1970). After his fourth marriage (to Heather Sneddon in 1982, with whom he had one child) ended in 2002, Previn wed the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and later wrote a violin concerto for her. They divorced in 2006, but remain on amicable terms and have continued to work together in concerts.[7][8] Previn wrote a memoir of his early years in Hollywood, No Minor Chords, which was published in 1991.

….and my favorite, “Skylark”

Previn has received a total of thirteen Academy Award nominations, winning in 1958, 1959, 1963 and 1964. He is one of few composers to accomplish the feat of winning back-to-back Oscars, and one of only two to do so on two occasions (the other being Alfred Newman). In 1970 he was nominated for a Tony Award as part of Coco‘s nomination for Best Musical. In 1977 he became an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music.[9] The 1977 television show Previn and the Pittsburgh was nominated for three Emmy awards. Previn was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996.[10] (Not being a citizen of a Commonwealth Realm, he may use only the post-nominal letters KBE and not the title “Sir André”.) Previn received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998 in recognition of his contributions to classical music and opera in the United States. In 2005 he was awarded the international Glenn Gould Prize and in 2008 won Gramophone magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in classical, film, and jazz music.[11] In 2010, the Recording Academy honored Previn with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

Academy Awards

Best Music – Scoring of a Musical Picture
Best Score – Adaptation or Treatment

Grammy Awards

Best Instrumental Soloist
Best Classical Crossover Album
Best Chamber Music Performance
Best Choral Performance
Best Performance by an Orchestra
Best Sound Track Album
Best Jazz Performance – Soloist or Small Group

List of compositions

Film

Orchestral Music

  • Concerto for Cello (1960)
  • Guitar Concerto (1960)
  • Piano Concerto (1985)
  • Violin Concerto (2001)
  • Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass (2004)

Chamber Music

  • Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello (2008)
  • Clarinet Sonata (Prague, 2010)

Opera

Theatre

Jazz

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. In the words of Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe “In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington.”[1]

A major figure in the history of jazz, Ellington’s music stretched into various other genres, including bluesgospelfilm scorespopular, and classical. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.[2]

“Satin Doll”

Ellington called his music “American Music” rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as “beyond category.”[3]These included many of the musicians who were members of his orchestra, some of whom are considered among the best in jazz in their own right, but it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known jazz orchestral units in the history of jazz. He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as “Jeep’s Blues” for Johnny Hodges, “Concerto for Cootie” for Cootie Williams, which later became “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” with Bob Russell‘s lyrics, and “The Mooche” forTricky Sam Nanton and Bubber Miley. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol‘s “Caravan” and “Perdido” which brought the ‘Spanish Tinge‘ to big-band jazz. Several members of the orchestra remained there for several decades. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his “writing and arranging companion.”[4]Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films.

Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington, who had already been handling all administrative aspects of his father’s business for several decades, led the band until his own death in 1996. At that point, the original band dissolved. Paul Ellington, Mercer’s youngest son and executor of the Duke Ellington estate,[5] kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going from Mercer’s death onwards.[6] 

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington. Daisy and J.E. were both pianists. She primarily played parlor songs and he operatic airs. They lived with his maternal grandparents at 2129 Ida Place (now Ward Place), NW in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C.[7] His father, James Edward Ellington, was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina on April 15, 1879 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1886 with his parents.[8] Daisy Kennedy was born in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 1879, and was the daughter of a former American slave.[7][9] James Ellington made blueprints for the United States Navy. He also worked as a butler for Dr. Middleton F. Cuthbert, a prominent white physician, and occasionally worked as a White House caterer.[10]

At the age of seven Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales.[11] Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. Ellington’s childhood friends noticed that “his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman”,[12] and began calling him Duke. Ellington credited his “chum” Edgar McEntree for the nickname. “I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So he called me Duke.”[13]

“Take The “A” Train” with Ella Fitzgerald

Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more interested in baseball. “President Roosevelt (Teddy) would come by on his horse sometimes, and stop and watch us play,” he recalled.[14] Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C. He got his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.

In the summer of 1914, while working as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Cafe, he wrote his first composition, “Soda Fountain Rag” (also known as the “Poodle Dog Rag”). Ellington created “Soda Fountain Rag” by ear, because he had not yet learned to read and write music. “I would play the ‘Soda Fountain Rag’ as a one-step, two-step, waltz, tango, and fox trot,” Ellington recalled. “Listeners never knew it was the same piece. I was established as having my own repertoire.”[15] In his autobiography, Music is my Mistress (1973), Ellington said he missed more lessons than he attended, feeling at the time that playing the piano was not his talent. Ellington started sneaking into Frank Holiday’s Poolroom at the age of fourteen. Hearing the poolroom pianists play ignited Ellington’s love for the instrument and he began to take his piano studies seriously. Among the many piano players he listened to were Doc Perry, Lester Dishman, Louis Brown, Turner Layton, Gertie Wells, Clarence Bowser, Sticky Mack, Blind Johnny, Cliff JacksonClaude Hopkins, Phil Wurd, Caroline Thornton, Luckey RobertsEubie Blake, Joe Rochester, and Harvey Brooks.[16]

“It Don’t Mean A Thing”

Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in Washington, D.C., but in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer months.[15] Dunbar High School music teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony. With the additional guidance of Washington pianist and band leader Oliver “Doc” Perry, Ellington learned to read sheet music, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington was also inspired by his first encounters with stride pianists James P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts. Later in New York he took advice from Will Marion CookFats Waller, and Sidney Bechet. Ellington started to play gigs in cafés and clubs in and around Washington, D.C. and his attachment grew to be so strong that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1916. Three months before graduating he dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art.[17]

From 1917 through 1919, Ellington launched his musical career, painting commercial signs by day and playing piano by night. Through his day job, Duke’s entrepreneurial side came out: when a customer would ask him to make a sign for a dance or party, he would ask them if they had musical entertainment; if not, Ellington would ask if he could play for them. He also had a messenger job with the U.S. Navy and State Departments. Ellington moved out of his parents’ home and bought his own as he became a successful pianist. At first, he played in other ensembles, and in late 1917 formed his first group, “The Duke’s Serenaders” (“Colored Syncopators”, his telephone directory advertising proclaimed).[17]He was not only a member, but also the booking agent. His first play date was at the True Reformer’s Hall, where he took home 75 cents.[18]

Ellington played throughout the Washington, D.C. area and into Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. The band included Otto Hardwick, who switched from bass to saxophone; Arthur Whetsol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums. The band thrived, performing for both African-American and white audiences, a rarity during the racially divided times.[19] 

“Flamingo”

When his drummer Sonny Greer was invited to join the Wilber Sweatman Orchestra in New York City, Ellington made the fateful decision to leave behind his successful career in Washington, D.C., and move to Harlem, becoming one of the figures of the Harlem Renaissance. New dance crazes like the Charleston emerged in Harlem, as well as African-American musical theater, including Eubie Blake‘s Shuffle Along. After the young musicians left the Sweatman Orchestra to strike out on their own, they found an emerging jazz scene that was highly competitive and hard to crack. They hustled pool by day and played whatever gigs they could find. The young band met Willie “The Lion” Smith who introduced them to the scene and gave them some money. They played at rent-house parties for income. After a few months the young musicians returned to Washington, D.C., feeling discouraged.

In June 1923 a gig in Atlantic City, New Jersey, led to a play date at the prestigious Exclusive Club in Harlem. This was followed in September 1923 by a move to the Hollywood Club – 49th and Broadway – and a four-year engagement, which gave Ellington a solid artistic base. He was known to play the bugle at the end of each performance. The group was called Elmer Snowden and his Black Sox Orchestra and had seven members, including James “Bubber” Miley. They renamed themselves “The Washingtonians”. Snowden left the group in early 1924 and Ellington took over as bandleader. After a fire the club was re-opened as the Club Kentucky (often referred to as the “Kentucky Club”), an engagement which set the stage for the biggest opportunities in Ellington’s life.

Ellington made eight records in 1924, receiving composing credit on three including Choo Choo.[20] In 1925 Ellington contributed four songs to Chocolate Kiddies, an all-African-American revue which introduced European audiences to African-American styles and performers. “Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra” grew to a ten-piece organization; they developed their distinct sound by displaying the non-traditional expression of Ellington’s arrangements, the street rhythms of Harlem, and the exotic-sounding trombone growls and wah-wahs, high-squealing trumpets, and sultry saxophone blues licks of the band members. For a short time soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet played with the group, imparting his propulsive swing and superior musicianship to the young band members. This helped attract the attention of some of the biggest names of jazz, includingPaul Whiteman.

In 1927 King Oliver turned down a regular booking for his group as the house band at Harlem’s Cotton Club; the offer passed to Ellington. With a weekly radio broadcast and famous white clientele nightly pouring in to see them, Ellington and his band thrived in the period from 1932 to 1942, a golden age for the band.

Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife, Edna Thompson, and son Mercer in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated.[21] According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “[h]omesick for Washington” and returned (she died in 1967).[22]

Although trumpeter Bubber Miley was a member of the orchestra for only a short period, he had a major influence on Ellington’s sound.[23] An early exponent of growl trumpet, his style changed the “sweet” dance band sound of the group to one that was hotter, which contemporaries termed ‘jungle’ style. He also composed most of “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Creole Love Call“. An alcoholic, Miley had to leave the band before they gained wider fame. He died in 1932 at the age of 29. He was an important influence on Cootie Williams, who replaced him.

“Sophisticated Lady”

In 1927 Ellington made a career-advancing agreement with agent-publisher Irving Mills, giving Mills a 45% interest in Ellington’s future.[24] Mills had an eye for new talent and early on published compositions by Hoagy CarmichaelDorothy Fields, and Harold Arlen. During the 1930s Ellington’s popularity continued to increase – largely as a result of the promotional skills of Mills – who got more than his fair share of co-composer credits. Mills arranged recording sessions on the Brunswick, Victor, and Columbia labels which gave Ellington popular recognition. Mills lifted the management burden from Ellington’s shoulders, allowing him to focus on his band’s sound and his compositions. Ellington ended his association with Mills in 1937, although he continued to record under Mills’ banner through to 1940.

At the Cotton Club, Ellington’s group performed all the music for the revues, which mixed comedy, dance numbers, vaudeville, burlesque, music, and illegal alcohol. The musical numbers were composed by Jimmy McHugh and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields (later Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler), with some Ellington originals mixed in. Weekly radio broadcasts from the club gave Ellington national exposure. In 1929 Ellington appeared in his first movie, a nineteen-minute all-African-American RKO short, Black and Tan, in which he played the hero “Duke”. In the same year, The Cotton Club Orchestra appeared on stage for several months in Florenz Ziegfeld‘s Show Girl, along with vaudeville stars Jimmy Durante,Eddie Foy, Jr.Al JolsonRuby Keeler, and with music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Gus Kahn. That feverish period also included numerous recordings, under the pseudonyms “Whoopee Makers”, “The Jungle Band”, “Harlem Footwarmers”, and the “Ten Black Berries”. In 1930 Ellington and his Orchestra connected with a whole different audience in a concert with Maurice Chevalier and they also performed at the Roseland Ballroom, “America’s foremost ballroom”. Noted composer Percy Grainger was also an early admirer and supporter.

“Perdido”

In 1929, when Ellington conducted the orchestra for Show Girl, he met Will Vodery, Ziegfeld’s musical supervisor. In his 1946 biography, Duke EllingtonBarry Ulanov wrote:

From Vodery, as he (Ellington) says himself, he drew his chromatic convictions, his uses of the tones ordinarily extraneous to the diatonic scale, with the consequent alteration of the harmonic character of his music, its broadening, The deepening of his resources. It has become customary to ascribe the classical influences upon Duke – DeliusDebussy and Ravel – to direct contact with their music. Actually his serious appreciation of those and other modern composers, came after his meeting with Vodery.[25]

As the Depression worsened, the recording industry was in crisis, dropping over 90% of its artists by 1933.[26] Ellington and his orchestra survived the hard times by taking to the road in a series of tours. Radio exposure also helped maintain popularity. Ivie Anderson was hired as their featured vocalist. Sonny Greer had been providing occasional vocals and continued to do in a cross-talk feature with Anderson. Ellington, however, later had many different vocalists, including Herb Jeffries (until 1943) and Al Hibbler (who replaced Jeffries in 1943 and continued until 1951).

Ellington led the orchestra by conducting from the keyboard using piano cues and visual gestures; very rarely did he conduct using a baton. As a bandleader Ellington was not a strict disciplinarian; he maintained control of his orchestra with a crafty combination of charm, humor, flattery, and astute psychology. A complex, private person, he revealed his feelings to only his closest intimates and effectively used his public persona to deflect attention away from himself.

While the band’s United States audience remained mainly African-American in this period, the Cotton Club had a near-exclusive white clientele and the Ellington orchestra had a huge following overseas, exemplified by the success of their trip to England in 1933 and their 1934 visit to the European mainland. The English visit saw Ellington win praise from members of the ‘serious’ music community, including composer Constant Lambert, which gave a boost to Ellington’s aspiration to compose longer works. For agent Mills it was a publicity triumph, as Ellington was now internationally known. On the band’s tour through the segregated South in 1934, they avoided some of the traveling difficulties of African-Americans by touring in private railcars. These provided easy accommodations, dining, and storage for equipment while avoiding the indignities of segregated facilities.

The death of Ellington’s mother in 1935 led to a temporary hiatus in his career. Competition was also intensifying, as African-American and white swing bands began to receive popular attention, including those of Benny GoodmanTommy DorseyJimmy DorseyJimmie LuncefordBenny CarterEarl HinesChick Webb, and Count Basie. Swing dancing became a youth phenomenon, particularly with white college audiences, and “danceability” drove record sales and bookings. Jukeboxes proliferated nationwide, spreading the gospel of “swing”. Ellington band could certainly swing, but Ellington’s strengths were mood and nuance, and richness of composition; hence his statement “jazz is music; swing is business”.[27] Ellington countered with two developments. He made recordings of smaller groups (sextets, octets, and nonets) drawn from his then-15-man orchestra and he composed pieces intended to feature specific instrumentalist, as with “Jeep’s Blues” for Johnny Hodges, “Yearning for Love” for Lawrence Brown, “Trumpet in Spades” for Rex Stewart, “Echoes of Harlem” for Cootie Williams and “Clarinet Lament” for Barney Bigard.

“I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart”

In 1937 Ellington returned to the Cotton Club which had relocated to the mid-town theater district. In the summer of that year, his father died, and due to many expenses, Ellington’s finances were tight. Things improved in 1938 and he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice “Evie” Ellis. After splitting with agent Irving Mills, he signed on with the William Morris Agency. The 1930s ended with a very successful European tour just as World War II loomed.

Ellington delivered some huge hits during the 1930s, which greatly helped to build his overall reputation. Some of them include: “Mood Indigo” (1930), “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1932), “Sophisticated Lady” (1933), “Solitude” (1934), “In a Sentimental Mood” (1935), “Caravan” (1937), “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” (1938). “Take the “A” Train” which hit big in 1941, was written by Billy Strayhorn.

Strayhorn, originally hired as a lyricist, began his association with Ellington in 1939.[28] Nicknamed “Swee’ Pea” for his mild manner, Strayhorn soon became a vital member of the Ellington Organization. Ellington showed great fondness kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going for Strayhorn and never failed to speak glowingly of the man and their collaborative working relationship, “my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine”.[29] Strayhorn, with his training in classical music, not only contributed his original lyrics and music, but also arranged and polished many of Ellington’s works, becoming a second Ellington or “Duke’s doppelganger”. It was not uncommon for Strayhorn to fill in for Duke, whether in conducting or rehearsing the band, playing the piano, on stage, and in the recording studio.[30] 

The band reached a creative peak in the early 1940s, when Ellington and a small hand-picked group of his composers and arrangers wrote for an orchestra of distinctive voices who displayed tremendous creativity.[31]

Some of the musicians created a sensation in their own right. The short-lived Jimmy Blanton transformed the use of double bass in jazz, allowing it to function as a solo rather than a rhythm instrument alone. Ben Webster, the Orchestra’s first regular tenor saxophonist, started a rivalry with Johnny Hodges as the Orchestra’s foremost voice in the sax section. Ray Nance joined, replacingCootie Williams (who had “defected”, contemporary wags claimed, to Benny Goodman). Nance, however, added violin to the instrumental colors Ellington had at his disposal.

Three-minute masterpieces flowed from the minds of Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ellington’s son Mercer EllingtonMary Lou Williamsand members of the Orchestra. “Cotton Tail“, “Main Stem”, “Harlem Airshaft”, “Sidewalks of New York (East Side, West Side)”, “Jack the bear”, and dozens of others date from this period.

Privately made recordings of Nance’s first concert date, at Fargo, North Dakota, on November 7, 1940 by Jack Towers and Dick Burris, are probably the most effective display of the band during this period. These recordings, later released as Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live, are among the first of innumerable live performances which survive, made by enthusiasts or broadcasters, significantly expanding the Ellington discography.

“All Of Me”

Ellington’s long-term aim became to extend the jazz form from the three-minute limit of the 78 rpm record side, of which he was an acknowledged master.[32] He had composed and recorded Creole Rhapsody as early as 1931 (issued as both sides of 12″ record for Victor and both sides of a 10″ record for Brunswick), and his tribute to his mother, “Reminiscing in Tempo,” had filled four 10″ record sides in 1935; however, it was not until the 1940s that this became a regular feature of Ellington’s work.

In this, he was helped by Strayhorn, who had enjoyed a more thorough training in the forms associated with classical music than Ellington. The first of these, “Black, Brown, and Beige” (1943), was dedicated to telling the story of African-Americans, and the place of slavery and the church in their history. Ellington debuted Black, Brown and Beige inCarnegie Hall on January 23, 1943, beginning a series of concerts there suited to displaying Ellington’s longer works. While some jazz musicians had played at Carnegie Hall before, few had performed anything as elaborate as Ellington’s work.

Unfortunately, starting a regular pattern, Ellington’s longer works were generally not well-received. Jump for Joy, a full-length musical based on themes of African-American identity, debuted on July 10, 1941 at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles. Although it had the support of the Hollywood establishment, and received mostly positive reviews, its socio-political outlook provoked a negative reaction among some members of the public. It ran for 122 performances until September 29, 1941, with a brief revival in November of that year. Its subject matter did not make it appealing to Broadway, despite Ellington’s plans to take it there.[33]

The settlement of the first recording ban of 1942–43 had a serious effect on all the big bands because of the increase in royalty payments to musicians which resulted from it. The financial viability of Ellington’s Orchestra came under threat, though Ellington’s income as a songwriter ultimately subsidized it. Ellington always spent lavishly and although he drew a respectable income from the Orchestra’s operations, the band’s income often just covered expenses.[34]

The music industry’s focus shifted away from the Big Bands to the work of solo vocalists such as the young Frank SinatraElla FitzgeraldBillie Holliday and mainstream groups like The Andrews Sisters as World War II drew to a close. While Ellington had featured some of the most talented singers of the day fronting his orchestra, he and his band took a back seat to no one, which set him down a path that put him increasingly at odds with the growing recording industry which was profiting from celebrity singers who were cheaper to keep than a big band, and produced bigger revenues.

By the mid 1940s, artists were creatively changing. One of Ellington’s composer-arrangers, Mary Lou Williams, left Ellington in 1943 and by 1945 was working with Dizzy Gillespie on a new form of jazz music, “Bebop.”

Bebop rebelled against mainstream jazz and the strict forms of which Ellington was perhaps its most well known standard-bearer. The music, which had redefined the American sound over 35 years, was about to be shaken up.

It would take another ten years for Bebop to begin catching on with jazz aficionados world-wide, but it was an early hit with club owners of smaller venues who could draw the jazz form’s growing audiences in New York City at a fraction of the cost of hosting a big band, particularly one of Ellington’s caliber. Newer, smaller bands and splinter forms of music increasingly put pressure on the bigger clubs who paid out increasingly more to maintain their big bands. Ellington’s elite band was a costly enterprise that, along with his excessive personal spending, always teetered on the brink of break-even. The new music trends eventually pushed it over the edge and put Ellington out on the road in search of venues that could afford to showcase his music.

Bebop was also a huge shift for young talent, from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk who did not embrace Big Band and sought out new creative frontiers, redefining “modern” jazz music forever. Ellington did not recruit or embrace these new artists and change with the times.

In 1950, another emerging musical trend, the African-American popular music style known as Rhythm and Blues driven by a new generation of composers and musicians like Fats Domino drew away young audiences from both the African-American and white communities, and ultimately unified those audiences as R&B morphed into Rock & Roll which expanded the cults of the singers from the Big Band era to the singer/songwriters from Domino to Elvis Presley to Buddy Holly. Again, Ellington did not embrace the new musical form, leaving him further in the growing dust cloud of musical history.

Ellington continued on his own course through these tectonic shifts in the music business. He did not wholly resist trends while trying to turn out major works. The Kay Davis vocal feature “Transblucency” was an attempt to cater to the singer-centric music world. He still performed major extended compositions such as Harlem (1950), whose score he presented to music-loving President Harry Truman, but these works were rapidly becoming reflections of his greatness in the 1930s and 1940s, and not ground-breaking works that rattled the music world back into the Big Band camp.

In 1951, Ellington suffered a major loss of personnel, with Sonny Greer, Lawrence Brown, and most significantly Johnny Hodges, leaving to pursue other ventures. Lacking overseas opportunities and motion picture appearances, Ellington’s Orchestra survived on “one-nighters” and whatever else came their way.

By the summer of 1955 the band was performing for six weeks at the Aquacade in Flushing, New York, where Ellington is supposed to have “invented” a drink known as “The Tornado,” the only alcoholic concoction that features his signature Coca-Cola and sugar.

Ellington’s hope that television would provide a significant new outlet for his type of jazz was not fulfilled. Tastes and trends had moved on without him. The introduction of the 33 1/3 rpm LP record and hi-fi phonograph though, did give new life to many of his older compositions. However by 1955, after three years of recording for Capitol, Ellington no longer had a regular recording affiliation.

The music business’ increasing factionization into specific forms of rock-and-roll, country, bluegrass, or jazz broke down into even more sub-sets, and opened the door for the second act in Duke Ellington’s career. An international fascination with Jazz re-opened the door at record labels to artists like Ellington and Louis Armstrong who had found themselves out of step with the times for the last half-decade. The Ellington who was too big or too proud to change would now appear with a variety of artists from the different jazz forms.

Ellington’s appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956 returned him to wider prominence and exposed him to new audiences. The feature “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue“, with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves‘s six-minute saxophone solo, had been in the band’s book since 1937, but on this occasion nearly created a riot. The revived attention should not have surprised anyone – Hodges had returned to the fold the previous year, and Ellington’s collaboration with Strayhorn had been renewed around the same time, under terms more amenable to the younger man. Such Sweet Thunder (1957), based on Shakespeare’s plays and characters, and The Queen’s Suite, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, were products of the renewed impetus which the Newport appearance helped to create.

A new record contract with Columbia produced Ellington’s best-selling LP Ellington at Newport and yielded six years of recording stability under producer Irving Townsend, who coaxed both commercial and artistic productions from Ellington.[35] In 1957, CBS (Columbia’s parent corporation) aired a live television production of A Drum Is a Woman, an allegorical suite which received mixed reviews. Festival appearances at the new Monterey Jazz Festival and elsewhere provided venues for live exposure, and a European tour in 1958 was wildly received.

After a 25-year gap, Ellington (with Strayhorn) returned to work on film scores, this time for Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Paris Blues (1961). Ellington and Strayhorn, always looking for new musical territory, produced adaptations of John Steinbeck‘s novel Sweet Thursday,Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker Suite and Edvard Grieg‘s Peer Gynt. The late 1950s also saw Ella Fitzgerald record her Duke Ellington Songbookwith Ellington and his orchestra—a recognition that Ellington’s songs had now become part of the cultural canon known as the “Great American Songbook“.

Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker concludes that the work of Billy Strayhorn and Ellington in Anatomy of a Murder, the trial court drama film directed by Otto Preminger in 1959, is “indispensable, [although] . . . too sketchy to rank in the top echelon among Ellington-Strayhorn masterpiece suites like Such Sweet Thunder and The Far East Suite, but its most inspired moments are their equal.”[36] Film historians have recognized the soundtrack “as a landmark – the first significant Hollywood film music by African Americans comprising non-diegetic music, that is, music whose source is not visible or implied by action in the film, like an on-screen band.” The score avoided the cultural stereotypes which previously characterized jazz scores and rejected a strict adherence to visuals in ways that presaged the New Wavecinema of the ’60s”.[37]

In the early 1960s, Ellington embraced recording with artists who had been fierce rivals of the past, or who had been young artists from the Bebop beginnings whom he did not associate with. The Ellington and Count Basie orchestras recorded together. During a period when he was between recording contracts he made records with Louis Armstrong (Roulette), Coleman HawkinsJohn Coltrane (both for Impulse) and participated in a session with Charles Mingus and Max Roach which produced the Money Jungle (United Artists) album.

Ironically, the singer most responsible for setting off the changes that brought an end to the big band era became Ellington’s salvation. He signed to Frank Sinatra‘s new Reprise label. Musicians who had previously worked with Ellington returned to the Orchestra as members: Lawrence Brown in 1960 and Cootie Williams in 1962.

The international mania for jazz reinstated Ellington as one of the highest earning artists in jazz. He performed all over the world; a significant part of each year was now spent making overseas tours.

He formed notable new working relationships with international artists from around the world, including the Swedish vocalist Alice Babs, and South African musicians Dollar Brandand Sathima Bea Benjamin (A Morning in Paris, 1963/1997).

His earlier hits became big sellers in the rediscovery of the music world-wide, earning Ellington impressive royalties.

“The writing and playing of music is a matter of intent…. You can’t just throw a paint brush against the wall and call whatever happens art. My music fits the tonal personality of the player. I think too strongly in terms of altering my music to fit the performer to be impressed by accidental music. You can’t take doodling seriously.”[15] 

Ellington was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1965, but was turned down.[38] His reaction at 67 years old: “Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young.”[39] In September of the same year, the first of his Sacred Concerts was given its premiere. It was an attempt to fuse Christian liturgy with jazz, and even though it received mixed reviews, Ellington was proud of the composition and performed it dozens of times. This concert was followed by two others of the same type in 1968 and 1973, known as the Second and Third Sacred Concerts. This caused controversy in what was already a tumultuous time in the United States. Many saw the Sacred Music suites as an attempt to reinforce commercial support for organized religion, though Ellington simply said it was, “the most important thing I’ve done.”[40] TheSteinway piano upon which the Sacred Concerts were composed is part of the collection of the Smithsonian‘s National Museum of American History. Like Haydn and Mozart, Ellington conducted his orchestra from the piano – he always played the keyboard parts when the Sacred Concerts were performed.[41]

Ellington continued to make vital and innovative recordings, including The Far East Suite (1966), the New Orleans Suite(1970), and The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1971), much of it inspired by his world tours. It was during this time that Ellington recorded his only album with Frank Sinatra, entitled Francis A. & Edward K. (1967).

Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, an Honorary PhD from the Berklee College of Music in 1971, and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country.[2] 

Ellington’s film work began in 1929 with the short film Black and Tan.[42] Symphony in Black (1935) featured his extended piece ‘A Rhapsody of Negro Life’. It introduced Billie Holiday, and won an Academy Award as the best musical short subject. He also appeared in the Amos ‘n’ Andy film Check and Double Check (1930). Ellington and his Orchestra continued to appear in films through the 1930s and 1940s, both in short films and in features such as Murder at the Vanities and Belle of the Nineties (1934), and Cabin in the Sky (1943). In the late 1950s, his work in films took the shape of scoring for soundtracks, notably Anatomy of a Murder (1959), with James Stewart, in which he appeared fronting a roadhouse combo, and Paris Blues(1961), which featured Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musicians.

He wrote an original score for director Michael Langham‘s production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada which opened on July 29, 1963. Langham has used it for several subsequent productions, most recently in an adaptation by Stanley Silverman which expands the score with some of Ellington’s best-known works.

Ellington composed the score for the musical Jump For Joy, which was performed in Los Angeles during 1941. Ellington’s sole book musical, Beggar’s Holiday, was staged on Broadway in 1946. Sophisticated Ladies, an award-winning 1981 musical revue, incorporated many tunes from his repertoire.

Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918, when he was 19. Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son,Mercer Kennedy Ellington. Mercer played trumpet, led his own band and worked as his father’s business manager, eventually taking full control of the band after Duke’s death. He was an important archivist of his father’s musical life.

Ellington’s sister Ruth (1915–2004) later ran Tempo Music, Ellington’s music publishing company. Ruth’s second husband was the bass-baritone McHenry Boatwright, whom she met when he sang at her brother’s funeral.

Ellington’s eldest grandson Edward Kennedy Ellington II also is a musician and maintains a small salaried band known as the Duke Ellington Legacy, which frequently comprises the core of the big band operated by The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts. Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday, and was interred in the Woodlawn CemeteryThe Bronx, New York City.[43] At his funeral attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. A genius has passed.”[44] Mercer Ellington picked up the reins of the orchestra immediately after Duke’s death. Ellington’s last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.”

Sources: wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nmdb.com

Farewell Roger Williams

Famed pianist Roger Williams dies at 87

APBy CHRISTOPHER WEBER – Associated Press | AP – 18 hrs ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Roger Williams, the virtuoso pianist who topped the Billboard pop charts in the 1950s and played for nine U.S. presidents during a long career, died Saturday. He was 87.

Williams died at his home in Los Angeles of complications from pancreatic cancer, according to his former publicist, Rob Wilcox.

Known as an electrifying stage performer and an adept improviser, Williams effortlessly switched between musical styles.

“Roger was one of the greatest pianists in the world and could play anything from classical music to jazz. He was one of the greatest personalities I’ve ever known,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a longtime friend of Williams and himself a musician. “He could touch any audience, from teenagers to senior citizens.”

Williams’ 1955 hit “Autumn Leaves” was the only piano instrumental to reach number one on the Billboard pop charts. It remains the best-selling piano record of all time, with more than 2 million sold.

Nicknamed the “pianist to the presidents,” Williams played for every commander in chief from Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush. His last trip to the White House was in 2008, when he performed at a luncheon for then-first lady Laura Bush.

Williams was good friends with Jimmy Carter, with whom he shared a birthday. When the two men turned 80, Williams played a 12-hour marathon at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, with the former president in attendance.

Born Louis Wertz in Nebraska, Williams started playing piano at age 3. By age 9 he was prolific with several instruments and could play anything by ear.

“I had a piano teacher growing up who would never play a song for me, she would make me play it from sheet music so I could learn to read music,” Williams said, according to biographical information provided by Wilcox.

“Autumn Leaves”

As a teenager, he was given his own 15-minute radio show on KRNT-AM, which was broadcast live from a Des Moines, Iowa, department store. Later he hosted a program on WHO-AM, where he first met the station’s young sports announcer, Ronald “Dutch” Reagan. The two men started a friendship which lasted over 60 years.

Nancy Reagan said that when the two men met in Iowa all those years ago, “neither could have guessed that their careers would take them both to the White House someday.”

The former first lady noted Saturday that in recent years Williams performed several times at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, including for a concert celebrating the late president’s 100th birthday.

“Roger was a great pianist, a great American, and a great friend. I am saddened by his death, and my sympathy and prayers go out to his family,” Nancy Reagan said in a statement.

“Beyond The Sea”

Williams moved to New York to study jazz at the Juilliard School of Music. He won performing contests on the popular radio shows “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” and Dennis James’ “Chance of a Lifetime.”

Soon after, Williams was signed to Kapp Records, where founder Dave Kapp was determined to find a hit for the young prodigy. Producers decided on a shortened arrangement of “Autumn Leaves,” which Williams recalled first clocked in at three minutes and three seconds.

“Born Free”

“In those days the disc jockeys would not play a record over three minutes long. So Kapp asked if I could play the thirds a little faster. I did and it came in at two minutes and 59 seconds,” Williams said, according to Wilcox.

It was an instant hit and catapulted Williams to national renown. He followed it up with a string of hits including “Born Free,” ”The Impossible Dream,” ”Theme From Somewhere In Time,” and “Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago.”

“The Way We Were”

Williams became a popular guest on the top television shows of the time including “The Ed Sullivan Show,” ”The Perry Como Show,” and “The Steve Allen Show.”

In a 1995 interview with The Associated Press, Williams said he liked playing — and listening to — all types of music.

“The only thing I have against rock ‘n roll is the volume,” he said.

He is the first pianist to be honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where his star was decorated with flowers Saturday. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Steinway & Sons.

“The Impossible Dream”

On his 75th birthday, Williams played a 12-hour marathon at Steinway Hall in New York City, a stunt he repeated several time in the following years.

In March, Williams announced on his website that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A few days later he played his last concert, in Palm Desert, California.

Williams is survived by his daughters, Laura Fisher and Alice Jung, and five grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.