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Band Leaders of the 1930's & 1940's

Below is background information on 8"x10" autographed photographs of band leaders during the big band era of the 30's & 40's that will be offered at auction on April 27, 2006 at 7:30 at the Greater St. Louis Book Fair at Westfield West County. Visit our website at

Harry James. One of the number one bandleaders of the big band era. Swing hits--James Session, One O'clock and Two O'Clock; Clock Jumps--and sweet ones-I've Heard That song Before, "I Don't Care Who Knows It; starred vocalists Helen Forrest, Kitty Kallen and his future wife, film star Betty Grable (from St. Louis)

Jess Stacy. Piano great from Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Starred with Benny Goodman and Bob Crosby's Bobcats; early jobs were with Riverboats out of St. Louis; had his own band in the mid-'40's spotlighting his wife, singer Lee Wiley.

Red Nichols. One of the great cornetists coming out of the 1920's; led his morst famous group, Red Nichols and the Five Pennies; had a movie based on his life, "The Five Pennies" starring Danny Kaye; his groups, which often played in Broadway shows, included such then youngsters as Benny Goodman, Joe Venuti, and the Dorsey Brothers; backed up Bing Crosby; one of the genuine legends of jazz.

Les Brown. and the Band of Renown, with vocals by Doris Mary Kappelhoff, who changed her name to Doris Day and the rest is history; made the great record, "Sentimental Journey", as well as many great instrumental hits, notably "Leap Frog", "Bizet Has His Day" and "Mexican Hat Dance".

Spike Jones. and the City Slickers; made a fortune with humorous renditions of all-time sentimental hits, notably "Cocktails for Two".

Dick Jurgens. "Here's the Band Again" was his intro; one of the finest dance bands of all time; well known in hotels and ballrooms,notably the Aragon and Trianon in Chicago, and the Chase in St. Louis. Well known vocalists were Eddy Howard, who became famous with his own band in the late forties, and Buddy Moreno, who was a radio DJ here in St. Louis, where he has made his home for decades.

Claude Thornhill. One of the most modern and sophisticated pianists and bandleaders;had an all-time hit recording, "Sunday Kind of Love", with vocalist Fran Warren in 1946; was the original pianist in the British Ray Noble's first American band, put together by the legendary Glenn Miller.

Jan Savitt. And his top Hatters. Wanted to be a classical violinist first, but subsequently led this shiffle rhythm band out of Philadelphia. Had one of the first black singers, Bon Bon (George Tunnell), who was a great success, but ran into many of the prejudices of the time.

Bob Chester. A very professional band, but suffered because it sounded so much like the Glenn Miller band of the time. Featured a great singer, Dolores O'Neill; had a memorable theme, "Sunburst".

Horace Heidt. One of the greatest show band of all time. So many of the musicians and singers wound up famous--pianist Frankie Carle; steel guitarist Alvino Rey; the blind whistler, Fred Lowery; the singing King Sisters; singer (later comedian) Art Carney; accordionist Dick Contino; and arranger and bandleader Frank DeVol. Heidt subsequenty went into the real estate business on the west coast and wound up a millionaire; played the Fox in St. Louis in the later '30's, airing his famous radio show, "Pot a Gold", from St. Louis. Known as the Musical Knights or the Brigadiers.

Hal McIntyre. Lead alto sax player int he original Glenn Miller orchestra; stayed with the band throughout its big years in the '30's & early '40's; led his own successful band in the mid '40's; played a St. Louis University prom in 1949; died in a ballfroom fired started by a cigarette.

Tommy Tucker. "I's Tommy Tucker Time" was its familiar opening. Successful sweet band. Featured fine vocalists Don Brown and Amy Arnell; composed his own theme song, "I Love You"; had hit recordings. "The Man Who Comes Around", and " I Don't Want to Set the World On Fire".

Charley Spivak. One of the original trumpeters in the original Ray Noble American orchestra; led successful band of his own, with his wife, Irene Daye, as the voaclist; featured in movies "Pinup Girl" and "Follow the Boys"; arrangements were by one of his trombonists, now the legendary Nelson Riddle.

Sammy Kaye. One of the sweetest of the sweet bands; moniker was "Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye"; very popular through the "30's & '40"s and beyond; had a big hit in the early 40's, "Daddy", and an even bigger one in the late '40's, with vocalist don Cornell, "It Isn't Fair", which Cornell later recorded again into another hit.

Kay Kyser. Another great of the sweet bands of the era. Featured St. Louis singer Harry Babbitt, along with Ginny Simms, Ish Kabibble (Myron Bogue, the lead trumpeter); and Mike Douglas, later star of "The Mike Douglas Show" had a famous radioprogram,"Kyser's College of Musical Knowledge" on NBS on Wednesday nights, aired one of them from the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. He introduced many of the big hit songs of the big band era, including "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition:; also played the old Meadowbrook Country Club in Overland, Mo., with national radio broadcasts. Anyone who lived during that time knew Kay Kyser who introduced every program with "C'mon, chillun, les dance!"

Freddy Martin. One of the best of the sweet bands. He had a very long, successful career throughout the '30's, '40's, '50's, '60's; was likely the first to introduce popular songs, from classical music, with "Tonight We Love", from the Tschaikowsky B-flat Piano Concerto; featured soloists Jack Fina at the piano, and the famous Merv Griffin as one of his vocalists. He was a staple, virtually every night, of radio's famous late night "live broadcasts", usually from the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, or the St. Francis in San Fancisco. This picture is not autographed.

A special thank you to St. Louis's own Don Burnes for providing this fabulous information on the band leaders.