For over twenty-five years Richard Grudens and I have contemplated the mercurial condition, or ups and downs if you will, of the state of the Golden Age of Music, known to most of you as the Big Band Era, along with its bandleaders, musicians and vocalists.  At our first meeting backstage at what was once known as the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island, he, along with radio’s legendary WNEW  William B. Williams, Helen O’Connell, Warren Covington of the Pied Pipers group, Tommy Dorsey ghost band leader Buddy Morrow,  and myself,  spent a few hours discussing  the subject between performances on stage that evening.

A few years later, during the inception of his first book, The Best Damn Trumpet Player, we worked together to present an illustrious list of shorts about many musical stars of that time.  Richard would forward installment after installment as he wrote it and we would talk on the phone from my home in San Diego to his in Stonybrook, adapting, changing,  even adding to each one until joint revision satisfaction was achieved.

In that landmark book I stated the following: “That starting with the Big Bands in the 1930s and continuing through today, we were blessed with the opportunity to enjoy music that creates a feeling of well being and familiarity. Not the frenetic sounds of the various types of rock, and other more  modern, similar musical material, but the pure melodic sounds of some bands and the swinging jazz styles of others have provided a common bond between all peoples, no matter what their nationalities or social background.

Time, unfortunately has robbed us of the pleasure of having most of the great performers among us physically, but their recordings survive them. One can help but wonder how, for  instance, Glenn Millers’s style would have evolved over the years had he not met his untimely death over the English Channel.

The Big Bands served a purpose aside from soothing our senses with their musical arrangements -they spawned such legendary singers as Doris Day, Helen Forrest, Kay Starr, Connie Haines, and Frank Sinatra, to name a few. Although severely restricted in the development of their own styles with the bands, many band singers eventually went out on their own, giving them the opportunity to be as innovative as their capabilities permitted.

Nat “King” Cole was one of the first balladeers to start his career without the aid of a Big Band background. And, not to blow my own horn, but I believe I was the first white male singer to achieve success sans a Big Band boost. Definitely not an easy road, but I’ve never regretted any of the hardship, as I met many kind, helpful people on the way up.  Among them were Perry Como, Carl Fischer, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, .

Hoagy Carmichael and Al Jarvis.

There are still a number of bands working today, some are ghosts of the original Big Bands, like Artie Shaw’s - with leader Dick Johnson,  and Glenn Miller’s -led by the incomparable Larry O’Brien with original Miller arrangements, both appearing all over the country like “the good old days.” There are the singers like Tony B. (Babino) and Michael Buble, Natalie Cole, and Harry Connick, Jr. who have emerged, a throwback to the days of the great  vocalists. And, Tony Bennett is still knocking them dead.

Although the time of the great bands, musicians,  vocalists, and arrangers has passed, Richard Grudens has embarked upon a labor of love, painstakingly researching the lives of  those included in this book, some who are and were personal friends of us both, which, of course, eased the way towards this monumental works.

But come - spend a few hours reminiscing about the people who will live in our hearts and, hopefully, our children’s forever.


     Frankie Laine

     San Diego, California

     December 2006



BACK COVER TEXT: by Kathryn Crosby


Well, here it is, Richard Grudens’ long-awaited “Bible of the Big Bands.”

Not only is he the ideal craftsman to envision and create such a project, in my mind, he’s the only one.

A discussion of forty of our twentieth century’s big bands, including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Harry James, Van Alexander, Jack Teagarden, Ben Grisafi, Lionel Hampton, many of its most famous musicians, thirty-eight of its greatest vocalists, including a centerpiece on Frank Sinatra and my own Bing, their associates and arrangers, together with their predecessors, followers, and European counterparts, demands a scope which no other writer could presume to possess.

Largely, as a consequence of my marriage to Bing, I was acquainted with perhaps a score of the celebrities whom you will encounter in this book, I could have recognized them on the street, and that was about it.

Richard Grudens, on the other hand, has the greatest breadth of anyone who has ever undertaken to describe the giants of our musical world. Here you will meet, in intimate detail, the leading performers of our finest era, and I trust you will enjoy the brilliant narrative as much as I did. Read on, my friends.

Phone: 631-551-3518

P.O. Box 344 - Stony Brook - NY - 11790

 Fax: 631-551-3517