The Renown of Les Brown©2000JCMarion


Les Brown was a musician that found success and longevity years after the days of the big bands were over. His long association with one of America's greatest entertainers, Bob Hope, was certainly a plus in the career history of Les Brown. He was born in Reinerton, Pennsylvania, in March of 1912. He originally studied clarinet and composition, and soon entered Ithaca College in upstate New York. Two years later Brown transferred to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. While there he joined a dance band named for the Duke teams, The Duke Blue Devils. The band included arrangements written by Brown who acted as leader and played clarinet and alto sax. The band recorded for Decca in October of 1936 but met no success. By September of 1938 he was leading his own orchestra in New York featured in hotel rooms and recorded a number of sides for the Bluebird label, a subsidiary of RCA. The most famous member of the band was former Benny Goodman rhythm guitarist Allen Reuss.

The band had a noted engagement during the 1939 World's Fair in New York and preserved that time with Bluebird #10314 - "Trylon Stomp" / "Perisphere Shuffle". By 1941 the band was signed to Columbia's sub label Okeh Records. The band hit paydirt with #6377 - "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" with vocal by Betty Bonney, and then one of the biggest records of the forties for the main label Columbia #36769 - "Sentimental Journey" with vocal by Doris Day in 1945 which captured the sentiments of a nation at that time. Later in the same year the combination hit the jackpot again with Columbia #36779 "My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time" from the film "In Society". By the beginning of the Interlude Era the Les Brown band was riding a hot streak and their good fortune would continue.

During the early part of the year 1946, Les Brown had three straight top ten sellers for Columbia. The first "You Won't Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)" on #36884 spent close to four months on the hit parade of top sellers. This was followed by a two sided hit on #36945 - "Doctor Lawyer Indian Chief" (from the film "The Stork Club") with vocal by Butch Stone which got as high as number six, and the flip side "Day By Day" featuring a Doris Day vocal. A third top ten seller during the year followed with a tune from the show "Annie Get Your Gun" called "I've Got The Sun In The Morning" on #36977. Later in the year the Les Brown hit streak continued with "I Guess I'll Get The Papers And Go Home" with a Jack Haskel vocal, and the flip side with Doris Day "The Whole World Is Singing My Song". The last two recordings by the Les Brown band during the year were not as successful, but both made the charts - "The Best Man" with a Butch Stone vocal on #37086, and the seasonal "The Christmas Song" (written by Mel Torme) sung by Doris Day on #37174.

In the year 1947, Les Brown began his long and productive association with Bob Hope which lasted more than thirty years. Radio and personal appearances with Hope caused the band to be more involved with that aspect of show business, and their recorded output dropped considerable. Also at this time Doris Day moved out from the shadow of the band and became a star in her own right in both music and motion pictures. During the year only the brief appearance on the charts of "Sooner Or Later" from Disney's "Song Of The South" with a Doris Day vocal on #37153, made Les Brown and his band a recording name. The next few years saw Brown as an infrequent visitor to the top seller's list.

At the end of the year of 1948, a recording by the band more than two years old was released on Columbia #38324 - "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm". It was from the soundtrack of a 1937 film musical called "On The Avenue", and for some reason this Les Brown instrumental hit the right note in a big way. The record astounded most, by going all the way to the number one position in early 1949. This record has been called the last great instrumental hit of the big band era and a fitting end to an age in American music. In the spring of 1950, Les Brown's Orchestra had a moderate hit with a cover of the Sammy Kaye/Don Cornell hit tune "It Isn't Fair" with a vocal by the Four Hits & A Miss on #38735. The last two hit records on the charts for the band came in 1953. By now his aggregation was officially known as "Les Brown & His Band of Renown". He was now recording for a Decca family label Coral Records. "I'll Be Hanging Around" with a vocal by The Modernaires on #60946, and "Ruby" on #60959 from the motion picture "Ruby Gentry" and a hit for Richard Hayman on Mercury.

Les Brown and his band continued on as a part of the Bob Hope presentation on television and in person throughout the fifties and into the sixties. This association between the two was honored for their many personal appearances in support of the American fighting men in Viet Nam. They traveled across the Southeast Asian nation to bring a little bit of home to those halfway around the world. Many whose first awareness of Les Brown was made during these years would be surprised to find out about his past musical history. He transcended the big band era and remained a popular force in American music for many years after. A star of the Interlude Era and beyond - Les Brown.

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