The Columbia Records Post War Dance Bands ©1999JCMarion


Harry James

James was a true holdover from the era of the big bands and he was able to continue his success during the post war forties. A mainstay of the great Benny Goodman band of the late thirties, James started out on his own and soon featured new singer Frank Sinatra. His trumpet stylings continued to be a top musical presence during the war years and by 1946 had already amassed a total of 56 charted records, half of which reached the top ten in sales, three hit number two, and an amazing total of nine reached the number one position in the country. This was a towering list of achievements, and by 1946 James showed no signs of losing favor with the record buying public.

James began 1946 with two songs from the movie "The Dolly Sisters". The first "I Can't Begin To Tell You" featured vocal by Ruth Haag, who was in reality movie glamor queen Betty Grable, wife of James. A second tune from the movie "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" followed trailing a version of the song by Perry Como. The seasonal "Easter Parade" and a Willie Smith vocal on "Who's Sorry Now" charted briefly and 1946 also featured vocals by Ginnie Powell on the songs "Do You Love Me", and Buddy DeVito on "And Then It's Heaven" and "This Is Always", all from motion pictures that year. !947 began with another movie tune "Oh But I Do" from the film "The Time The Place, and The Girl", but the next tune a cover of Ted Weems 1933 recording of "Heartaches" which was a national hit did well for James getting up to the top five in America. "Jalousie" and another instrumental "Stella By Starlight" followed and then it was Art Lund on vocal for "I Tipped My Hat (And Slowly Rode Away)". Buddy DeVito returned on vocal for "I Still Get Jealous".

Although Harry James and His Orchestra remained active in the late 40s, the record business was not as kind. It would be three years before james would again grace the best sellers list. The song that got the band back on the hit list was their version of Nat Cole's "Mona Lisa" which featured a fine vocal by Dick Williams. In 1951 the Harry James band would have their two biggest sellers in years with the help of a couple of talented vocalists. Doris Day did the honors on "Would I Love You" which was a solid top ten seller and Frank Sinatra returned to front the James band on "Castle Rock" which did even better. Two more movie tunes closed out Harry James and his hit list appearances - "You'll Never Know" from "Hello Frisco Hello" with a fine vocal by Rosemary Clooney, and the instrumental "Ruby" from the film "Ruby Gentry" in late 1953. By the mid fifties James had been a top star for two decades and it would be more than two decades more as james continued to entertain as one of the greatest of all talents to emerge from the original big band era.

Les Brown

Les Brown was from Pennsylvania, and learned clarinet as a child. By college age he had formed his first band and Duke University and named them after the team name : The Blue Devils. By 1940 had formed big band and had good success during the war years including two national number one hit records : "Sentimental Journey" and "My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time" both featuring the vocals of Doris Day. By 1946 Columbia Records hoped to duplicate the success they had with Harry James by keeping the band going and trying to stay with the times. A two sided hit featuring a Doris Day vocal "Come To Baby Do" and "You Won't Be Satisfied" was a big top five hit and remained on the hit parade for four months. Butch Stone was the vocalist on the next top ten hit for the band-a cover of Betty Hutton's number one record of a song from the film "The Stork Club" called "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief". Doris Day returned for two vocals "Day By Day" and "I Got The Sun In The Morning (And The Moon At Night)". Another two sided hit for the band late in 1946 featured Jack Haskel on "I Guess I'll Get The papers And Go Home" and Doris with "The Whole World Is Singing My Song". Butch Stone closed out the big year for the band with "The Best Man".

Doris Day's cover of "The Christmas Song" charted briefly as did a song from the Disney movie "Song Of The South" called "Sooner Or :Later", and by mid 1947 Day had decided to leave the band to go out as a solo performer and to begin a budding career in motion pictures. She would soon become a top pop music vocalist, motion picture star, and television performer. Meanwhile Les Brown had made an important move himself. He formed a show business alliance with mega-star Bob Hope that would last for decades on radio, television, and the famous USO military tours and Christmas shows. It would be close to two years before the Les Brown band would appear on the record charts. But when it did it was with an all time blockbuster. The arrangement by Skip Martin of the song "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" went all the way to number one for a rare big band instrumental in 1948, and this record has been called the swan song of the big band era, the last great instrumental tune. It was a landmark recording and is certainly a wintertime staple of radio programming.

In 1950 The Four Hits & A Miss recorded a cover version of Don Cornell's "It Isn't Fair" with the band for a moderate seller. Three years later the orchestra now had the tag line Les Brown & His Band of Renown and had moved to Coral Records for two slight sellers. The band continued to do TV work - they were the band on the Steve Allen Show on Sunday evenings, and of course continued their backing work with Bob Hope, always entering to their great theme song "Leapfrog". For more than four decades, the Les Brown band has been a part of the American musical scene, and they had some of their brightest moments when pop music was king.

Tony Pastor

Tony Pastor was born Antonio Pestritto in Connecticut. he learned music growing up and soon was playing in local bands. By the mid thirties he had joined Artie Shaw as a sax player and rhythm vocalist. When Shaw quit in 1940 Pastor decided to form his own unit and met with some success notably the tunes "Bell Bottom Trousers" and "Dance With A Dolly". By 1946 Pastor had left RCA and was signed by Columbia Records. In keeping with their position of recording surviving orchestras, rather than forming new units. Pastor fronted the band as leader and vocalist. The first Columbia side "Red Silk Stockings And Green Perfume" was a slight hit, but the next two Pastor vocals did well - "I Wonder I Wonder I Wonder" and a cover of the Andrews Sisters hit "The Lady From Twenty Palms". By 1948 Rosemary Clooney was the vocalist with the band and "You Started Something" was her first hit with the Pastor orchestra.

In 1949 Rosemary Clooney had two more charted vocals with the band. The first "It's Like Taking Candy From A Baby" was a slight hit, but "Grieving For You" was more substantial leading executives at Columbia to consider launching Clooney as a featured pop solo performer. Tony Pastor had one last record on the hit charts and it was one of his biggest of the post war years. This time Rosemary was joined by sister Betty on vocals and the song was "A You're Adorable" and was a big record during the spring of 1949. Pastor continued to perform throughout the fifties and into the sixties, often with his two sons. He passed away in 1969 and left a long list of great recordings done with Artie Shaw and later with his own band.

Les and Larry Elgart

Les is the older by four years of the two brothers born in Connecticut. Les is a trumpeter and Larry plays sax. Both brothers played with a variety of bands during the 30s and 40s and also freelanced some in the late 40s. The Elgarts joined forces in 1953 looking to shape a modern band with sharp arrangements and songs. The band featured a mostly ensemble sound without emphasizing solo passages and tried to tailor sound for dancing. Toward the mid 50s Columbia singles such as "Geronimo", "Varsity Drag", "Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland", Spending The Summer In Love", and "Bazoom I Need Your Loving", made the Elgart Brothers band a favorite with listeners. Columbia used the format of the LP record album to feature the band and it was there that they reached their greatest success.

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