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Larry Clinton

Larry Clinton was a versatile composer, arranger, and bandleader whose swing band was one of the dominant forces in pop music in the late '30s, specifically in the period between Tommy Dorsey's initial success and the rise to fame of Glenn Miller. Born in Brooklyn, Clinton broke into the business as an arranger on the staff of Ferde Grofé & His Orchestra, which formed in 1932 in the wake of the rift between Grofé and Paul Whiteman; Clinton also held down a trumpet chair in the Grofé band for a time. Upon leaving Grofé, Clinton joined the arranging staff of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, but continued to write charts on a freelance basis for other leaders. When the Dorsey Brothers split in 1935, Clinton went with Jimmy Dorsey, but it was an arrangement placed with Tommy Dorsey's band, "The Dipsy Doodle," that established Clinton's name with the public. On the strength of that hit, Clinton formed his own band in late 1937, graced with the extraordinary talents of girl singer Bea Wain and the rough but personable singing of "Boy" Ford Leary. Some of the hits Clinton enjoyed in the late '30s were with songs of such significance that his connection in introducing them has become forgotten; the ever-prevalent favorite of amateur pianists "Heart and Soul" and "Deep Purple" were among the tunes Larry Clinton made famous.

Clinton's specialty was "jazzing the classics," transforming familiar classical melodies into dance hits; for example, Claude Debussy's early piano piece Reverie became "My Reverie" and an enormous hit with a lovely Bea Wain vocal. Clinton also similarly transformed music by Tchaikovsky, Flotow, and the hoary anthem "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" into solid sensations -- musicians' scuttlebutt of the era in reference to Clinton eulogized such efforts as "it goes into one ear and flows out of his pen." Purists cried "desecration," but Clinton defended his work by stating that he was bringing quality music to the dancefloor. Clinton did have some hot players in his band, but seldom if ever used them to contribute solos to raise the heat; as one would expect from an arranger's band, the emphasis was on precise execution of his dance charts as written. Several of Clinton's other compositions were more challenging, representing an interest in the "egghead jazz" of Raymond Scott and Ray Noble in pieces such as "Strictly for the Persians" and "The Campbells Are Swingin'." Many of Clinton's original pieces reflect an interest in the supernatural and Satanism, such as "Midnight in the Madhouse," "Shades of Hades," "The Devil with the Devil," "Satan in Satin," "Study in Surrealism," and one 1938 vintage number that perhaps was a premonition of things to come -- "I Want to Rock (Rock Solid Rock)."

Larry Clinton broke up his big band in 1941 in order to join the military as a pilot. He was commissioned as a flight instructor, served with distinction, and was well decorated for his efforts. After the war, Clinton worked for the short-lived Cosmo label, worked at Kapp, and re-recorded his hits with a pickup band in hi-fi sound with singer Helen Ward for his old haunt, RCA Victor. Nevertheless, the big-band business was dead, and Clinton retired from music in 1961 to pursue other interests, mainly writing fiction. Clinton's work is unfairly neglected and is often referred to as "Mickey Mouse" or as having "no jazz interest." However, it was highly intelligent, sophisticated, and extremely well-played music, and Wain in particular was a major artist, a singer every bit as good as her competitors, who included Helen Forrest, Nan Wynn, and the young Ella Fitzgerald. So while Larry Clinton may not have led the jazziest swing band, it was nonetheless a fun and exciting dance orchestra, and his 214 78-rpm sides for Victor and Bluebird -- Clinton's core output -- are well worth remembering and appreciating on their own terms. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Great dance music... Swing away brother..... . . . . . . . . . T h i s is the first time I have ever heard these cats.
Thanks again Pandora..... . . . Y o u da best!
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The last Gershwin song pathos of the brothers Gershwin. Bea Wain reverently treats this tune and of course Larry Clinton what a combination!
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Larry Clinton a later thirties dance band like Ray Noble made swinging the classics reputable with Bea Wain's flawless vocal. Bea Wain was definetly the white Ethel Waters of the era.
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When there was romance, there were sounds like this. I hope, for their sake, that this eneration never realizes what they lost.
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The last time I heard Larry Clinton was...ago?
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juandomingue z 7 7 7
I was born in '95, but man, I would've loved listening to this in the '40s. Love this music.
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Love this song, it has a chilling tune to it >:)
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Great band too often overlooked.. . Glad to have Pandora to hear this and others like him.
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proper tunes and cherishable love
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To go back to the origin of Wolverine Blues, listen to the incredible Jelly Roll Morton Hot Peppers version. I believe Jelly wrote it.
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I think vocals may be Peggy Mann
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Bea Wain was one of the best girl vocalists of the era. Clinton had a solid band although only for a few years. His band suffered after she left.
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Great dance music!
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artatwinona
Who's the vocalist?
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amycmac
jojomebob
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I learned to play this song as a child and now i finally know the real song. I love it!
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Now that got my feet to tapping. I dig this!
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so thankful to my parents for sharing their music with me. there isn't much i don't like. i hope we can hold on to this era
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jbsientz
A fine band, a gifted bandleader and arranger, and one of the most superb vocalists ever in Bea Wain. She was an amazing talent.
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He also released an album titled "Music for Tired Golfers" in the late fiftys or early sixties. The songs related to the Golf course such as; I can't get started, I talk to the trees, Beside a babbling brook, etc. Any chance of listening to the album
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reanes
Nice stuff!
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new to me. very good

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