Bobby Byrne (musician)

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Bobby Byrne
Bobby Byrne Down Beat 1946.JPG
Byrne in 1946
Background information
Born (1918-10-10)October 10, 1918
Columbus, Ohio
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Irvine, California
Genres Jazz, Big band
Occupation(s) bandleader, trombonist, arranger
Years active 1930s–1960s
Labels Decca, Cosmo Records, Top Rank Records, Command Records
Associated acts The Dorsey Brothers, Jimmy Dorsey, Steve Allen
Notable instruments
trombone, harp

Bobby Byrne (October 10, 1918 – November 25, 2006) was an American bandleader, trombonist, and music executive. His big band was well regarded, although it never achieved the level of popularity that was expected. He flew aircraft in World War II. Later he became a musical producer for television and for albums credited to other artists.

Biography

Early life and career

Bobby was born October 10, 1918 near Columbus, Ohio[1] on a farm to Clarence Byrne and his wife.[2] Both of his parents were musicians. His mother was a concert pianist before marriage, and at the time of Bobby's birth Clarence was in France with the U.S. Army band.[2] When Bobby was one year old, the family moved to Detroit so that Clarence could take a position[2] at Cass Technical High School,[3] where he became a music teacher of high repute.[4] Bobby was musically instructed by his parents, both at home from an early age and at Cass Technical where Bobby was later to attend as a student. His father taught Bobby musical technique with a mixture of tough criticism and high praise.[2] In addition to trombone and harp he studied piano, piccolo/flute, cello, and percussion.[4] Later, the senior Byrne invited Tommy Dorsey to hear the school's band, which was led by Bobby. Mr. Dorsey was impressed enough to start a sequence of positively escalating experiences. He invited the teenager to meet his brother and hear the Dorsey Brothers band perform, then asked Bobby to accompany the band to hear them play their next one-night stand, and when there, asked him to sit in with the band for several minutes during the performance, taking Tommy's chair. Both Dorseys were impressed by his performance.[5] Thus his professional career began early. The Dorsey Brothers, in an argument, ceased to speak to each other on May 30, 1935 and as a result, Tommy Dorsey refused to play with the band. Their manager called in several replacements for the crucial trombone part, but through either personal or professional reluctance they all declined. The next offer was given to a sixteen-year-old Bobby Byrnes, at 75 dollars a week, and instantly his mother drove him (with a harp in addition to his three trombones)[6] to the Glen Island Casino[5] where the orchestra was under contract to play for several months. Taking over Tommy's charts, Bobby was a success. Under contractual obligations, Tommy returned to play with the orchestra, and Byrne was relegated to offstage. In the meantime, Byrne learned from watching Tommy Dorsey performances. Escaping his contract, Tommy permanently left the band in September.[5] When the Dorsey Brothers split, Byrne joined Jimmy's outfit, and took Tommy Dorsey's place leading the trombone section.[7] By August, Bobby had recorded his first solo with the band, with the hit single "From the Top of Your Head to the Tip of Your Toes."[5] He married his first wife, Pat, in March 1939 two months after having met her in Dallas, Texas.[2]

As bandleader and war interruption

He formed his own band, based out of Detroit,[3] in November 1939 with the assistance of manager Tommy Rockwell[2] and the backing of Jimmy Dorsey[8] (for whom he continued to record until at least April 1940).[9] Armed with contracts with Decca Records and the Glen Island Casino, things were looking very positive for Byrne's professional prospects.[8] An attack of appendicitis provided early adversity for the new bandleader in July 1940. Bobby conspired to keep news of his ailment from his father, but none other than Glenn Miller found out about Byrne's illness and relayed the news home. Hew was able to delay surgery until fall of that year.[2] His theme, "Meditation at Moonlight", was composed expressly for him by Peter de Rose and Mitchell Parish.[10] However, World War II would wreak havoc on the big-band scene. Like many other bandleaders at the time, Byrne struggled to keep his band going in the early part of the war,[11] needing to replace bandmembers lost to the draft. In 1943, while touring Florida,[12] Byrne entered the Army Air Corps.[13] His band continued under Jack Jenney, but not for long as Jenney also joined the service after a couple of months.[12] He left the army in 1945.[4] After the war, his first records were for the Cosmo label, performing sides that were positively reviewed as both sweet and hot.[14] He formed another band in 1949, featuring woodwind and French horn tone colorings. Bill Simon liked the sophisticated aural shadings, but felt they were not suited to many of the venues where the band performed. It was at this time Byrne signed with Mercury Records and became musical director for the ABC Television show Club Seven[15][16] He re-built his band yet again in 1950, eliminating woodwinds, and focusing on brass and saxes, not to mention his occasional harp solo. This band included his brother Don and a sax section led by Larry Elgart. Bill Simon considered this ensemble to be an improvement over his previous one, and applauded the improvements in singing and in the rhythmic numbers while noticing the improved attendance at his performances.[17]

Later career

Finding the big-band scene in decline, Byrne disbanded his outfit to concentrate on studio work in recordings, radio, and television.[18] In 1953 He was the musical director for WNBT-TV, which included providing music for Steve Allen's late-night show[19] with a Dixieland band.[8] However, when NBC decided to add Allen's show to their network lineup, it was Skitch Henderson who was asked to lead the Tonight Show band. Henderson felt badly for Byrne, but band member Doc Severinsen felt that the type of music demanded by the show did not fit Byrne's style.[19] In 1956 he recorded in three sessions with Cannonball Adderley[20] which appeared on the album In the Land of Hi-Fi with Julian Cannonball Adderley. He joined Enoch Light's Grand Award Records, in the A&R department, in 1961.[21] Byrne became an executive at Command Records in the 1960s.[22]

Also later in the 1960s, Bobby Byrne recorded two vinyl albums for the Evolution Records label. The latter of these albums was the album "Shades Of Brass", which was released during 1969. This album is notable for inclusion of the Moog synthesiser and also for its up tempo instrumental title track. In the USA, this title track was also released as a single. The title track "Shades Of Brass", also came to the notice of the producers of ABC Television in Australia. From 1969, it was selected and used by the ABC, as its main theme, up until around 1973.

Byrne left music in the early 1970s to pursue other business opportunities.[18]

Death

Bobby Byrne's death occurred on November 25, 2006 in Irvine, California. Byrne's wife, Marilyn, said he had recently suffered a stroke and had Alzheimer's disease.[1][22]

Style

Byrne closely modelled his playing after Tommy Dorsey.[7] In the Jimmy Dorsey outfit, Byrne was comfortable playing either sweet or hot.[7] His jazz solos are considered ahead of their time by Gunther Schuller.[7] and Simon considered his embellishments on slow numbers to be "breathtaking."[15] He was an extreme perfectionist, and this perfectionism is given as a reason his 1940 band was never very successful.[3] He overworked himself and his band, even after suffering appendicitis around 1941.[13] A 1942 review praised his "clean, solid swing" but found him to be verbose.[23] Although known for his perfectionism, he was also known for his personal affability.[5]

Discography

Albums

  • Bobby Byrne Plays Great Themes. (1958, Grand Award)[24]
  • Bobby Byrne and the Alumni Orchestra. (1959, Top Rank 35-028)[25]
  • The Jazzbone's Connected to the Trombone (1959, Grand Award)[24]
  • Tribute to the Dorseys (Command 33-382) [26]
  • 1966-Magnificent Movie Themes. (1966, Command 894)[27]
  • Sound in the Eighth Dimension (1968, Command)[24]
  • Shades of brass (1969, Evolution)

Singles

Year Title Peak chart positions B-side Issued on
1939 "Speaking of Heaven" - "Make With the Kisses" Decca 2815[9]
"If It Wasn't for the Moon" - "One Cigarette for Two" Decca 2956[9]
"Can't We Be Friends" - "Two Little Doodle Bugs" Decca 2956[9]
1940 "Easy Does It" 27[28] "How Can You Pretend" Decca 3020[9]
"Way Back in 1939 A.D." - "Busy as a Bee" Decca 3028[9]
"How Many Times" - "Barnyard Cakewalk" Decca 3108[9]
"If I Could Be the Dummy on Your Knee" - "Slow Freight" Decca 3123[9]
"Thinking of You" - "'Deed I Do" Decca 3170[9]
"When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano" - "Stop Pretending" Decca 3278[9]
"Can't Get Indiana Off My Mind" - "Orchids for Remembrance" Decca 3279[9]
"That's for Me" - "Only Forever" Decca 3313[9]
"Love Lies" - "Trade Winds" Decca 3325[9]
"Maybe" 18[28] One Look at You[9] Decca 3392
"Take Care (of You for Me)" - "The Right Time" Decca 3398[9]
"Danny Boy" - "Maria Elena" Decca 3442[9]
1941 "You Walk By" 22[28] "Chapel in the Valley" Decca 3613
"Brazillian Nuts" - "Bobby's Trombone Blues" Decca 3648[9]
"Music Makers" - "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" Decca 3739[9]
"I Found a Million Dollar Baby" - "On the Beach at Waikiki" Decca 3771[9]
"Nighty Night" - "Do I Worry" Decca 3773[9]
"These Things You Left Me" - "Two Hearts That Pass in the Night" Decca 3774[9]
"You Started Something" - "Down, Down, Down" Decca 3891[9]
"More Than Once" - "If It's True" Decca 3898[9]
"What Word Is Sweeter Than Sweetheart?" - "I Guess I'll Have to Dream the Rest" Decca 3906[9]
"It's You Again" - "I Went Out of My Way" Decca 3969[9]
1942 "I'll Pray for You" - "Blue Tahitian Moon" Decca 4302[9]
"The Angelus Rings Again" - "Now and Forever" Decca 4306[9]
1946 "Watta Ya Gonna Do?" - "Ridin' on a Summer Afternoon" Cosmo 488[29]
"Hey Bobby!" - "Hymn to the Sun" Cosmo 492[14]
"This Is Always" - "Linger in My Arms a Little Longer" Cosmo 496[29]
"Take Me Back to Little Rock" - "So Beats My Heart for You" Cosmo 501[29]
"Take it Slow, Taste the Vanilla" - "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" Cosmo 503[29]

Other appearances

With the Henri René Orchestra

References

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