Alton Reynolds Hendrickson was born May 10, 1920 and grew up in Eastland, Texas before moving to the West Coast. In 1940 he worked for Artie Shaw and performed in Fred Astaire ‘s second chorus. By the mid-1940s he was in the coast guard but in the post-war period he played guitar in the bands of Freddie Slack, Ray Linn and Benny Goodman, whose sextet he also belonged to.
As a baritone Hendrickson was recorded on Goodman’s On a Slow Boat to China , which became a big hit in the USA in 1947. The 1950s saw him as a busy studio session player for both film and television soundtracks, The Danny Kaye Show, as well as for pop productions from Columbia Records since 1959. He worked in the productions of The Weavers and The Monkees, with country singer Sheb Wooley and jazz pianist Dodo Marmarosa.
In the field of jazz and popular music his was involved from 1940 to 1986 to 493 recording sessions with Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Lee Hazlewood, Eartha Kitt, Frankie Laine, Henry Mancini, Ann-Margret, Dean Martin, Ella Mae Morse, Harry Nilsson, Louis Prima, Elvis Presley Shorty Rogers, Bud Shank and Frank Capp’s Juggernaut big band.
Retiring to Oregon in the late Eighties he authored the Encyclopedia of Bass Chords, Arpeggios and Scales and Al Hendrickson Jazz Guitar Solos: Complete Book. Guitarist Al Hendrickson, who also played banjo, mandolin and was a vocalist, passed away on July 19, 2007 in North Bend Oregon.
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Floyd O’Brien was born May 7, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois and first played trombone with the Austin High School Gang in the 1920s and later in the decade he played with Earl Fuller, Floyd Town, Charles Pierce, Thelma Terry, and Husk O’Hare. Between 1930-31 he worked in a pit band at a theater in Des Moines, Iowa.
O’Brien moved to New York City and played with Mal Hallett, Joe Venuti, Smith Ballew, Mike Durso, Phil Harris, Gene Krupa and Bob Crosby between 1932 and 1942. Relocating to Los Angeles, California in 1943 he played with Eddie Miller, Bunk Johnson, Shorty Sherock, Jack Teagarden, and Wingy Manone.
By 1948 Floyd was back in Chicago performing with with Bud Freeman, Art Hodes and Danny Alvin. He recorded with Freeman as early as 1928 and other recordings include sessions with Eddie Condon, Fats Waller, Mezz Mezzrow, George Wettling, Charles LaVere, Albert Nicholas and Smokey Stover.
Trombonist Floyd O’Brien, whose lone session as a bandleader yielded two singles for Jump Records in 1945 and were also released under Charles LaVere’s name, passed away on November 26, 1968.
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Walter Gilbert Fuller was born on April 14, 1920 in Los Angeles, California and is no relation to the jazz trumpeter and vocalist Walter “Rosetta” Fuller. In the 1930s and 1940s he did extensive work writing and arranging for bandleaders such as Les Hite, Floyd Ray, Jimmie Lunceford, Billy Eckstine, and Tiny Bradshaw.
He also worked with Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Machito and Tito Puente. Following World War II, Gil found himself increasingly in demand as a bebop arranger along with fellow modern arrangers Tadd Dameron, Gil Evans, and George Russell. Fuller’s work with Dizzy Gillespie was of particular note, yielding the tunes “Manteca”, “Swedish Suite”, and “One Bass Hit”. He is the composer of the jazz standard ballad “I Waited For You”, co-credited with Dizzy Gillespie.
Fuller started his own publishing company in 1957, and while he continued to work with some jazz musicians including Stan Kenton in 1955 and again in the 1960s, he also branched out into film music and pop with Ray Charles, among others.
Arranger Gil Fuller recorded a few albums before he passed away on May 26, 1994 in San Diego, California.
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Helen Forrest was born Helen Fogel in Atlantic City, New Jersey on April 12, 1917. Raised in a single parent household with three older brothers, the family relocated to Brooklyn while she was in her teens. Her mother remarried and with the new husband turned the family home into a brothel, which nearly saw her raped by her stepfather. This resulted in her living with her piano teacher who recognized her singing potential. Soon she dropped out of high school and pursued a singing career.
Returning to Atlantic City she began singing with her brother Ed’s band, soon after returning to New York City. By the age of 17 she was singing for WNEW and WCBS where she was known as Bonnie Blue and The Blue Lady of Song. Eventually she found a two year gig singing at the Madrillon Club, in Washington, D.C. This led to her joining Artie Shaw in 1938 and shared vocal duties with Billie Holiday. Two of Helen’s biggest hits with Shaw were They Say and All the Things You Are. With Shaw she became a national favorite until the band broke up in 1939
Forrest then joined Benny Goodman in December 1939 and recorded, among other hit songs The Man I Love, just one of 55 studio recordings with Goodman. But being a difficult man to work with in August 1941, she quit the orchestra to avoid having a nervous breakdown. Her departure led her to briefly recorded with Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton.
In 1941, she approached Harry James, auditioned and was voted in by the band. It was with this band that she got the opportunity to sing verses as opposed to choruses in the middle of an instrumental. Her most popular numbers, 1941’s I Don’t Want to Walk Without You and I Had the Craziest Dream in 1942, preceded her appearance with the James Band in the Hollywood film Springtime in the Rockies, starring Betty Grable. In 1942 and 1943, Helen Forrest was voted the best female vocalist in the United States in the Down Beat poll.
Forrest left Harry James in late 1943 and embarked on a solo career, signed a recording contract with Decca and co-starred with Dick Haymes on a CBS radio show from 1944 to 1947. She recorded with Haymes and 10 songs reached the Top Ten including Long Ago and Far Away, It Had To Be You and I’m Always Chasing Rainbows. By the end of the Forties she was headlining theaters and clubs.
The Fifties saw Helen rejoining Harry james and recording a new swing album titled Harry James in Hi-Fi, which became a bestseller. By the end of the 1950s, her solo career waned as rock’n’roll became increasingly popular. She would go on to have a stint with the startup Bell Records, sang with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, in the early 1960s and continue to make occasional records and perform in concerts. By the 1970s and 1980s, she was performing in supper clubs on big band nostalgia tours, doing a television reunion of herself, James, and Haymes on The Merv Griffin Show.
In 1980 she suffered a stroke, but recovered to resume performing and recording. She wrote an autobiography, I Had the Craziest Dream, and in 1983, Helen released her final album, entitled Now and Forever. She continued singing until the early 1990s when rheumatoid arthritis began to affect her vocal chords and forced her into retirement. Swing vocalist Helen Forrest, who sang with three of the most popular bands of the era and earned the reputation as the voice of the name bands, passed away on July 11, 1999, from congestive heart failure in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.
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George Edward “Ted” Heath was born March 30, 1902 in Wandsworth, England. After playing tenor saxophone at the age of six, encouraged by his father and leader of the Wandsworth Town Brass Band, he later switched to trombone.
Earning a living for his family in the post-war years Ted formed a band along with his brother Harold and three other musicians, played to commuters outside London Bridge Station and outside the Queen’s Hall Gardens venue. It was here that he was spotted and asked to play with the Jack Hylton Band who had a residence there. Though not having the experience required he did not last long, his professional career began and he went on to pursue a career as a professional musician.
His first real band gig was in the 1920s touring Europe with the American band called the Southern Syncopation Orchestra, followed by the Metro-Gnomes, a small band fronted by Ennis Parkes, then again joined Hylton’s theatre band. Heath played with the Kit Cat Club band led by American Al Starita, and heard Bunny Berrigan, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Paul Whiteman when they toured Europe.
By 1928 he joined Bert Ambrose’s orchestra at London’s Mayfair Hotel and stayed until 1935 when he moved on to Sydney Lipton’s orchestra at the Grosvenor House. But it was Ambrose who taught Heath how to be a bandleader during a time that Heath became the most prominent trombone player in Britain, renowned for his perfect tone. He played on numerous recordings. During the late ’30s and early ’40s, he played as a sideman on several Benny Carter sessions.
In 1940, Heath joined Geraldo’s orchestra and played numerous concerts and broadcasts and became one of the “boys” in Geraldo’s vocal group, ‘Three Boys and a Girl’. His composition That Lovely Weekend with Dorothy Carless on vocal became an immediate wartime hit. The royalties from this song and another composition Gonna Love That Guy allowed Heath to form his own band.
On D-Day 1944, the Ted Heath & His Music band was officially formed and played on the BBC radio. He went on to provide music for film, performed dates with Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald, toured Scandinavia, were regular Poll Winners in the Melody Maker and the New Musical Express and performed twice for King George VI. He held Sunday Night Swing Sessions at the London Palladium from 1947 to 1955.
During the Fifties he toured the U.S. that contracted to play Nat King Cole, June Christy and the Four Freshmen and consisted of 43 concerts in 30 cities in 31 days climaxing in a Carnegie Hall. So successful was the tour that after so many encore calls at the Carnegie Hall performance that Nat King Cole had to come out on stage and ask people to leave. Ted would later successfully tour the US again and also toured Australia and Europe.
In addition to Cole, Heath established close personal and professional relationships with Woody Herman, Count Basie, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Mathis and Tony Bennett. He worked with Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Donna Hightower and others. His band members included Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey, Kenny Baker, Duncan Campbell, Don Rendell, Tommy Whittle, Don Lusher, Wally Smith, Jack Parnell, Ronnie Verrell, Johnny Hawksworth and singers Dickie Valentine, Lita Roza and Dennis Lotis. in the ’50s gave the band more teenage appeal.
He commissioned over 800 original scores and arrangements from Tadd Dameron, George Shearing, Reg Owen, John Keating, Kenny Graham, Ken Moule, Robert Farnon, Woolf Phillips, Ron Roullier, Bill Russo, Johnny Douglas, Ron Goodwin and Ralph Dollimore.
Trombonist, composer and bandleader Ted Heath, who led the greatest post-war big band and recording over 100 albums, passed away on November 18, 1969 at the age of 67.
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