Irving Cottler was born on February 13, 1918 in New York City, New York. Learning to play the drums, at age 14, he falsified his age to acquire a musician’s union card, and honed his chops playing the Catskills resort circuit. After stints with Red Norvo and Mildred Bailey, he toured California behind Claude Thornhill, vowing to ultimately relocate cross-country.
Stints with Larry Clinton, Tommy Dorsey, and Les Brown followed, but in 1947, finally retiring from the road, Irv settled in Los Angeles, California. He became a first-call session drummer renowned for his impeccable timekeeping, he was a sometime member of The Wrecking Crew, recording behind Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and numerous others.
A personal favorite of arranger Nelson Riddle, he was summoned by Riddle in 1953 to play on what would become Frank Sinatra’s first LP for Capitol Records, the now-classic Songs for Young Lovers. Cottler quickly emerged as Sinatra’s drummer of choice and bandleader, remaining with Ol’ Blue Eyes in various studio and tour incarnations for more than 30 years. Crooners Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Mel Tormé, and Bobby Darin sought out his services as well, and for the Somerset label he headlined the exotica cult classic Around the World in Percussion.
A staple of film and television, Irv highlighted his career in the medium with a 12-year stint with The Dinah Shore Show’s house band. He authored a book, I’ve Got You Under My Skins, which is a unique publication that features the original drum charts for all of the popular Frank Sinatra tunes on the CD. The charts were reprinted as a book, adding performance hints and in-studio photos.
Drummer and bandleader Irv Cottler, who also recorded with Count Basie, Hoagy Carmichael, Stan Kenton and Barney Kessel, passed away on August 8, 1989 in Rancho Mirage, California.
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