Pete Jolly was born Peter Ceragioli Jr. on June 5, 1932 in New Haven, Connecticut. He began playing the accordion at age three under his father’s tutelage, then took lessons from age seven and appeared on the CBS radio program Hobby Lobby at the age of eight. The emcee called him Jolly and liking it, adopted the name. He would soon add piano to his musical talents.
Moving to Phoenix, Arizona with his family, by high school Pete was playing at the Jazz Mill behind such visitors as Chet Baker and Benny Carter. After graduation he moved to Los Angeles in 1954 and within days was playing behind Shorty Rogers. Over the next ten years he would play with Gerry Mulligan, Mel Torme, Red Norvo, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Art Pepper, Anita O’Day, Ray Conniff and Marty Paich.
He also began his long recording career as a leader in 1955 with the album, Jolly Jumps In for RCA. Over the next forty-five years, Jolly would record over twenty albums, but rarely more than twice with the same label. The highlight of his career came in 1963, when his bossa nova flavored composition, “Little Bird” recorded for Ava Records, earned him a Grammy nomination. He formed the Pete Jolly Trio in 1964, recording as a solo artist and with trio several albums until his final in 2000.
Pete was well known for his performances on television programs such as Get Smart, The Love Boat, I Spy, Mannix, M*A*S*H and Dallas, as well as hundreds of movie soundtracks. He continued performing with his trio until shortly before being hospitalized in August 2004. Jazz pianist and accordionist Pete Jolly passed away on November 6, 2004 in Pasadena, California from complications of multiple myeloma at age 72.