Songwriters Friends

Artie Shaw, rivaled only by Benny Goodman as the greatest clarinetist of the swing era, was born Arthur Arshawsky on May 23, 1910 in New York City.

In his early career, Shaw played with dance bands led by Irving Aaronson, Red Nichols, Vincent Lopez and Roger Wolfe Kahn before forming his own band in 1936. Fueled by Jerry Gray’s arrangements, singer Helen Forrest and featured soloists, Tony Pastor & George Auld (tenor saxes), Shaw’s band was one of the nation’s hottest by 1938 with the surprise success of his recording ‘Begin the Beguine’ (vocals by Helen Forrest and Tony Pastor), which hit #1 that year.

A year later Shaw abruptly left music in hopes of writing a book, but his 1940 return from Mexico led to even greater success with imaginative full band arrangements hit strings and jazz combo recordings with his Gramercy Five, a small group formed out of the standard full piece orchestra.

Shaw broke up the orchestra in 1941 only to reform a larger one later that year. With the onset of World War II, Shaw enlisted in the Navy and led the Navy Band before getting a medical discharge in 1944. Shaw again disbanded the orchestra in 1946, remaining semi-retired for several years until 1949 when he teamed with Zoo?@Sims, Al Cohn and Don Fagerquist. By 1955, Shaw permanently gave up the clarinet and pursued his dreams of becoming a novelist.

In his later years, Shaw became a theatrical producer and fronted a new band, although he never performed publicly again. He received a great deal of publicity for his eight marriages, including movie stars Lana Turner and Ava Gardner and later became a theatrical producer in the 1980’s fronting a new band.

Among his more than 50 top ten recordings are the #1 hits ‘Begin the Beguine’ (1938), ‘They Say’ (1938), ‘Thanks for Ev’rything’ (1939) and ‘Frenesi’ (1940).

Artie Shaw passed away in 2005.


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