Gordon Jenkins Biography

12 May 1910, Webster Groves, Missouri, USA, d. 24 April 1984, Malibu, California, USA. A distinguished songwriter, arranger and conductor, as a child Jenkins occasionally played organ at the Chicago movie theatre where his father was the regular organist. During Prohibition he played piano in a St. Louis speakeasy and was later employed by a radio station in the same city. In 1936 he became chief staff arranger for Isham Jones, producing skilful charts for this superior dance orchestra, and later composed and arranged for Woody Herman, Lennie Hayton, Vincent Lopez, Benny Goodman and André Kostalanetz. He composed Herman’s theme, ‘Blue Prelude’ (with Joe Bishop), and ‘Goodbye’, which Goodman used as the closing music to hundreds of radio shows. In 1936 he conducted the orchestra for The Show Is On on Broadway, and in the following year settled on the west coast, working for Paramount. In 1939 he began a five-year tenure as musical director for NBC in Hollywood. In the mid-40s he worked on the Dick Haymes show and in 1945 became staff conductor for Decca Records. In the same year Jenkins wrote and recorded a long work, in effect a personal love song to New York City, entitled ‘Manhattan Tower’. This piece for orchestra and singers has been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, in revues and on television.

In 1949 Jenkins was back in New York, working on the score for the Broadway show Along Fifth Avenue, and at the Capitol and Paramount theatres. Among his song credits, several of which have attracted the attention of jazz musicians, are ‘Homesick - That’s All’, ‘Blue Evening’, ‘Married I Can Always Get’, ‘New York’s My Home’, and ‘You Have Taken My Heart’, ‘P.S. I Love You’ and ‘When A Woman Loves A Man’ (the last three with Johnny Mercer). In 1952 Jenkins wrote the score for Bwana Devil, the first 3-D feature film, and, through the years, accompanied many top artists on record, such as Martha Tilton, Louis Armstrong and Peggy Lee. His work with Frank Sinatra received much critical acclaim, notably the albums Where Are You? (1957) and No One Cares (1959), and his scores for Nat ‘King’ Cole included the definitive vocal arrangement of ‘Star Dust’ for Love Is The Thing (1957). Gordon Jenkins And His Orchestra had their own series of hits from 1942-53, often with various vocalists, which included ‘I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore’, ‘Again’, ‘Don’t Cry, Joe’, ‘My Foolish Heart’, ‘Bewitched’, two with the Weavers, ‘Tzena, Tzena, Tzena’ and ‘Goodnight, Irene’ (US number 1 in 1950), ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, and ‘So Long (It’s Been Good To Know Ya)’. He won a Grammy Award in 1965 for his arrangement of Frank Sinatra’s ‘It Was A Very Good Year’, and served as arranger and conductor on the singer’s 1973 television comeback.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.