Jackie Gleason Biography

Herbert John Gleason, 26 February 1916, Brooklyn, New York, USA, d. 24 June 1987, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Gleason was primarily a comedian, starring on stage, screen and television, but he also recorded a number of albums in the 50s and 60s. He established his persona with early films such as Orchestra Wives (1942) and several appearances on Broadway (Artists And Models, Follow The Girls and Along Fifth Avenue). However, stardom came with the dawn of the 50s. The formative television series The Life Of Riley led to Cavalcade Of Stars in 1949, from which Gleason, alongside Art Carney, launched a series of sketches and basic comedy routines. He then fronted a variety/new talent CBS programme Stageshow before Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey took over. The programme was notable for introducing Elvis Presley to a television audience. The enormously popular television show The Honeymooners followed in 1955, before a series of films leading into the 60s. Notable among these were The Hustler (1961), alongside Paul Newman, for which Gleason was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, and Requiem For A Heavyweight, the first major play by The Twilight Zone’s creator Rod Serling. Gleason also appeared as Buford T. Justice, a law officer prone to mishap in the Burt Reynolds vehicle Smokey And The Bandit in 1977. By this time his recording career had largely ended. He had previously written the score for Gigot (1962), and his own television theme, ‘Melancholy Serenade’. In addition there were several ‘mood music’ albums on Capitol Records, which represented his most successful material, and a projected ballet. A string of Top 10 US albums between 1956 and 1957 featured Bobby Hackett and Pee Wee Erwin in his studio orchestras.

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