26 January 1922, Cherokee, Kansas, USA. Cavanaugh began playing piano during childhood and in the late 30s was with Ernie Williamsons band. During World War II he was in the military where he played in bands and while stationed in Sacramento, California, he met up with bass player Lloyd Pratt and guitarist Al Viola, with whom he formed a trio. Later, he took this trio into Los Angeles where they became very successful playing clubs and as session musicians. They accompanied many noted artists on record dates and appeared in some films. With interspersed vocals, the trio was modelled upon that led by Nat King Cole and had a minor hit with Walkin My Baby Back Home. Among artists with whom the trio recorded or broadcast were Doris Day, Johnny Desmond, Jane Harvey, Lillian Lane, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Sarah Vaughan. Among the films in which the group appeared were Big City (1948), Romance On The High Seas (1948), Lullaby Of Broadway (1951) and Frankensteins Daughter (1958). Cavanaughs composition, Daddy Bird, was used in the last-named film. The trio also appeared in some musical shorts and on television, including the Jack Paar Show and the Ed Sullivan Show.
By the start of the 50s, Viola had left the group and Cavanaugh now led a quartet (although still billed as a trio), with Robert Morgan (guitar), Charles Parnell (bass) and Alvin Stoller (drums), while on records of the late 50s and early 60s the group was sometimes extended to a sextet or septet. From 1962, Cavanaugh operated a nightclub at which his trio was based. Later still, Cavanaugh continued playing through the decades, chiefly in and around Los Angeles but with occasional visits to New York, appearing at the Village West in 1982 in duo with bass player Paul West. In the late 90s and into the early 00s, still leading a trio, Cavanaugh played nightclubs in California, with bass player Phil Mallory and drummer Dave Tull. Cavanaugh died of kidney failure in December 2008 at age 86.
The long-running popularity of Cavanaughs style, with its relaxed and unpretentious sound, demonstrates that he was an able performer in the smooth jazz genre long before it ever had that name.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.