Sammy Kaye Biography

Samuel Zamocay, 13 March 1910, Lakewood, Ohio, USA, d. 2 June 1987, Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA. Kaye began playing in bands while still at college. In the early 30s he led a band at the Statler Hotel in Cleveland and also worked in Pittsburgh. In the later years of the decade he was hired by several top New York hotels, including the Astor and the New Yorker. An adept clarinettist, Kaye also made a name for himself as a band leader without any help from the critics who unanimously derided his corny arrangements. ‘Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye’ ran the billing, but swinging was something beyond the band. Instead, they offered hotel patrons and their later radio audience simple dance music, and becoming enormously successful. The band featured numerous singers, none of them especially memorable, although the musicians Kaye hired were always competent (George T. Simon referred to them as ‘magnificently trained and exceedingly unoriginal’). Pianist Ralph Flanagan was a member of the band for a while. Kaye survived the collapse of many better dancebands and his career benefited from several popular sponsored radio shows. Replete with gimmicks, including the ‘So You Want To Lead A Band’ spot, the show transferred to television in the early 50s, in which members of the public were invited to conduct the band.

In the late 50s and early 60s Kaye made a number of well-received if uncharacteristic records, including one of dixieland music. He composed a number of popular songs, including ‘Hawaiian Sunset’ and ‘Until Tomorrow’. In 1986, the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, complete with its current vocalist Bob Casper, was reconstituted with a new leader, Roger Thorpe, although Kaye continued as a supervisor of the band’s musical activities. He was inducted posthumously into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992.

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