Ziggy Elman Biography

Harry Aaron Finkelman, 26 May 1914, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 26 June 1968, Los Angeles, California, USA. As a child Elman learned to play various brass and reed instruments, and his first professional engagement was on trombone, although his main instrument later became the trumpet. In 1936 he joined Benny Goodman and formed part of one of the best three-man trumpet sections of the swing era. With Harry James and Chris Griffin, Elman shared lead and solo duties and his dynamic, biting playing was a great asset to the band. After James left to lead his own band, Elman comfortably coped with his role as featured soloist, playing showstoppers such as ‘Who’ll Buy My Bublitchki’ and ‘And The Angels Sing’, which he composed himself. After leaving Goodman, Elman worked with other big bands, including those of Joe Venuti and Tommy Dorsey.

In the late 40s, as name big bands were folding all around him, Elman tried leading his own big band and met with a measure of success especially with a re-recording of ‘And The Angels Sing’. In the early 50s he worked in film studios in Los Angeles but ill health and personal problems kept him from achieving much success. In 1961 his financial situation was revealed during an alimony court hearing at which he agreed that many people thought him to be the world’s greatest trumpet player, adding ‘But I still can’t get much work.’ Six of his seven bank accounts had sums varying between $1.19 and $11.00 in them, while the seventh was overdrawn.


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


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