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Les Elgart

Along with his brother Larry, trumpeter Les Elgart led one of the more popular swing orchestras of the '50s. His smooth, tightly arranged sound helped keep the declining big band style alive on the charts for a little while longer, and his later reunions with Larry often produced stylistic detours into contemporary easy listening trends. Elgart was born August 3, 1917, in New Haven, CT, to parents who both played the piano; he took up the trumpet in his early teens and was already performing professionally by the time he turned 20. During the early '40s, Elgart performed in orchestras led by Raymond Scott, Charlie Spivak, and Harry James, among others, and sometimes wound up in the same groups as his sax-playing brother, Larry. The two formed their own orchestra in 1945, and hired top-notch arrangers like Nelson Riddle, Ralph Flanagan, and Bill Finegan. However, a number of factors conspired against them: the Musicians' Union recording strike, the declining popularity of live swing music, conflicts over leadership, and the end of World War II. They wound up disbanding in 1946, and Les and Larry went their separate ways, making a living as freelancers in whatever orchestras could pay them.

The Elgart brothers reunited in 1952, with arranger Charles Albertine in tow. Taking advantage of new recording technology, they crafted a more nuanced, subtle sound that was lighter in tone and rhythm; it relied on tight brass and saxophone sections, and eliminated the piano and nearly all soloing. The 1953 LP Sophisticated Swing established this new blueprint, and a subsequent series of albums on Columbia over the next few years proved quite successful. Their biggest sellers were 1956's The Elgart Touch and the following year's For Dancers Also, both of which reached the Top 15 on the LP charts; they weren't as successful on the singles side, although they did have a minor hit with their theme to "The Man With the Golden Arm," and their original "Bandstand Boogie" was adopted by Dick Clark as the theme song for American Bandstand. Nominal co-leader Les spent more and more time handling the business side of things, and eventually stopped performing altogether in the late '50s; he left the band and moved to California, and Larry officially took over the musical direction (he'd pretty much taken charge already).

Les reunited with Larry once again in 1963, by which time Larry had moved into more of a contemporary easy listening sound, blending rock, pop, swing, exotica, lounge, and space age bachelor pad music. Charles Albertine returned as arranger early on, but soon left to work in the TV/film industry, and was replaced by Bobby Scott. Released in 1964, Command Performance! was their last charting album, but a number of other albums from this era later became popular with lounge collectors, particularly 1967's Girl Watchers. That was one of the brothers' final recordings together, as Les retired to Texas and performed only occasionally. (Larry, meanwhile, found commercial success in the early '80s as mastermind of the popular Hooked on Swing medley albums.) Les Elgart passed away in Dallas on July 29, 1995, of heart failure. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Have few of his albums 33 R.P.M. type. Great dancing music. Loved them in the 50's and still do now.
angiedinteme c u l a
Love it
Nostalgia -- big time.
ctmlt2
My first big date with my future wife was dancing to the Elgart band in 1963. Turned out to be a wonderful dance, wonderful date and a wonderful marriage. Still dance to their music in the kitchen 49 years later! Glad I found the Elgarts l alive and well on Pandora.
ctmlt2
My first big date with my future wife was dancing to the Elgart band in 1963. Turned out to be a wonderful dance, wonderful date and a wonderful marriage. Still dance to their music in the kitchen 49 years later! Glad I found the Elgarts l alive and well on Pandora.
gooddoggie5
where can you listen to big band sound now?
I played bass with both Les and Larry (on a regular basis with Larry) when they had separate bands in the mid 70's and I can say unequivocall y that Larry was the musical heavyweight behind the Elgart sound. They lost me, however, with the Hooked on Swing gimmick.
Always like Les Elgart's music.
ertel.john
Would sure like to hear "Hot Toddie'" by the Elgarts
greenhornet
I remember going to a party of mid twenty somethings that was dying. I went home and got some Elgart, Anthony, Miller etc. LP's, they brought most of the crowd to the dance floor and the party continued into the wee small hours. Thanks for the reminder Pandora. Gary Thomason

obermayers
Great! The trumpet is one of the best. Nice rythym, never tire of listening to them
zappas118
has a pleasant and refreshing style
the brothers elgart have a warm place in my heart
My favorite band leader and friend. I miss him and treasure his music. He made some great music for us all to savor.
LOVE THOSE ELGART BROTHERS,THE Y HAD SO MANY GREAT ARRANGEMENTS , "DEED I DO"ALL THE SONGS RECORDED BY LES OR LARRY WERE GREAT..THANK S PANDORA
I have a very deep feeling that if we had sustained the Big Band era (not necessarily swing ) the musical arrangements put forth by the Elgarts and their compatriots, May, Morrow and a touch of it by Stan Kenton in the latter part of the "good music" year's; we might have had a style that would have stayed. I don't want to pass anyone over, but as I recall, Ray McKinley had the the Glenn Miller charts right after WWII. This was before the Miller estate awarded them to Tex Beneke. At any rate
Les made some fine fine big band..defini t l e y worth a listen.
bigdaddie7
Les Elgart was our high school band director. I only wish I knew back then what a talent he realy was! Fairview High School Fairview Park,Ohio 44126
Probably the finest sounds ever arranged for the
" bones " ! ggfb 23 ....
rudyksk
Les ELgart is another trumpet artist that has made a name in the music industry not only by his trumpet playing but by the versatility of his orchestra in playing different style of music. Something that makes him unique from the rest.

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