Sammy Kaye

Instrument

Sammy Kaye (born Samuel Zarnocay Jr., March 13, 1910 – June 2, 1987) was an American bandleader and songwriter,[1] whose tag line, "Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye", became one of the most famous of the Big Band Era.[1] The expression springs from his first hit single in 1937, "Swing and Sway" (U.S. #15). His signature tune was "Harbor Lights," a number-one hit from late 1950.

Kaye, born in Lakewood, Ohio, United States,[1] graduated from Rocky River High School in Rocky River, Ohio.[2] At Ohio University in Athens, Ohio he was a member of Theta Chi fraternity. Kaye could play the saxophone and the clarinet, but he never featured himself as a soloist on either one.

A leader of one of the so-called "Sweet" bands of the Big Band Era, he made a large number of records for Vocalion Records, RCA Victor, Columbia Records, Bell Records, and the American Decca record label. He was also a hit on radio. Kaye was known for an audience participation gimmick called "So You Want to Lead a Band?" where audience members would be called onto stage in an attempt to conduct the orchestra, with the possibility of winning batons.[1] Kaye was also known for his use of "singing of song titles", which was emulated by Kay Kyser and Blue Barron.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, Sammy Kaye wrote the music and Don Reid wrote the words to "Remember Pearl Harbor", the tune of which was actually borrowed from Ohio University's "Alma Mater". On December 17, 1941, RCA Victor recorded the song, with Sammy Kaye's Swing and Sway Band and The Glee Club.

His band members included Ralph Flanagan.[1] Singers included Don Cornell (not related to Dale Cornell), Billy Williams (the country music singer with the Pecos River Rogues), Tommy Ryan, Gary Willner, Barry Frank, Tony Russo, and Nancy Norman. All members of the band sometimes sang backing vocals in various combination as the "Kaydets". Although his musicians were always competent, the jazz critic George T. Simon described them as "magnificently trained and exceedingly unoriginal".[1]

Sammy Kaye was among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.