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Artie Shaw was one of the most successful bandleaders of the big band era, especially during its peak period from the mid thirties to mid forties. An unusual character, Shaw was a super talented musician, who was equally at home on the saxophone as he was on the clarinet, as well being a talented composer and author. Another claim to fame that Shaw had,  that he was actually married eight times, with four of his wives being Hollywood actresses-  the most famous of them being Ava Gardner and Lana Turner.

 

Born in New York City, Shaw was taken by his parents as a child to live in New Haven, Connecticut, where  he was to prove to be an excellent scholar with a special aptitude for both mathematics and music.   Shaw first began  playing the saxophone as a young boy, switching to the clarinet when he was sixteen in 1926.

While still in high school, Shaw became a feature of the swinging musical scene in New York.  Instead of being attached to a band, the introverted Shaw preferred to ply his trade as a session musician, while  supplementing his income by working as a “fill in” for various local bands.

Artie’s special talents first began to capture the attention of the jazz loving public,  while he was playing with a largely unknown outfit performing under  the unlikely title of Irving Aaronson's Commanders. Shaw’s brilliant clarinet play coupled with his  dashing good looks soon helped him to build up a  considerable following of his own.

Buoyed by this success, during the  mid thirties, Shaw  decided to form his own orchestra, getting  to a flying start scoring a tremendous hit with his cover version of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine. Artie rapidly went on to show that hae was no “ one hit wonder, as well as  was extremely inventive as a musician and even more so as a band leader, bringing in such obscure musical instruments as the Harpsichord into his repertoire.

Shaw also showed a lot of pluck and pioneering spirit when he became  the first “ostensibly” white bandleader to hire a colored singer. It was to prove  wise  choice as that singer was none other than the great “Lady Day” Billy Holliday.

 

During his years at the top, Shaw ran up a long series  of hits, enjoyed tremendous popularity in the face of some strong competition from the likes of Glen Miller and Benny Goodman.

When America entered the action in World War Two, Shaw did not hesitate  to volunteer his services, touring extensively in the Pacific Arena. Eventually Archie was discharged from the US  Army  after suffering from physical exhaustion due to taking on a very heavy schedule.

 

After the war, Shaw gradually withdrew from the music scene, with his later achievements being staying married to the same woman for 28 years, writing a number of books on applied mathematics and performing classical music with Leonard Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Carnegie Hall in New York.

Shaw reached the ripe old age of 94, passing away in 2004, having left his mark in Big Band history as  one of the most naturally talented and controversial figures of the era. 

Please take a moment to click through the songs listed below. You many find a particular Artie Shaw masterpiece that you may never have heard before and relive the magical sounds of that special time in musical history.

 

 

   
       
       
  A Foggy Day Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Begin the Beguine Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Any Old Time Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Back Bay Shuffle Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Comes Love Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Deep Purple Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Frenesi Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Indian Love Call Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Jungle Drums Listen to this song on You Tube  
  My Blue Heaven Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Oh Lady Be Good Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Stardust Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Summer Ridge Drive Listen to this song on You Tube  
  S' Wonderful Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Temptation Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Traffic Jam Listen to this song on You Tube  
  What is this thing called Love Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Yesterdays Listen to this song on You Tube