Charlie Spivak

Charlie Spivak, born 17 February 1905 or 1907-1March 1982, was an American trumpeter/bandleader. He is best known for leading his big band in 1940s America. Spivak’s exact date of birth is not known. Sources place it in Ukraine in 1907 and claim that his family immigrated to New Haven, Connecticut as he was a young child. Some sources place his birth in New Haven in 1905, while others put it in the Ukraine in 1907. It is known that he learned to play the trumpet at ten years of age. He then went on to work with local groups and joined Don Cavallaro’s orchestra. For most of 1924-1930, he played in Phil Sprecht’s band. He then spent time with Ben Pollack (1931-1934), Ray Noble (1935-1936), and the Dorsey brothers (1934-1935). In 1936 and 1937, he was primarily a studio musician for Gus Arnheim and Glenn Miller. He also worked with Raymond Scott’s radio orchestra and other musicians. With the financial support and encouragement of Glenn Miller, he finally formed his own band in November 1939. Although it was unsuccessful within a year, he attempted to start his own band again soon after, taking over a Bill Downer’s band and making it a success. Spivak’s group was one of the most popular in the 1940s and it survived to 1959. Spivak’s experiences with jazz musicians did not have an impact on the style of his own band, which consisted of straight dance music made up mostly of popular songs and ballads. Spivak, also known as “Cheery Chubby Charlie”, was always praised for his tone and not for his improvisational abilities. Many of the band’s musicians would go on to make a name for themselves: drummer Davey Tough; bassist Jimmy Middleton; trumpeter Les Elgart; trombonist Nelson Riddle; and singers Garry Stevens and June Hutton. Riddle and Sonny Burke were also responsible for many arrangements in the band. After the Spivak orchestra disbanded, Riddle moved to Florida to continue leading a band, until he was forced to retire due to illness in 1963. After his recovery, he continued leading large and small bands in Las Vegas and South Carolina. In Greenville, South Carolina, in 1967, he led a small band with his wife, who was the vocalist. After years of battle with cancer, she died in 1971. Spivak continued to record and play music until his passing. Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

Leave a Comment