Herman Clebanoff

Born in Chicago, Illinois on 2 May 1917. Died 13 January 2004. Sherman Oaks. California Maestro Clebanoff was Mercury Records’ answer for Mantovani and other string groups that had been a standard part of every space-age pop label’s repertoire. Clebanoff, the son of Russian immigrants, was raised in Chicago where he began studying violin at age five. He was an accomplished concertmaster by the age of sixteen and was also the first chair violinist in many string quartets. He was the youngest member of Chicago Symphony and the Chicago Civic Orchestra’s concertmaster by the time he turned twenty-one. In 1939, he took a leap of faith and joined Illinois’ Works Progress Administration (WPA), a symphony with which he traveled and performed to a variety of audiences. During this period, he also met and married Helen Margolyne (a soprano at the Chicago Civic Opera). He returned to Chicago, where he became a staff musician for NBC radio. He took a leave to New Orleans in 1943 as assistant conductor and concertmaster of the New Orleans Symphony. In 1945, he returned to NBC Chicago and served as the concertmaster of the orchestra for 10 years. He played everything from popular music to classical repertoire to other songs to incidental music. He was also exposed to sound recording technology through his work for the network. Clebanoff was introduced to the label by David Carroll, Mercury’s Chicago music director. Clebanoff’s debut album, Moods in Music, followed George Melachrino’s series of mood music albums, which was a huge success for RCA Victor. Clebanoff, who moved to Los Angeles in 1960 when Mercury consolidated its recording activities in Hollywood and continued to produce albums for the label into the 1960s. His material evolved from pop and light classical to more current hits. This led to some interesting, but not necessarily successful, covers of surf standards like “Pipeline.” Clebanoff’s Exciting Sounds and Strings afire albums are worth looking for. These albums were part of Mercury’s excellent Perfect Presence stereo showcase album series. Caesar Giovannini and Wayne Robinson, the arrangers, enlist the help of Irv Pacheco and Shelley Manne, West Coast session drummers, to add a powerful percussive boost Clebanoff’s rich string sound. It is a satisfying piece of stereo craftsmanship that is enhanced by great material such as “Quiet Village,” “Strings Afire,” and “Turkish Harem Dance” by Xavier Cugat. Spaceagepop.com

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