Larry Elgart

Lawrence Joseph Elgart, March 20, 1922 – August 29, 2017, was an American jazz bandleader. He recorded “Bandstand Boogie”, his theme for the popular dance show American Bandstand, with his brother Les. Elgart, who was four years older than his brother Les, was born in New London, Connecticut in 1922. He grew up in Pompton Lakes in New Jersey. Their mother was a concert pianist, and their father played the piano but not professionally. Both Larry and Les attended Pompton Lakes High School. In their teens, both brothers started playing in jazz groups. Larry was a young player with Red Norvo, Woody Herman and Freddie Slack, while Larry was a pianist. Les and Larry formed their own band in the mid-1940s and hired Bill Finegan, Ralph Flanagan, and Nelson Riddle to arrange the tunes. After a few years, their ensemble failed to succeed and they sold the arrangements they had ordered to Tommy Dorsey. Both were relegated to being sidemen in different orchestras. Larry and Charles Albertine met in 1953 and recorded two of their experimental compositions, “Impressions of Outer Space”, and “Music for Barefoot Ballerinas”. These recordings were released on 10″ vinyl and became collector’s items for avant-garde fans. However, they weren’t commercially successful. Albertine and Larry formed a traditional ensemble and started recording them with precise microphone placements. This is what became known as the Elgart Sound. It was a commercially profitable project that led to a string of singles and albums on Columbia throughout the 1950s. Their first LP, “Sophisticated swing”, was released in late 1953. The credit to The Les Elgart Orchestra was given because Larry said that Les was more interested in leading the band than his brother. The Elgarts made a lasting mark in music history by recording Albertine’s “Bandstand Boogie” for the iconic television show hosted by Bob Horn and Dick Clark. Clark moved the show from Philadelphia to ABC-TV in 1956 for national distribution under the name “American Bandstand.” Clark remained the host for 32 more years. Later years saw variations of the theme song become the show’s main theme. The band was renamed The Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra in 1955. In 1959, however, the brothers broke up and each released his own LP. Larry signed with RCA Victor. His 1959 album “New Sounds At the Roosevelt” was nominated for a Grammy Award that year. MGM Records was his home for music from 1960 to 1962. Larry and Les were reunited in 1963. They recorded many more albums and ended with 1967’s “Wonderful World of Today’s Hits.” After that, they parted ways. Les Elgart Orchestra performed in Texas until his death in 1995. Larry’s greatest exposure was in 1982 with the release of “Hooked on Swing”, which had a smash hit. It was a medley of jazz songs, including “In the Mood”, Cherokee”, and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, as well as “Sing, Sing, Sing, Sing”, and “Don’t Be That Way”. The instrumental reached number 20 on the US Billboard Pop Singles and Adult Contemporary charts. The final hit of the “medley craze”, which lasted for a year and included artists from 1981 to 1982. The LP that the song was taken from, “Larry Elgart u0026 His Manhattan Swing Orchestra,” reached #24 on the US charts. Hooked on Swing 2 was the follow-up and debuted at #89 on US album charts. Soon after, Larry returned to jazz touring. Elgart continued to tour the world and continue to record well into the 2000s. Elgart, a Longboat Key resident, died in a Sarasota hospice at 95.

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