Bobby Hackett

Photo of Bobby Hackett
  • Birth Name

    Robert Leo Hackett
  • Born

    January 31, 1915
    Providence, Rhode Island
  • Died

    June 7, 1976 (age 61)
    Chatham, Massachusetts

Though jazz cor­netist Bobby Hackett was also pro­fi­cient on the gui­tar, it was his horn work that brought him promi­nence. His mel­low tone and melodic style con­trasted sharply with the brash sound of many of his early con­tem­po­raries, es­pe­cially when he played Dixieland. A sought-af­ter in­stru­men­tal­ist, Hackett worked with dozens of top artists dur­ing his long ca­reer and briefly led his own big band.

Hackett be­gan work­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in an around the Boston area soon af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school. Appearing with such artists as Teddy Roy, Pee Wee Russell, Herbie Marsh, Payson Re, and the Harvard Gold Coast Orchestra, he quickly earned a rep­u­ta­tion. In 1936, he was asked to form a Dixieland out­fit for Boston’s Theatrical Club. The group proved very pop­u­lar, and af­ter their one-year en­gage­ment ended the mem­bers de­cided to try their luck in New York. Unable to get a job as a group, they even­tu­ally split up, and for the next cou­ple of years Hackett worked on and off with var­i­ous artists, in­clud­ing Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Jack Teagarden, and Eddie Condon.

In 1939, Hackett formed his own big band. Louise Tobin, then the wife of Harry James, was fea­tured vo­cal­ist. The group con­tracted with MCA and made sev­eral record­ings, but fi­nan­cial prob­lems forced it to dis­band af­ter only six months. Owing MCA al­most $3000, Hackett de­cided to take a steady job with Horace Heidt in or­der to pay off the band’s debts. He re­mained with Heidt through the sum­mer sea­son of 1940.

In 1941, Hackett joined Glenn Miller. Miller and Hackett were close friends, and Miller helped rene­go­ti­ate Hackett’s debt. Hackett also re­cently had had den­tal surgery and was un­able to play the cor­net, so Miller placed him as a gui­tarist. Hackett even­tu­ally took up his horn again and can be heard as the fea­tured soloist on the Miller stan­dard String of Pearls.”

When Miller dis­banded his or­ches­tra in 1942 to join the Army Air Force, Hackett took a stu­dio job at NBC. He also spent a brief time with Katherine Dunham’s re­vue. In 1943, he joined the Casa Loma Orchestra and re­mained with them for two years. He then took a job with ABC, where he spent the next fif­teen years.

From the 1950s up un­til his death from a heart at­tack in 1976, Hackett con­tin­ued per­form­ing and record­ing. He led sev­eral small groups and worked closely with many other top artists, in­clud­ing Goodman, Teagarden, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Maxine Sullivan, and Lee Wiley. In the early 1950s, Hackett was the star of Jackie Gleason’s mem­o­rable Music for Lovers Only” al­bum se­ries.

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  • Singin' the Blues
    Bobby Hackett (Okeh) (1940)

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