Boyd Raeburn

Boyd Raeburn
  • Born
    October 27, 1913
    Faith, South Dakota
  • Died
    August 2, 1966
    Lafayette, Louisiana (age 52)

Though not well remembered today, bandleader Boyd Raeburn blazed trails in progressive jazz that took his music in directions beyond even those explored by such adventurous types as Stan Kenton and Tom Talbert. Raeburn, however, did not start out to be a jazz innovator. For many years, he operated a successful society orchestra before making a big leap into the unknown.

Raeburn began his career as a bandleader in the early 1930s, leading a college orchestra at the University of Chicago. By the early 1940s, however, his interest had shifted into jazz and his group’s music had edged towards swing. In 1944, he scrapped his dance orchestra completely and formed a progressive jazz outfit, bringing in arranger Ed Finckel and hiring musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Berman, Al Cohn, and Johnny Bothwell. Vocalists included Dorothy Claire. The new group wowed the critics, producing sounds far more modern than any other orchestra of its day. Unfortunately, a fire at the Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey destroyed the band’s book and some of its instruments.

Raeburn reorganized in 1945 and took his group a step further, relying on composer and arranger George Handy, who wrote extremely complex and dissident charts. Handy’s work, however, did not go over well with the public, and eventually he was replaced by Johnny Richards and Ralph Flanagan. Musicians Dodo Marmarosa and Johnny Mandel joined the orchestra in 1945. Vocalists included David Allen, Don Darcy (sometimes called Johnny Darcy during his stay with the band), June Christy (at that time known as Sharon Leslie), Claire Hogan, and Raeburn’s wife, Ginnie Powell. The orchestra produced the much-lauded and groundbreaking Innovations album in 1946. The band lost momentum after Handy left, and by 1948 Raeburn had abandoned it.

Raeburn organized shot-lived touring outfits in 1949 and 1950, with Powell as vocalist. After working mostly as an arranger in the early 1950s, he returned to his roots in 1956 and formed a new dance orchestra. Powell again served as vocalist. Unsuccessful in resurrecting his career, he left the music business entirely in 1959 and moved to the Bahamas with his wife, where she passed away later that year. Boyd Raeburn passed away in 1966 after suffering a heart attack.


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  • Who Started Love?
    Boyd Raeburn (Dorothy Claire), V-Disc (1944)
  • I Only Have Eyes for You
    Boyd Raeburn (David Allyn), Jewel (1946)
  • Blue Echoes (Cuatro - Vidas)
    Boyd Raeburn (David Allyn), Jewel (1946)
  • Body & Soul
    Boyd Raeburn (Ginnie Powell), Jewel (1946)
  • Temptation
    Boyd Raeburn (Ginnie Powell), Jewel (1946)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.