Saxophonist Dick Stabile made his name with Ben Bernie’s orchestra in the early 1930s before forming his own in the middle of that decade. Stabile’s first group tried hard but never found any meaningful success. Paula Kelly provided vocals for much of the 1930s, staying with the orchestra from April 1935 to February 1938. Stabile then went through a succession of singers, including Wendy Bishop and Shirley Gaye. The group recorded on the Bluebird and Vocalion labels.
In mid-1941, Stabile fired his manager, his arranger and most of his musicians and junked his entire musical library, forming a new orchestra. The bandleader took over management chores himself and hired Gene Hammett as arranger. “I simply got tired of having a so-so band for five years” he said. “This is the band I should have had years ago.” Stabile’s wife, Gracie Barrie, an established musical comedy star, filled the female vocal slot for the revamped band with Gordon Roberts as male vocalist. The new orchestra was well-received and quickly lined up network radio spots and a deal with the Okeh label.
When Stabile joined the Coast Guard in late 1942, Barrie, who was the sister of bandleader Dick Barrie, took over the orchestra under her own name. The group kept quite busy under her leadership, and she insisted that she’d stay at the helm for the duration of Stabile’s enlistment. She turned over the orchestra to vocalist Jimmy Palmer in early 1944, however, and restarted her own career again, divorcing Stabile later that year. The orchestra remained together under Stabile’s name, and he resumed leadership after the war. He’s best remembered today as the long-time musical director for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.