Jerry Wald

Photo of Jerry Wald
  • Birth Name

    Jervis Wald
  • Born

    January 15, 1918
    Newark, New Jersey
  • Died

    Las Vegas, Nevada

Clarinetist and band­leader Jerry Wald is per­haps best re­mem­bered as Artie Shaws biggest fan. Wald was fas­ci­nated by Shaw’s late-1930s style, and he worked hard to im­i­tate it. Though never a first-tier group, Wald’s early band proved suc­cess­ful enough to earn him a mod­est place in the his­tory books, de­spite its lack of real tal­ent or orig­i­nal­ity.

Early Years

Wald learned clar­inet at a young age and formed his first band while in high school. After grad­u­at­ing, he headed to California, where he played with a num­ber of small com­bos, in­clud­ing one fea­tur­ing Stan Kenton on pi­ano. He re­turned to New York in early 1941, form­ing his first pro­fes­sional or­ches­tra, which opened at Child’s Spanish Gardens and re­mained there for six months. The book­ing in­cluded a nightly CBS ra­dio spot.

In late 1941, Wald signed with the GAC book­ing house and re­turned to California. He formed a new band from the Los Angeles City College or­ches­tra and took them on a three-week road trip back to New York. The group opened at the Rosemont Ballroom in Brooklyn, but soon af­ter the build­ing burned down.

Depending on what story you be­lieve, Wald’s band ei­ther lost every­thing in the fire or the only things that sur­vived were Wald’s clar­inet and the band’s arrange­ments. If you be­lieve the for­mer, then Wald put the group’s li­brary back to­gether again from mem­ory. Either way, the or­ches­tra soon earned an­other break when asked to fill in at the Roseland Ballroom. The gig ended up stretch­ing to ten weeks.

The Roseland job led to a book­ing at the Hotel Lincoln in March 1942, which gave Wald ex­po­sure on both the CBS and Mutual ra­dio net­works. The band’s pop­u­lar­ity was ris­ing, and they signed with the Decca la­bel in April. In October of that same year, they made a mu­si­cal short for RKO-Pathe’s Jamboree se­ries.

Early Personnel and Style

Wald’s love for Shaw’s Begin the Beguine”-era style was unashamedly pre­sent in his early work. His clar­inet echoed Shaw note for note, phrase for phrase. The band played Shaw tunes in the ex­act man­ner. Even when they per­formed num­bers not in Shaw’s cat­a­log, they sounded like Shaw. Wald was­n’t Shaw how­ever, and his band was­n’t nearly the same cal­iber as Shaw’s fa­mous out­fit. While Wald and his men could do a good im­i­ta­tion of Shaw, they never ap­proached the same level of tal­ent or abil­ity. Still, Wald’s sound was pleas­ant, and he built up a good fol­low­ing.

Wald him­self, de­scribed as small, dark and hand­some,” was­n’t the most charis­matic of front­men. He never got in­ti­mate with the au­di­ence or tried to charm its fe­male mem­bers, and his em­cee work was stiff. He dressed smartly, how­ever, and al­ways smiled. Perhaps his most com­pe­tent side­man was drum­mer Irv Cottler, who had been key in the sound of Larry Clinton’s re­cently dis­banded or­ches­tra. Cottler re­mained with Wald through­out the band’s ex­is­tence. Wald was also one of the few band­lead­ers at the time who did­n’t have to worry about los­ing his men to the draft. All thir­teen of his mu­si­cians in October 1942 were 4F, as was he him­self.

A re­viewer gave the name of Wald’s vo­cal­ist dur­ing his first Roseland en­gage­ment in 1942 as Francis Fayne, though per­haps they meant Frances Wayne. Wayne, who later sang for Woody Herman and mar­ried Neal Hefti, was still an un­known at the time. Anita Boyer had joined the band by mid-1942, how­ever, and was Wald’s most no­table ca­nary. She stayed un­til December, when Lillian Lane re­placed her. Lane re­mained un­til at least February of 1943. Betty Bonney was singing by July 1943 and stayed through at least November of that year. Ginnie Powell had re­placed Bonney by December. Male vo­cal­ist Dick Merrick re­mained with Wald for many years, though he left for the McFarland Twins’ band in late 1942, re­turn­ing to Wald in May 1943. Johnny Bond re­placed him in the in­terim.


1944 saw a change in Wald’s style. By mid-year he had added a six-piece string sec­tion to his al­ready fif­teen-piece or­ches­tra. Wald used strings in a novel way, hav­ing them play along even on jump num­bers. Wald still lacked out­stand­ing mu­si­cians though. Reviews from this era de­scribed the band as me­thod­i­cal.

In 1944, Wald changed his sound and added a six-piece string sec­tion to his or­ches­tra. Powell served as fe­male vo­cal­ist un­til she left in October of that year. By 1945, though, Wald was back to his old sound. Vocalists were Merrick, who sang bal­lads, and Kay Allen, who han­dled pop tunes. The pair of singers fell in love and later mar­ried.

Wald pushed for and got his re­lease from Decca in February 1945, one of the first band­lead­ers to walk away from the la­bel over com­plaints that the com­pany had been tak­ing more of an in­ter­est in vo­cal stars and not push­ing band record­ings. Wald quickly found a new home at Majestic. The move proved ben­e­fi­cial. Majestic took an ac­tive in­ter­est in pro­mot­ing Wald’s records, with Wald drop­ping his string sec­tion and re­turn­ing to pure jump mu­sic again.

1945 was per­haps Wald’s most suc­cess­ful year. His mu­sic was once again in the spot­light, and by this time as well Wald’s clar­inet style had evolved so that he no longer sounded as if he were try­ing to im­i­tate Shaw. His band of that pe­riod was­n’t loaded with out­stand­ing side­men, how­ever those he had gave a good show, play­ing brassy and loud, of­ten stand­ing when in ac­tion.

Wald briefly had a ma­jor as­set in Billie Rogers. The fe­male trum­pet player and vo­cal­ist, who had for­merly played with Woody Herman and then led her own band, joined Wald in March 1945. Rogers’ hus­band, John Archer, also came along as part of the deal. Archer had man­aged Rogers’ band and took over man­age­ment du­ties for Wald as well. One of the very few women to play in a male band, Rogers’ sen­sa­tional trum­pet play­ing and bluesy vo­cal style were high­lights of Wald’s 1945 group. Rogers only stayed a few months how­ever, leav­ing in October to front her own combo. Archer left as well.

Wald be­came the poster boy for pay­ola in November 1945 when the Campbell-Loft-Porgie mu­sic pub­lish­ing house sued him. According to the suit, Wald had bor­rowed sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars from the com­pany, a com­mon prac­tice at the time, but had never at­tempted to pay it off. Bandleaders of­ten took out loans” from pub­lish­ing houses with the un­der­stand­ing that it nee­den’t be paid back as long as the leader plugged the com­pa­ny’s songs. Wald never car­ried through on those ex­pec­ta­tions. The in­ci­dent marked a turn­ing point in the pay­ola scan­dal, as pre­vi­ously no pub­lish­ing house or band­leader had ever freely ad­mit­ted to ex­chang­ing money for plugs.[1]

In 1946, the band be­gan a no­tice­able de­cline. Despite Wald mak­ing the cover of Billboard on April 6 of the year, re­views painted the or­ches­tra’s shows as bor­ing. April re­views panned vo­cal­ist Anne Russell, who had re­placed Allen. Merrick left that month as well, re­placed by Bill Raymond. Mary Nash also sang in 1946. Wald also com­plained that ra­dio time was no longer ef­fec­tive in sell­ing records. In the early part of the year, the group moved from Majestic to the Sonara la­bel, and they starred in a Columbia mu­si­cal short.

By late 1946, the writ­ing was on the wall. The band busi­ness in gen­eral was in a slump, and many lead­ers had de­cided to turn in their ba­tons. In November, Wald joined them. Announcing plans to cre­ate a sweet or­ches­tra, he dis­banded his jump group and let all his men go af­ter com­plet­ing a book­ing in Hollywood.[2]


Wald quickly put to­gether his new out­fit, which made its de­but at Ciro’s in Hollywood on January 24, 1947, hav­ing al­ready signed with Columbia Pictures to ap­pear in the film Broadway Baby. The new or­ches­tra was a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from his pre­vi­ous band, fea­tur­ing a lush string sec­tion. The brass sec­tion con­sisted only of two trum­pets and one french horn. Vocalist was Nick Delano. Jimmy Vanni had re­placed him by June.

Wald’s sweet or­ches­tra recorded for the Commodore la­bel in late 1947, but it failed to click, de­spite ap­pear­ing in two more films. The group’s sound was awk­ward, es­pe­cially when it at­tempted to play tunes from Wald’s pre­vi­ous book. He fi­nally ditched it and re­turn to what he knew best, jazz, form­ing a bop or­ches­tra in January 1949.

The new nine­teen-piece band was again a rad­i­cal con­cept. Wald de­signed the or­ches­tra for con­cert, the­ater and jazz work. It would play no dance dates. The line-up in­cluded eight in­stru­ments in the brass sec­tion, five reeds, three stan­dard rhythm and three Latin rhythm. They recorded on the Columbia la­bel. This band too failed to catch on, and Wald fi­nally folded it and set­tled in Hollywood, where he opened his own bistro, the Studio Club, at Sunset and Vine, sit­u­ated op­po­site the Palladium Ballroom. The late-night es­tab­lish­ment fea­tured small com­bos and acted as a mu­si­cian’s hang­out.

Wald did­n’t stay out of the band busi­ness for long how­ever. In May 1950, he be­gan re­hears­ing a new six­teen-piece or­ches­tra to open the Hollywood lo­ca­tion of Tommy Dorseys Casino Gardens ball­room on Memorial Day week­end. He re­mained in California through 1951. Carolyn Grey, ex-Woody Herman vo­cal­ist, joined the group in March 1951. In 1952, Chris Connors was fe­male vo­cal­ist.

Wald fi­nally closed his club and went on the road again in 1952, end­ing up back in New York, where his new sound was panned by re­view­ers. The group recorded for Decca in that year. In late 1953, Wald recorded for Lion.

Early 1954 found Wald switch­ing gears yet again, this time form­ing a string combo. He later re­turned to fronting a full or­ches­tra. In 1956 and 1958, he recorded for the Kapp la­bel, and in early 1959 for Todd. In late 1959, he formed his own la­bel, Waldork, to re­lease his ver­sion of The Creeper.” Wald’s last hur­rah was in 1961, when his band was se­lected by CBS ra­dio for a se­ries of big band broad­casts from Atlantic City’s Steel Pier.

Jerry Wald passed away in 1973, age 55.


  1. C-L-P hired an in­no­cent-look­ing, young blonde woman to at­tend one of Wald’s shows at the Roseland Ballroom. She ap­proached the stand while the band was play­ing and asked the band­leader if he was Jerry Wald. Much to his sur­prise, when he replied in the af­fir­ma­tive, think­ing her a fan, she served him the sub­poena.
  2. Vocalist Bill Raymond, un­able to af­ford trans­porta­tion back East af­ter the band had been scrapped, filed a com­plaint with the California State Labor Department, want­ing Wald to pay his travel ex­penses home as well as back­pay for every day he had been stranded in the state. Wald’s man­age­ment coun­tered that Wald had made avail­able $4000 to pay for his side­men’s trans­porta­tion but Raymond had re­fused. The vo­cal­ist in­di­cated that he wanted to stay on the West Coast but later changed his mind. A hear­ing at the Labor Department ac­cepted Wald’s of­fer to pay for Raymond’s trans­porta­tion and re­jected the singer’s claim for back­pay.


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  • Mad About Him, Sad Without Him
    Jerry Wald (Anita Boyer), Decca (1942)
  • Crazy Blues
    Jerry Wald (Ginnie Powell), Decca (1943)
  • Shoo-Shoo Baby
    Jerry Wald (Ginnie Powell), Decca (1943)
  • And So Little Time
    Jerry Wald (Dick Merrick), Decca (1944)
  • Silver Wings in the Moonlight
    Jerry Wald (Ginnie Powell), Decca (1944)
  • Candy
    Jerry Wald (Kay Allen), Majestic (1945)
  • Laura
    Jerry Wald (Dick Merrick), Majestic (1945)
  • Can't You Read Between the Lines
    Jerry Wald (Kay Allen), Majestic (1945)

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


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. The Online Discographical Project. Accessed 12 Nov. 2015.
  3. Carter. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 21 Mar. 1942: 24.
  4. “Jerry Wald Lands Hotel Lincoln Job.” Billboard 28 Mar. 1942: 13.
  5. “Talents and Tunes.” Billboard 25 Apr. 1942: 71.
  6. “Night Clubs-Vaudeville.” Billboard 13 Jun. 1942: 14.
  7. “Vaudeville Reviews: Strand, New York.” Billboard 25 Jul. 1942: 18.
  8. “Picture Tie-Ups for Music Machine Operators.” Billboard 10 Oct. 1942: 68.
  9. “Vaudeville Reviews: RKO-Boston, Boston.” Billboard 24 Oct. 1942: 17.
  10. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 12 Dec. 1942: 23.
  11. Advertisement. Billboard 2 Jan. 1943: 46.
  12. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 27 Feb. 1943: 16.
  13. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 8 May 1943: 23.
  14. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 8 Jul. 1944: 66.
  15. Cons, Carl. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 30 Oct. 1944: 15.
  16. “Woody Herman Leaves Decca for Columbia Disks.” Billboard 17 Feb. 1945: 17.
  17. “Brooks Signed, Decca's 1st New Ork Paper Set.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 18.
  18. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 5 May 1945: 23.
  19. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 66.
  20. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 11 Aug. 1942: 27.
  21. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 12 Dec. 1942: 23.
  22. Secon, Paul. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1944: 27.
  23. “Billie Rogers Joins Jerry Wald's Band.” Billboard 10 Mar. 1945: 21.
  24. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 11 Aug. 1945: 21.
  25. “Billie Rogers Exiting from Wald Band to Form Small Combo.” Billboard 20 Oct. 1945: 17.
  26. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 3 Nov. 1945: 21.
  27. “Jerry Knows Now to Beware of Blonde with Paper in Hand.” Billboard 10 Nov. 1945: 15.
  28. Cover Photo. Billboard 6 Apr. 1946: 1.
  29. Advertisement. Billboard 6 Apr. 1946: 20.
  30. “Jerry Wald: He Plays What He Likes.” Billboard 6 Apr. 1946: 36.
  31. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1946: 37.
  32. “Wald to Switch to Sweet.” Billboard 9 Nov. 1946: 39.
  33. “Ex-Wald Crooner Charges Desertion, Sues for Fare, Pay.” Billboard 7 Dec. 1946: 14.
  34. “Carroll-Wiere, Wald-Raymond Gripes Settled.” Billboard 14 Dec. 1946: 41.
  35. “Music Industry Looks Upon '47 as a Normal, Level-Of Year.” Billboard 4 Jan. 1947: 12.
  36. “Music As Written.” Billboard 25 Jan. 1947: 30.
  37. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 8 Feb. 1947: 33.
  38. Hartshorn, Dick. “Night Club Reviews: The Blue Room, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans.” Billboard 21 Jun. 1947: 43.
  39. “75c Commodore Label Due Soon.” Billboard 15 Nov. 1947: 17.
  40. “For Boppers Only.” Billboard 22 Jan. 1949: 24.
  41. “MCA & GAC Find Time to Bop.” Billboard 26 Feb. 1949: 20.
  42. “Wald to Open TD's Casino Gardens on Coast.” Billboard 27 May 1950: 18.
  43. “Music As Written.” Billboard 31 Mar. 1951: 20.
  44. “Night Club-Vaude Reviews: Earl Carroll's Theater Restaurant, Hollywood.” Billboard 7 Apr. 1951: 44.
  45. Rolontz, Bob. “Night Club-Vaude Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 8 Mar. 1952: 13.
  46. “Music As Written.” Billboard 10 May. 1952: 22.
  47. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 7 Jun. 1952: 36.
  48. Sasso, Joey. “Jerry Wals Created Own Unique Style by Study.” The Day [New London, CT] 13 Nov. 1953: 11.
  49. “Packaged Record Review Ratings.” Billboard 16 Jan. 1954: 34.
  50. “Music As Written.” Billboard 1 May. 1954: 20.
  51. “Reviews of New Pop Records.” Billboard 24 Feb. 1958: 41.
  52. “Kapp Sharpens.” Billboard 8 Sep. 1958: 51.
  53. “Distributor News.” Billboard 20 Apr. 1959: 50.
  54. “Music As Written.” Billboard 5 Oct. 1959: 23.
  55. “Wave of Ork Wax Could Herald Big Band Revival.” Billboard 21 Aug. 1961: 3.