Larry Clinton

Photo of Larry Clinton
  • Born

    August 17, 1909
    Brooklyn, New York
  • Died

    May 2, 1985 (age 75)
    Tucson, Arizona

One of the most pop­u­lar com­posers and arrangers of the 1930s, Larry Clinton worked with sev­eral well-known or­ches­tras be­fore form­ing his own band in 1937. Clinton arranged for both Claude Hopkins and Isham Jones in 1933 and the Dorsey Brothers in 1935. He re­mained with Jimmy Dorsey un­til he was hired that same year by the Casa Loma Orchestra to re­place Gene Gifford. In 1937, he arranged for Bunny Berigan, Louis Armstrong, and Tommy Dorsey. After Dorsey scored big hits with two Clinton num­bers, Satan Takes a Holiday” and The Dipsy Doodle,” both he and RCA Victor en­cour­aged Clinton to form his own out­fit.

Clinton recorded his first tracks in 1937 with a stu­dio or­ches­tra and de­buted a live band in the sum­mer of 1938. His catchy tunes quickly made him a pop­u­lar at­trac­tion, though he never achieved the promi­nence of a Dorsey or a Glenn Miller. The group’s cat­a­log, re­flect­ing Clinton’s arrange­ments in gen­eral, was built around sev­eral stock clichés, which, though well ex­e­cuted, pre­sented lit­tle va­ri­ety.

Clinton’s biggest as­set was singer Bea Wain, con­sid­ered by many to be the best vo­cal­ist of that era. Her pres­ence was sorely missed when she left in 1939 to pur­sue a solo ca­reer. She was re­placed by Mary Dugan, who was fol­lowed by Helen Southern and Peggy Mann. Other vo­cal­ists in­cluded Terry Allen, Ford Leary, and Carol Bruce. Hugo Winterhalter played sax, and Les Brown wrote some of the group’s early arrange­ments. Van Alexander joined as arranger in 1941, bring­ing with him sax­o­phon­ist and nov­elty singer Butch Stone as well as drum­mer Irv Cottler. Cottler’s rhythm be­came key to the band’s 1940s sound.

Clinton’s com­po­si­tions were al­ways lively and dance­able. In par­tic­u­lar, he had a pen­chant for re-writ­ing the clas­sics. Two of his biggest hits, My Reverie” and Our Love” were adapted from Debussy and Tchaikovsky re­spec­tively. Unfortunately, Clinton was un­able to record his most pop­u­lar num­bers, the two afore­men­tioned Dorsey songs and Study in Brown,” be­cause they had pre­vi­ously been recorded, the lat­ter by Bunny Berigan, on the same la­bel. That did­n’t pre­vent him from per­form­ing them live, how­ever, and they quickly be­came his sig­na­ture songs.

Clinton’s band broke up at the start of 1942 when he en­tered the Army Air Force, where he served as a flight in­struc­tor in south­east Asia dur­ing the war. After his dis­charge in 1946, he worked as mu­si­cal di­rec­tor at the small Cosmo la­bel, record­ing sev­eral sides dur­ing his stay. He briefly toured in 1948 and re­mained ac­tive with a group un­til 1950. He spent the next decade work­ing off and on in semi-re­tire­ment. In the mid-1950s, he re-recorded his most pop­u­lar num­bers in stereo for RCA Victor. He of­fi­cially re­tired in 1961.

Clinton was a con­sum­mate busi­ness­man, and he was able to re­tire in com­fort, first to Florida and then to Arizona. In his later years he be­came a sci­ence fic­tion and hu­mor writer. Larry Clinton passed away in 1985.


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  • Jubilee
    Larry Clinton (Bea Wain), Victor (1937)
  • Over the Rainbow
    Larry Clinton (Bea Wain), Victor (1938)
  • Martha
    Larry Clinton (Bea Wain), Victor (1938)
  • Rockin' Chair
    Larry Clinton (Peggy Mann, Butch Stone), Victor (1939)
  • You Forgot About Me
    Larry Clinton (Terry Allen), Bluebird (1940)

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  • Screenshot
    "Heart and Soul"
    Larry Clinton (Bea Wain)
    Warner Brothers (1939)

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Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.