Randy Brooks

Photo of Randy Brooks
  • Born

    March 15, 1917[1]
  • Died

    March 21, 1967 (age 50)
    Sanford, Maine

Trumpeter Randy Brooks played with Ruby Newman’s or­ches­tra be­fore join­ing Hal Kemp in mid-1939. He re­mained with Kemp’s band af­ter Kemp died in an au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dent in December 1940, though ef­forts to keep the or­ches­tra go­ing un­der an­other leader failed, and it soon broke up. When Art Jarrett se­cured the right to use Kemp’s book and mu­sic in mid-1941, Brooks, along with about half of Kemp’s for­mer mu­si­cians, be­came mem­bers of the new band.

Brooks later worked in Claude Thornhills or­ches­tra be­fore join­ing for­mer Kemp band­mate Bob Allens new band in mid-1942, where he served as mu­si­cal di­rec­tor and helped pro­pel the band into the pub­lic’s eye. Brooks left Allen in May 1943 for Les Browns or­ches­tra and in December worked out a deal with Brown to fi­nance his own band at the end of the fol­low­ing year.

Brooks ex­ited from Brown in November 1944 and be­gan re­hearsals with his new or­ches­tra the next month. The band made its de­but the week of February 9, 1945, at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., sched­uled in to re­place Billy Rogers’ or­ches­tra, which had just bro­ken up. Brooks’ band at­tracted lit­tle fan­fare at the be­gin­ning. Critics com­plained about their lack of con­sis­tency, blow­ing hard on one song and play­ing so softly on the next that they could hardly be heard. Many of the mu­si­cians were, as Billboard mag­a­zine called them, teen-age toot­ers” and not highly ex­pe­ri­enced. The band signed with Decca in May 1945.

Brooks’ or­ches­tra im­proved from its early start but never re­ally man­aged to find it­self among the top cir­cle of bands in the late 1940s, de­spite some good arrange­ments and orig­i­nal tunes by John Benson Brooks, Randy’s brother. Lack of con­sis­tency con­tin­ued to plague their sound. Even af­ter Brooks trimmed the line-up in early 1947, cut­ting down by five mu­si­cians, crit­ics still of­ten com­plained that the brass sec­tion blew too hard.

Billboards 1946 col­lege poll ranked Brooks as the 4th Most Promising Newer Orchestra of the year, though well be­hind Stan Kenton and Tex Beneke, who dom­i­nated the poll. Brooks again placed 3rd in the same cat­e­gory in 1948, far be­hind top-ranked Elliot Lawrence. Brooks earned 6th place for both best swing band and best sweet band in Down Beat mag­a­zine’s 1946 poll.

Vocalists

The band went through a dizzy­ing slew of vo­cal­ists in a very short time, per­haps be­cause, as noted by one re­viewer, they were given lit­tle to do. Loretta Vale and Vince Manning were vo­cal­ists in May 1945. Dorothy Reid and Terry Parks re­placed them in June. Neither lasted a month. Reid quickly left for Benny Goodman, and Bob Anthony re­placed Parks. Anthony was then very quickly re­placed by Billy Usher, who ap­peared with the band in its first and only mu­si­cal short for Columbia and recorded on its first sets. Decca brought in Marion Hutton for the first record­ing ses­sion, hop­ing the com­bi­na­tion would spark sales. The band also recorded with Ella Fitzgerald in 1945.

Margie Wood briefly sang in July 1945. Fran Warren joined as singer in August 1945, leav­ing Brooks in October for Charlie Barnet. Lillian Lane re­placed her, leav­ing around the first of 1946 for Tex Beneke’s band. She was re­placed by Pat Cameron, who was Usher’s wife. Usher and Cameron were out of Brooks’ band by March, re­placed by Harry Prime and Beverly Byrne, the sis­ter of Gene Krupa vo­cal­ist Buddy Stewart. Kay Allen was vo­cal­ist in August 1946 through at least October, and Aileen Stanley Jr. was fe­male chirp in May 1947. Prime stayed through at least mid-1947. Male vo­cal­ists in late 1947 in­clude Gil Lewis and Joe Tela.

Though he kept fe­male singers for live shows, Brooks used only Usher and Prime in the stu­dio. The band also fo­cused on the col­lege and one-nighter mar­ket and sub­se­quently did not at­tract re­views by the ma­jor mu­sic pub­li­ca­tions, so lit­tle was writ­ten about their live per­for­mances, and al­most noth­ing about their later vo­cal­ists. They con­tin­ued to record on Decca, scor­ing a hit with Tenderly” in 1947.

Decline and Post-Band Years

In July 1947, mar­riage trou­bles be­tween Brooks and wife LaRue made front page news in the trade mag­a­zines. LaRue filed sep­a­ra­tion pa­pers, charg­ing Brooks with car­ry­ing on an af­fair with band­leader Ina Ray Hutton. Brooks coun­tered that his wife’s drink­ing made her im­pos­si­ble to live with. The scan­dal and sub­se­quent di­vorce seemed to take the wind out of Brooks’ sails, and the band suf­fered. By early 1948, it had ceased op­er­a­tions.

Brooks mar­ried Hutton on April 10, 1949, in Hollywood, and the two of them set­tled on the West Coast. Soon af­ter, they signed with Brooks’ for­mer book­ing agency, who hinted that they were work­ing on a deal that would see the pair co-lead a band. Hutton in­stead formed a new all-girl or­ches­tra which ap­peared on Los Angeles tele­vi­sion for four years, and Brooks started a new band of his own, which he lead un­til he suf­fered a stroke in October 1950. Though tem­porar­ily par­a­lyzed and blind at first, his health be­gan to im­prove, and in September 1951 he an­nounced the for­ma­tion of an­other or­ches­tra. He had bands in re­hearsal off and on for the next year be­fore de­cid­ing to aban­don the band busi­ness al­to­gether and open a mu­sic school in North Hollywood.

Brooks and Hutton di­vorced some­time af­ter 1954, and Brooks moved home to Sanford, Maine, where his mother lived. He an­nounced from there in 1958 that he was putting to­gether a new dance band, but noth­ing came of it. Brooks died in a fire at his moth­er’s house in 1967.

Notes

  1. Brooks’ date of birth was stated as March 29 in a news­pa­per obit­u­ary, how­ever both Billboard mag­a­zine and Down Beat list it as March 15. Given the in­ac­cu­racy of obit­u­ar­ies in gen­eral, I’ve gone with the date listed by the trade pub­li­ca­tions, which are al­ways a more re­li­able source than news­pa­pers.

Music

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  • I'm Gonna Love That Guy (Like He's Never Been Loved Before)
    Randy Brooks with Marion Hutton, Decca (1945)
  • No More Toujours L'Amour (Hoya, Hoya)
    Marion Hutton with Randy Brooks, Decca (1945)
  • A Kiss Goodnight
    Ella Fitzgerald and Randy Brooks, Decca (1945)
  • Benny's Coming Home on Saturday
    Ella Fitzgerald and Randy Brooks, Decca (1945)
  • I'd Do It Over Again
    Randy Brooks (Billy Usher), Decca (1945)
  • In the Moon Mist
    Randy Brooks (Billy Usher), Decca (1945)
  • Land of the Loon
    Randy Brooks (Billy Usher), Decca (1945)
  • Don't Let Me Dream
    Randy Brooks (Billy Usher), Decca (1945)
  • One Love
    Randy Brooks (Harry Prime), Decca (1946)
  • Strange Love
    Randy Brooks (Harry Prime), Decca (1946)
  • Surrender
    Randy Brooks (Harry Prime), Decca (1946)
  • Without You (Tres Palabras)
    Randy Brooks (Harry Prime), Decca (1946)
  • Lamplight
    Randy Brooks (Harry Prime), Decca (1947)
  • Tenderly
    Randy Brooks, Decca (1947)

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

Sources

  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Billy Usher.” IMDb Accessed 2 Fed. 2018.
  3. “Saxie Dowell Takes Baton; Kemp Cleans House Within Band.” Down Beat Jun. 1939: 3.
  4. “The Reviewing Stand.” Billboard 30 Dec. 1939: 61.
  5. “Art Jarrett Takes Over Kemp Band.” Down Beat 1 May 1941: 6.
  6. “Owens, Ralph, Turner, Smith Join Jarrett.” Down Beat 15 May 1941: 13.
  7. “Changes in Personnel Of Bands.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1942: 15.
  8. Levin, Mike. “Bob Allen Now Sensational.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1942: 2.
  9. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 19 Dec. 1942: 24.
  10. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 23 Jan. 1943: 16.
  11. “On the Stand: Bob Allen.” Billboard 1 May 1943: 21.
  12. “On the Stand: Les Brown.” Billboard 19 Jun. 1943: 25.
  13. Chasins, Gladys. “Talent and Tunes on Music Machines.” Billboard 25 Dec. 1943: 83.
  14. “GAC Gets Brooks' New Band; Dough May Be Masters'.” Billboard 30 Dec. 1944: 9.
  15. “Billie Rogers Breaks Up Ork.” Billboard 3 Feb. 1945: 21.
  16. “Send Birthday Greetings to:.” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1945: 15.
  17. “On the Stand: Randy Brooks.” Billboard 26 May 1945: 18.
  18. “Brooks Signed Decca’s 1st New Ork Paper Set.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 18.
  19. “Decca Signs Marion Hutton.” Billboard 16 Jun. 1945: 15.
  20. “Randy, Hutton Wax.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1945: 8.
  21. “Bands Dug by the Beat.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1945: 14.
  22. “Bob Chester Back in Band Biz Again.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1945: 12.
  23. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 11 Aug. 1945: 21.
  24. “Fran Warren Joins Randy Brooks Band.” Billboard 1 Sep. 1945: 11.
  25. “Fran Warren Takes Barnet Vocal Spot.” Billboard 15 Oct. 1945: 1.
  26. “Brooks Gets Pennsy Six-Week Option.” Billboard 20 Oct. 1945: 17.
  27. “Record Reviews: Randy Brooks.” Billboard 27 Oct. 1945: 82.
  28. “Music—As Written.” Billboard 15 Dec. 1945: 20.
  29. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 12 Jan. 1946: 30.
  30. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 14 Jan. 1946: 1.
  31. “Musicians Off the Record.” Down Beat 28 Jan. 1946: 10.
  32. “Randy Brooks Changes Men.” Down Beat 6 Apr. 1946: 16.
  33. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 18 May 1946: 136.
  34. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 15 Jun. 1946: 118.
  35. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1946: 5.
  36. “Most Promising New Orks.” Billboard 13 Jul. 1946: 15.
  37. “400 Reopens With Three Orks.” Down Beat 9 Sep. 1946: 1.
  38. Wilson, Earl. “Feet Edson Tells of Good Old Days.” The Miami News 16 Oct. 1946: 11B.
  39. “Randy's Chirp.” Down Beat 4 Nov. 1946: 5.
  40. “Ellington Cops Both Crowns.” Billboard 1 Jan. 1947: 1.
  41. “On the Stand: Randy Brooks.” Billboard 15 Mar. 1947: 32.
  42. Brooks, Randy and Eddie Ronan. “Give 'Em Dance Music Or You're Out Of Business.” Down Beat 21 May 1947: 3.
  43. “Randy Brooks' Wife Name Hutton.” Down Beat 16 Jul. 1947: 1.
  44. “Prime New With Jack Fina Band.” Down Beat 24 Sep. 1947: 8.
  45. “Trade Tattle.” Down Beat 17 Dec. 1947: 17.
  46. “10th Annual College Poll.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1948: 16.
  47. “Table Shot Season Opens Again, With Splash.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1948: 14.
  48. “Marriages.” Billboard 23 Apr. 1949: 106.
  49. “ABC Re-Inks Randy.” Down Beat 7 Oct. 1949: 9.
  50. “Music Machines.” Billboard 7 Oct. 1950: 82.
  51. “Chronological List Recording Artists' Birthdays.” Billboard [Special Disk Jockey Supplement] 7 Oct. 1950: 72.
  52. “Stroke Cripples Randy Brooks.” Down Beat 20 Oct. 1950: 3.
  53. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 29 Dec. 1950: 5.
  54. “Randy Brooks Well, Organizing Band.” Down Beat 21 Sep. 1951: 11.
  55. “Randy Brooks OK. Will Be Teacher.” Down Beat 27 Aug. 1952: 19.
  56. “Randy Returns.” Down Beat 26 Jun. 1958: 10.