Will Bradley

Photo of Will Bradley
  • Birth Name

    Wilbur Schwitchenberg
  • Born

    July 12, 1912
    Newton, New Jersey
  • Died

    July 20, 1978 (age 66)
    Flemington, New Jersey

Will Bradley will al­ways be re­mem­bered most for his boo­gie-woo­gie or­ches­tra of the early 1940s. Bradley him­self, though, pre­ferred to play bal­lads and had a long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a trom­bon­ist out­side of his band. He was a busy stu­dio mu­si­cian through­out the 1930s, work­ing with such artists as Red Nichols, Eddie Cantor, Victor Young. Jacques Renard, Nat Shilkret, Andre Kostelanetz, Raymond Paige, Kate Smith, and Al Jolson. In 1935, Glenn Miller, who thought Bradley the best trom­bon­ist in the busi­ness, hired him to play in Ray Noble’s American band, which Miller was or­ga­niz­ing. He left Noble the fol­low­ing year, how­ever, and re­turned to stu­dio work. Bradley also played with Milt Shaw’s or­ches­tra in 1931, where he met drum­mer Ray McKinley.

Bradley’s name was un­known to the gen­eral pub­lic when in 1939 William Morris tal­ent agent Willard Alexander sug­gested he form a swing or­ches­tra. Trombone-playing lead­ers, such as Miller and Tommy Dorsey, were cur­rently pop­u­lar, and Alexander felt Bradley would do well on his own. Drummers were also the rage, and Alexander teamed Bradley with old band­mate McKinley, who was then with Jimmy Dorsey. Backed by a pow­er­ful pub­lic­ity cam­paign, the duo’s or­ches­tra de­buted in 1939 un­der Bradley’s name and soon had its first big hit in Celery Stalks at Midnight.”

The band ini­tially fea­tured pi­anist Freddie Slack, who would later go on to lead his own or­ches­tra. McKinley sang on up­beat and spe­cial­ity num­bers. Carlotta Dale and Larry Sothern were ini­tial vo­cal­ists. Sothern was re­placed by Jimmy Valentine in January 1940. Dale re­mained through March 1940, re­placed by Louise Tobin, who stayed through at least July and was re­placed by Phyllis Myles. Myles left at the end of the year, and Valentine left in early January 1941. Lynn Gardner and Terry Allen re­placed them. The group’s first record­ings in 1939 were on the Vocalion and Okeh la­bels. Subsequent re­leases were on Columbia.

In 1940, Bradley and McKinley be­gan to fea­ture a boo­gie woo­gie sound in their arrange­ments. Initial suc­cess with the song Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar” sparked a slew of sim­i­lar record­ings, such as Bounce Me Brother, with a Solid Four” and Scrub Me Mama, with a Boogie Beat.” The new style proved pop­u­lar with the pub­lic, and the band quickly de­vel­oped a niche fol­low­ing. By early 1942, how­ever, Bradley had tired of boo­gie-woo­gie and wanted to fo­cus more on bal­lads. McKinley dis­agreed and left to form his own band. Bradley set about re­form­ing his or­ches­tra but was forced to hang up his ba­ton af­ter only six months due to the war. He lost too many mu­si­cians in the draft and was un­able to re­place them. The new or­ches­tra did not en­ter the stu­dio. Allen and Gardner re­mained as vo­cal­ists.

Bradley con­tin­ued to record un­der his own name dur­ing the war and through the late 1940s, us­ing stu­dio mu­si­cians, on the Signature la­bel. Ironically, con­sid­er­ing the cause of his or­ches­tra’s break-up, in 1944 he re­leased ma­te­r­ial on the Beacon/Celebrity la­bel as Will Bradley and His Boogie Woogie Boys. In 1947, he also recorded with vo­cal­ist Anita O’Day on Signature, and in the 1950s he re­leased three al­bums, which in­cluded one RCA col­lec­tion of boo­gie woo­gie songs.

Bradley worked of­ten as a stu­dio mu­si­cian af­ter the war and spent many years in the Tonight Show or­ches­tra. In 1953, he did a brief spell with the Sauter-Finegan Band and also com­posed sev­eral clas­si­cal works in his later years. Will Bradley passed away in 1978.

Music

Previous <<
Play > Pause ||
Next >>
0:00 / 0:00
Select a song to play
Play All
  • Mean to Me
    Will Bradley (Carlotta Dale), Vocalion (1939)
  • This Is the Beginning of the End
    Will Bradley (Carlotta Dale), Columbia (1940)
  • There I Go
    Will Bradley (Jimmy Valentine), Columbia (1940)
  • Don't Let It Get You Down
    Will Bradley (Louise Tobin), Columbia (1940)
  • High on a Windy Hill
    Will Bradley (Jimmy Valentine), Columbia (1940)
  • Jack and Jill
    Will Bradley (Lynn Gardner, Ray McKinley), Columbia (1941)
  • I'm Tired of Waiting for You
    Will Bradley (Lynn Gardner, Ray McKinley), Columbia (1941)
  • Love Me a Little
    Will Bradley (Lynn Gardner), Columbia (1941)
  • I Need Somebody to Love
    Will Bradley (Terry Allen), Columbia (1941)

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

Films

Select a video to play
  • Screenshot
    "I'm Tired of Waiting for You"
    Will Bradley (Lynn Gardner, Ray McKinley)
    Minoco (1942)

We embed media from YouTube and the Internet Archive. Items may disappear on those services without notice. If you run across something that's no longer available, please let us know so we can remove the embed.

Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.