RAY’s Contributions

10/03/11    Community Articles


This memoir covers Ray Sherman's re-entry into the music business after World War II, and illustrates the importance of kismet in our lives, whether we want to admit it or not.

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Ray Sherman was born on the North side of Chicago on April 15, 1923. His father was Maurie Sherman, the well known Chicago band leader of the ‘20s and ‘30s who appeared first at the Bismark Hotel, and then for ten years at the College Inn of the Hotel Sherman (no relation). Maurie gained much popularity via his frequent remote radio broadcasts, both local and network. His 1933 band included Jack Gardner, Rosy McHargue and Joe Rushton.
Ray's mother, Rose Vitto Sherman, achieved much success as a featured violinist at the Old Town Room of the Sherman Hotel, and on WLS as one-half of "The Sunbright Duo."

Ray grew up in Rogers Park and attended Joyce Kilmer Elementary School and Sullivan High School. His piano teacher was Allan Grant.

In 1938 Ray appeared as a pianist on the Tommy Dorsey "Amateur Swing Contest" radio program from the Chicago Theater, winning first prize on the West Coast repeat broadcast.

In 1939 the Sherman family moved to the Los Angeles area of California where Ray began his professional career.

Ray played with Jimmy Walsh, Hal Grayson and Paul Neighbors, and arranged for Gus Arnheim and Jan Savitt before being drafted into the Army in 1943. His Army service was performed with the 211th CAAA Band, which included Gil Rodin and Ray Bauduc.

After being discharged in 1946, Ray went to work as pianist for Will Osborne. This was followed by engagements with Jan Savitt and Jerry Wald.

In late 1946 Ray joined the Ray Bauduc group, with which he did his first recording and motion picture work.

In 1947 Ray Sherman married Jeanne Kanter, and in early 1948 he began his studio career, which included the radio shows of Abe Burrows, Judy Canova and Phil Harris.

In the early I950s, besides doing studio work, Ray appeared in night clubs and did recordings with Ben Pollack's "Pick-a-rib Boys." It was at this time that he served as musical director and composer for the UPA cartoon "The Oompahs" which featured the Pollack group.

In 1954 Ray spent several months working on the movie "Pete Kelly's Blues," both on camera and on the sound track, as a member of the group "Pete Kelly's Big Seven." He can also be heard on several recordings featuring this group.

In 1955 Ray appeared for several months as pianist and conductor on Bob Crosby's daily live TV show. This was the beginning of an association with Crosby that continued until the band leader's death. The "Bobcats" at that time consisted of Ray, Eddie Miller, Jack Sperling, Morty Corb, Charlie Teagarden, Elmer Schneider and Al Hendrickson.

From the late ’50s to the late ’70s Ray devoted his time almost exclusively to free-lance work on records, motion picture sound-tracks, and television, both live and film. Some of the leaders he worked under were Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Frank Comstock and Johnny Green. Among the many films he has worked on are "West Side Story," "Li'l Abner," "Bye, Bye Birdie" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."

Some of Ray's television work included "Jerry Lewis Live," "The Hollywood Palace," "Emergency," "Adam 12," "Route 66," and "Happy Days."

One of the high points of Ray's career was the series of 42 LPs called "The Swing Era," issued by Time-Life Records, on which Ray was the featured pianist. This was an extension of a series issued by Capitol Records, on which Ray was also featured, called "Sounds of the Great Bands’ (conducted by Glen Gray).

The high point of Ray's composing career was a well received "Theme, Variations and Fugue" performed by the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra under the direction of Stan Kenton in 1968. Ray was also pianist with the Neophonic Orchestra.

Ray's teachers, in the Los Angeles area were Ignace Hilsburg, piano, and Ernest Kanitz, composition. In the eighties Ray re-entered the jazz field, appearing frequently with the Bob Crosby Orchestra and Bobcats, Jack Sheldon's Hollywood Heroes, and other groups, such as those fronted by Abe Most, Dick Cathcart, and Dick Cary. He also performed with Pete Fountain on "The Tonight Show" and at the Hollywood Bowl.

Ray's appearances outside of the United States have included venues in Kristianstad, Sweden; The Hague, Holland; Nice, France; Puerto Penasco, Mexico; Berne and Montreaux, Switzerland; Breda, Holland; and Toronto, Canada.

Ray's currently available recordings include Jack Sheldon's "Hollywood Heroes," Maxim Saury's "Swingin’ in L.A." Bobby Gordon's "Don't Let It End" (with Adele Girard), Dan Barrett's "Jubilesta!" and Ray's own "Ray Sherman At The Keyboard" and "Piano Chicago Style."

A video is available of Bob Crosby's 50th anniversary concert, in which Ray was featured, and Ray's playing can also be heard in the TV movie "Neon Empire" and the theatrical film "Water Dance." Ray is featured in the PBS production "Benny Goodman's Greatest Hits."

In 1989 Ray was designated "Jazzman of the Year" by Los Angeles’ Jazz Forum.

Ray's favorite pianists are Teddy Wilson, Bob Zurke and Nat Cole. His favorite arrangers are Bob Haggart and Eddie Sauter.

During the eighties Ray also became interested in writing non-fiction and poetry. His work has been published in The Humanist and Orion magazines and the British publication Jazz Journal.

Ray and his wife live in Duarte, California, and have three daughters, two granddaughters and two grandsons.

RAY SHERMAN joined the JazzTimes community on Oct 02, 2011