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Billy May Dies

Billy May, an arranger, composer and trumpeter who supplied charts for many of Frank Sinatra’s recordings of the 1950s and ’60s, died of a heart attack on Thurs., Jan. 22 in his San Juan Capistrano, Calif. home. He was 87.

Born Edward William Jr. in Pittsburgh in 1916, May was playing trumpet professionally by at least age 22, when he joined Charlie Barnet’s band. He began contributing arrangements for the band shortly thereafter and developed a “slurping” or “scooping” sound for the saxophone section that became his trademark. His arrangement of Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” became a standard of the swing era. He stayed with Barnet for two years and then joined Glenn Miller’s orchestra, again as a trumpeter/arranger, again for two years. After spending the fall of 1942 in Les Brown’s band, May settled in Los Angeles and did session work in the studios. This led to May’s employment at NBC as a staff arranger and conductor.

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