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Les Brown dies at 88

Les Brown, whose Band of Renown was one of the most enduring orchestras that grew out of the swing era of the 1930’s, died on January 4th at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88.

Brown was one of the last swing bandleaders to remain active as the century drew to a close. He and his band were best known for their classic 1945 recording of “Sentimental Journey” with Doris Day, their hit 1946 record “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and for their work with Bob Hope on the radio, on tour and on television.

Born on March 12, 1912 in Reinerton, Pennsylvania, Brown was the son of the town’s concert band conductor. His father let him take cornet lessons at an early age.

Les eventually switched from cornet to soprano saxophone and later learned clarinet and bassoon. By the time he was fourteen, Brown showed enough promise that his father permitted him to enroll in the Patrick Conway Military Band School in Ithaca, New York, where he studied theory and became interested in symphonic music. After three years at Conway, Brown received a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy in Cornwall, New York. He played saxophone in the band and began to write music. This is where he became infatuated with big band music, listening to radio programs and records that featured Gene Goldkette,

Paul Whiteman, Red Nichols, Fletcher Henderson and Bix Beiderbecke.

Brown went to Duke University in 1932 and became leader of the Blue Devils, Duke’s college swing band. After attending Duke, he moved to New York City and wrote arrangements for the bands of Isham Jones, Jimmy Dorsey, Larry Clinton and Mr. Nichols. In 1938 he gained the backing of Victor Records and started the orchestra that became Les Brown and His Band of Renown.

The Band of Renown’s songs were released, re-released and sometimes re-recorded to take advantage of superior sound technology. Three of the more recent issues were “Anything Goes” and “Les Brown: The Best of the Big

Bands,” both in the 1990’s, and “The Les Brown Story,” in the late 1980’s.

Mr. Brown is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and their son, Les Jr., and daughter, Denise Marsh.

Originally Published