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NY Pops, Former Tonight Show Bandleader Dies

Legendary conductor and bandleader Lyle Russell Cedrick “Skitch” Henderson died Nov. 1 of natural causes at age 87 in his New Milford, Conn. home. Henderson was best known for founding the New York Pops, his work as a Tonight Show bandleader, serving as musical director for Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby’s NBC programs and his contributions to the New Milford community and hospital.

Born Jan. 27, 1918 in Birmingham, England, Henderson moved to the United States in the 1930s to begin his career as a pianist, where for most of the decade he performed vaudeville and movie music. He earned his big break in 1937 when he replaced an ill pianist touring with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, which later led to work in Hollywood with Bob Hope’s The Pepsodent Show and also put him in touch with Bing Crosby, who became one of his mentors.

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