[Dixielandjazz] Clarinetist and Bandleader Artie Shaw Dies at 94

BillSargentDrums at aol.com BillSargentDrums at aol.com
Thu Dec 30 14:11:49 PST 2004

Clarinetist and Bandleader Artie Shaw Dies at 94
By _Ben  Mattison_ (mailto:ben at playbillarts.com) 
30 Dec 2004 
Artie Shaw, a clarinetist who became a hugely popular bandleader and then  
retired from performing at age 44, died today, National Public Radio reports. He 
 was 94.  
Shaw grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and played the alto saxophone in a  
dance band there as a teenager. He moved to Cleveland in 1926 and to New York 
in  1929; there he played in Harlem jam sessions with pianist Willie "The Lion" 
 Smith. In the early 1930s, he worked as a session musician.  
His first band, formed in 1936, included a rhythm section and string quartet; 
 in 1937, he formed a swing band, and scored his first big hit a year later 
with  Begin the Beguine. Over the next several years, he had several more hits, 
 including Frenesi and Summit Ridge Drive, with various ensembles.  But he 
found the pressures of fame unbearable--gossip columnists were fascinated  by 
his movie-star good looks and his eight marriages--and took a series of  
sabbaticals from performing.  
In 1942, Shaw enlisted in the Navy; he formed a new band and performed for  
servicemen throughout the Pacific theater of the war. After the war, he played  
with small groups and with two different big bands, and spent a year studying 
 classical music. He retired from music altogether in 1954, and spent much of 
the  second half of his life writing fiction. In 1983, his band was reformed 
under  the leadership of clarinetist Dick Johnson, and he occasionally 
conducted the  new group.  
An intensely private man and a perfectionist, Shaw could be difficult to work 
 with. Late in life, he told the editors of Who's Who that he wanted his  
obituary to read, "He did the best he could with the material at hand." Later,  
he told a lecture audience that he had come up with a shorter, more elegant  
version: "Go away."

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