Thursday, 10 November 2016

Billy May arranged this for me

Another day, another centenary...

One of the greatest bandleader-arrangers Mr Billy May was born one hundred years ago today!

The man worked with everyone - from Glenn Miller to Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Nat King Cole, Anita O'Day, Vic Damone, Bobby Darin, Johnny Mercer, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Jones, Bing Crosby, Nancy Wilson, Rosemary Clooney, The Andrews Sisters, Ella Mae Morse - and Miss Keely Smith, who even credited him in the lyrics of I Can't Get Started...

...and of course, Francis Albert Sinatra, starting with Come Fly With Me:

He had great success in his arrangements of popular television themes of his day, especially the Green Hornet theme:

He even (as so many bandleaders did) turned his hand to Mambo, with such classics as Perfidia:

It would appear that some people would have loved him to run a country; and in light of recent events, he probably would have been a damn sight more popular than some recent contenders (one in particular). Yes, Michigan's II-V-I Orchestra want Billy May for President!

I agree wholeheartedly.

  • With an early break in 1938 playing trumpet for Charlie Barnet's big band, Billy kept working almost until his death seven decades later - he curated a series of "swing era" compilations for Time-Life in the late 90s.
  • It was Billy May who wrote many of the arrangements of Glenn Miller's standards, including American Patrol and Serenade In Blue.
  • Frank Sinatra wanted Billy and his band for his first albums, but when he was unavailable, took Nelson Riddle as second choice; May and Sinatra eventually worked together on six of the latter's biggest selling LPs.
Edward William "Billy" May, Jr (10th November 1916 – 22nd January 2004)


  1. A true genius. With an unmistakable style.

    1. And a fine line in Marimba outfits, if picture #2 is anything to go by :-)

  2. His Cha Cha Cha album is the campest thing ever pressed into vinyl

    1. Such a shame he never worked with Ethel Merman - imagine how he could have surpassed even that camp classic... Jx


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