February 12, 2019

Jerry Gray

   Generoso Graziano, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, was a leading composer, arranger, violinist and bandleader who is widely remembered for his work with Glenn Miller as well as Artie Shaw before and during World War II and then his own orchestras. A teenage virtuoso who led his own jazz band, the newly-named Jerry Gray joined Artie Shaw in 1936 as lead violinist and later lead arranger. He wrote some of Shaw’s greatest hits, including Begin The Beguine.

   When Shaw temporarily disbanded in November 1939, Glenn Miller hired Gray. Their highly successful collaboration produced dozens of major hit records, including a variety of American songbook standards, ballads and original jazz arrangements. With Miller in the AAF, Gray’s background and skill gave him the ability to blend a large string section with a traditional big band in a concert orchestra that some observers describe as “the greatest big band ever assembled”. Gray wrote and contributed to the presentation of popular music, jazz and light classics, his most famous efforts being Pennsylvania 6-5000 and Chatanooga Choo Choo.

   Gray wrote arrangements for the postwar Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Tex Beneke, where he developed a friendship with pianist and arranger Henry Mancini. He led his own band for radio broadcasts,and records,as is detailed in The Jerry Gray Story. In 1949 he formed a Miller-style organization, “The Jerry Gray Band of Today” and recorded for Decca records. In 1953 Gray assisted with the production of the Universal-International film The Glenn Miller Story. In 1957, Jerry married Joan Barton, a vocalist and film actress. By the 1960s he had settled in Dallas where he conducted the house band at the Fairmont Hotel. This later band generally featured more modern compositions by Gray and other contemporaries such as Sammy Nestico and Billy Byers. In 1968 he briefly returned to the Miller sound with swing arrangements of contemporary songs for Billy Vaughan's orchestra, including Spanish Eyes, A Walk in the Black Forest, and an AAF-like treatment of One of Those Songs. He continued to lead the Fairmont Hotel band into the 1970s before dying of a heart attack at the age of 61. Source

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Abbey Mausoleum
Restland Memorial Park
Dallas

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