Jerry Wald

Clarinetist and bandleader Jerry Wald is perhaps best remembered as Artie Shaw’s biggest fan. Wald was fascinated by Shaw’s late-1930s style, and he worked hard to imitate it. Though never a first-tier group, Wald’s early band proved successful enough to earn him a modest place in the history books, despite its lack of real talent or originality.

Early Years

Wald learned clarinet at a young age and formed his first band while in high school. After graduating, he headed to California, where he played with a number of small combos, including one featuring Stan Kenton on piano. By August 1940, he had returned to East Coast, where he formed an orchestra which toured the northeast before settling in at Child’s Spanish Gardens in New York that October, his first New York engagement. Vocalists at that time were Marjorie Whitney and Frank Bond. Whitney left the band in February to return home to her native Nebraska.

Wald left Child’s in May 1941 and made another tour of the northeast before spending six weeks at Yankee Lake in Youngstown, Ohio. Dick Merrick and Lucille Richards were vocalists. In late 1941, Wald’s new booking agency, GAC, sent him to California where they had arranged for him to form a new band from the Los Angeles City College orchestra. After a three-week road trip back to New York, the group opened at the Rosemont Ballroom in Brooklyn, but soon after the building burned down. Stories vary on whether Wald’s band lost everything in the fire or that only Wald’s clarinet and the band’s arrangements survived.

Quickly getting back on their feet, the orchestra earned a break when asked to fill in at the Roseland Ballroom. The engagement ended up stretching to ten weeks. Vocalist Frances Wayne joined the band at the Roseland in early March 1942 though she stayed only a few days before leaving. Anita Boyer replaced her. The Roseland job led to a booking at the Hotel Lincoln, which gave Wald exposure on both the CBS and Mutual radio networks. The band’s popularity was rising, and they signed with Decca in April. In October, the band made a musical short for RKO-Pathe’s Jamboree series.

Wald’s love for Shaw was unashamedly present in his early work. His clarinet echoed Shaw note for note, phrase for phrase. The band played Shaw tunes in the exact manner. Even when they performed numbers not in Shaw’s catalog, they sounded like Shaw. Wald wasn’t Shaw however, and his band wasn’t nearly the same caliber. While Wald and his men could do a good imitation of Shaw, they never approached the same level of talent or ability. Still, Wald’s sound was pleasant, and he built up a following.

Defending his music in the April 15, 1942, issue of Down Beat magazine, Wald stated:

People say my band sounds like Shaw’s. That’s mostly bunk. Actually I purchased only two of Shaw’s arrangements—“Beguine” and “Carioca.” Certainly I’ve been influenced by Artie—he’s the number one boy on clary for my dough.

Wald himself, described as “small, dark and handsome,” wasn’t the most charismatic of frontmen. He never got intimate with the audience or tried to charm its female members, and his emcee work was stiff. He dressed smartly, however, and always smiled. Perhaps his most competent sideman was drummer Irv Cottler, who had been key in the sound of Larry Clinton’s recently disbanded orchestra. Cottler remained with Wald throughout most of the band’s existence. Wald was also one of the few bandleaders at the time who didn’t have to worry about losing his men to the draft. All thirteen of his musicians in October 1942 were 4F, as was he himself.

Merrick left the band in November 1942 to sing with the McFarland Twins. Trumpet player and singer Johnny Bond, who sang novelty tunes, joined in October and was the only male vocalist after Merrick departed. When Bond left the band in May 1943, Merrick returned. Boyer stayed until the beginning of 1943, when Lillian Lane replaced her. Lane remained until May 1943. Betty Bonney then sang and stayed through at least November of that year. Ginnie Powell had replaced Bonney by December.


1944 saw a change in Wald’s style. By mid-year he had added a six-piece string section to his already fifteen-piece orchestra. Wald used strings in a novel way, having them play along even on jump numbers. Wald still lacked outstanding musicians though. Reviews from this era described the band as methodical. Powell served as female vocalist until she left in October of that year, with Kay Allen replacing her. While working for Wald, Allen and Merrick fell in love and later married.

By 1945, Wald was back to his old sound. He pushed for and got his release from Decca in February 1945, one of the first bandleaders to walk away from the label over complaints that the company had been taking more of an interest in vocal stars and not pushing band recordings. Wald quickly found a new home at Majestic, dropping his string section and returning to pure jump music again.

1945 was perhaps Wald’s most successful year. His music was once again in the spotlight, and by this time as well Wald’s clarinet style had evolved so that he no longer sounded as if he were trying to imitate Shaw. His band of that period wasn’t loaded with outstanding sidemen, however those he had gave a good show, playing brassy and loud, often standing when in action.

Wald briefly had a major asset in Billie Rogers. The female trumpet player and vocalist, who had formerly played with Woody Herman and then led her own band, joined Wald in March 1945. Rogers’ husband, John Archer, also came along as part of the deal. Archer had managed Rogers’ band and took over management duties for Wald as well. One of the very few women to play in a male band, Rogers’ sensational trumpet playing and bluesy vocal style were highlights of Wald’s 1945 group. Rogers only stayed a few months however, leaving in October to front her own combo. Archer left as well.

Wald became the poster boy for payola in November 1945 when the Campbell-Loft-Porgie music publishing house sued him. According to the suit, Wald had borrowed several hundred dollars from the company, a common practice at the time, but had never attempted to pay it off. Bandleaders often took out “loans” from publishing houses with the understanding that it needen’t be paid back as long as the leader plugged the company’s songs. Wald never carried through on those expectations. The incident marked a turning point in the payola scandal, as previously no publishing house or bandleader had ever freely admitted to exchanging money for plugs.[1]

In 1946, Wald’s band began a noticeable decline. Despite Wald making the cover of Billboard on April 6 of the year, reviews that month painted the orchestra as boring and panned vocalist Anne Russell, who had replaced Allen by that month. Merrick had left again as well, replaced by Bill Raymond. Mary Nash also sang in 1946. Wald also complained that radio time was no longer effective in selling records. In the early part of the year, the group moved from Majestic to the Sonara label, and they starred in a Columbia musical short.

By late 1946, the writing was on the wall. The band business in general was in a slump, and many leaders had decided to turn in their batons. In November, Wald joined them. Announcing plans to create a sweet orchestra, he disbanded his jump group and let all his men go after completing a booking in Hollywood.[2]


Wald quickly put together his new outfit, which made its debut at Ciro’s in Hollywood on January 24, 1947, having already signed with Columbia Pictures to appear in the film Broadway Baby. The new orchestra was a radical departure from his previous band, featuring a lush string section. The brass section consisted only of two trumpets and one french horn. Vocalist was Nick Delano. Merrick returned in May, staying only briefly. He and Wald had a falling out in June after Merrick gave notice that he was leaving due to differences in vocal interpretations. Merrick accusing Wald of grabbing him and tearing his shirt in an argument. Jimmy Vanni replaced Merrick.

Wald’s sweet orchestra recorded for the Commodore label in late 1947, but it failed to click, despite appearing in two more films. The group’s sound was awkward, especially when it attempted to play tunes from Wald’s previous book. He finally ditched it and return to what he knew best, jazz, forming a bop orchestra in January 1949.

The new nineteen-piece band was again a radical concept. Wald designed the orchestra for concert, theater and jazz work. It would play no dance dates. The line-up included eight instruments in the brass section, five reeds, three standard rhythm and three Latin rhythm. They recorded on the Columbia label. This band too failed to catch on, and Wald finally folded it and settled in Hollywood, where he opened his own bistro, the Studio Club, at Sunset and Vine, situated opposite the Palladium Ballroom. The late-night establishment featured small combos and acted as a musician’s hangout.

Wald didn’t stay out of the band business for long. In May 1950, he began rehearsing a new sixteen-piece orchestra to open the Hollywood location of Tommy Dorsey’s Casino Gardens ballroom on Memorial Day weekend. He remained in California through 1951. Carolyn Grey, ex-Woody Herman vocalist, joined the group in March 1951. In 1952, Chris Connors was female vocalist.

Wald finally closed his club and went on the road again in 1952, ending up back in New York, where his new sound was panned by reviewers. The group recorded for Decca in that year. In late 1953, Wald recorded for Lion.

Early 1954 found Wald switching gears yet again, this time forming a string combo. He later returned to fronting a full orchestra. In 1956 and 1958, he recorded for the Kapp label, and in early 1959 for Todd. In late 1959, he formed his own label, Waldork, to release his version of “The Creeper.” Wald’s last hurrah was in 1961, when his band was selected by CBS radio for a series of big band broadcasts from Atlantic City’s Steel Pier.

Jerry Wald passed away in 1973, age 55.


  1. C-L-P hired an innocent-looking, young blonde woman to attend one of Wald’s shows at the Roseland Ballroom. She approached the stand while the band was playing and asked the bandleader if he was Jerry Wald. Much to his surprise, when he replied in the affirmative, thinking her a fan, she served him the subpoena. ↩︎

  2. Vocalist Bill Raymond, unable to afford transportation back East after the band had been scrapped, filed a complaint with the California State Labor Department, wanting Wald to pay his travel expenses home as well as backpay for every day he had been stranded in the state. Wald’s management countered that Wald had made available $4000 to pay for his sidemen’s transportation but Raymond had refused. The vocalist indicated that he wanted to stay on the West Coast but later changed his mind. A hearing at the Labor Department accepted Wald’s offer to pay for Raymond’s transportation and rejected the singer’s claim for backpay. ↩︎

Vocalist Timeline

Frank Bond
Marjorie Whitney
Lucille Richards
Billie Rogers
Anne Russell
Bill Raymond
Mary Nash

Note: Dates may be approximate. Some vocalists may not be listed due to lack of information on their dates of employment.


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 17 Aug. 1940: 10.
  3. “Marjorie Whitney.” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1940: 17.
  4. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 2 Nov. 1940: 11.
  5. Advertisement. “Season's Greetings Jerry Wald.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1940: 25.
  6. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 15 Feb. 1941: 10.
  7. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 3 May 1941: 12.
  8. “Wald Boosts Band for His Ohio Booking.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1941: 13.
  9. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 21 Mar. 1942: 24.
  10. “Jerry Wald Lands Hotel Lincoln Job.” Billboard 28 Mar. 1942: 13.
  11. “On the Stand: Nick Jerret.” Billboard 4 Apr. 1942: 21.
  12. “I'm Not Aping Shaw!” Down Beat 15 Apr. 1942: 2.
  13. “Talents and Tunes.” Billboard 25 Apr. 1942: 71.
  14. “Anita Boyer Joins Jerry.” Down Beat 15 May 1942: 1.
  15. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 23 May 1942: 20.
  16. “Jerry Wald on Decca Disks.” Down Beat 15 May 1942: 1.
  17. “Night Clubs-Vaudeville.” Billboard 13 Jun. 1942: 14.
  18. “Vaudeville Reviews: Strand, New York.” Billboard 25 Jul. 1942: 18.
  19. “Wald Proves Office Can Develop Band.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1942: 3.
  20. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 11 Aug. 1942: 27.
  21. “Picture Tie-Ups for Music Machine Operators.” Billboard 10 Oct. 1942: 68.
  22. “Vaudeville Reviews: RKO-Boston - Boston.” Billboard 24 Oct. 1942: 17.
  23. “Wald to Take Thornhill Spot.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1942: 13.
  24. “Anita Boyer Loses Jewels.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1942: 5.
  25. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 12 Dec. 1942: 23.
  26. “Changes in Personnel Of Bands.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1942: 35.
  27. “Vaudeville Reviews: Earle, Philadelphia.” Billboard 19 Dec. 1942: 18.
  28. “Philly Earle Off.” Billboard 26 Dec. 1942: 14.
  29. Advertisement. Billboard 2 Jan. 1943: 46.
  30. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 27 Feb. 1943: 16.
  31. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 8 May 1943: 23.
  32. “Betty Bonney Goes to Wald.” Down Beat 1 Jun. 1943: 5.
  33. “On the Stand: Jan Savitt.” Billboard 24 Jul. 1943: 17.
  34. “Jerry Wald Debut at Hamid's Pier.” The Sunday Morning Star [Wilmington, Delaware] 25 Jul. 1943: 32.
  35. “She Vocalizes.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette [Cedar Rapids, Iowa] 31 Oct. 1943: 5.
  36. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 13 Nov. 1943: 22.
  37. “Monroe, in Hub, Must Sprint to Nab Vanities 34G.” Billboard 22 Jan. 1944: 21.
  38. “Gorgeous Ginny.” Down Beat 15 Apr. 1944: 12.
  39. “Palisades Sets 2 Mil. As Goal In Bond Drive.” Billboard 24 Jun. 1944: 44.
  40. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 22 Jul. 1944: 27.
  41. “Band Vocalist's Pet Pooch Has Himself A Busy Day.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1944: 2.
  42. “Ginnie Powell to Gene Krupa Ork.” Down Beat 15 Oct. 1944: 5.
  43. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 30 Oct. 1944: 15.
  44. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 Jan. 1945: 5.
  45. “Woody Herman Leaves Decca for Columbia Disks.” Billboard 17 Feb. 1945: 17.
  46. “Billie Rogers Joins Jerry Wald's Band.” Billboard 10 Mar. 1945: 21.
  47. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 5 May 1945: 23.
  48. “Brooks Signed, Decca's 1st New Ork Paper Set.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 18.
  49. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 66.
  50. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 11 Aug. 1945: 21.
  51. “Billie Rogers Exiting from Wald Band to Form Small Combo.” Billboard 20 Oct. 1945: 17.
  52. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 3 Nov. 1945: 21.
  53. “Jerry Knows Now to Beware of Blonde with Paper in Hand.” Billboard 10 Nov. 1945: 15.
  54. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1945: 1.
  55. “New Wald Chirp.” Billboard 25 Mar. 1946: 2.
  56. Cover. Billboard 6 Apr. 1946: 1.
  57. Advertisement. Billboard 6 Apr. 1946: 20.
  58. “Jerry Wald: He Plays What He Likes.” Billboard 6 Apr. 1946: 36.
  59. “Music As Written.” Billboard 20 Apr. 1946: 26.
  60. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 27 Apr. 1946: 37.
  61. “Wald to Switch to Sweet.” Billboard 9 Nov. 1946: 39.
  62. “Ex-Wald Crooner Charges Desertion, Sues for Fare, Pay.” Billboard 7 Dec. 1946: 14.
  63. “Carroll-Wiere, Wald-Raymond Gripes Settled.” Billboard 14 Dec. 1946: 41.
  64. “Music Industry Looks Upon '47 as a Normal, Level-Of Year.” Billboard 4 Jan. 1947: 12.
  65. “Music As Written.” Billboard 25 Jan. 1947: 30.
  66. “On the Stand: Jerry Wald.” Billboard 8 Feb. 1947: 33.
  67. Hartshorn, Dick. “Night Club Reviews: The Blue Room, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans.” Billboard 21 Jun. 1947: 43.
  68. “Wald Tore My Shirt—Says Singer.” Down Beat 2 Jul. 1947: 1.
  69. “75c Commodore Label Due Soon.” Billboard 15 Nov. 1947: 17.
  70. “For Boppers Only.” Billboard 22 Jan. 1949: 24.
  71. “MCA & GAC Find Time to Bop.” Billboard 26 Feb. 1949: 20.
  72. “Wald to Open TD's Casino Gardens on Coast.” Billboard 27 May 1950: 18.
  73. “Music As Written.” Billboard 31 Mar. 1951: 20.
  74. “Night Club-Vaude Reviews: Earl Carroll's Theater Restaurant, Hollywood.” Billboard 7 Apr. 1951: 44.
  75. Rolontz, Bob. “Night Club-Vaude Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 8 Mar. 1952: 13.
  76. “Music As Written.” Billboard 10 May. 1952: 22.
  77. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 7 Jun. 1952: 36.
  78. Sasso, Joey. “Jerry Wals Created Own Unique Style by Study.” The Day [New London, Connecticut] 13 Nov. 1953: 11.
  79. “Packaged Record Review Ratings.” Billboard 16 Jan. 1954: 34.
  80. “Music As Written.” Billboard 1 May. 1954: 20.
  81. “Reviews of New Pop Records.” Billboard 24 Feb. 1958: 41.
  82. “Kapp Sharpens.” Billboard 8 Sep. 1958: 51.
  83. “Distributor News.” Billboard 20 Apr. 1959: 50.
  84. “Music As Written.” Billboard 5 Oct. 1959: 23.
  85. “Wave of Ork Wax Could Herald Big Band Revival.” Billboard 21 Aug. 1961: 3.