Randy Brooks

Trumpeter Randy Brooks played with Ruby Newman’s orchestra before joining Hal Kemp in mid-1939. He remained with Kemp’s band after Kemp died in an automobile accident in December 1940, though efforts to keep the orchestra going under another leader failed, and it soon broke up. When Art Jarrett secured the right to use Kemp’s book and music in mid-1941, Brooks, along with about half of Kemp’s former musicians, became a member of the new band.

Brooks later worked in Claude Thornhill’s orchestra before joining former Kemp bandmate Bob Allen’s new band in mid-1942, where he served as musical director and helped propel the band into the public’s eye. Brooks left Allen in May 1943 for Les Brown’s orchestra and in December worked out a deal with Brown to finance his own band at the end of the following year.

Early Band

Brooks exited from Brown in November 1944 and began rehearsals with his new orchestra the next month. The band made its debut the week of February 9, 1945, at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., scheduled in to replace Billy Rogers’ orchestra, which had just broken up. Brooks’ band attracted little fanfare at the beginning. Critics complained about their lack of consistency, blowing hard on one song and playing so softly on the next that they could hardly be heard. Many of the musicians were, as Billboard magazine called them, “teen-age tooters” and not highly experienced. The band signed with Decca in May 1945.

Brooks’ orchestra improved from its early start but never really managed to find itself among the top circle of bands in the late 1940s, despite some good arrangements and original tunes by John Benson Brooks.[1] Lack of consistency continued to plague their sound. Even after Brooks trimmed the line-up in early 1947, cutting down by five musicians, critics still often complained that the brass section blew too hard.

Billboard’s 1946 college poll ranked Brooks as the 4th Most Promising Newer Orchestra of the year, though well behind Stan Kenton and Tex Beneke, who dominated the poll. Brooks placed 3rd in the same category in 1948, far behind top-ranked Elliot Lawrence. Brooks earned 6th place for both best swing band and best sweet band in Down Beat magazine’s 1946 poll.


The band went through a dizzying slew of vocalists in a very short time, perhaps because, as noted by one reviewer, they were given little to do. Loretta Vale and Vince Manning were vocalists in May 1945. Dottie Reid and Terry Parks replaced them in June. Neither lasted a month. Reid quickly left for Benny Goodman, and Bob Anthony replaced Parks. Anthony was then very quickly replaced by Billy Usher, who appeared with the band in its first and only musical short for Columbia and recorded on its first sets. Decca brought in Marion Hutton for the first recording session, hoping the combination would spark sales. The band also recorded with Ella Fitzgerald in 1945.

Margie Wood briefly sang in July 1945. Fran Warren joined as singer in August 1945, leaving Brooks in October for Charlie Barnet. Lillian Lane replaced her, leaving around the first of 1946 for Tex Beneke’s band. She was replaced by Pat Cameron, who was Usher’s wife. Usher and Cameron were out of Brooks’ band by March, replaced by Harry Prime and Beverly Byrne, the sister of Gene Krupa vocalist Buddy Stewart. Kay Allen was vocalist in August 1946 through at least October, and Aileen Stanley Jr. was female chirp in May 1947. Prime stayed through at least mid-1947. Male vocalists in late 1947 include Gil Lewis and Joe Tela.

Though he kept female singers for live shows, Brooks used only Usher and Prime in the studio. The band also focused on the college and one-nighter market and subsequently did not attract reviews by the major music publications, so little was written about their live performances, and almost nothing about their later vocalists. They continued to record on Decca, scoring a hit with “Tenderly” in 1947.

Decline and Post-Band Years

In July 1947, marriage troubles between Brooks and wife LaRue made front page news in the trade magazines. LaRue filed separation papers, charging Brooks with carrying on an affair with bandleader Ina Ray Hutton. Brooks countered that his wife’s drinking made her impossible to live with. The scandal and subsequent divorce seemed to take the wind out of Brooks’ sails, and the band suffered. By early 1948, it had ceased operations.

Brooks married Hutton on April 10, 1949, in Hollywood, and the two of them settled on the West Coast. Soon after, they signed with Brooks’ former booking agency, who hinted that they were working on a deal that would see the pair co-lead a band. Hutton instead formed a new all-girl orchestra which appeared on Los Angeles television for four years, and Brooks started a new band of his own, which he lead until he suffered a stroke in October 1950. Though temporarily paralyzed and blind at first, his health began to improve, and in September 1951 he announced the formation of another orchestra. He had bands in rehearsal off and on for the next year before deciding to abandon the band business altogether and open a music school in North Hollywood.

Brooks and Hutton divorced sometime after 1954, and Brooks returned home to Maine. He announced from there in 1958 that he was putting together a new dance band, but nothing came of it. Brooks died in a fire at his apartment in Springvale, Maine, in 1967, age 49.


  1. Though Down Beat identified John Benson Brooks as Randy’s brother, a friend of Randy Brooks clarified that the two men were not actually related. ↩︎


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Billy Usher.” IMDb Accessed 2 Fed. 2018.
  3. “Saxie Dowell Takes Baton; Kemp Cleans House Within Band.” Down Beat Jun. 1939: 3.
  4. “The Reviewing Stand.” Billboard 30 Dec. 1939: 61.
  5. “Art Jarrett Takes Over Kemp Band.” Down Beat 1 May 1941: 6.
  6. “Owens, Ralph, Turner, Smith Join Jarrett.” Down Beat 15 May 1941: 13.
  7. “Changes in Personnel Of Bands.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1942: 15.
  8. Levin, Mike. “Bob Allen Now Sensational.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1942: 2.
  9. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 19 Dec. 1942: 24.
  10. “Vaudeville Reviews: Oriental, Chicago.” Billboard 23 Jan. 1943: 16.
  11. “On the Stand: Bob Allen.” Billboard 1 May 1943: 21.
  12. “On the Stand: Les Brown.” Billboard 19 Jun. 1943: 25.
  13. Chasins, Gladys. “Talent and Tunes on Music Machines.” Billboard 25 Dec. 1943: 83.
  14. “GAC Gets Brooks' New Band; Dough May Be Masters'.” Billboard 30 Dec. 1944: 9.
  15. “Billie Rogers Breaks Up Ork.” Billboard 3 Feb. 1945: 21.
  16. “Send Birthday Greetings to:.” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1945: 15.
  17. “On the Stand: Randy Brooks.” Billboard 26 May 1945: 18.
  18. “Brooks Signed Decca’s 1st New Ork Paper Set.” Billboard 2 Jun. 1945: 18.
  19. “Decca Signs Marion Hutton.” Billboard 16 Jun. 1945: 15.
  20. “Randy, Hutton Wax.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1945: 8.
  21. “Bands Dug by the Beat.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1945: 14.
  22. “Bob Chester Back in Band Biz Again.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1945: 12.
  23. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 11 Aug. 1945: 21.
  24. “Fran Warren Joins Randy Brooks Band.” Billboard 1 Sep. 1945: 11.
  25. “Fran Warren Takes Barnet Vocal Spot.” Billboard 15 Oct. 1945: 1.
  26. “Brooks Gets Pennsy Six-Week Option.” Billboard 20 Oct. 1945: 17.
  27. “Record Reviews: Randy Brooks.” Billboard 27 Oct. 1945: 82.
  28. “Music—As Written.” Billboard 15 Dec. 1945: 20.
  29. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 12 Jan. 1946: 30.
  30. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 14 Jan. 1946: 1.
  31. “Musicians Off the Record.” Down Beat 28 Jan. 1946: 10.
  32. “Randy Brooks Changes Men.” Down Beat 6 Apr. 1946: 16.
  33. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 18 May 1946: 136.
  34. “Advance Record Releases.” Billboard 15 Jun. 1946: 118.
  35. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1946: 5.
  36. “Most Promising New Orks.” Billboard 13 Jul. 1946: 15.
  37. “400 Reopens With Three Orks.” Down Beat 9 Sep. 1946: 1.
  38. Wilson, Earl. “Feet Edson Tells of Good Old Days.” The Miami News 16 Oct. 1946: 11B.
  39. “Randy's Chirp.” Down Beat 4 Nov. 1946: 5.
  40. “Ellington Cops Both Crowns.” Billboard 1 Jan. 1947: 1.
  41. “On the Stand: Randy Brooks.” Billboard 15 Mar. 1947: 32.
  42. Brooks, Randy and Eddie Ronan. “Give 'Em Dance Music Or You're Out Of Business.” Down Beat 21 May 1947: 3.
  43. “Randy Brooks' Wife Name Hutton.” Down Beat 16 Jul. 1947: 1.
  44. “Prime New With Jack Fina Band.” Down Beat 24 Sep. 1947: 8.
  45. “Trade Tattle.” Down Beat 17 Dec. 1947: 17.
  46. “10th Annual College Poll.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1948: 16.
  47. “Table Shot Season Opens Again, With Splash.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1948: 14.
  48. “Marriages.” Billboard 23 Apr. 1949: 106.
  49. “ABC Re-Inks Randy.” Down Beat 7 Oct. 1949: 9.
  50. “Music Machines.” Billboard 7 Oct. 1950: 82.
  51. “Chronological List Recording Artists' Birthdays.” Billboard [Special Disk Jockey Supplement] 7 Oct. 1950: 72.
  52. “Stroke Cripples Randy Brooks.” Down Beat 20 Oct. 1950: 3.
  53. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 29 Dec. 1950: 5.
  54. “Randy Brooks Well, Organizing Band.” Down Beat 21 Sep. 1951: 11.
  55. “Randy Brooks OK. Will Be Teacher.” Down Beat 27 Aug. 1952: 19.
  56. “Randy Returns.” Down Beat 26 Jun. 1958: 10.
  57. “Randy Brooks Dies in Fiery Apartment.” The Bridgeport Post [Bridgeport, Connecticut] 21 Mar. 1967: 32.