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Charlie Spivak

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Biography

Charlie Spivak (17 February 1905 or 1907–1 March 1982) was an American trumpeter and bandleader, best known for his big band in the 1940s.

The details of Spivak’s birth are unclear. Some sources place it in the Ukraine in 1907, and say that his family emigrated to settle in New Haven, Connecticut while he was a child. Others place his birth in New Haven two years earlier, in 1905. What is certain is that he learnt to play trumpet when he was ten years old, and played in his high school band, going on to work with local groups before joining Don Cavallaro’s orchestra.

He played with Phil Sprecht’s band for most of 1924 to 1930, then spent time with Ben Pollack (1931–1934), the Dorsey brothers (1934–1935), and Ray Noble (1935– 1936). He spent 1936 and 1937 mostly working as a studio musician with Gus Arnheim, Glenn Miller, Raymond Scott’s radio orchestra, and others, followed by periods with Bob Crosby (1938), Tommy Dorsey (1938–1939), and Jack Teagarden (1939).

Finally, with the encouragement and financial backing of Glenn Miller, he formed his own band in November 1939. Though it failed within a year, he tried again shortly afterwards, this time taking over an existing band (Bill Downer’s) and making a success of it. Spivak’s band was one of the most successful in the 1940s, and survived until 1959.

Spivak’s experience playing with jazz musicians had little effect on his own band’s style, which was straight dance music, made up mainly of ballads and popular tunes. Spivak himself (known as “Cheery, Chubby Charlie”) had always been noted and used for his tone rather than for any improvisational ability.

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