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Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra

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Biography

Nelson Smock Riddle, Jr. (June 1, 1921 – October 6, 1985) was an American arranger, composer, bandleader and orchestrator whose career spanned from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s. It was his signature sound and iconic arrangements that defined a generation and his work for Capitol Records kept such vocalists as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith household names. He found commercial and critical success again in the 1980s with a trio of albums with vocalist Linda Ronstadt.

Early years

Riddle was born in Oradell, New Jersey, the only child of Marie Albertine Riddle and Nelson Smock Riddle, Sr., and later moved to nearby Ridgewood.[1] Following his father’s interest in music, he began taking piano lessons at age eight and trombone lessons at age fourteen. Riddle and his family had a summer house in Rumson, New Jersey. He enjoyed Rumson so much that he convinced his parents to allow him to attend high school there for his senior year.[2] After his graduation from Rumson High School, Riddle spent his late teens and early 20s playing trombone in and occasionally arranging for various local dance bands, culminating in his association with the Charlie Spivak Orchestra.

In 1943, Riddle joined the Merchant Marine, serving at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York for roughly two years. During this time he continued working for the Charlie Spivak Orchestra and he studied orchestration under his fellow merchant marine, composer Alan Shulman.

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