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Russ Morgan

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Biography

Russ Morgan (April 29, 1904 in Scranton, Pennsylvania – August 7, 1969 in Las Vegas, Nevada) was a Big Band orchestra leader.

Born into a Welsh family, Russ Morgan was encouraged to express himself musically from the tender age of seven. His ability had come naturally since his father, a coal-mine foreman, was a former musician who played drums in the local band in his spare time with his mother, before her marriage, had been a pianist in a vaudeville act. Almost at the same age that he began to study piano, he began to work in the mines in order to earn money to help support his family and pay for his lessons.

At the age of fourteen, he earned extra money as a pianist performing in a theater in his hometown. With his extra money, he purchased another instrument: a trombone. In 1921, he used the trombone while working with a local band called the Scranton Sirens. This band became one of the hottest in the Pennsylvania area during the 1920s. In fact some of its alumni, such as Jimmy Dorsey on sax and clarinet, Billy Lustig on violin and Tommy Dorsey on trombone (who took Russ’s place when he left the organization) went on to become famous.

Early career

At eighteen, he decided to try and further his career by going to New York. By 1925, at the age of twenty-one, he arranged for both John Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert. He then continued to gain experience by joining Paul Specht’s orchestra and toured throughout Europe with the orchestra. Contemporaries of Morgan’s in this orchestra were among greats – names like Arthur Schutt, Don Lindley, Chauncey Morehouse, Orville Knapp, Paul Whiteman, Charlie Spivak and Artie Shaw also played in this orchestra during the 1920s.

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