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Ziggy Elman


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Harry Aaron Finkelman (May 26, 1914 – June 26, 1968), better known by the stage name Ziggy Elman, was an American jazz trumpeter most associated with Benny Goodman, though he also led his own Ziggy Elman and His Orchestra.

He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but his family settled in Atlantic City when he was four. His father was a violinist who had hoped he would play violin as well. Although he learned to play the violin, Harry preferred the brass instruments. He began playing for Jewish weddings and nightclubs at age 15, and in 1932 had his first recording where he played trombone. At some point in the decade he adopted the name Ziggy Elman. Elman is a shortening of Finkelman while “Ziggy” is believed to be a reference to Florenz Ziegfeld.

He joined the Benny Goodman orchestra as a trumpet player in 1936. His 1939 composition “And the Angels Sing” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer became the number one song in the nation. In 1956, he was asked to recreate his famous frailach solo along with the original vocalist Martha Tilton for the movie, The Benny Goodman Story but was unable to, his technique having since withered away. Another trumpeter, Manny Klein, played the solo on the soundtrack, but Elman appeared performing it in the film. This song is, arguably, his longest-lasting musical legacy since it has appeared in films up to 1997 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. After his work with Goodman he joined Tommy Dorsey’s band and also played as a member of the military during the war.

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