|Birth Day:||December 15, 1911|
|Death Date:||Aug 25, 1979 (age 67)|
|Birth Place:||Wichita, United States|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
As per our current Database, Stan Kenton died on Aug 25, 1979 (age 67).
He toured as a pianist with several large bands while he was in his teens. His band and his style were called The Wall of Sound in the mid-1940s, a term that music impresario Phil Spector would later adapt for his production methods.
Stan Kenton was born on December 15, 1911, in Wichita, Kansas; he had two sisters (Beulah and Erma Mae) born three and eight years after him. His parents, Floyd and Stella Kenton, had moved the family back to Colorado, then, finally in 1924 to the Greater Los Angeles Area, settling in suburban Bell, California.
Kenton was born on December 15, 1911, according to his birth certificate, according to British biographer Michael Sparke.
Kenton attended Bell High School; his high-school yearbook picture has the prophetic notation "Old Man Jazz". Kenton started learning piano as a teen from a local pianist and organist. When he was around 15 and in high school, pianist and arranger Ralph Yaw introduced him to the music of Louis Armstong and Earl Hines. He graduated from high school in 1930.
Kenton was married three times. Three children were produced from the first two marriages. His first marriage was to Violet Rhoda Peters in 1935 and lasted for 15 years. The couple had a daughter in 1941, Leslie. In her 2010 memoir Love Affair, Leslie Kenton wrote that, from 1952 to 1954, when she was between the ages of 11 and 13, her father sexually molested and raped her. She nonetheless maintained a close relationship with him during his lifetime, though she states that she was emotionally scarred by the experience. She stated that the rapes always occurred under the influence of alcohol, that he was not fully aware of his actions, and that 20 years later he apologized profusely. Leslie was an author of several books about health, spirituality and beauty.
In April 1936 Gus Arnheim was reorganizing his band into the style of Benny Goodman's groups and Kenton was to take the piano chair. This is where Kenton would make his first recordings when Arnheim made 14 sides for the Brunswick label in summer of 1937. Once he departed from Gus Arnheim's group, Kenton went back to study with private teachers on both the piano and in composition. In 1938 Kenton would join Vido Musso in a short-lived band but a very educational experience for him.
In 1940, Kenton formed his first orchestra. Kenton worked in the early days with his own groups as much more of an arranger than a featured pianist. Although there were no "name" musicians in his first band (with the possible exception of bassist Howard Rumsey and trumpeter Chico Alvarez), Kenton spent the summer of 1941 playing regularly before an audience at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, CA. Influenced by Benny Carter and Jimmie Lunceford, the Stan Kenton Orchestra struggled for a time after its initial success. Its Decca recordings were not big sellers and a stint as Bob Hope's backup radio band during the 1943–44 season was an unhappy experience; Les Brown permanently took Kenton's place.
Kenton's first appearance in New York was in February 1942 at the Roseland Ballroom, with the marquee featuring an endorsement by Fred Astaire. By late 1943, with a contract with the newly formed Capitol Records, a popular record in "Eager Beaver", and growing recognition, the Stan Kenton Orchestra was gradually catching on; it developed into one of the best-known West Coast ensembles of the 1940s. Its soloists during the war years included Art Pepper, briefly Stan Getz, altoist Boots Mussulli, and singer Anita O'Day. By 1945, the band had evolved. The songwriter Joe Greene provided the lyrics for hit songs like "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'". Pete Rugolo became the chief arranger (extending Kenton's ideas), Bob Cooper and Vido Musso offered very different tenor styles, and June Christy was Kenton's new singer; her hits (including "Tampico" and Greene's "Across the Alley from the Alamo") made it possible for Kenton to finance his more ambitious projects.
Between 1944 and 1967, Stan Kenton had numerous hits on Billboard's charts.
When composer/arranger Pete Rugolo joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra as staff arranger in late 1945 he brought with him his love of jazz, Stravinsky and Bartók. Given free rein by Kenton, Rugolo experimented. Although Kenton himself was already trying experimental scores prior to Rugolo's tenure, it was Rugolo who brought extra jazz and classical influences much needed to move the band forward artistically.
After a string of mostly arrangements, Rugolo turned out three originals that Kenton featured on the band's first album in 1946: (Artistry in Rhythm): "Artistry in Percussion", "Safranski" and "Artistry in Bolero". Added to this mix came "Machito", "Rhythm Incorporated", "Monotony" and "Interlude" in early 1947 (though some were not recorded until later in the year). These compositions, along with June Christy's voice, came to define the Artistry in Rhythm band. Afro-Cuban writing was added to the Kenton book with compositions like Rugolo's "Machito."
The Progressive Jazz period lasted 14 months, beginning on September 24, 1947, when the Stan Kenton Orchestra played a concert at the Rendezvous Ballroom. And it ended after the last show at the Paramount Theatre in New York City on December 14, 1948. The band produced only one album and a handful of singles, due to a recording ban by the American Federation of Musicians that lasted the entirety of 1948.
Four of the five trumpet players returned: Buddy Childers, Ray Wetzel, Chico Alvarez, and Ken Hanna. Al Porcino was added to the already powerhouse section. Conte Candoli joined the band, replacing Porcino, in February 1948.
Kenton's band was the first to present a concert in the famous outdoor arena, the Hollywood Bowl. His concert there on June 12, 1948, drew more than 15,000 people, and was both an artistic and commercial success. Kenton pocketed half of the box office, walking away with $13,000 for the evening's concert.
After a year's hiatus, in 1950 Kenton finally put together the large 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns. The music was an extension of the works composed and recorded since 1947 by Bob Graettinger, Manny Albam, Franklyn Marks and others. Name jazz musicians such as Maynard Ferguson, Shorty Rogers, Milt Bernhart, John Graas, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Laurindo Almeida, Shelly Manne, and June Christy were part of these musical ensembles. The groups managed two tours during 1950–51, from a commercial standpoint it would be Stan Kenton's first major failure. Kenton soon reverted to a more standard 19-piece lineup.
In order to be more commercially viable, Kenton reformed the band in 1951 to a much more standard instrumentation: five saxes, five trombones, five trumpets, piano, guitar, bass, drums. The charts of such arrangers as Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Richards, and particularly Bill Holman and Bill Russo began to dominate the repertoire. The music was written to better reflect the style of cutting edge, be-bop oriented big bands; like those of Dizzy Gillespie or Woody Herman. Young, talented players and outstanding jazz soloists such as Maynard Ferguson, Lee Konitz, Conte Candoli, Sal Salvador, and Frank Rosolino made strong contributions to the level of the 1952–'53 band. The music composed and arranged during this time was far more tailor-made to contemporary jazz tastes; the 1953 album New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm is noted as one of the high points in Kenton's career as band leader. Though the band was to have a very strong "concert book", Kenton also made sure the dance book was made new, fresh and contemporary. The album Sketches on Standards from 1953 is an excellent example of Kenton appealing to a wider audience while using the band and Bill Russo's arranging skills to their fullest potential. Even though the personnel changed rather rapidly, Kenton's focus was very clear on where he would lead things musically. By this time producer Lee Gillette worked well in concert with Kenton to create a balanced set of recordings that were both commercially viable and cutting edge musically.
Arguably the most "swinging" band Kenton was to field came when legendary drummer Mel Lewis joined the orchestra in 1954. Kenton's Contemporary Concepts (1955) and Kenton in Hi-Fi (1956) albums during this time are very impressive as a be-bop recording and then a standard dance recording (respectively). Kenton in Hi-Fis wide popularity and sales benefited from the fact it was his greatest hits of ten years earlier re-recorded in stereo with a contemporary, much higher level band. The album climbed all the way up to #22 on the Billboard album charts and provided much needed revenue at a time when Rock n Roll had started to become the dominant pop music in the United States. It would become more and more difficult for Kenton to alternate between 'dance' and serious 'jazz' albums while staying financially solvent.
In 1955, Stan Kenton married San Diego-born singer Ann Richards, who was 23 years his junior. The relationship produced two children: daughter Dana Lynn and son Lance. In 1961, Richards posed for a nude layout in Playboy magazine's June 1961 issue. She signed a contract to record with Atco, a company other than Capitol Records that her husband was unaware of. The Playboy shoot was done without Kenton's knowledge, and he only found out about it while playing at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago when handed the magazine by Charles Suter, who was the editor of Down Beat magazine at the time. Richards was not typically on the road with the band, though she had recorded the album Two Much! with Kenton in 1960. Kenton filed for divorce in August 1961 and it was finalized in 1962, he would retain custody of their two children.
One of the standout projects and recordings for the mid-1950s band is the Cuban Fire! album released in 1956. Though Stan Kenton had recorded earlier hits such as The Peanut Vendor in 1947 with Latin percussionist Machito, as well as many other Latin flavored singles, the Cuban Fire! suite and LP stands as a watershed set of compositions for Johnny Richards' career and an outstanding commercial/artistic achievement for the Kenton orchestra, and a singular landmark in large ensemble Latin jazz recordings. "CUBAN FIRE is completely authentic, the way it combines big-band jazz with genuine Latin-American rhythms." The success of the Cuban Fire! album can be gauged in part by the immediate ascent of Johnny Richards' star after its release; he was suddenly offered a contract by Bethlehem Records to record what would be the first of several recordings with his own groups.
At one point, Kenton faced a controversy in 1956 with comments he made when the band returned from a European tour. The current Critics Poll in Down Beat was now dominated by African-American musicians in virtually every category. The Kenton band was playing in Ontario, Canada, at the time, and Kenton dispatched a telegram which lamented "a new minority, white jazz musicians," and stated his "disgust [with the so-called] literary geniuses of jazz." Jazz critic Leonard Feather responded in the October 3, 1956, issue of Down Beat with an open letter that questioned Kenton's racial views. Feather implied that Kenton's failure to win the Critics Poll was probably the real reason for the complaint, and wondered if racial prejudice was involved. In hindsight the record shows Kenton's biggest sin is to have hastily fired off the comments. However, less than 2% of the over 600 sidemen with the Kenton band were African American.
During the summer of the summer of 1955 (July–September), Kenton was to become the host of the CBS television series Music 55. While it offered 10 weeks of great exposure to a rapidly expanding television audience, the show failed. It was plagued by poor production techniques and a strange combination of guests that did not work well with what Kenton had envisioned. He ended up being stiff and out of place with what the producers tried to achieve. Kenton had to burn the candle at both ends flying in to do the show then flying back out to meet his band out on the road. The New York production team was limited by using an American Federation of Musicians roster of local players; Kenton wanted his own band to do the show. There would be another attempt for the Kenton organization to place the band on regularly scheduled television programming in 1958. After six Kenton financed episodes on KTTV in Los Angeles, there would be no sponsors to step up and back the show.
By the end of the decade Kenton was with the last incarnation of a 19-piece, '50s-style Kenton orchestra. Many bands have been called a leader's "best"; this last Kenton 1959 incarnation of the 1950s bands may very well be the best. The group would pull off one of Kenton's most artistic, subtle and introspective recordings, Standards in Silhouette. As trombonist Archie LeCoque recalled of this album of very slow ballads, "...it was hard, but at the time we were all young and straight-ahead, we got through it and (two) albums came out well." By 1959 Stereophonic sound recording was now being fully utilized with all major labels. One of the great triumphs of the Standards in Silhouette album is the mature writing, the combination of the room used, a live group with very few overdubs, and the recording being in full stereo fidelity (and later remastered to digital). Bill Mathieu was highly skeptical of the decision to record his music like Cuban Fire! in a cavernous ballroom. Mathieu adds: "Stan and producer Lee Gillette were absolutely right: the band sounds alive and awake (which is not easy when recording many hours of slow-tempo music in a studio), and most importantly, the players could hear themselves well in the live room. The end result is the band sounds strong and cohesive, and the album is well recorded." This is the last set of studio dates before Kenton would retool the entire orchestra in 1960.
The Kenton orchestra had been on a slow decline in sales and popularity in the late 1950s with having to compete with newer, popular music artists such as Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin and The Platters. The nadir of this decline was around 1958 and coincided with a recession that was affecting the entire country. There were far fewer big bands on the road and live music venues were hard to book for the Kenton orchestra. The band would end 1959 beaten up by poor attendance at concerts and having to rely far more on dance halls than real jazz concerts. The band would reform in 1960 with a new look, a new sound, a larger group with a 'mellophonium' section added and an upsurge in Kenton's popularity.
The Kenton Orchestra from 1960 to 1963 had numerous successes; the band had a relentless recording schedule. The albums Kenton's West Side Story (arrangements by Johnny Richards) and Adventures In Jazz, each won Grammy awards in 1962 and 1963 respectively. Ralph Carmichael wrote a superb set of Christmas charts for Kenton which translated into one of the most popular recordings from the band leader to date: A Merry Christmas!. Also, Johnny Richards' Adventures in Time suite (recorded in 1962) was the culmination of all things the mellophonium band was capable of. After the Fall 1963 U.S./U.K. tour ended in November, the mellophonium incarnation of Kenton bands was done. The conditions of Stan's divorce from jazz singer Ann Richards was that a judge ordered Stan to take a year off the road to help raise their two children or lose custody all together. Kenton would not reform another road band for tour until 1965.
Kenton had ties from earlier writing of country/western songs that were a success with Capitol and again he tried his hand in that genre during the early 1960s. In a music market that was becoming increasingly tight, in 1962 he cut the hit single "Mama Sang a Song"; his last Top-40 (No. 32 Billboard, No. 22 Music Vendor). The song was a narration written by country singer Bill Anderson and spoken by Kenton. The single also received a Grammy nomination the following year in the Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording category. The other attempt he made into that market was the far less successful Stan Kenton! Tex Ritter!, released in 1962 as a full LP.
Kenton's third marriage was to KABC production assistant Jo Ann Hill, in 1967. This also ended in a separation in 1969 with the divorce following in 1970.
The transition from Capitol to Creative World Records in 1970 was fraught with difficulties during a time when the music business was changing rapidly. As a viable jazz artist who was trying to keep a loyal but dwindling following, Kenton turned to arrangers such as Hank Levy and Bob Curnow to write material that appealed to a younger audience. The first releases for the Creative World label were live concerts and Kenton had the control he wanted over content but lacked substantial resources to engineer, mix, and promote what Capitol underwrote in the past. Kenton would take a big gamble to bypass the current record industry and rely far more on the direct mail lists of jazz fans which the newly formed Creative World label would need to sell records. Kenton also made his print music available to college and high-school stage bands with several publishers.
Kenton was conceived out of wedlock, and his parents told him that he was born two months later than the actual date, February 19, 1912, to obscure this fact. Kenton believed well into adulthood that the February date was his birthday, and recorded the Birthday In Britain concert album on February 19, 1973.
Kenton continued leading and touring with his big band up to his final performance in August 1978. In June 1973 Bob Curnow had started as the new artists and repertoire manager overseeing the whole operation of the Creative World Records. It was just the year before (in 1972) the Kenton orchestra recorded the National Anthems of the World double LP with 40 arrangements all done by Curnow. As per Curnow himself, "That was a remarkable and very difficult time for me. I was managing (Stan's) record company with NO experience in business, writing music like mad, living in a new place and culture (Los Angeles was another world), traveling a LOT (out with the band at least 1 week a month) and trying to keep it together at home."
Kenton's son Lance became a member of the controversial Synanon new-age community in California, and served as one of its "Imperial Marines," a group entrusted with committing violence against former members and others considered enemies of the community. In 1978 he was arrested for helping to put a rattlesnake in the mailbox of an anti-Synanon lawyer, and was sentenced to a year in prison.
When comparing the four longest running touring jazz orchestras (Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington), Kenton's band had a higher turnover of personnel. Bob Gioga, Buddy Childers, and Dick Shearer are among only a very few who played for Kenton for over a decade. Other important soloists such as Lennie Niehaus, Bill Perkins and Chico Alvarez had lengthy stays on the band as well. The list of noted jazz players, studio musicians is impressive and the consistency of the group from 1941 to Kenton's passing in 1979 is notable. Stan Kenton's leadership and music vision was clear to marshal the forces of such a diverse set of players and arrangers over this long period of time; Kenton stands alone in the respect.
On August 17, 1979, he was admitted to Midway Hospital near his home in Los Angeles after a stroke; he died eight days later, on August 25. At the time of his death he had three grandchildren. Kenton was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles.
Currently, Stan Kenton is 109 years, 7 months and 12 days old. Stan Kenton will celebrate 110th birthday on a Wednesday 15th of December 2021. Below we countdown to Stan Kenton upcoming birthday.
A Kenton Birthday Bash: Dec. 16th at 7 pm
We'll remember Stan Kenton's 101st birthday this Sunday with a focus on some of the great soloists with the band. Art Pepper, Bob Cooper, Vido Musso, and