The bandleader Bob Chester, adored by lovers of both cold desserts and big band music for his lip-smacking "Shoot the Sherbert to Me, Herbert," started out as a tenor saxophonist under the direction of bandleaders such as Irving Aaronson, Ben Bernie, and Ben Pollack. By the mid-'30s he was leading his own group, based out of Detroit. His family owned the General Motors Fisher Body Works, so he was able to pursue the musical muse without worrying about going hungry. While his band was hardly the most famous from the swing era, it was known for quality music, garnered good reviews, and tended to feature a talented array of sidemen. Players such as virtuoso young trumpeters Alec Fila and Conrad Gozzo, saxophonists Herbie Steward and Peanuts Hucko, and even progressive trombonist Bill Harris played in this group. Chester may have had an even better knack for choosing charismatic singers, putting talent such as Bob Haymes, Gene Howard, Betty Bradley, and Dolores O'Neil in front of the band, although some of the numbers they were forced to sing were a bit trivial. The musical direction of the band moved from a fairly straight imitation of the Glenn Miller band to some progressive developments in the early '40s. In the beginning, the Miller cloning was much more than just an artistic decision. Chester's group was bankrolled by trombonist Tommy Dorsey, who did it to get back at Miller himself after a business arrangement had gone sour. Did the Chester band steal Miller's thunder? Hardly. This original mission thwarted, the group got out from under Dorsey's thumb (or slide) and pursued other directions. Arranger David Rose gets some credit for making Chester's group sound more individual in the later years. A new connection with producer, songwriter, and publisher Joe Davis also was something of a pipeline to material such as the clever tune "The Lion and the Mouse," which the Chester band got to premiere on a CBS broadcast -- not the type of event to mess up a band's career. The big band pummeling economy of the mid-'40s forced Chester out of the business, however. He put another band together briefly in the early '50s, but retired for good a few years later. Chester went back to Detroit and spent the rest of his life working in the auto business.
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