b. 5 April 1916, Helena, Montana, USA, d. 1996. Claude Gordon’s dance band orchestra came to prominence in 1959 when the American Federation Of Musicians, faced with the advances of rock ‘n’ roll, attempted to institute a big band revival. They organised a series of regional heats to find the ‘best new band’ of the day, with a national final at New York’s Roseland Ballroom. The overall winner was Claude Gordon, whose 13-piece group (plus singer Darts Alexander) had formed a few years previously in Los Angeles, California. Having been active in the Hollywood music scene for several years, Gordon’s main experience was drawn from his time as a staff musician for CBS Records. A talented trumpet player, he had also taught that instrument and the accordion at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. In the 40s he had tasted the dance band touring experience by working with artists including Matty Malneck, Ronnie Kemper and Frankie Masters. The reward for winning the competition was a new suite of instruments, a recording contract with Alma Records, a network television opening, and a coast to coast tour. The organisers also arranged for the group to be managed by Frank Motte, who had previously guided the careers of both Benny Goodman and Harry James, while Billy May was taken on as arranger. Despite all these good auspices, the Claude Gordon Orchestra found itself unable to prosper in the face of music industry and public apathy towards dance bands in the 60s. Eventually Gordon returned to teaching music full-time, although the band was occasionally reunited for one-off dates in California.
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