b. USA. Throughout the 40s, apart from a two-year spell in the army, Williams worked with many dance bands including those of Sam Fletcher, Johnny Long, Vincent Lopez, Les Elgart, George Paxton, Bobby Sherwood and, mainly as a vocalist, the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. Williams formed his own dance band in 1949 in New York City. They were initially known as the Gene Williams And The Junior Thornhill Band before changing to the Gene Williams Orchestra. The musical sidemen enrolled included Stan Getz, Harry Wegbreit, Jack Mootz, Don Josephs, Harry Di Vito, Dick Hoch, Sam Marowitz, Charlie O’Cain, Mickey Folus, Joe Reisman, Teddy Napoleon, Russ Saunders and Mel Zelnick. While Williams himself and Adele Castle were the featured vocalists, Gil Evans, Hubie Wheeler, Chico O’Farrill and Joe Reisman served as the band’s arrangers. The orchestra had a jukebox hit with an instrumental, ‘Just Goofin’’, released by Mercury Records.
The orchestra’s initial contracts came from college dates, before the membership elected to put the band on a more permanent footing. Mixing bebop instrumentals with the smooth style inherited from Williams’ time with Thornhill, by 1952 they had secured engagements at venues such as the Glen Island Casino. Thereafter, however, they struggled to make any headway, hamstrung by the reduced air time available to dance bands with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll.