Mike Riley was proficient on both trumpet and trombone and enjoyed a certain amount of success as a bandleader, but is best remembered for co-writing the top hit of the year 1935, a head-spinning ditty entitled "The Music Goes 'Round and Around". The song inspired a variety of cover versions including recordings by rockers NRBQ, vintage vocal group the Boswell Sisters and a host of jazz stars including Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. It was the sole hit Riley came up with whilst wearing his songwriting cap, however.
Riley's date of birth seems to be a matter of opinion, with jazz biographer John Chilton estimating 1907 in Brooklyn while other sources place the year about three years earlier and the locale up north in Massachusetts.
In 1927 Riley was chewing on the Big Apple for sure, working as a trumpeter in a band that pianist, singer and comedian Jimmy Durante led at the Parody Club. Within a short time Riley was also playing the trombone in several big bands. His move to bandleading status took place as a result of a collaboration with a player who had similar talents, trumpeter and singer Eddie Farley.
The duo collaborated on a small band in the early '30s and tried their hand at a songwriting partnership, resulting in the single previously described bulls-eye. The Onyx Club kept the Farley and Riley outfit working steadily until ambitions led the partners to each start up their own groups. Through the '40s the Riley band was able to gig not only in New York but on the west coast and in the midwest as well. Riley became a sideman in Chicago in the early '50s before going back to bandleading, developing more of a variety revue than a strict jazz group. This ensemble toured throughout North America in the '50s and '60s. Other performers named Mike Riley, not to be confused with this performer, include a jazz guitarist who made several recordings in the '70s and a blues bassist whose nickname is "Sleepy."