Richard Maltby played the cornet in his school band, then studied briefly at the music school of Northwestern University while playing in dance bands. After leaving college, he played trumpet with the big bands of Little Jack Little, Roger Pryor, Bob Strong, and Henry Busse and did some arranging. He took a job as an arranger for the orchestra of radio station WBBM in Chicago in 1940. In 1942, Benny Goodman recorded his composition "Six Flats Unfurnished." Maltby moved to New York in 1945 to became an arranger-conductor on network radio, working with Paul Whiteman. Recording for subsidiary labels of RCA Victor, he scored a Top 40 hit on RCA's X Records with "St. Louis Blues Mambo" in the fall of 1954. He began leading his own dance band in May 1955 and had a Top 20 hit, "(Themes From) The Man With the Golden Arm," on RCA's Vik imprint in the spring of 1956. He left RCA for Columbia in 1959, then moved to Roulette in 1960. He was also musical director of SESAC Jazz Classics from 1950-1965, recording transcriptions for radio, and conducted for such singers as Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Johnnie Ray, Vic Damone, and Ethel Merman. After he stopped recording on his own in the mid-'60s, he served as an arranger and conductor for Lawrence Welk on records and television. He retired due to a heart condition that led to several operations prior to his death at age 77. His son, Richard Maltby Jr., became a successful Broadway lyricist and director.
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