Tom Coakley

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West Coast bandleader Tom Coakley was on the verge of national success when he left music, in April 1936, to pursue a law career. Only thirty-one at the time, Coakley never returned. Appointed a judge…
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West Coast bandleader Tom Coakley was on the verge of national success when he left music, in April 1936, to pursue a law career. Only thirty-one at the time, Coakley never returned. Appointed a judge of the Superior Court, in California's Mariposa County, in 1953, he served as Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeals from 1969 until his retirement in 1972. Coakley showed talent as a musician from a young age. A band that he formed with elementary school friend, Jackson Swales, on piano, remained together. An eight piece high school band, it grew to twelve pieces while Coakley and Swales attended the University of California. Although it was temporarily disbanded, while Coakley attended the Boalt Hall School of Law, the orchestra was reorganized to play at college dances and Yosemite State Park in 1929. Strengthening the group's sound during a two-year engagement at the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland, Coakley and his orchestra reached out to a national audience following their appearance on Walter Winchell's radio show, Magic Carpet in 1933. Hotel ballrooms served as the prime site of Coakley and his orchestra's performances. They performed nightly at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, for three months, before moving on to the Rose Room of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Following a national hotel ballroom tour, in 1935, they settled at the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco. Announcing his retirement from music, in April 1936, Coakley turned leadership of the orchestra over to Carl Ravazzo.