Larry Binyon

Biography by

This Midwesterner needed someone to hold the door open for him when he arrived at a recording studio or radio broadcast date. Larry Binyon frequently performed on several different saxophones, clarinet,…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

This Midwesterner needed someone to hold the door open for him when he arrived at a recording studio or radio broadcast date. Larry Binyon frequently performed on several different saxophones, clarinet, and flute in bands, and even has a few fiddle credits thrown in here and there. He may be the guy that the tune "I Want to Be a Sideman" was written about, as there is little evidence of him having led his own bands, and no recordings were ever issued under his own name. He certainly has a load of credits as a bandmember, however, and was adept in both big band and small group settings.

Binyon came up as a professional woodwind player in the '20s. He is generally considered to have been a protégé of Ben Pollack, a bandleader known for breeding talent. Another somewhat similar reed player that came up through the Pollack band was the better-known Jimmy McPartland. It is doubtful that Binyon was ever an exclusive member of one band or the other, as he seems to have been much too busy, often working a variety of radio jobs during day, one eye glued open to help recover from the previous night's late-ending gig. Irving Mills' Hotsy-Totsy Gang, Roger Wolfe Kahn & His Orchestra, and Mildred Bailey with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra were just a few of the groups he played with during the '20s. Sometimes it seemed as if Binyon was in two places at once, blowing his horns in both spots, at least according to some of the historical accounts. A Mildred Bailey reissue set on Mosaic points out that although Binyon and guitarist Dick McDonough have been listed as appearing on certain recordings, both were actually playing a live job somewhere in New England on the date of the session. It is of interest that although a suggestion can be made as to who the real guitarist is on the date, no attempt has been made regarding who is really playing Binyon's part; most likely, because there is so little solo space in which to recognize someone's individual style, a typical situation when it comes to this player. A big band led by Bob Zurke is another example of Binyon's use as a section player, but not as a soloist; Binyon doesn't take a single fill in any of the more than two dozen recordings the band made.

His widest exposure on recording is his backup work on records by the Boswell Sisters and Bing Crosby. Binyon is on hand for some of Billie Holiday's great recordings, but as usual someone else gets most of the solos. His most interesting work from the perspective of jazz would have to be the Fats Waller & His Buddies sessions from the late '20s, also featuring trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, Eddie Condon on banjo, alto saxophonist Toby Hardwicke, and the great swing drummer Gene Krupa. The latter player was also part of the interesting '20s jazz band the Captivators, which also included early efforts by clarinetist Benny Goodman and the interesting guitarist Carl Kress.