Murray Kellner

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If a musician's popularity was based purely on a system of tallying up each time their playing had been heard by an individual set of ears, then perhaps the superstars of the music business would be people…
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If a musician's popularity was based purely on a system of tallying up each time their playing had been heard by an individual set of ears, then perhaps the superstars of the music business would be people such as Eleanor Slatkin, Julius Brand, Solomon Deutsch, Irving Lipschultz, Dan Bay, and of course, Murray Kellner. These are the names of string players -- violin, viola, cello -- whose skills earned them places in orchestras accompanying the top stars of the day, through whatever hit records were being created, under the guidance of combined conductors/bandleaders/contractors such as Art Kahn and Richard Himber. Based on this system, Kellner would be rewarded the combined popularity of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Bobby Darin, and the list goes on and on.

Kellner also recorded on his own, an activity that took place in the historic early years of the American recording business, and on many labels including the famed Edison Diamond Disks, for whom Murray Kellner's Dinner Music Ensemble served up a series of sides. The Royale label's classy series of extended play dance band records included several releases under the name of Murray Kellner and His Orchestra. As a sideman, Kellner is reported as present by discographer Tom Lord on more than 100 recording sessions between 1925 and 1970 -- but this also just represents music Lord would consider jazz, an arbitrary distinction at times. According to this dictum, Kellner was playing jazz during the famous Capitol recording dates with Frank Sinatra, but not when the lead singer was Doris Day.

The amount of actual jazz played by the member of a studio orchestra may not be enough to swing a dried leaf, so Kellner's real talents should be seen as meticulous professionalism within a type of ensemble that, in terms of musical history, has to be judged as versatile beyond belief. There does not seem to be a genre of music in existence that has not at least experimented with added string sections. Kellner's talents as a violinist were also exploited in small group settings in the '20s, when the extremely popular duo of Vernon Dalhart and Carson Robison were happily making records for every company in the business. Kellner is featured on many of these records, some of which were million sellers. Combo action in this era also included membership in the Virginians, a satellite studio band of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.