b. 24 July 1913, USA, d. 25 February 1997, Maywood, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Ray Pearl’s Orchestra were a popular dance band aggregation formed in 1937 in Pennsylvania, USA. Having previously worked with Barney Rapp, Pearl recruited sidemen Walter Link, Buddy Madison, Nicky Barile, Sully Walker, Bob Berkey, Memo Bernabei, Walter Bloom and others. The instrumentation was usually split between three saxophones, four brass, guitar, drums, piano, tuba and string bass, while the group’s most celebrated singer was Jean Gordon. Honing a style which most reviewers earmarked ‘sweet’, Pearl drew his inspiration from the work of Jan Garber and Russ Morgan. The band quickly established itself in the dancehalls and ballrooms of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The MCA organisation subsequently found bookings for them in California and the west coast throughout 1940, with stands at Jantzen Beach (Portland) and Casino Gardens (Santa Monica). Their impetus was interrupted by World War II, however, when Pearl enlisted. By popular legend a hard-bitten, deeply opinionated character, it is widely recalled that he spent most of his service years on latrine duty. He resumed his band leading career immediately after the war, finding good bookings at venues such as the Melody Mill (Chicago), the Roosevelt Hotel (New Orleans) and the Peabody (Memphis). However, when the dance band scene declined in the mid-50s Pearl took his final stand, lambasting Union president Jimmy Petrillo in a full-page advertisement in a Memphis newspaper and announcing his own retirement.
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