Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Cavanaugh became a session tenor saxophone player in California in his mid-twenties, working with numerous bands, including those of Eddie Miller, Bobby Sherwood, Benny Carter and Woody Herman.
As "Big Dave" Cavanaugh, he also released singles such as "Big Dave's Special" / "One Stop" and "The Cat from Coos Bay" / "Loosely with Feeling".
In the early 1950s, Cavanaugh became a Director of A & R (Artists and Repertoire) for Capitol Records, where, during a stint that would endure to the end of his career, he signed artists such as Dakota Staton, Donna Hightower, Nancy Wilson, Plas Johnson and Sandler & Young.
He became one of the label's main producers, becoming responsible for the output of top artists such as Nat "King" Cole, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee, Kay Starr, Billy May, Sandler and Young and Frank Sinatra and winning a Grammy in 1959 for producing Sinatra's album Come Dance with Me!.
Cavanaugh even worked as arranger on some sessions, most notably on Nat "King" Cole's 1958 album Welcome to the Club, on which Cole was backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, though not, for contractual reasons, by Basie himself.
The Top of the Tower
In the 1970s, Cavanaugh became President of Capitol Records, with whom he remained associated until his death on New Year's Eve 1981 at Tarzana Hospital of heart complications following surgery in Tarzana, Los Angeles, California.
Cavanaugh also worked with Warner Brothers Animation on the cartoons Happy Hippety Hopper and Snowbound Tweety as both producer and composer. Wild West Henry Haw, Bugs Bunny & The Pirate and Tweety's Good Deed also used Cavanaugh's music.
- Profile Discogs
- Big Bands Database musical calendar for 13 March
- Big Bands Database musical calendar for 31 December
- Article on Dave Cavanaugh from the magazine "Interlude Era"