Jack Sheldon

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Jack Sheldon
Sheldon at the Palo Alto Jazz Festival, September 26, 1987
Sheldon at the Palo Alto Jazz Festival, September 26, 1987
Background information
Birth nameBeryl Cyril Sheldon Jr.[1]
Born(1931-11-30)November 30, 1931
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
DiedDecember 27, 2019(2019-12-27) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, comedian, actor
Instrument(s)Trumpet, vocals

Beryl Cyril Sheldon Jr. (November 30, 1931 – December 27, 2019), known professionally as Jack Sheldon, was an American singer, musician, and actor.[2] He performed on The Merv Griffin Show and participated in episodes of the educational music television series Schoolhouse Rock!, where he became known for his distinctive voice.


Bubba Kolb, Jack Sheldon (center), and Ira Sullivan, Village Jazz Lounge, Walt Disney World, c. 1980s

Music and TV[edit]

Sheldon was born in Jacksonville, Florida, United States.[2] He originally became known through his participation in the West Coast jazz movement of the 1950s, performing and recording with such figures as Stan Kenton, Art Pepper, Gerry Mulligan, and Curtis Counce.[2] Sheldon played the trumpet, sang, and performed on The Merv Griffin Show. He was Griffin's sidekick for many years. Prior to joining Griffin's show, he served as bandleader for the short-lived The Las Vegas Show.

His voice is perhaps best known from the Schoolhouse Rock! cartoons of the 1970s, such as "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just a Bill". He appeared in one episode of Johnny Bravo as the Sensitive Man. He sang a few songs in the episode similar to the Schoolhouse Rock! style. Sheldon returned to the Schoolhouse Rock! series for a 2002 episode titled "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College", explaining the electoral college process, distributed on the series' DVD collection that same year. Sheldon sang and played trumpet for the new segment.

Sheldon voiced "Louie the Lightning Bug" in a series of animated musical public service announcements (animated by legend Bob Kurtz from his Kurtz & Friends studio) aimed at children across the United States and Canada, beginning in May 1984, promoting safety with electricity.[3] In 2001, the "Louie the Lightning Bug" videos were updated with new voice-overs by Sheldon and new music tracks produced by Mark Harrelson, with updated musical arrangements by Ray Reach.

He sang the tune "King Putt" for The World According to Goofy Parade at Disneyland, which ran for five months in 1992. A trumpet solo of his is featured throughout the Francis Ford Coppola film One from the Heart (1982). Tom Waits' 1977 album Foreign Affairs includes Sheldon playing trumpet on several cuts, including the solo at the end of "Burma Shave".

In the 1964–1965 season, Sheldon starred with Cara Williams and Frank Aletter on the CBS situation comedy The Cara Williams Show, in which Williams and Aletter played a married couple trying to keep their marriage a secret because their employer forbade a husband and wife from working together; Sheldon portrayed a jazz trumpeter who was the couple's next-door neighbor and friend. From 1966–1967, Sheldon starred in his own 16-episode CBS sitcom, Run, Buddy, Run, as Buddy Overstreet, a young accountant taking a steam bath who, overhearing a mobster's plot to kill a colleague, then goes on the run to keep from being killed. Bruce Gordon, formerly of The Untouchables, played the mobster, "Mr. D". Sheldon made numerous appearances on the 1967–1970 version of Dragnet. He also played John Davidson's brother (and Sally Field's brother-in-law) on The Girl with Something Extra (1974). In 2004, he performed live at the end of ALF's Hit Talk Show.


Sheldon appeared in an Oscar-nominated documentary film Let's Get Lost about the life of fellow jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. He made an appearance in the 1994 film Radioland Murders as the ill-fated trumpet player Ruffles Reedy, who becomes a victim of the gruesome goings-on during a 1939 radio show.

Jack's poignant trumpet solo on "The Shadow of Your Smile" which was introduced in the 1965 film The Sandpiper helped earn it Song of the Year at the 1966 Grammy Awards and Best Original Song at the 1965 Academy Awards.

Sheldon performed one of the many versions of the title song featured in Robert Altman's 1973 film The Long Goodbye. His version was intended to be released as a single, but never was.

Sheldon is the subject of a documentary, Trying to Get Good: the Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon (2008). Produced by Doug McIntyre and Penny Peyser, the film features interviews with Clint Eastwood, Billy Crystal, Merv Griffin, Chris Botti, Dave Frishberg, Johnny Mandel, Tierney Sutton, as well as never before seen concert footage of Sheldon playing, singing and joking. Trying to Get Good won Jury Prizes at the 2008 Kansas City Film Makers Jubilee and Newport Beach Film Festival, as well as Audience Prizes at Newport Beach and the Indianapolis International Film Festival.


Sheldon parodied his own performance in "I'm Just a Bill" in an episode of The Simpsons called "The Day the Violence Died", where he is an "amendment to be". He reprised his roles as the Bill and the Conductor from "Conjunction Junction" in two episodes of Family Guy.[4]


Sheldon died of natural causes on December 27, 2019, at the age of 88.[5]


As leader[edit]

  • Jack Sheldon Quintet (Jazz: West, 1955)
  • The Quartet and the Quintet (Jazz: West, 1956)
  • A Jazz Band Ball with Stu Williamson (Mode, 1959)
  • A Jazz Profile of Ray Charles (Reprise, 1961)
  • Jack's Groove (GNP, 1961)
  • Out! (Capitol, 1962)
  • Oooo, But it's Good (Capitol, 1963)
  • The Warm World of Jack Sheldon (Dot, 1968)
  • The Cool World of Jack Sheldon (Dot, 1969)
  • Singular (Beez, 1980)
  • Playin' It Straight (RealTime, 1981)
  • Stand By for Jack Sheldon (Concord Jazz, 1983)
  • Hollywood Heroes (Concord Jazz, 1988)
  • On My Own (Concord Jazz, 1992)
  • Jack Sheldon Sings (Butterfly, 1993)
  • Jack Sheldon Presents The Entertainers (V.S.O.P., 1994)
  • Jack is Back! (Butterfly, 1995)
  • Live at Don Mupo's Gold Nugget (V.S.O.P., 1997)
  • Playing for Change (Uptown, 1997)
  • JSO Live! On the Pacific Ocean (Butterfly, 2001)
  • Sunday Afternoons at the Lighthouse (Woofy, 2005)
  • Listen Up (Butterfly, 2006)
  • It's What I Do (Buttefly, 2007)

As guest[edit]

With Curtis Counce

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Stan Kenton

With Tom Waits

With others



  1. ^ Keepnews, Peter (3 January 2020). "Jack Sheldon, Trumpeter and 'Schoolhouse Rock!' Singer, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Larkin, Colin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 388–389. ISBN 978-1-8522-7937-0.
  3. ^ "Jack Sheldon". Voicechasers.com. Archived from the original on November 27, 2018. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  4. ^ Bebco, Joe. "Jack Sheldon West Coast Jazz Trumpeter and voice of School House Rock "Bill" has Died". Syncopated Times. Archived from the original on December 31, 2019. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  5. ^ Barnes, Mike (December 31, 2019). "Jack Sheldon, Famed Trumpeter and Merv Griffin Sidekick, Dies at 88". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2019-12-31. Retrieved 2022-02-27.

External links[edit]