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Larry Elgart

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Larry Elgart
Portrait of Larry Elgart.
Portrait of Larry Elgart.
Background information
Birth nameLawrence Joseph Elgart
Born(1922-03-20)March 20, 1922
New London, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedAugust 29, 2017(2017-08-29) (aged 95)
Longboat Key, Florida, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader
Instrument(s)Alto saxophone

Lawrence Joseph Elgart (March 20, 1922 – August 29, 2017) was an American jazz bandleader. With his brother Les, he recorded "Bandstand Boogie", the theme to the long-running dance show American Bandstand.


Elgart was born in 1922 in New London, Connecticut, four years younger than his brother Les, and grew up in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.[1] Their mother was a concert pianist; their father also played piano, though not professionally. Larry and Les both attended Pompton Lakes High School.[2] Both brothers began playing in jazz ensembles in their teens, and while young Larry played with jazz musicians such as Charlie Spivak, Woody Herman, Red Norvo, Freddie Slack and Tommy Dorsey.

In the mid-1940s, Les and Larry started up their own ensemble, hiring Nelson Riddle, Bill Finegan and Ralph Flanagan to arrange tunes for them. Their ensemble was not successful, and after a few years, they scuttled the band and sold the arrangements they had commissioned to Tommy Dorsey.[3] Both returned to sideman positions in various orchestras.

In 1953, Larry met Charles Albertine and recorded two of his experimental compositions, "Impressions of Outer Space" and "Music for Barefoot Ballerinas". Released on 10" vinyl, these recordings became collectors' items for fans of avant-garde jazz, but they were not commercially successful.

Larry and Albertine put together a more traditional ensemble and began recording them using precise microphone placements, producing what came to be known as the "Elgart Sound". This proved to be very commercially successful, and throughout the 1950s, Larry and Les enjoyed a run of successful albums and singles on the Columbia label. Their initial LP, "Sophisticated Swing," released in late 1953, was credited to The Les Elgart Orchestra, because, according to Larry, Les was more interested than his brother in fronting the band.[4]

In 1954, the Elgarts left their permanent mark on music history in recording Albertine's "Bandstand Boogie," for the legendary television show originally hosted by Bob Horn, and two years later, by Dick Clark. In 1956, Clark took the show from its local broadcast in Philadelphia, to ABC-TV for national distribution as "American Bandstand." He remained host for another 32 years. Variations of the original song surfaced as the show's theme in later years.

In 1955, the band became The Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra, but the brothers split in 1959, each subsequently releasing his own series of LPs. Larry signed with RCA Victor. His 1959 album, "New Sounds At the Roosevelt," was nominated that year for a Grammy Award. From 1960 to 1962, he released music on MGM Records. Larry and Les reunited in 1963 and recorded several more albums, ending with 1967's "Wonderful World of Today's Hits," after which they went their separate ways.[4] Les moved to Texas and performed with The Les Elgart Orchestra until his death in 1995.[5]

In 1969, Larry was invited to London to make three records for Swampfire Records under the imprint of Les and Larry Elgart. The albums claimed a Nashville sound and bore no relationship to the Elgart Sound of the early 1950s.[6]

In 1981, in a stark departure from the fabled Elgart Sound, Larry produced Flight of the Condor for the RCA Victor label, described as an album in the Jazz-funk and fusion genres. In a bid to garner interest, RCA released one of the tracks, "No Big Thing," as a 45 rpm single. Billboard magazine said of the release:[7]

This is an intense album that should not be misunderstood. It is not old big band, although it has some roots there. It is not disco-dance, although it has flavorings in that direction, particularly on "No Big Thing." It does have a good deal of Latin flavorings with Elgart's alto sax and Patti Coyle Bunham's wordless high register vocalise blending gracefully.

Elgart's biggest exposure came in 1982, with the smash success of a recording titled "Hooked on Swing". The instrumental was a medley of swing jazz hits - "In the Mood", "Cherokee", "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree", "American Patrol", "Sing, Sing, Sing", "Don't Be That Way", "Little Brown Jug", "Opus #1", "Take the A Train", "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" and "A String of Pearls" - that became so popular it even cracked the US Billboard Pop Singles chart (at No. 31) and Adult Contemporary chart (No. 20).[8] This was the final hit for any artist in the year-long "medley craze," that lasted from 1981 to 1982. Billed as "Larry Elgart and His Manhattan Swing Orchestra," the LP from which the tune was taken hit No. 24 on the US charts. The follow-up, Hooked on Swing 2, debuted at No. 89 on the album charts, and soon after Larry was back to the jazz touring circuit. He continued to tour internationally and record into the 2000s.

A resident of Longboat Key, Florida, Elgart died in 2017 at a hospice center in Sarasota, Florida, at the age of 95.[1][9][10]


  • Impressions Of Outer Space (Brunswick, 1953)
  • Band with Strings (Decca, 1954)
  • Until The Real Thing Comes Along (Decca, 1954)
  • Larry Elgart & His Orchestra (Decca, 1954)
  • Barefoot Ballerina (Decca, 1955)
  • Larry Elgart and His Orchestra (RCA Victor, 1959)
  • New Sounds at The Roosevelt (RCA Victor, 1959)
  • Saratoga (RCA Victor, 1960)
  • Easy Goin' Swing (RCA Victor, 1960)
  • Sophisticated Sixties (MGM, 1960)
  • The Shape of Sounds to Come (MGM, 1961)
  • Visions American Legends: A New Look And A New Sound (MGM, 1961)
  • Music in Motion! (MGM, 1962)
  • More Music in Motion (MGM, 1962)
  • The City (MGM, 1963)
  • The Larry Elgart Dance Band (Project 3, 1979) (reissue of New Sounds at the Roosevelt)
  • Flight of the Condor (RCA Victor, 1981)
  • Hooked on Swing (RCA Victor, 1982)
  • Hooked on Swing 2 (RCA Victor, 1983)
  • Larry Elgart and His Swing Orchestra (RCA Victor, 1983)
  • Let My People Swing (K-Tel, 1995) (reissue of New Sounds at the Roosevelt)
  • Live at the Ambassador (Quicksilver, 1998)
  • Latin Obsession (Sony, 2000)
  • Bandstand Boogie (2003)
  • Nashville Country Piano (Swampfire 1969)
  • Nashville Country Brass (Swampfire 1969)
  • Nashville Country Guitars (Swampfire 1969)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water (Swampfire 1970)

With Les Elgart

  • Sophisticated Swing (Columbia, 1953)
  • Prom Date (Columbia, 1954)
  • Campus Hop (Columbia, 1954)
  • More of Les (Columbia, 1955)
  • Just One More Dance (Columbia, 1954)
  • Bazoom (Columbia EP, 1954)
  • The Band of the Year (Columbia, 1955)
  • The Dancing Sound (Columbia, 1955)
  • For Dancers Only (Columbia, 1955)
  • The Elgart Touch, (Columbia, 1955)
  • Les Elgart & His Orchestra Present, (Columbia EP, 1955)
  • The Most Happy Fella (Columbia, 1956)
  • For Dancers Also (Columbia, 1956)
  • Les & Larry Elgart & Their Orchestra (Columbia, 1958)
  • Sound Ideas (Columbia, 1958)
  • Big Band Hootenany (Columbia, 1963)
  • Command Performance (Columbia, 1964)
  • The New Elgart Touch (Columbia, 1965)
  • Elgart au Go-Go, (Columbia, 1965)
  • Sound of the Times (Columbia, 1966)
  • Warm and Sensuous (Columbia, 1966)
  • Girl Watchers (Columbia, 1967)
  • Wonderful World of Today's Hits, (Columbia, 1967)


  • Elgart, Lynn; Elgart, Larry (2014). The Music Business and the Monkey Business: Recollections. Archway Publishing. ISBN 978-1480812086.


  1. ^ a b Grimes, William (August 31, 2017). "Larry Elgart, Who Kept Swing Up to Date, Dies at 95". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T. "Elgart, Les(ter) Elliot" in The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, p. 147. Gale, 2000. ISBN 9780684806440. Accessed September 3, 2017. "During the 1930s the family moved several times, finally settling in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, where the brothers attended Pompton Lakes High School."
  3. ^ "Les and Larry Elgart". Space Age Musicmaker. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Les and Larry Elgart "Fluid Drive"". Big Band Library.com. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  5. ^ "Les Elgart, 77, Dies; Led a Dance Band", The New York Times, July 31, 1995.
  6. ^ Elgart, Lynn; Elgart, Larry (2014). The Music Business and the Monkey Business: Recollections. Archway Publishing. ISBN 978-1480812086.
  7. ^ "Billboard's Recommended LPs". Billboard. New York. October 3, 1981. p. 67.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2000). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Hits (7th ed.). Billboard Books. p. 212. ISBN 9780823076901.
  9. ^ Johns, Katie (August 31, 2017). "Larry Elgart remembered for his love of swing music". YourObserver.
  10. ^ Larry Elgart, big-band leader with unlikely 1980s smash, ‘Hooked on Swing,’ dies at 95 Washington Post. 1 September 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2018.

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