Les Brown (bandleader)

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Les Brown
Brown in 1947
Brown in 1947
Background information
Birth nameLester Raymond Brown
Born(1912-03-14)March 14, 1912
Reinerton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 4, 2001(2001-01-04) (aged 88)
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, big band, swing, traditional pop
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader
Instrument(s)Saxophone, clarinet
Years active1936–2000
LabelsDecca, Bluebird, Columbia, Capitol
Les Brown with Doris Day (1946)

Lester Raymond Brown (March 14, 1912 – January 4, 2001) was an American jazz musician who led the big band Les Brown and His Band of Renown for nearly seven decades from 1938 to 2000.[1][2]


Brown was born in Reinerton, Pennsylvania.[1] He enrolled in the Conway Military Band School (later part of Ithaca College) in 1926, studying with famous bandleader Patrick Conway for three years before receiving a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy, where he graduated in 1932.[3] Brown attended college at Duke University from 1932 to 1936.[3] There he led the group Les Brown and His Blue Devils,[4] who performed regularly on Duke's campus and up and down the east coast. Brown took the band on an extensive summer tour in 1936. At the end of the tour, while some of the band members returned to Duke to continue their education, others stayed on with Brown and continued to tour, becoming in 1938 the Band of Renown. The band's original drummer, Don Kramer, became the acting manager and helped define their future.

In 1942, Brown and his band concluded work on an RKO picture, Sweet and Hot; played at the Palladium Ballroom, Hollywood. A few years later, in 1945, this band brought Doris Day into prominence with their recording of "Sentimental Journey".[1] The song's release coincided with the end of World War II in Europe and became an unofficial homecoming theme for many veterans.[4] The band had nine other number-one hit songs, including "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm".[3]

In 1952–53, Brown was the orchestra leader on Day's radio program, The Doris Day Show, on CBS.[5]

Les Brown and the Band of Renown performed with Bob Hope on radio, stage and television for almost fifty years.[3] They did 18 USO Tours for American troops around the world, and entertained over three million people. Before the Super Bowls were televised, the Bob Hope Christmas Specials were the highest-rated programs in television history. Tony Bennett was "discovered" by Bob Hope and did his first public performance with Brown and the Band.

The first film that Brown and the band appeared in was Seven Days' Leave (1942) starring Victor Mature and Lucille Ball. Rock-A-Billy Baby, a low-budget 1957 film, was the Band of Renown's second, and in 1963 they appeared in the Jerry Lewis' comedy The Nutty Professor playing their theme song "Leapfrog".[6]

Brown and the Band were also the house band for The Steve Allen Show (1959–1961) and the Dean Martin Show (1965–1972). Brown and the band performed with virtually every major performer of their time, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. The annual Les Brown Big Band Festival, started March 2006 in Les' hometown, features area big bands preserving the songs of the big band era. At the 2012 festival celebrating the 100th birthday anniversary, the town of Reinerton renamed the street near Les' birthplace to Les Brown Lane. In 2013 his hometown of Reinerton, PA adopted as the town's official slogan: Reinerton: The Town of Renown in honor of Les and his band.[citation needed]

Les Brown Sr. died of lung cancer in 2001, and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his wife Evelyn, son Les Jr., and daughter Denise. He was 88 years old at the time of his death.

His grandson, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, co-created the show Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy's Law.[7]

Brown was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.[8]

Les Brown Jr.[edit]

In 2001, Les Brown Jr. (1940–2023), became the full-time leader of the Band of Renown. It continues to perform throughout the world and have a regular big band show in Branson, Missouri. Brown Jr. also hosted a national radio show on the Music of Your Life network. Brown Jr. was a television actor in the 1960s (Gunsmoke, General Hospital, The Baileys of Balboa, Gilligan's Island), a rock musician and producer who worked with Carlos Santana, and a concert promoter for many country music artists including Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. In 2004, Brown Jr. received the "Ambassador of Patriotism" award from the POW Network. Brown Jr. died from cancer at his home in Branson, Missouri, on January 9, 2023, at the age of 82.[9]


  • Connee Boswell I Don't Know (1950)
  • Connee Boswell Martha (1950)
  • Over the Rainbow (1951)
  • Palladium Concert 1953 (Group 7, 2005)
  • Live at the Hollywood Palladium (1954)
  • Dancer's Choice (Capitol, 1956)
  • Les Brown & His Orchestra, Vol. 2 (Hindsight, 1949)
  • Radio Days Live (early radio recordings, 2001)
  • Les Brown & His Band of Renown (Coral, 1957)
  • Swing Song Book (Coral, 1957)
  • Concert Modern (Capitol, 1958)
  • Live at Elitch Gardens 1959 (1959)
  • The Les Brown Story: His Greatest Hits in Today's Sound (Capitol, 1959)
  • The Lerner and Loewe Bandbook (Columbia, 1961)
  • Play Hits From The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Others (Columbia, 1963)
  • Stereophonic Suite for Two Bands: The Les Brown Band and Vic Schoen and His Orchestra (Kapp, 1959)
  • A Sign of the Times (Decca, 1966)
  • Today (MPS, 1976)
  • Goes Direct to Disc (The Great American Gramophone Company, 1977)
  • Digital Swing (Fantasy, 1986)
  • Anything Goes (USA, 1994)
  • America Swings (Hindsight, 1995)
  • Bandland / Revolution in Sound (Collectables, 1995)
  • Sentimental Thing with Bing Crosby & Billy Eckstine (Sounds of Yesteryear, 2003)
  • The Les Brown All-Stars (Group 7, 2006)
  • No Name Bop
  • A Good Man Is Hard to Find
  • Thank You for Your Fine Attention
  • The One and Only (Intersound / Memorylane, 2016)

Musical short films[edit]


  • Bob Hope Show (1945) NBC Radio
  • Bob Hope Show (1959–1966) NBC
  • The Steve Allen Show (1958–1960) NBC
  • The New Steve Allen Show (1961) NBC
  • Hennesey (1962) CBS
  • Hollywood Palace (1964) NBC
  • Bob Hope Thanksgiving Show (1964) NBC
  • Dean Martin Show (1965) NBC
  • Dean Martin Summer Show (1966) NBC
  • Rowan and Martin at the Movies (1968) NBC
  • Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968) NBC
  • Dean Martin and the Golddigger's (1968) NBC
  • The Christmas Songs (Mel Torme, host)(1972) PBS
  • Bob Hope Special: Joys (1976) NBC
  • The Good Old Days of Radio (1976) NBC
  • Doris Day's Best Friends (1985) NBC
  • Ooh-La-La, It's Bob Hope's Fun Birthday Special from Paris (1981) NBC
  • Biography: Doris Day "It's Magic" (1985)
  • Rocko’s Modern Life


  1. ^ a b c Harris, Beth (6 January 2001). "Les Brown, 'Band of Renown' Leader, Dead at 88". Gettysburg Times. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  2. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Les Brown". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 344. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Tape 1, side B.
  5. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
  6. ^ Gene Lees, Arranging the Score pp. 162 and 173
  7. ^ Marjorie Galas (June 7, 2009). "Phineas and Ferb: Music, Mischief, And The Endless Summer Vacation". Archived from the original on 7 June 2009.
  8. ^ "2010 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  9. ^ Panaligan, EJ (10 January 2023). "Les Brown Jr., Musician, Actor and Producer, Dies at 82". Variety. Retrieved 18 January 2023.

External links[edit]