Born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of German immigrants, at a young age Wiedoeft started playing with his family orchestra, first on violin, then on clarinet. He moved to New York City and switched to saxophone, then still an unusual instrument. He became known as a virtuoso saxophonist in the 1910s, made more than 300 recordings for many different record labels, and did much to popularize the saxophone as an instrument in both the U.S. and overseas. His chief instrument was the C melody saxophone, a variety which was immensely popular from the 1910s until the U.S. stock market crash of October 1929. He also played and recorded a little on the E-flat alto and B-flat soprano as well.
His style was noted for very rapid runs of well articulated notes in between long lush legato phrases in a ragtime influenced style. The rapidly articulated notes were made possible by the advanced techniques of double-tonguing and triple-tonguing, similar to those used by brass (trumpet, trombone, etc.) players and flutists. He was also known for his style of vibrato, which was very wide in the later years of his playing. It is worth noting that in his earlier years, Wiedoeft's use of vibrato was quite spare and rather narrow. Wiedoeft employed several other 'sound effects,' such as slap tonguing and "laughing" (altering/bending the pitch of the note) through his horn, and alongside his very distinguishable vibrato, became a part of his musical arsenal to use at his disposal. While he incorporated some elements of early jazz into his playing, he remained stylistically a pre-jazz artist. Some of his original compositions were hits in their day, notably Valse Erica, Valse Llewellyn, Saxema, Saxophobia, and Sax-o-Phun.
He remained a very popular entertainer into the 1920s and performed regularly on radio, but his style started to sound more and more dated to the public as his career continued into the 1930s. He worked for a while in Rudy Vallee's band, then for a while in France. From the mid-1930s on, he essentially stopped playing and was involved in several mining investments that, unfortunately, did not prove successful.
Rudy and his wife Mary Wiedoeft had a difficult relationship partially due to difficulties in maintaining their rather flamboyant lifestyle and alcohol abuse. In 1937, he was nearly killed when he was stabbed by his wife. The couple reconciled though, and in the same year Rudy made his last radio appearance. He died in Flushing, New York in 1940 from cirrhosis of the liver.
Before 1920, the Holton Instrument Company took features from existing production model saxophones and marketed them as the "Rudy Wiedoeft Model". However, it is doubtful Wiedoeft actually performed on such instruments.
Several of Wiedoefts siblings also became professional musicians, the most famous being West coast bandleader Herb Wiedoeft (1886–1928).
- The Legacy of Rudy Weidoeft: http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/essays/v12p068y1989.pdf
- The Discography of Rudy Weidoeft: http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/talent/detail/24653/Wiedoeft_Rudy_instrumentalist_saxophone
- Works by Rudy Wiedoeft at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Rudy Wiedoeft at Internet Archive