Shep Fields

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Shep Fields
Shep Fields in 1957
Shep Fields in 1957
Background information
Birth nameSaul Feldman
Born(1910-09-12)September 12, 1910
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 23, 1981(1981-02-23) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California
GenresJazz, swing
LabelsBluebird, MGM, RCA Victor
External audio
audio icon You may hear the Shep Fields Orchestra performing "Don't Blame Me" by Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh and "Rippling Rhythm" by Sol Gice in 1948 Here

Shep Fields (born Saul Feldman, September 12, 1910 – February 23, 1981) was an American bandleader who led Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm orchestra during the 1930s.[1][2][3]


Early life[edit]

Shep Fields was born Saul Feldman in Brooklyn, New York, on September 12, 1910, and his mother's maiden name was Sowalski.[4] His brother, Edward Fields, was a carpet manufacturer, and his younger brother, Freddie Fields, was a respected theatrical agent and film producer who helped to establish Creative Management Associates in 1960.[5] Their father died at 39.[6]

Fields began his musical career by playing clarinet and tenor saxophone in bands during college. His "Shep Fields Jazz Orchestra" made frequent appearances at his father's resort hotel, the Queen Mountain House in the Catskill Mountains, which featured such noted singers as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor.[7][5] Following the death of his father, Fields was forced to become his family's principal provider. Consequently, he abandoned his studies at law school and reformed his orchestra. Appearances on cruise ships and resort hotels soon followed.[8]


Hotels and radio[edit]

In 1931, Fields received his first big break when his orchestra was booked at the famed Roseland Ballroom in New York City.[9] By 1933, he also led a band that played at Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel. In 1934, he replaced the Jack Denny Orchestra at the landmark Hotel Pierre in New York City. He soon left the Hotel Pierre to join a roadshow with the dancers Veloz and Yolanda.[9] In 1936, he was booked at Chicago's Palmer House hotel, and the concert was broadcast live on the radio. His highly successful "Rippling Rhythm" society dance band was subsequently featured regularly on the hotel's big band remote concerts, which were transmitted over the radio to audiences throughout the country.[10]

Rippling rhythm sound[edit]

Fields was eager to perfect a unique orchestral sound to distinguish his ensemble from other "sweet jazz bands" of his era. With this in mind, he collaborated with his arrangers Sal Gioa and Lou Halmy to analyze the performances of his peers. After admiring the glissandos featured by the trombone in Wayne King's orchestra, Fields adapted them to his viola section. The embellishments for the right hand, which were popularized by Eddy Duchin on the piano, became the source of inspiration for the elegant passages to which Fields assigned to his accordionist. Fields was also impressed by Hal Kemp's use of triplets on the trumpet and Ted Fio Rito's distinctive use of temple blocks. With this in mind, he incorporated the use of triplets by the clarinets, flutes, and temple blocks in his orchestra. After taking note of Ferde Grofe's innovative use of both the trombone and temple blocks in his Grand Canyon Suite, he adopted a similar stylistic device for muted trumpets. The resulting sound impressed radio listeners on the Mutual Radio Network. A contest was soon held in Chicago for fans to suggest a new name for the Fields band, in keeping with the new sound. The word "rippling" was suggested in more than one entry, and Fields came up with "Rippling Rhythm."[11]

Shep Fields soon attracted national attention, and he was subsequently invited to entertain audiences with Veloz and Yolanda at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Confident in his success, Fields withdrew from his association with Veloz, Yolanda, and MCA Inc. He decided, instead, to return east to his former position at the Hotel Pierre in New York City. During this return trip to New York, Fields stumbled upon the distinctive sound effect that would serve as the introduction to his "Rippling Rhythm" sound for years to come.[11]

While relaxing between shows during a performance in Rockford, Illinois, Fields was seated at a soda fountain with his wife Evelyn. His attempts to develop a studio sound effect to introduce his music in Los Angeles had not been entirely successful. Struggling to find a solution for her husband, Evy began blowing bubbles into her soda through a straw. Bowing to his wife's inspiration, Fields immediately seized upon the idea and that sound became the trademark which opened each of his shows.[9][12][11]

Fields' light and elegant musical style remained popular among audiences throughout the 1930s and into the 1950s.[13] Based upon his widespread popularity, Fields received a contract with Bluebird Records in 1936. His hits included "Cathedral in the Pines", "Did I Remember?", and "Thanks for the Memory". His performances at Broadway's Paramount Theater consistently broke attendance records.[14] While appearing at the posh "Star-light Roof" atop the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1937,[15] Fields replaced Paul Whiteman with his own radio show, The Rippling Rhythm Revue, which featured a young actor named Bob Hope as the announcer on the NBC network.[16] In 1938, Fields' Rippling Rhythm Orchestra and Hope were featured in his first feature-length motion picture, The Big Broadcast of 1938.[9][17] A series of live remote broadcasts of the orchestra was also transmitted at this time from the landmark Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel featuring the accordionist John Serry Sr.[18]

New music and USO[edit]

By 1941, Fields revamped the band into an all-reeds group, with no brass section, known as Shep Fields and His New Music, featuring vocalist Ken Curtis.[19][20] The orchestra's size was increased dramatically to embellish the results, which Paul Whiteman had recorded. Fields now presented an orchestra that blended over 35 instruments, including: one bass saxophone, one baritone saxophone, six tenor saxophones, four alto saxophones, three bass clarinets, 10 standard clarinets, and nine flutes including an alto flute and a piccolo.[21] Noted singers such as Ralph Young were also engaged. The resulting band produced a rich ensemble sound under the guidance of such arrangers as Glenn Osser, Lew Harris, and Freddy Noble, who also served as the band's musical director. The critic Leonard Feather applauded the new band's beautiful sound, and Shep embarked upon a series of USO tours to entertain the troops during World War II.[11] From February, 1943, to August, 1944, guitarist Joe Negri also worked with the band.

After World War II ended, Fields reverted to his ever popular "Rippling Rhythm" style in 1947 and continued to perform in hotels long after other bands of his era had disappeared.[11] The group disbanded in 1963,[9] and Fields moved to Houston, Texas, where he worked as a disc jockey. He later worked at Creative Management Associates with his brother Freddie Fields in Los Angeles.[9]


Shep Fields died on February 23, 1981, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from a heart attack.[22][23][24] He was buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in New York.


During the course of an artistic career, which extended from 1931 through 1963, Shep Fields compiled an extensive musical legacy that has been preserved on such record labels as: Bluebird Records, Mercury Records, MGM, and RCA Victor.[25] His discography includes over three hundred arrangements of popular songs from this era and includes such hits as: "It's De-Lovely" (1937), "I've Got You Under My Skin", "The Jersey Bounce" (1942), "Moonlight and Shadows" (Bluebird 6803), "That Old Feeling" (Bluebird 7066), and "Thanks for the Memory" (Bluebird 7318, 1938).[8][26][27] Noted musical arranger and editor Joseph Schillinger observed that over the course of his career, Shep Fields had assembled "one of the most colorful bands" of his time.[21]


External audio
audio icon You may hear the Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm Orchestra performing the fox trot "In the Merry Month of May" with the accordionist John Serry Sr. in 1938 Here


External audio
audio icon You may hear the Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm Orchestra performing "September in the Rain"with the vocalist Bobby Goday in 1937 Here

Live broadcasts[edit]

  • Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles during September 1938 - October 1938 with John Serry, Sr., as featured soloist on the NBC radio network[18]
  • Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York, on May 12, 1947, with Toni Arden, Bob Johnstone, and The Three Beaus and a Peep
  • Ice Terrace Room of the New Yorker Hotel on March 6, 1948, with Toni Arden, Bob Johnstone, and The Three Beaus and a Peep



  1. ^ Campbell, Al. "That Old Feeling - Shep Fields". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  2. ^ "The Telegraph - Google News Archive Search". 24 February 1981. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  3. ^ "SHEP FIELDS, LEADER OF BIG BAND KNOWEN FOR RIPPLING RYTHEM (Published 1981)". The New York Times. 24 February 1981. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  4. ^ California Death Index
  5. ^ a b The New York Times- Archive - Obiturary - Freddie Fields Holywood Talent Agent Dies at 84 December 13, 2007 "Freddie Fileds brother of bandleader Shep Fields" on
  6. ^ "Carpet King Steps Up". Milwaukee Sentinel. April 5, 1962. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  7. ^ The New York Times -Archive, February 24, 1981 Obituary - "Shep Fields Leader of Big Band Known for Rippling Rhythm on
  8. ^ a b c d The New York Times -Archive, February 24, 1981 Obituary - "Shep Fields Leader of Big Band Known for Rippling Rhythm on
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Band Leader Shep Fields Dies of Heart Attack at 70". United Press International in the Eugene Register-Guard. February 4, 1981. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
  10. ^ America's Music Makers: Big bands and Ballrooms 1912-2011 Jack Behrens.AuthorHouse, Indiana, 2010 p. 95 Shep Fields society band on
  11. ^ a b c d e The Big Bands - 4th Edition George T. Simon. Schirmer Trade Books, London, 2012 ISBN 978-0-85712-812-6 "Shep Fields Biography" on
  12. ^ "Shep Fields". Washington Post. July 12, 1957. Shep Fields admits that his wife, Evelyn, was responsible for the bubbling water through a straw sound that has identified his music for a score of years.
  13. ^ America's Music Makers: Big bands and Ballrooms 1912-2011 Jack Behrens.AuthorHouse, Indiana, 2010 p. 27 Shep Fields band popular from the 1930s to the 1950s on
  14. ^ The Telegraph -Obituraries: Shep Fields - noted bandleader February 24, 1981 "Shep Fields and Paramount Theater" on
  15. ^ The Telegraph - Obituaries: Shep Fields Dies -noted bandleader February 24, 1981 "Shep Fields and Waldorf Astoria Hotel" on
  16. ^ a b c d "Shep Fields dies, noted bandleader". Associated Press in The Telegraph. February 24, 1981. Retrieved 2010-05-17. Bandleader Shep Fields who recorded "The Jersey Bounce" ...
  17. ^ a b Stanley Green and Elaine Schmidt (2000). Hollywood musicals year by year. ISBN 0-634-00765-3. To justify the movie's title — and the inclusion in the cast of such diverse talents as Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm, ...
  18. ^ a b The Los Angeles Examiner, October 9, 1938, pg. 1
  19. ^ a b c d e "Shep Fields Makes Decided Hit Here With New Rhythm". Ottawa Citizen. August 26, 1941. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  20. ^ "Patriotic Notes". Time. November 4, 1941. Archived from the original on September 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-17. Dedicator was Bandleader Shep Fields, who lately gave up his trade-mark "Rippling Rhythm," threw out his brass, concentrated on nine saxophones.
  21. ^ a b The Big Bands - 4th Edition George T. Simon. Schirmer Trade Books, London, 2012 ISBN 978-0-85712-812-6"Shep Fields Biography" on
  22. ^ "Shep Fields, Leader Of Big Band Known For Rippling Rhythm". New York Times. February 24, 1981. Retrieved 2008-06-23. Shep Fields, the band leader who made his fame and fortune in the 1930s and '40s with a unique sound he called Rippling Rhythm, died of a heart attack yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 70 years old. Mr. Fields developed the Rippling Rhythm sound in 1936 when he ...
  23. ^ "Shep Fields Dies. Was Bandleader". United Press International in Hartford Courant. February 24, 1981. Bandleader Shep Fields, who rose to fame in the big band era with an orchestra that opened its performances with a sound called Rippling Rhythm, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 70.
  24. ^ "Died". Time. March 9, 1981. Archived from the original on October 15, 2010. Retrieved 2008-06-23. Shep Fields, 70, bandleader who was known during the 1930s and '40s for his Rippling Rhythm, a bubbly blend of light, catchy orchestrations and the sound made by blowing through a straw into a bowl of water near the microphone; of a heart attack; in Los Angeles.
  25. ^ Shep Fields recordings on
  26. ^ a b c Tin Pan Alley: An Encyclopedia of the Golden Age of American Song David A. Jasen. Routledge, New York, 2003 p. 336-337 ISBN 0-415-93877-5 Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm 1938, Moonlight and Shadows hit song and Thanks for the Memory on
  27. ^ a b Tin Pan Alley: An Encyclopedia of the Golden Age of American Song David A. Jasen. Routledge, New York, 2003 p. 55 ISBN 0-415-93877-5 Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm 1938, That Old Feeling on
  28. ^ Brian Arthur Lovell Rust (1975). The American Dance Band Discography 1917-1942. ISBN 0-87000-248-1.
  29. ^ "Musician, arranger Lou Halmy dies at 93". The Register-Guard. March 22, 2005. Retrieved 2010-05-16. Halmy was born in Budapest, Hungary, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 2. He made his mark as a trumpet player with East Coast outfits including Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orchestra, a society band that played on The Woodbury Hour With Bob Hope and in The Big Broadcast of 1938, a film starring Hope, W.C. Fields and Dorothy Lamour.
  30. ^ "Great Depression a gold mine for musicians". The Register-Guard. February 15, 2002. Retrieved 2010-05-16. When trumpet star and jazz arranger Lou Halmy looks back on the Great Depression of the 1930s, it doesn't seem depressing at all. 'I was lucky,' the 91-year-old Eugene musician says. 'I was playing with a band and working all the time. We had a steady job, which was the rarest thing in music.' While many people were standing in bread lines and living in shanty camps, Halmy was inside New York's posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, cheering people up by playing his horn in one of the most popular dance bands of the era: Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm ...
  31. ^ "Sid Caesar". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 2010-05-19. He studied saxophone at Juilliard, and later played with nationally famous bands (Charlie Spivak, Claude Thornhill, Shep Fields, Art Mooney).
  32. ^ Brennan, Patricia (August 11, 2002). "Sid Caesar, whose name is s ..." Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-16. Sid Caesar ... He went on to play in a series of big bands, including those of Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, Shep Fields, Art Mooney and Benny Goodman. ...
  33. ^ The American Dance Band Discography 1917-1942 Volume 1. Rust, Brian. Arlington House Publishers, New Rochelle, New York, 1975, Pg. 516-517 ISBN 0-87000-248-1

Further reading[edit]

  • Washington Post; February 7, 1937 "Shep Fields in Town Wednesday for Dance."
  • Washington Post; May 8, 1937 "'Wings of the Morning,' in Technicolor, And Shep Fields Share Honors at Earle. Racing Picture and Ace Band Divide Top Spots on Bill of General Appeal."
  • Washington Post; January 17, 1939 "Los Angeles, January 16, 1939 (United Press) Mrs. Myra Wallace, wife of a music publisher, learned tonight the $10,000 banknote which she tossed to Shep Fields, orchestra leader, for playing one her favorite numbers might be legal -- not stage money as she had thought."

External links[edit]