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Billy May
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    (November 10, 1916-January 22, 2004)
    Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Birth name was Edward William May, Jr.
    Trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and arranger
    Played in the bands of Charlie Barnet and Glenn Miller
    Wrote arrangements for Frank Sinatra, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin, Anita O’Day, the Andrews Sisters, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Mel Torme, George Shearing, Stan Freberg, and Diane Schuur
    Recorded the albums ‘A Band Is Born’ (1952), ‘Big Band Bash’ (1952), ‘Sorta-May’ (1955), ‘Billy May Plays for Fancy Dancin’’ (1957), ‘Big Fat Brass’ (1958), ‘Cha Cha Cha! Billy May’ (1960), ‘Bill’s Bag’ (1963), and ‘Billy May Today’ (1966)
    Recordings and arrangements known for their distinctive ‘slurping saxophones’ sound
    Scored the films ‘Sergeants 3’ (1962), ‘Johnny Cool’ (1963), ‘The Secret Life of an American Wife’ (1968), ‘The Front Page’ (1974), and ‘Fury of the Dragon’ (1976)
    Composed themes for the TV series ‘Naked City,’ Mod Squad, and Emergency!
    Composed ‘Batgirl’s Theme’ for Batman
    He had a contentious relationship with Glenn Miller, objecting to the regimented style of Miller’s band.
    His biggest hit as a songwriter was the novelty children’s song ‘I Taught I Taw A Puddy Tat’ performed by Mel Blanc.
    He recorded Latin dance music under the pseudonym Rico Mambo.
    He provided the arrangements and backing orchestra for Jack Webb’s ‘You’re My Girl’ album, in which Webb recited the lyrics to romantic songs in the same deadpan monotone he used as Sgt. Joe Friday.
    He would frequently down a fifth of vodka during a recording session.
    In the studio, he would sometimes give the downbeat to the band by sticking his finger up his nose and pulling it out with a flourish.
    He taught himself to play trumpet on an instrument he bought from a pawn shop for $20.
    He gave up booze after a particularly wild night at Charlie Barnet’s 51st birthday party.
    He worked with Frank Sinatra for more than three decades, from ‘Come Fly With Me’ (1958) to ‘Duets’ (1993).
    He was an honorary pallbearer at Sinatra’s funeral.
    He won Grammys for Best Arrangement (1958) and Best Performance by an Orchestra (1959).
    He was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame (1988).

Credit: C. Fishel

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