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Ray Anthony

Ray Anthony has been one of Big Band music's most dedicated ambassadors. For sixty years he has helped keep alive the sounds of America's golden age of jazz and pop music. Born in 1922, Anthony began his musical career at age five, playing in his family's group, the Antonini Family Orchestra. During high school he worked with local bands in the Cleveland, Ohio, area and later made his professional debut with Al Donahue in 1940.

After only a short time with Donahue, Anthony was hired by Glenn Miller but left after six months, unable to get along with the famous orchestra leader. He then played briefly with Jimmy Dorsey before forming his own group, which featured unique instrumentation -- one trumpet, one French horn, five saxes, and three rhythm.

In 1942 he entering the Navy, where he led a service group in the Pacific. Upon being discharged in 1946 he formed a new orchestra, signing with Capitol Records. When Ralph Flanagan began the parade of Glenn Miller imitation bands Anthony fell in line and, like other imitators, made good money. During the 1950s he had a string of hits, including "Peter Gunn," "The Bunny Hop," "Harbor Lights," and a jazzed-up version of the Dragnet theme song. He also appeared in several movies during that decade, such as This Could Be the Night and the Fred Astaire vehicle Daddy Long Legs.

Ray Anthony’s Harry James style trumpet and arrangements were mainly aimed at a more commercial oriented crowd rather than jazz fans. However a few of his late 50’s releases show the swinging side of Ray Anthony. Several noted here contain recordings far removed from his usual commercial fare.

Anthony was raised in Cleveland, Ohio and was one of six brothers. He started on the trumpet at the age of 5. In 1938 he joined Al Donahue and then worked for Glenn Miller from November of 1940 to July of 1941. He then spent six months with Jimmy Dorsey before he joined the Navy in 1942, leading his own band in the Pacific until 1946. Anthony started leading a civilian band under his own name in 1946, achieving popularity in 1949 after he joined Capitol Records. One of his biggest “hits” was the theme to “Dragnet” which he recorded in 1953.

Although much of Anthony’s output is considered commercial (or as Down Beat magazine in the 40’s would have called it “corn”) he has cut several records that swing heartily. These recordings sound so dissimilar from his usual output it is hard to believe it could be the same musician. Two releases in particular stand out; the first a great LP from the 1950’s called “Anthony Plays Allen.” This finds Anthony’s trumpet flanked by the likes of Conte Candoli, Plas Johnson, Conrad Gozzo, Skeets Herfurt, and Alvin Stoller among others. To a lesser degree but still enjoyable is the release “Swings The Thing.” Fortunately both at this writing are available on a single CD. A great side from his early Capitol days is “Skycoach” recorded in 1950. This recording flows smoothly and features both Mel Lewis and Ray Brown, two jazz heavyweights.

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Album Review
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October 23, 2014

Ray Anthony: Big Band Story


Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Stella By Starlight

Unknown label


The Early Years



The Navy Show...



Anthony Plays Allen

Abracadabra Music


Volume II - Big Band...

Abracadabra Music


Swing/Shuffle My...

Abracadabra Music




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