Billy May

Edward William " Billy" May Jr. ( born November 10, 1916 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, † January 22, 2004 in San Juan Capistrano, California ) was an American musician, composer, arranger and bandleader.


Billy May grew up as the son of a roofer in Lawrensville and played as a teenager in his school orchestra at first the tuba after his doctor had advised him of this instrument to overcome an asthma disease. In addition, May learned as an autodidact trombone and trumpet. Together with his childhood friends Billy Strayhorn and Erroll Garner, he was also early with the arranging. After leaving school, May played in several local orchestras.

May's breakthrough came in 1938, when Charlie Barnet signed him as a trumpeter for his orchestra. Barnet's popular signature tune Cherokee was an arrangement of May Nearly two years later, he became principal trumpet in the big band of Glenn Miller, for whom he arranged among other things, the hits Take the ' A' Train and Serenade in Blue. As Miller in 1942 with his orchestra joined the military, May, however, the suitability test did not exist, he moved to NBC Radio Orchestra and worked beside for band leader Les Brown, Woody Herman and Alvino Rey.

Since the 1950s, worked May, initially mainly at Capitol, as an arranger with a number of well known vocalists and instrumentalists in the studio together, especially with Peggy Lee, next to, inter alia, with Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., George Shearing, Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Bobby Darin and Rosemary Clooney.

One of his longest musical partnerships joined May with Frank Sinatra, whom he had met in 1939 and for his radio shows he was already sporadically contributed arrangements in the 1940s. Between 1957 and 1979 seven common with Sinatra albums, including Come Fly With Me (1957 ), the Grammy-winning Come Dance With Me ( 1958), Come Swing With Me (1961) and Trilogy - The Past originated at Capitol and Reprise (1979 ). With the instrumental title theme of the Sinatra - strip The Man with the Golden Arm 1956 by Elmer Bernstein which concluded in the same year in the international pop charts in the UK even among the top 10 Sinatras last recording for Reprise (1988 ) was also an arrangement by Billy May

In addition, May produced since 1951 recordings under his own name and sometimes had his own orchestra, before he sold it in 1954 to his colleague Ray Anthony. With musicians like Conrad Gozzo, Manny Klein, Barney Kessel, Si Zentner and Alvin Stoller he took the end of 1951 for Capitol with " Charmaine " his only top-30 hit a.

For his instrumental album Billy May 's Big Fat Brass May 1958 won a Grammy. Later he worked on a comprehensive series albums with admissions known Swing classics. He also composed title themes for different television series and a number of film soundtracks, including for cartoons like Daffy Duck or The Jaywalker.

Billy Mays trademark as an arranger were his experimental versatility and his musical humor, properties, for example, in often unexpected constant changes of rhythm, tempo and dynamics, in the use of many exotic percussion instruments and in his typical " slurping " sax sets were reflected. The comedian Stan Freberg 's musical satire 'The History Of The United States ' ( Vol 1 1961, Vol 2, 1996) was born.

As his greatest role model who had influenced his musical style, sustainable, May designated always the bandleader Jimmy Lunceford, which he in 1957 his album ' Jimmy Lunceford In Hi- Fi' was dedicated. From Frank Sinatra comes the saying, to make a recording with Billy May be so, "as if a someone pours a bucket of cold water in the face".

In early 1997 May withdrew following a recent European tour largely from the stage, but worked sporadically continue to studio projects, including for young artists like the singer Michael Bublé. For a large TV special about Peggy Lee May gave his last interview in the fall of 2003. A few weeks later he died of heart failure.