|From "Fred Rich and His Orchestra" (1926-1938)|
|Vintage Music Productions 0141 (CD)|
It is unlikely that Fred Rich ever performed in the type of venue that has been most associated with early jazz. In the hotel ballrooms and broadcast studios, where Fred Rich made his career, there was nothing so "sporting" or "primitive" as to be mistaken for a Red Onion or Funky Butt Hall. But unlike so many other bandleaders made comfortably nameless by the lure of Tin Pan Alley and all the assembly line sessions that ARC could offer, Fred Rich endeavored to produce something musically significant. In doing so, he employed the talents of such future legends as Miff Mole, Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Bunny Berigan, Adrian Rollini, Sylvester Ahola, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang (just to name a bunch). Of course, not all of Fred Rich's music can be characterized as jazz. Much of it cannot even be described as hot. Nevertheless, it is testament of his contribution to the idiom that Fred Rich has his own entry in the heavily guarded pages of the "New Grove Dictionary of Jazz," as well as such discriminating resources as Feather and Gitler's "Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz" and Chilton's "Who's Who of Jazz."
Little is known of Fred Rich's youth. He was born Frederic Efram Rich, in Warsaw Poland, January 3, 1898. Just after the turn of the century, his family emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. While still a boy, he began studying piano, and sometime during his teens, he began playing professionally, as a movie house pianist. Later, he attended the Damrosch Conservatory of Music.
In 1922, Fred Rich and his band began their residency at the Astor Hotel, in New York. Two years later, he made his first recording, while sitting in with Jack Denny's band. As a sideman, Fred Rich also did three sessions with Ken "Goof" Moyer, in 1926. He led his own session, for the first time, in September 1925. From then until 1931, he recorded prolifically for numerous labels.
In January 1928, Fred Rich left the Astor Hotel and went on tour, in Europe. While there, he led three recording sessions, in London (Feb 1928), and a performance at the Wintergarden, in Berlin (also Feb 1928). Previous to this, he is said to have led another tour to Europe, in 1925 and 1926. However, given his recording schedule and the reality of transatlantic travel during the 1920s, it is difficult to figure out when he would have had the opportunity.
In late 1928 or early 1929, Fred Rich was hired to be the music director for newly-created CBS radio. This was a position that he would hold for the next decade.
During the 1930s, Fred Rich's recording activity tailed off precipitously. After 1931, he led only three more sessions, including his last, in 1940 (which, incidentally, featured Roy Eldridge and Benny Carter). In the same period, however, Fred Rich reached more listeners than ever, through frequent radio broadcasts. From 1930 to 1932, his band performed weekly, on "The Friendly Five Footnotes" (NBC/CBS), featuring Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. Other regular appearances included "The George Jessel Show" with Vera Van (CBS 1934), Lucky Strike's "Your Hit Parade" (NBC 1935-1937), "Peter Pfeiffer" (CBS 1935), "Freddie Rich's Penthouse Party" (CBS 1935-1936), "The Flying Red Horse Tavern" (CBS 1935-1936) and Harry Rich's syndicated radio show, "It's Florida's Treat" (1937-1938). Fred Rich and his band also made a number of film appearances, including "Mirrors" (Vitaphone 1934), "Song Hits On Parade" (Paramount 1936) and "Freddie Rich And His Orchestra" with Nan Wynn (Warner Brothers 1938).
In 1938, after ten years with CBS, Fred Rich resigned his position as music director. His broadcast appearances, however, continued with "Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou" (NBC 1939-1940), "The Abbott And Costello Show" (NBC 1943-1945) and "The Camel Comedy Caravan" (CBS 1943).
Fred Rich joined the staff at United Artists, in 1942, and in the next several years, provided music scores for numerous movies, including "Stage Door Canteen" (1943), "Jack London" (1943) and "A Walk In The Sun" (1945). For the 1944 film, "A WAVE, a WAC and a Marine" (in which he and his band also appeared), Fred Rich received an Academy Award nomination for best score.
In 1945, Fred Rich was seriously injured in a fall that left him partially paralyzed. While he continued to work for several more years, his injuries eventually forced him to retire from United Artists, in 1950 or 1951.
Fred Rich died, in Beverly Hills, September 8, 1956. He was just 58 years old.
|~ Jeff Hopkins|
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