Roger Thorpe

Roger Thorpe, leader of the Sammy Kaye Orchestra Roger Thorpe, the leader of the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, began playing trumpet when he was ten years old. His first taste of success, at age fifteen, was winning on the popular radio and television show, The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour. At that time he knew his career had to be as a big band leader like his idol, Harry James.

In high school he took his first big band all over eastern New York state. Graduating from high school, he went out on his own, playing trumpet with bands such as Les and Larry Elgart, the Glenn Miller Orchestra (directed by Ray McKinley), Ralph Flanagan, and Woody Herman. Life on the road convinced him that college would provide a future more secure than what he had experienced. He went on to become a college professor at New York State University, all the while leading his own big band.

In 1979, Roger lead his band on the same program as Sammy Kaye. He noticed the legendary Kaye and his band waiting off stage for Roger to finish. As he announced the final number, Roger dedicated it "to one of the great big band leaders off all time, Mr. Sammy Kaye." Amid the audience's deafening agreement, Sammy Kaye strode on stage, hand outstretched and thanked Roger for his kindness. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Roger Thorpe with Sammy Kaye

During their brief talk, Kaye asked Roger if he would like to go on tour with his band to Florida. During this tour they became close and personal friends. Sammy featured the trumpet playing of his protege on Sugar Blues, And the Angels Sing, and You Made Me Love You.Their relationship evolved a warm personal routine on stage, one the audiences sensed was more than mere show business. Calling Sammy "Maestro" and Roger "Professor" they charmed audiences.

In 1986 when Sammy decided to give over the baton of the Swing and Sway Orchestra, it was an easy choice. Sammy knew that Roger would continue the traditions audiences loved. And he has.