Sammy Kaye

Sammy Kaye Sammy Kaye, musically, set the nation's band leading styles for years and his versatility in the music business as a leader, song writer, and personality in his own right, earned him the acclaim of loyal fans and the praise of the country's music critics.

Variety, the show business newspaper, once price-tagged the coined phrase, "Swing and Sway," as a million dollar slogan. And they became one of the bands that sparked the whole big band scene. It was at the Cabin Club in Cleveland, Ohio, where the band was featured on radio broadcasts, that the famous slogan, "Swing and Sway" became Kaye's trademark. The announcer would introduce the band's appearance with catchy phrases such as "Music in the Rhythmic Way Played by Sammy Kaye," "Music in the Sentimental Way Played by Sammy Kaye," and occasionally, "Let's Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye." One night some fans came in and called to Kaye, "Hi Swing and Sway." That was it. Everything else was dropped and "Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye" was born.

Sammy Kaye has been one of the top orchestras in the band business for years because of his ability to relate his music to millions of fans with his superb dancing and listening tempos. The band has appeared in movies, Iceland and The Song of the Open Road, radio and television, in addition to appearances in hotels, theaters, nightclubs, and concert dates.

Kaye's top-selling records and albums attest to the fact that his musical popularity has continued to grow with the years. In the annual disc jokey polls of music trade magazines, Kaye has many times won top honors as the number one "sweet" band in the land. Yet, while he is associated with the "sweet" sound, he's never been stereotyped in a single groove. He's done swing, lush strings, show tunes, novelties, and the present day "beat" sound.

The Sammy Kaye story is as truly American as apple pie. It's a success story of a boy who worked his way through college to earn a civil engineering degree, only to find his true expression in music. He had a vital decision to make. A musical career and uncertainty, or the warm feeling of security as a civil engineer. He made his choice, and never took a backward step. The rest is musical history.

It was in the last half of his college days that Sammy decided to turn to music in an effort to finance the engineering studies that were his first love. But he soon found himself far more interested in sharps and flats than in T-squares and slide rules. He put together an impromptu band to play school dances and proms and soon his undergraduate rhythm makers became so popular with the student body that Kaye opened the "Varsity Inn," a campus nickel-a-dance spot, featuring his own music. Upon graduation he plunged into the entertainment world, and with the crew intact from his college days, went from whistle stop one-nighters to comparatively choice locations where radio networks did broadcast remotes, and the Kaye musical signature began to catch on with dancing America.

In 1938 New York demanded the Sammy Kaye Band and they followed Tommy Dorsey into the Commodore Hotel's Century Room for two consecutive years. It was here that Kaye hit upon his highly entertaining audience-participation novelty, "So You Want to Lead a Band," when a young man, encouraged by his girl friend, challenged Kaye to let him "play" orchestra leader.

After that the band played one popular hotel after another. He was a "name" bandleader and his singing song titles plus the magical "Swing and Sway" and the "So You Want to Lead a Band" became national favorites.

The band played in New York, the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf-Astoria, the famous Roosevelt Hotel Grill and Hotel Astor Roof as well as the Hollywood Palladium and Las Vegas. He pyramided with each record-breaking nightclub, theater, and hotel performance until he reached the highest plateau a dance band could ascend, joining such musical greats as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller. This was the "Day of the Big Band" and Sammy Kaye and his orchestra were one of its mainstays.


The Big Three: Harry James, Glenn Miller and Sammy Kaye This gag photo, taken in 1942 at RKO Studios when the three bandleaders were each making a movie at the same time, shows Harry James, Glenn Miller and Sammy Kaye in that order, playing each other's instruments. Sammy was making Iceland with Sonja Henie and John Payne. The big hit from the movie was Another You.