Jerry Fielding

From Wind Repertory Project
Jerry Fielding


Jerry Fielding (17 June 1922, Pittsburgh, Penn. – 17 February 1980, Toronto, Ont.) was an American jazz musician, arranger and film composer.

After trying the trombone, Fielding took up the clarinet and joined the school band. He was offered a scholarship to the Carnegie Institute for Instrumentalists. After a short attendance, because of ill health he was bedridden for two years with an undiagnosed ailment. While housebound, he listened to the radio, and became a fan of the big band sound and Bernard Herrmann’s music for Orson Welles’s radio dramas.

Somewhat recuperated, he worked at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theater, learning composition and arranging there from the theater's pit orchestra conductor, Max Adkins. In June 1941, shortly before his nineteenth birthday, Fielding left Pittsburgh to work for Alvino Rey’s swing band. His arrangement of Picnic in Purgatory in 1942 became highly popular. He became vocal arranger for Lucy Ann Polk’s Town Criers and then joined Kay Kyser’s band. He became their chief arranger in 1945. He also arranged for the big bands of Mitchell Ayres, Claude Thornhill, Jimmie Lunceford, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet and Les Brown.

In 1948, Fielding replaced Billy May as musical director on Groucho Marx’s radio program You Bet Your Life. In 1951, the famous comedian brought Fielding along for the same musical directing job when he moved You Bet Your Life to television, one of the first hit shows of the new medium, and a job Fielding would hold until 1953.

After being questions about Communist connections by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953, Fielding was blacklisted on radio and television, but was welcomed in Las Vegas. Fielding's career as a film composer did not begin until 1962, when leading Hollywood director Otto Preminger, himself a refugee of Nazism, hired him to compose the score for his all-star, Washington DC-based adaptation of the best-selling novel, Advise and Consent. He thereafter went on to a successful career writing for film and television, such as Hogan's Heroes; Run, Buddy, Run; He & She and The Bionic Woman.

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