Today we acknowledge big bandleader Shep Fields (Saul Feldman (1910-1981). You’ll find nearly as many images of Fields blowinto liquid with a straw as you do of him playing his clarinet or sax, or leading his band. He considered that his signature sound on radio, although the sound of his actual band was termed “The Rippling Rhythm”
Fields’ father owned and operated the Queen Mountain House in the Catskills. It was there that Fields first performed as a teenager with his Shep Fields Orchestra. His brother, Freddie Fields, became one of the founders of Creative Management Associates (CMA). Fields was only 21 when he got his band booked in New York’s Roseland Ballroom. The next decade saw engagements at the Hotel Pierre in New York, Grossingers in the Catskills, the Palmer House in Chicago, and the Ambassador and Biltmore Hotels in Los Angeles. As was the custom in those days, the dates were often broadcast live on radio. For his Rippling Rhythm sound he borrowed elements he liked from the bands of Hal Kemp, Eddy Duchin, Wayne King and Ted Fio Rito. In 1938, he took over Paul Whiteman’s radio show, now renamed The Rippling Rhythm Revue, with Bob Hope as host.
For a time Fields toured with Veloz and Yolanda. Ken Curtis was his singer for a period. Sid Caesar got his start as a saxophone player with the band. Fields and his orchestra were featured in the movie The Big Broadcast of 1938, where they and Bob Hope both became associated with the song “Thanks for the Memory”. He also had hits with the Cole Porter tunes “It’s De-Lovely” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and the dance hit “The Jersey Bounce”. He toured with the U.S.O. during WWII, and kept the band going through 1963.
For more on show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,