Clarinetist and big-band leader Artie Shaw was born Arthur Arshawsky in New York City, May 23, 1910. His family moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 1916. While in high school, took up saxophone and gigged with quartet. Professional debut with Johnny Cavallaro, with whom he played saxophones and later clarinet. Lived in Cleveland for three years, played with Joe Candor and Austin Wylie. Played in Irving Aaronson's band 1929-31; free-lanced in New York City, working at CBS and making numerous record dates, then retired from music for a year. In the summer of 1936, appearing in a swing concert at the Imperial Theatre New York, he played one of his own compositions accompanied by a string quartet. The sensation caused by this first use of strings in swing music led to the formation of his first big band, which featured brass, strings, rhythm and one saxophone (Tony Pastor). The venture was short-lived; in the spring of 1937 Shaw formed a new band with the conventional swing instrumentation of the day: five brass, four saxes and four rhythm.
His record of "Begin The Beguine" with this band, recorded July 24, 1938, made him a national figure and, inadvertently, a rival for Benny Goodman's "King of Swing" crown. In December 1939, confused by an excess of success, Shaw abandoned the orchestra and fled to Mexico. Throughout the 1940s he had various bands off and on, including one with a large string section, 1940-41, and a Navy band that toured the South Pacific, 1943-44. Periodically he announced his disgust with jazz, his final retirement from music and his intention to become a professional writer. "The Trouble With Cinderella", his semi-autobiographical, semi-philosophical book, was published in May 1952 by Farrar, Straus and Young. Late in 1953 he formed a new "Gramercy 5" (a name he had used for his smaller recording combos since 1940), dissolving it the following summer. Took up residence in Spain and was completely inactive in music 1955-60.
Throughout his career Shaw's many marriages kept him on the front pages frequently. He was married first to Jane Carns (annulled), then to Margaret Allen, Lana Turner, Betty Kern (daughter of the late Composer Jerome Kern), Ava Gardner, Kathleen Winsor, Doris Dowling, and Evelyn Keyes. For an intricate, introspective examination of Shaw's life in complete detail, reference to "The Trouble With Cinderella" is highly recommended. Won the Esquire Armed Forces Gold Award 1944.
Some of the information in this mini-bio were obtained from Leonard Feather's "Encyclopedia of Jazz"
(1960; Bonanza Books, NY).