Spotlight on ....
Riddle was born in Hackensack, New Jersey on June
1, 1921. He died in Los Angeles on October 6 1985.
His musical achievements in the 64 intervening
years were immense. His contribution towards the
evolution of popular music, particularly in the
50’s and early 60’s was as significant
as anyone in that delightful period.
the mid 1950’s Nelson was established as
the outstanding arranger of popular music. Capitol
records had the best assembly of vocalists in
the business. As well as Frank Sinatra and Nat
King Cole, there were Judy Garland, Dean Martin,
Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore and Keely Smith –
Nelson made albums and singles with all of those
great performers. During this period, he recorded
18 albums in his own name including the classics
“HEY” “LET YOURSELF GO”
and “C’MON GET HAPPY”. He also
found time to record many singles, including “LISBON
ANTIQUA”, – one of the top selling
instrumentals of all time. This single provided
him with a gold disc.
was either committed or contracted to Capitol
for 12 years from 1950 to 1962. He did “escape”
occasionally to work on other labels. The most
significant being the 53 tracks that he cut with
Ella Fitzgerald in 1959 to comprise the five Verve
albums “ELLA SINGS THE GEORGE AND IRA GERSHWIN
SONG BOOK”. Arguably Nelson’s greatest
work, at the peak of his creative talents.
outstanding recording achievements, in the 1950’s,
inevitably led Nelson into movies and television.
Scoring for the big screen was probably his greatest
joy. His first was “JOHNNY CONCHO”
in 1956. In all, he received five Oscar Nominations
(1960), “ROBIN AND THE SEVEN HOODS”
(1964) and “THE GREAT GATSBY” (1974).
He won his Oscar for the “GREAT GATSBY”.
His television activity included series with Nat
King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Julie
Andrews, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby
and Gene Kelly. Nelson was the musical director
for the presidential inauguration of John F Kennedy
in 1961 and Ronald Reagan in 1985. There were
numerous personal appearances on concert tours
and special events.
was a lull in his career during the 1970’s.
It was in 1983 that Nelson came out of the wilderness
to make an album with Linda Ronstadt, “WHAT’S
NEW”. Not only was the album a great success
but also it provided him with his second Grammy,
25 years after his first winner for “CROSS
COUNTRY SUITE”, recorded with Buddy De Francoin
in 1958. Two further albums followed with Linda
Ronstadt and another Grammy was awarded for “LUSH
LIFE”. In 1985 he made a delightful album
with Kiri Te Kanawa. Nelson was back.
will be remembered for his artistry and creativity
– the ability to blend 40 or more musicians
into producing some of the outstanding and joyous
sounds of the 20th century.
Riddle’s music will live on well into another
further information about Nelson Riddle please
Alan Wright, Nelson Riddle Appreciation Society,
4 Jardine Cottages, Stoke Poges SL2 4BQ