TINY HILL and his ORCHESTRA: "Tiny" - at 365 pounds - was widely known as "America's Biggest Band Leader". Early on, his band's style was Dixieland-based and with corny novelties; he used sandpaper blocks in a "shuffle beat" that was great for dancing.
Originally a banjoist and drummer, Hill became best known for his 1940 vocals of "Angry" (his theme); "Skirts", and for "Sioux City Sue" recorded in what he called his 'double shuffle rhythm'. With increasing fame, the band began touring widely. He played the Aragon and Trianon ballrooms in Chicago, the Inglaterra in Peoria, and the Melody Mill in Chicago. He made his first recordings in 1939 for Vocalion, and later recorded for Okeh. From 1945 through 1951, he was with Mercury Records. Hill sang vocals on almost all of his records.
Tiny teamed up with the executives of Mercury Records, who were just then forming the company, and became their very first recording Artist in December 1945.
In 1951 the band traveled 46,000 miles in ten months. In 1952, the band racked up 61,000 miles in 11 months -- all by Packard automobiles. Despite the ending of the Big Bands era, Hill continued to play in small combos in the Denver area, often returning to the Midwest for guest appearances.
ALVINO REY and his ORCHESTRA: Real name Al McBurney, Alvino was a multi-talented musician. He started off in his native Cleveland as a jazz guitarist, originally attracted to the Hawaiian sound and later to the electronic one.
In 1937, Horace Heidt put together a radio show band which Rey joined. The Heidt band featured and recorded with the King Sisters, which is how Rey met and married Louise King, and in 1938 he left Heidt to form his own band, taking the King Sisters with him.
Radio station KHJ asked Rey to form a studio band. Assured of work, Rey sent for Frank DeVol, a former saxist and arranger with the Heidt band. Rey employed many of the top arrangers; DeVol, Neal Hefti, Ray Conniff, Johnny Mandel and Billy May.
Rey stayed active in the music business, touring college campuses into the 1980s with the King Sisters and former Claude Thornhill vocalist Fran Warren.
KING SISTERS and the FRANK de VOL ORCHESTRA: One of the big band era's most popular and enduring vocal groups, the King Sisters -- Donna, Yvonne, Luise and Alyce -- were born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Taking their stage name from their father, vocal trainer Daddy King Driggs, the siblings first attracting attention while appearing with the Horace Heidt Band in 1935 and enjoying a three-year tenure on Heidt's radio series. The group's lineup shrank to a quartet as the decade wore on, and in 1939 the King Sisters joined a new band formed by Luise's husband, the legendary guitarist Alvino Rey.
At the peak of their success, the King Sisters appeared in a number of Hollywood features, including 1942's "Sing Your Worries Away," 1944's "Meet the People" and 1945's "Cuban Pete." After working with Rey, the siblings were regulars on Kay Kyser's radio series, but during the postwar years their popularity declined and they were well outside the public eye.
In 1965, the King Sisters, with members of their extended family (including Rey), were tapped by ABC to host their own weekly TV variety show; it was an immediate hit, although the death of Daddy King Driggs a few weeks into the program's run made success bittersweet. The King Family Show continued until 1969, with the sisters easing into retirement.