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Artie Shaw was known for his role as a 1930's and 1940's jazz bandleader and clarinetist, known as the "King of the Clarinet".
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Bandleader, clarinetist, composer, writer. Born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky on May 23, 1910, in New York, New York. Sometimes referred to as the King of the Clarinet, Artie Shaw was one of the leading jazz performers and bandleaders of the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. Born on New York’s Lower East Side, he was the only child of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Austria.
The family eventually moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where Shaw spent many of his formative years. A shy child, he was deeply hurt by the anti-Semitic taunts from his schoolmates. Shaw was further wounded when his father abandoned the family.
While he learned the ukulele early on, Shaw first started getting serious about playing music when he took up the saxophone. He later moved on to the clarinet. Around the age of 15, he quit school to learn to become a better musician. Shaw listened to such jazz greats as Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong in an effort to improve his own playing. Moving to Cleveland, he eventually found work with Austin Wylie, a well-known bandleader. In addition to his music, Shaw was an avid reader and maintained literary aspirations.
In 1928, Shaw won a trip to Hollywood as part of an essay contest. He met up with some musicians he had known back east. These musicians were with Irving Aaronson’s band, and Shaw joined the group the following year. While with Aaronson, he listened to and learned about the works of such composers as Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. The band spent time in Chicago and then went to New York in 1930. Going out on his own, Shaw soon became an in-demand studio session musician and radio performer. He was briefly married to Jane Cairns in 1932, but that union was later annulled.
Shaw took a break from music for a time, choosing to live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and focus on his writing. He also tried his hand at marriage again in 1934—this time he wed to Margaret Allen. (The couple divorced in 1937.) Before long, he was back in New York City’s thriving music scene. Shaw invited to participate in a 1935 swing concert at the Imperial Theatre. He put together a band, consisting of a string quartet and a rhythm section, and wrote a special composition, “Interlude in B Flat,” for the event. Little known at the time, Shaw was on the same bill as Tommy Dorsey and other popular swing acts. His band, however, gave one of the night’s most memorable performances, and the audience was just wowed by their only song.
This led to Shaw starting his own band. Around this time, he became Artie Shaw. He originally used Art Shaw as a stage name, but he was told that the name sounded like a sneeze.
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