Orchestras in the big band era were often labeled in one of two ways. They were either ‘hot’ — which meant cutting-edge music that often featured improvised solos — or ‘sweet’, which perfectly describes the smooth and straight-ahead sound offered by bandleaders like Charlie Spivak.
Although his origins were a little fuzzy — he either emigrated to America as a toddler or was born shortly after his immigrant parents arrived — young Charlie Spivak was a very good trumpeter before he’d even reached his teens. Still just a teenager during the 1920s, he began appearing professionally in several good orchestras, and soon became known for his sweet-toned play. By the early 1930s he was working with some of the best around, including bands led by Ben Pollock, Ray Noble, the Dorsey Brothers, Bob Crosby and eventually Glenn Miller.
By the late 1930s, the guy who was sometimes called ‘cheery, chubby Charlie Spivak’ was ready to take it to the next level. With encouragement (and financial help) from Glenn Miller, he formed his own band. Things were a little rough at first, but after retooling and restarting he began to find some success. His best-known records included his theme song, “Stardreams,” “Autumn Nocturne,” and “My Devotion.” His band also played “Besame Mucho”in the 1944 film, Follow The Boys. (You can hear the ‘boys’ during the song.)
He continued to lead a successful group for the next two decades, along the way marrying vocalist Irene Daye (who then retired from performing), but by the 1960s Spivak was fighting health problems. Still, he was able to stay at least semi-active musically, and he also operated a night club for a while. He was in his mid-seventies when he finally died in 1982.