Bobby Sherwood’s “Elks Parade” has always been one of my favorites from the big band era and it’s probably the best known song from his bandleader days. But it was just the tip of the iceberg for this multi-talented performer, who could play many different instruments, sing and dance like the vaudeville trouper he once was, compose and arrange music, and even do some acting from time to time.
Although Sherwood was born in Indianapolis, his parents were veteran vaudeville performers who mostly lived on the road and it wasn’t too long before they included young Bobby in the act. At first he played trumpet, but as the years passed he also did his share of singing and dancing, and eventually learned other instruments too — especially the guitar, which he played so well that by the time he reached adulthood he was able to snag a job as Bing Crosby’s accompanist.
It was the early 1930s by then, and even though Sherwood would continue to work with Crosby on both radio and records for many years, he also kept his eyes open for other opportunities. In the years leading up to World War II he stayed busy in the Los Angeles area, appearing in nightclubs, working on various radio shows, and furnishing music for movies. Before long he was even leading bands behind stars like Eddie Cantor and Judy Garland. (Of course, by then he was married to her sister, which might have helped a little.)
During the war years Sherwood formed his own band, and became one of the first to sign with the newly-formed Capitol Records. It wasn’t long before “Elks’ Parade” came along, and the record became a million-seller for Sherwood, who continued to fly high for a while with songs like “Moonlight Becomes You,” a hit for singer Kitty Kallen. Unfortunately, wartime musicians’ union problems held back the band, and things sort of went downhill over the next few years. However, Sherwood soon began finding success in the new medium of TV, appearing on variety and game shows and working with top comedians like Milton Berle. He also found the occasional acting job on TV and in movies, and eventually became a very popular DJ in the Los Angeles area. He was 66 when he died in 1981.