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Ralph Rainger

album cover: The Film Music of Ralph Rainger -- Thanks for the Memory
The Film Music of Ralph Rainger:
Thanks for the Memory

The Chuck Berghofer Trio, Jan Lundgren, Joe La Barbera with vocals by Sue Raney

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Basic Information

Born: Ralph Reichenthal, October 7, 1900, New York City (raised in Newark, New Jersey where he graduated from Barringer High School, Jerome Kern's alma mater)

Died: October 23, 1942 (age 42) in a plane crash near Palm Springs, California

Primary songwriting role: composer; also a pianist, arranger, and originally, and briefly, a lawyer

Co-writers: chiefly Leo Robin. For songs written with him and 14 others, view the DBOPM database.

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Overview and Commentary
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in the Cafe Songbook Catalog
of The Great American Songbook
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Master List of Songwriters

Overview and Commentary:
Ralph Rainger

Excerpted from "Another Who's Been Unjustly Forgotten"

(The full article can be fround at:
The Wall Street Journal, on-line December 30, 2008)



According to Gary Giddins in his biography of Crosby, "Love in Bloom" was almost pulled from She Loves Me Not by Paramount executives who believed it was too sophisticated for the general public. This might not have had much effect on Crosby's future but it certainly would have impacted the public's connection to Benny, who used the piece for his mock violin playing most likely because it had a certain classical air about it, and, of course, for the theme that marked his every appearance.

book cover: Gary Giddins biography of Bing Crosby, part 1
Gary Giddins
Bing Crosby:
A Pocketful of Dreams--
The Early Years 1903-1940

Boston: Little Brown, 2001








Vintage sheet music for
"Moanin' Low"
music by Ralph Rainger; words by Howard Dietz
from The Little Show where it was sung by Libby Homan and danced to quite provactively by her and
Clifton Webb.
The Little Show
included in its score two other future standards found in The Cafe Songbook catalog:
"Can't We Be Friends?" and
"I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan"

For years, Jack Benny opened his CBS radio and television broadcasts with "Love in Bloom." The comedian's violin butchery of his theme song became a running coast-to-coast Sunday night gag. As a result, the piece became even more famous than Bing Crosby had made it with his hit record in 1934. Generations of listeners and viewers heard Bob Hope close his NBC shows with "Thanks for the Memory," which he introduced in a movie, "The Big Broadcast of 1938." The song was inseparable from Hope's career.

Ralph Rainger, the man who wrote those songs, was a pianist and recovering lawyer from Newark, N.J., who also composed such standards as "Easy Living," "If I Should Lose You," "Here Lies Love," "Moanin' Low," "June in January," "Please" and "Blue Hawaii," most often with lyricist Leo Robin. Rainger and Robin turned out dozens of songs for Hollywood movies. They were frequently on the hit parade with Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter and the Gershwins. George Gershwin died at age 38, Rainger at 41. But while Gershwin's fame increased after his death, Rainger's name faded.

With their beguiling melodies and challenging chord progressions, Rainger's works are frequent vehicles for improvisation. Yet, in my experience, most musicians who play those songs respond with puzzled looks when asked who wrote them. That might have been the case with bassist Chuck Berghofer, pianist Jan Lundgren, drummer Joe La Barbera and the incomparable vocalist Sue Raney until producer Dick Bank recruited them to record the CD "The Film Music of Ralph Rainger" (Fresh Sound). Released in November, it is the first all-Rainger album since pianist Jack Fina managed to reduce Rainger's tunes to dreary cocktail music in a 1950s LP. Mr. Lundgren, a brilliant Swedish pianist, plumbs the songs' harmonic souls. He illuminates even the prosaic "Blue Hawaii," which -- to Rainger's horror -- became a huge hit in 1937. "It will disgrace us," he told Robin. "It's a cheap melody . . . a piece of c-."

Rainger was born Ralph Reichenthal in New York City in 1901. Shortly after his birth, his parents moved to Newark. As a teenager, the already accomplished pianist won a scholarship to the Institute of Musical Art in New York. But his parents pressured him to become a lawyer and he succumbed, joining a prominent Newark firm in 1924. For two years he stewed, at $50 a week, in a profession he loathed.

In 1926, Reichenthal took an offer of $125 a week to be half of a twin-piano team in the Broadway revue "Queen High" and said goodbye to the law. He played piano in several bands, including Paul Whiteman's, and he and fellow pianist Edgar "Cookie" Fairchild moved through a series of revues. Sensing fame in the offing, Reichenthal thought his last name was too cumbersome. He borrowed the maiden name of his new bride, the former Elizabeth Rains, and altered it to Rainger.

His big break came in 1929 with The Little Show, starring Fred Allen, Clifton Webb and Libby Holman. He wrote a song for it and told his wife that if "Moanin' Low" wasn't a hit, he would go back to practicing law. Holman's blowsy performance of the song, with lyrics by Howard Dietz, stopped the show. Her recording of it was a sensation. [See below.] Paramount Pictures soon tapped Rainger as a staff composer and paired him with Robin.

From 1932 to 1940, in their cramped office on the Paramount lot, and later at Fox, they created one hit after another. Their songs were in seven Bing Crosby pictures. The biggest name in popular music, Crosby recorded 13 Rainger-Robin songs. Billie Holiday recorded five . . . .

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal on-line.


The success of "Moanin' Low" is what moved Rainger into the songwriting business on a permanent basis. The song's success impressed Paramount enough to sign him and get him to Hollywood in the late spring of 1930 as a staff composer teamed with Leo Robin. When this happened, according to music critic Mark Gardner, author of the liner notes for the 2012 album The The Film Music of Ralph Rainger, "one of the great songwriting teams of all times was born."

Gardner goes on to recount how Rainger and Robin quickly achieved their own success when two of the songs they wrote for the 1932 Bing Crosby film The Big Broadcast became hits: "Please" and "Here Lies Love." Paramount responded with a seven year contract for them and they never looked back proceeding to have songs in 53 Paramount films and subsequently in ten Fox movies. They were able to overcome the assembly line nature of the work in Hollywood studios of that era to produce many great songs, even for films that were of a lesser quality. Gardner analyzes the method they used to achieve this success:

There was a strong artistic chemistry between Robin and Rainger, reflected in the way that notes and words flowed together so felicitously. The music invariably came first with the melody inspiring Robin to find just the right phrases to match the lines and rhythmic patterns of Rainger, a very gifted lyricist himself. They reversed the usual writing process at times when Leo would pen his verse, leaving his trusted partner to conjure up a suitable tune. It was this procedure that produced "Thanks for the Memory" . . . .

Rainger had always had a desire to return to Broadway. In 1939, he and Robin did do a score for a Mary Martin vehicle that closed short of the Great White Way in New Haven, but even that did not discourage him. When their contract at Paramount expired, Rainger returned to New York but to no avail, so when feelers from M-G-M and Twentieth Century Fox came to him and Robin, he came back to Hollywood in August, 1940. By January, 1941, they were working for Daryl Zanuck at Fox, their first assignment the score for Moon over Miami. By the time of his death in a plane crash in 1942.

(source: Mark Gardner essay in the liner notes for the 2008 album The Film Music of Ralph Rainger)

book cover: Gary Marmorstein "Hollywood Rhapsody Movie Music and Its Makers 1900-1975"

Gary Marmorstein
Hollywood Rhapsody: Movie Music and Its Makers, 1900-1975,
New York: Schirmer Books, 1997

Rainger and Robin were a M match made in Hollywood. Leo Robin had been working with Richard Whiting as a writing team at Paramount but after they completed, with Frank Harling, the songs for Monte Carlo" in 1930, including "Beyond the Blue Horizon," Robin and Whiting broke off their partnership ("without acrimony") and Robin returned to New York because his mother was ill. When he returned director Ernst Lubitsch. who liked Robin's work very much, "paired him with a gaunt Paramount pianist named Ralph Rainger. [They worked together first on The Big Broadcast of 1932 in which Bing Crosby sang their songs "Please," and "Here Lies Love."] Through the '30's Rainger and Robin wrote some of the most memorable movie songs, including 'June in January,' 'Easy Living' and 'Thanks for the Memory' (Marmorstein, p. 43).

book cover: Dancing in the Dark, an Autobiography by Howard Dietz
Howard Dietz.
Dancing in the Dark
An Autobiography
New York: Quadrangle, 1974.


Rainger as Arranger and Vocal Coach

In his autobiography, Howard Dietz recounts that after The Little Show (1929), he and his writing partner Arthur Schwartz, who together had written most of the songs for that show, wanted to do another revue with the same cast or at least the same three star performers: Clifton Webb, Libby Holman and Fred Allen. In 1930, with the backing of the producers Max Gordon and A. and L. Erlanger, Three's a Crowd came into being, previewing in Philadelphia. The Schwartz and Dietz song that became a standard was "Something to Remember You By." All the other songs were also by them except for one: "Body and Soul" with music by Johnny Green and words by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton.

Dietz recalls that Libby Holman kept having problems with the song and something had to be done:

To salvage the potential star material in Johnny Green's number [and] with the composer's consent, I lured Ralph Rainger down to Philadelphia. Rainger had written "Moanin' Low" with me and had a special feeling for this type of dark number. Libby, coached by Rainger, experimented with all types of delivery. but it was not until the last night in Philadelphia that they hit on a way to present the song. When the show opened at the Selvyn Theatre on Broadway in October, 1930, "Body and Soul" was a show stopper (Dietz, p. 134).

book cover: Ken Bloom "The American Songbook The Singers, The Songwriters, ad the Songs"

Ken Bloom,
The American Songbook: The Singers, the Songwriters, and the Songs
, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal, 2005.

Rainger and his most frequent co-writer Leo Robin both started out with ambitions to be lawyers, both leaving the law to try their hands at music. The two got together when they were under contract to Paramount in 1932, where they, like Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen after them, specialized in writing songs for Bing Crosby, such songs as "Please" and "Here Lies Love" for the 1932 movie The Big Broadcast. Other Paramount hits for the team were "One Hour with You," "June in January" and "With Every Breath I Take" both written for the 1934 film Here Is My Heart. They also wrote "Love in Bloom" (Rainger's melody becoming Jack Benny's theme song) for Crosby to sing in the 1934 film She Loves Me Not. Rainger and Robin moved to Twentieth Century Fox in 1939, three years before Rainger died in a plane crash in October 1942. The final films that included music by Rainger were Coney Island and Riding High, both form 1943 (Bloom, p. 280).

Book cover Wilfred Sheed "The House That George: Built"
Wilfred Sheed, The House That George Built: With a Little Help from Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty, New York: Random House, 2007 (paperback edition, 2008)

Wilfred Sheed characterizes Rainger as an "intuitive and adaptable" songwriter -- "what you want in Hollywood." He seemed to be able, chameleon like, to compose the perfect song for the singer he was around at a given time. Sheed sees this as going back to his experience with Libby Holman and "Moanin' Low" in The Little Show in New York in the late twenties and going forward to his work for Bing Crosby at Paramount in Hollywood starting in the early thirties.

So what might being around Bing Crosby produce for him? Rainger didn't have to wait long to find out, because his first song for Bing ["Please"] was an enduring hit, and worked as a magical calling card for himself at Paramount. . . . The tune whines in the plaintive style of the young Crosby, but it whines classily, if that's possible. And for Rainger's next go-round with Bing in The Big Broadcast of 1936, the hit "June in January" seemed to keep step with Crosby's own evolution from a groaner to the streamlined crooning machine that people remember today. Rainger was right there with him.

Sheed marvels at what time has done to Sheed's reputation by suggesting that someone with such a "huge stature" while he was around is so unknown today. He suggests an irony as the cause: He was so much in tune with his own times . . . to last into ours" (Sheed, pp. 190-191 hard-cover Ed.).

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Cafe Songbook
Music-Video Cabinet:
Ralph Rainger
(This remainder of this section is in preparation)

Libby Holman Singing "Moanin' Low" for a 1929 Brunswick Recording made while she was appearing and
performing the song in The Little Show.

Johnny Crawford performs (2012) Ralph Rainger's music and Leo Robin's words for "Please" (1932) from The Big Broadcast
-- in a mock Crosby crooning style.

The Great Songwriters - Ralph Rainger
(includes the same rendition of "Moanin' Low" by Libby Holman on the music-video at left, as well as Bing Crosby's original performance of "Please" along with 25 other recordings of Rainger songs, many performances from the movies for which they were written.)

Amazon iTunes

Shirley Ross and Bob Hope introduce "Thanks for the Memory" with Shep Fields and His Orchestra
in The Big Broadcast of 1938.

Put It There, Pal!
(A Salute to the King of Comedy)

Amazon iTunes
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Ralph Rainger Songs
currently included in the
Cafe Songbook Catalog of
The Great American Songbook
  1. Easy Living
  2. Here Lies Love
  3. I Wished on the Moon
  4. If I Should Lose You
  5. June in January
  6. Miss Brown to You
  7. Moanin' Low
  8. Thanks for the Memory
  9. With Every Breath I Take
Click here for a database of songs written or co-written by
Ralph Rainger
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Research Resources:
Ralph Rainger

Ralph Rainger research resources on the web (listed alphabetically by web source):
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Ralph Rainger research resources in print (listed chronologically):
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Visitor Comments

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Posted Comments on Ralph Rainger:


from Piano Guy (11/02/2015): Great tune with music by Ralph Rainger and  lyrics by Leo Robin from the 1936 film Rose of the Rancho.

Response (1) from Cafe Songbook: (11/04/2005) Dear Piano Guy, Thanks for reminding us what a good song "If I Should Lose You" is. Apparently we had lost site of it. As a result of your comment we will add a page for "If I Should Lose You" on the CafeSongbook.com site. When it is up we will drop you a line and a link.

Response (2) from Cafe Songbook: (12/05/2005): It took us a while but here is our new page for the Rainger/Robin song "If I Should Lose You."

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(Ralph Rainger page)


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Cafe Songbook
Master List
of Great American Songbook Songwriters

Names of songwriters who have written at least one song included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook are listed below.


Names of songwriters with two or more song credits in the catalog (with rare exceptions) are linked to their own Cafe Songbook pages, e.g. Fields, Dorothy.


Names of songwriters with only one song credit in the catalog are linked to the Cafe Songbook page for that song, on which may be found information about the songwriter or a link to an information source for him or her.


Please note: Cafe Songbook pages for songwriters are currently in various stages of development.

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Adair, Tom

Adams, Lee

Adams, Stanley

Adamson, Harold

Ager, Milton

Ahbez, Eden

Ahlert, Fred

Akst, Harry

Alexander, Van

Allen, Lewis

Allen, Steve

Alter, Louis

Altman, Arthur

Anderson, Maxwell

Andre, Fabian

Arlen, Harold
Arnheim, Gus

Arodin, Sid

Atwood, Hub

Astaire, Fred

Austin, Gene

Ayer, Nat D.

Barbour, Dave

Barnes, Billy

Barris, Harry

Bassman, George

Belle, Barbara

Bennett, Dave

Bergman, Alan and Marilyn

Berlin, Irving

Bernie, Ben

Bernstein, Leonard

Best, William "Pat"

Blackburn, John

Blackwell, Otis (a.k.a. John Davenport)

Blake, Eubie

Blane, Ralph

Blitzstein, Marc

Bloom, Rube

Bock, Jerry

Block, Martin

Boland, Clay

Borne, Hal

Borodin, Alexander

Bowman, Brooks

Boyd, Elisse

Brent, Earl K.

Bricusse, Leslie

Brooks, Harry

Brooks, Shelton

Brown, Les

Brown, Lew

Brown, Nacio Herb

Brown, Seymour

Burke, Joe

Burke, Johnny

Burke, Sonny

Burnett, Ernie

Burns, Ralph

Burwell, Cliff

Bushkin, Joe


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Caesar, Irving

Cahn, Sammy

Caldwell, Anne

Campbell, Jimmy

Carey, Bill (William D.)

Carmichael, Hoagy

Carroll, Harry

Carter, Benny

Casey, Kenneth

Casucci, Leonello

Chaplin, Charlie

Chaplin, Saul

Charlap, Moose

Clare, Sidney

Chase, Newell

Churchill, Frank

Clarke, Grant

Clifford, Gordon

Clinton, Larry

Coates, Carroll

Coleman, Cy

Comden, Betty and Adolph Green

Conley, Larry

Connelly, Reginald

Conrad, Con

Cooley, Eddie

Coots, J. Fred

Cory, George

Coslow, Sam

Creamer, Henry

Crosby, Bing

Cross, Douglas

Daniels, Charles N.
Davenport, John (See Otis Blackwell.)

David, Mack

Davis, Benny

Davis, Jimmy

Dee, Sylvia

De Lange, Eddie

Denniker, Paul

Dennis, Matt

De Paul, Gene

De Rose, Peter

De Sylva, B.G. (Buddy)

DeVries, John

Dietz, Howard

Distel, Sacha

Dixon, Mort

Donaldson, Walter

Dorsey, Jimmy

Dougherty, Doc

Drake, Ervin
Drake, Milton

Dreyer, Dave

Dubin, Al

Duke, Vernon

Edens, Roger

Edwards, Michael

Egan, Raymond B.

Eliscu, Edward

Ellington, Duke

Elman, Ziggy

Engvick, William

Evans, Ray

Evans, Redd

Eyton, Frank


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Fetter, Ted

Fields, Dorothy

Fischer, Carl

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Fisher, Fred

Fisher, Mark

Fisher, Marvin

Forrest, George

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Freed, Ralph

L. E. Freeman

Gaines, Lee

Gallop, Sammy

Gannon, Kim

Garner, Errol

Gaskill, Clarence

Gensler, Lewis E.

George, Don

Gershwin, George

Gershwin, Ira

Gillespie, Haven

Golden, John

Goodman, Benny

Goodwin, Joe

Gordon, Irving

Gordon, Mack

Gorney, Jay

Gorrell, Stuart

Goulding, Edmund

Grainger, Porter

Grand, Murray

Grant, Ian

Gray, Chauncey

Gray, Timothy

Grever, Maria

Grey, Clifford
Green, Adolph and Betty Comden

Green, Bud

Green, Freddie

Green, Johnny

Gross, Walter

Haggart, Bob

Hamilton, Arthur

Hamilton, Nancy

Hamm, Fred

Hammerstein, Arthur

Hammerstein II, Oscar

Hampton, Lionel

Handy, W. C.
Hanighen, Bernie

Hanley, James F.

Harbach, Otto

Harburg, E. Y. (Yip)

Harling, W. Franke

Harline, Leigh

Hart, Lorenz

Henderson, Jimmy

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Herbert, Victor

Herman, Woody

Herron, Joel S.

Herzog Jr., Arthur

Heyman, Edward

Heyward, Dubose

Higginbotham, Irene

Higgins, Billy

Hilliard, Bob

Hirsch, Walter

Hodges, Johnny

Holiday, Billie

Holiner, Mann

Hollander, Frederick

Holofcener, Larry

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Howard, Bart

Hubbell, Raymond

Hupfeld, Herman


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Jaffe, Moe

James, Freddy (Pseud. for Teddy Powell)

James, Harry

James, Paul

Jenkins, Gordon

Johnson, James P.

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Johnston, Patricia

Jolson, Al

Jones, Isham

Kahal, Irving

Kahn, Gus

Kahn, Roger Wolfe

Kalmar, Bert

Keith, Marilyn
Kent, Walter

Kern, Jerome

Kisco, Charles

Kitchings, Irene

Koehler, Ted

Kosma, Joseph

Kramer, Alex

Kramer, Joan Whitney

Kurtz, Manny

Laine, Frankie

Lamare, Jules (a.k.a Charles N.

Daniels and Neil Moret)

Lane, Burt
Landesman, Fran

Latouche, John

Lawrence, Eddie

Lawrence, Jack

Layton, Turner

Lee, Peggy

Leigh, Carolyn

Leonard, Anita

Lerner, Alan Jay
Leslie, Edgar

Levant, Oscar

Lewis, Morgan

Lewis, Sam M.

Link, Harry

Lippman, Sidney

Livingston, Fud

Livingston, Jay

Livingston, Jerry

Loeb, John Jacob

Loesser, Frank

Loewe, Frederick

Lombardo, Carmen

Lowe, Ruth

Lown, Bert
Lyman, Abe


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MacDonald, Ballard

Magidson, Herb
Malneck, Matty

Mancini, Henry

Mandel, Frank

Mandel, Johnny

Mann, David

Marks, Gerald

Martin, Hugh

Maschwitz, Eric

Mayer, Henry
McCarey, Leo

McCarthy, Joseph

McCarthy, Jr., Joseph

McHugh, Jimmy

McCoy, Joe

Mellin, Robert

Mercer, Johnny

Merrill, Bob

Mertz, Paul Madeira

Meyer, Joseph

Miles, Dick

Miller, Glenn

Miller, Nathan Ned

Mills, Irving
Mitchell, Sidney D.

Moll, Billy

Monaco, Jimmy

Moret, Neil (aka Charles N. Daniels)

Morey, Larry

Moross, Jerome

Mundy, Jimmy

Muse, Clarence

Myrow, Josef

Nemo, Henry

Newley, Anthony

Nichols, Alberta

Noble, Ray

Norman, Pierre
Norton, George A.

Oakland, Ben

Overstreet, Benton W.

Palmer, Jack

Palmer, Bee

Parish, Mitchell

Parker, Dorothy

Parker, Sol

Parsons, Geoffrey

Perkins, Frank S.

Phillipe-Gérard M(ichel)

Pinkard, Maceo

Porter, Cole

Prima, Louis

Prince, Graham

Prince, Hughie


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Rainger, Ralph

Raksin, David

Ram, Buck

Ramirez, Roger (Ram)

Rand Lionel

Raye, Don

Razaf, Andy

Reardon, Jack

Redmond, John

Rene, Leon T.

Rene, Otis

Revel, Harry

Reynolds, Ellis

Reynolds, Herbert

Rhodes, Stan

Robin, Leo

Robin, Sid

Robison, Willard

Rodgers, Richard

Romberg, Sigmund

Rome, Harold

Ronell, Ann
Rose, Billy

Rose, Fred

Rose, Vincent

Ruby, Harry

Ruby, Herman

Ruskin, Harry

Russell, Bob

Sampson, Edgar

Sanicola, Henry

Santly, Lester

Savitt, Jay

Secunda, Sholom

Segal Jack
Schertzinger, Victor
Schwandt, Wilbur

Schwartz, Arthur

Scott, Bertha

Shapiro, Ted

Shavers, Charlie

Shay, Larry

Shearing, George

Sherman, Jimmy

Sherwin, Manning

Sigman, Carl

Signorelli, Frank

Silvers, Phil

Simons, Seymour

Sinatra, Frank

Sissle, Noble

Skylar, Sunny

Snyder, Ted

Sondheim, Stephen

Sour, Robert
Spence, Lew

Springer, Philip

Stept, Sam H.

Stock, Larry

Stordahl, Axel

Strachey, Jack

Strayhorn, Billy

Strouse, Charles

Styne, Jule

Suessdorf, Karl

Suesse, Dana

Sullivan, Henry

Swan, Einar Aaron

Swift, Kay

Symes, Marty


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Tauber, Doris

Teagarten, Jack

Thompson, Kay
Tobias, Charles

Tobias, Harry

Tormé, Mel

Tracey, William G.
Trent, Jo

Troop, Bobby

Turk, Roy

Turner, John

Van Heusen, Jimmy (James)

Vimmerstedt, Sadie

Waller, Fats

Warfield, Charles

Warren, Harry

Washington, Ned
Watson, Johnny

Webb, Chick

Webster, Paul Francis

Weill, Kurt

Weiss, George David

Wells, Robert

Weston, Paul

Whiting, Richard A.

Whiting, George A.

Wilder, Alec

Wiley, Lee

Wilkinson, Dudley

Williams, Clarence

Williams, Spencer

Wodehouse, P. G.

Wolf, Donald E.

Wolf, Jack

Wolf, Tommy

Wood, Guy B

Woods, Harry M.

Wright, Lawrence

Wright, Robert

Wrubel, Allie

Yellen, Jack

Youmans, Vincent

Young, Joe

Young, Trummy

Young, Victor

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