Sammy Kaye (March 13, 1910 – June 2, 1987), born Samuel Zarnocay, Jr., was an American bandleader and songwriter, whose tag line, "Swing and sway with Sammy Kaye", became one of the most famous of the Big Band Era.
Kaye, born in Lakewood, Ohio, graduated from Rocky River High School in Rocky River, Ohio. At Ohio University in Athens, Ohio he was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. Kaye could play the saxophone and the clarinet, but he never featured himself as a soloist on either one.
A leader of one of the so-called "Sweet" bands of the Big Band Era, he made a large number of records for Vocalion Records, RCA Victor, Columbia Records, Bell Records, and the American Decca record label. He was also a hit on radio. Kaye was known for an audience participation gimmick called "So You Want To Lead A Band?" where audience members would be called onto stage in an attempt to conduct the orchestra, with the possibility of winning batons. Kaye was also known for his use of "singing of song titles", which was emulated by Kay Kyser and Blue Barron.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, Sammy Kaye wrote the music and Don Reid wrote the words to "Remember Pearl Harbor", the tune of which was actually borrowed from Ohio University's "Alma Mater". His NBC Radio show was interrupted by the announcement of the attack. On December 17, 1941, RCA Victor recorded the song, with Sammy Kaye's Swing and Sway Band and The Glee Club.
His band members included Ralph Flanagan, Dale Cornell, John Murawski, Sid Rhein and Marty Oscard. Singers included Don Cornell (not related to Dale Cornell), Billy Williams (the country music singer with the Pecos River Rogeus), Tommy Ryan, Gary Willner, Barry Frank, Tony Russo, and Nancy Norman. All members of the band sometimes sang backing vocals in various combination as the "Kaydets".
In the 1954-1955 television season, Kaye hosted the short-lived variety show So You Want to Lead a Band on ABC.
Kaye died in Manhattan, New York. His body was returned to Lakewood, Ohio and after a Mass at St. Christopher Catholic Church in Rocky River he was buried in the family plot next to his parents at Lakewood Park Cemetery.
He was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992 and for his contribution to the recording industry has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the musical Bye Bye Birdie he is mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Kids": "Why can't they dance like we did?/What's wrong with Sammy Kaye?" He is also mentioned in the song "Opus No. 1." In October 1939 Kaye's "sweet band" sound was satirized by Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra with the song "The Wrong Idea (Swing and Sweat with Charlie Barnet)" written by Charlie Barnet and Billy May.
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