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Ray Anthony

Ray Anthony

Beverly Hills, California -- 1998

Trumpeter Ray Anthony ought to be a household name as big as Glenn Miller, with whom he first recorded in 1938, or Jimmy Dorsey, with whom he played for ten years. But even with Ray's amazing musicianship and 60 recordings as a leader, he is lucky to be remembered as the guy who wrote the theme to the television series Dragnet, or composed the novelty tune The Bunny Hop.

When I was called to audition for Ray Anthony's big band, his buddy Merv Griffin had just invited him to lead the house band for Merv's new venue, The Coconut Club, located inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Ray thought it might be fun to come out with an all-female big band, and he set up an audition with 20 women musicians at his house in the Hollywood Hills. Another friend of his, famous jazz arranger Lennie Neihaus, was standing by to see if this unique idea would fly.

Unfortunately, the two established old veterans decided that the overall musicianship of the all-female band wasn't quite strong enough. Instead they invited just two women, trumpeter Anne King and myself, to join the good ole boys who had worked with Ray for the past 20 plus years.

What a wonderful opportunity and learning experience for me! Ray Anthony's power and finesse on trumpet belied his age (in his 70's by then), and that band could swing! I absorbed so much while sitting in the sax section with players like Roger Neumann -- such an amazing soloist on tenor sax and such a fun-loving guy!

Ray introduced me to his showbiz friends, Merv Griffin and Hugh Hefner, who frequented the club. The highlight of my gigs with the band had to be the year we played for Hugh Hefner's New Year's Eve party at the Playboy Mansion. The 500 guests included actors, entertainers and lots of past and present Playboy Bunnies. Hugh had recently divorced his wife and was proudly parading three beautiful blond "girlfriends" all night long, two of them twins. As if the "scenery" on the dance floor wasn't enough, several big screens located throughout the house rolled continuous video of nude centerfold girls dancing. The infamous lagoon pool with its hidden alcoves was busy all night. The food was delicious, but who could eat?

Actor Robert Blake was really into the band. (This was before his big scandal, back when his hair was still thick and black). He stood nearby with his foot on the stage listening intently. Afterward, he made a point to politely compliment my playing saying, "You sound good up there." Too bad about him -- I always liked Baretta.

For more about Ray Anthony, go to www.swingmusic.net/RayAnthony.html.