1914 – Born on this day, Larry Adler, mouth organist, worked as a soloist

1914 – Born on This Day In Rock, Larry Adler, was an American musician, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most skilled harmonica players, and worked as a soloist with many of the world’s major symphony orchestras. He played with countless artists from Fred Astaire to George Gershwin then later with Elton John and Sting. He recorded the 1994 tribute album “Glory Of Gershwin”. Adler died on August 7th 2001, aged 87.

Larry Adler was born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a Jewish family and graduated from the Baltimore City College high school. He taught himself harmonica (which he preferred to call a mouth-organ) and began playing professionally at age 14. The harmonica, In 1927, was popular enough that the Baltimore Sun newspaper sponsored a contest. Adler’s rendition of a Beethoven minuet won him the award, and a year later, he ran away from home to New York. Adler got his first theatre work after being referred by Rudy Vallée and caught the attention of orchestra leader Paul Ash, who placed Adler in a vaudeville act as “a ragged urchin, playing for pennies”. From there, Florenz Ziegfeld hired him and then Lew Leslie hired him (again as an urchin). Adler finally broke the typecasting and appeared in the 1934 Paramount film “Many Happy Returns” wearing a dinner jacket. He was then hired by British theatrical producer C. B. Cochran to perform in a London revue. Adler found stardom in the United Kingdom and the British Empire, where, as written, harmonica sales increased twenty-fold and 300,000 people joined fan clubs.

One of the first harmonica players to perform major works written for the instrument, often written expressly for Adler: include Cyril Scott’s Serenade (harmonica and piano), Jean Berger’s Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra “Caribbean” (1941), Vaughan Williams’ Romance in D (harmonica and string orchestra; premiered New York, 1952), Arthur Benjamin’s Harmonica Concerto (1953), Milhaud’s Suite Anglais (Paris, May 28, 1947) and Malcolm Arnold’s Harmonica Concerto, Op. 46 (1954, written for The Proms). Adler recorded all these pieces, some more than once.

Adler and the American virtuoso dancer, Paul Draper, formed a very popular act, touring nationally and internationally during the 1940s. in 1949, he moved to the United Kingdom and settled in London, where he lived for the remainder of his life.

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