Mitchell Ayres

Known best for his large role in the career of Perry Como (he served as musical director and conductor), Mitchell Ayres also led his own orchestra for nearly ten years during the '30s and '40s. Born Mitchell Agress in Milwaukee in 1910, Ayres' instrument of choice when young was the violin, and he jumped aboard a local band led by vocalist Little Jack Little. A faction of that group broke away in the late '30s, and Ayres was chosen as the leader of the Fashions in Music orchestra. The group played all around the country during the late '30s up until disbanding in the late '40s, often making appearances in front of servicemen and women during World War II. While recording for Vocalion and Bluebird, the band's "Make Believe Island" became their most popular song, though it never reached the Hit Parade. The group also appeared in several pictures (including Swingtime Johnny and Moonlight and Cactus) and featured the singers Maryann Mercer, Tommy Taylor, Dick Dyer, and briefly, Dinah Shore. After Fashions in Music disbanded, Ayres continued working; he made a particularly deep impression at the Columbia label, where he conducted and directed the orchestra for Perry Como and also worked with Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, and Pearl Bailey. His television work included The Perry Como Show, TV's Top Tunes, and The Hollywood Palace before his death in Las Vegas in 1969. ~ John Bush

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