Vic Schoen

Vic Schoen was one of busiest arranger/conductors in popular music from the late '30s through the '60s. Although never as acclaimed as contemporaries Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins, he amassed an extraordinary record of successes working with Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, Andy Williams, and, most notably, the Andrews Sisters, his name and work attached to dozens of hit records and most of their biggest successes. Schoen initially entered music as a trumpeter, and in the mid-'30s began establishing himself as an arranger, a field in which he was entirely self-taught. Fate played its hand in Schoen's career when he was hired by bandleader Leon Belasco to work with a young trio called the Andrews Sisters. He helped get them the radio appearance that led to an audition and recording contract with Decca Records late in 1937, and played on their all-important second recording session, which yielded "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen," the first hit for the trio, in early 1938. Although the Andrews Sisters would occasionally record with established bands and, particularly in their later years at Decca, with Gordon Jenkins, Schoen became the arranger and conductor they most often worked with, he forming his own orchestra in 1938 and backing them on stage and on screen, as well as in the studio, for the next decade. Schoen, whose own self-taught approach to arranging probably made him compatible with the Andrews sisters -- none of whom could read music, became their closest creative partner, and was an essential part of the trio's sound during their biggest years. Even on songs that he didn't appreciate, such as "Beer Barrel Polka," his arrangements were successful, while on numbers like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," which captured his interest, Schoen was downright inspired, even ascending to brilliance. His record of success with the Andrews Sisters quickly established Schoen as a much sought-after arranger and conductor, and the '40s were extremely busy years for him, occasionally with other singers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Shore, Dick Haymes, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby (including his hit "Don't Fence Me In"), but primarily with the Andrews Sisters. He remained associated with the trio until the end of the decade, when a combination of shifting personal relationships and changes in the public's musical taste led to his resignation. He moved on to arranging for Patti Page, the Weavers, Andy Williams, Pat Boone, and other major artists of the '50s, and also became an arranger for television. He also occasionally returned to work with the Andrews' at Capitol Records during the mid-'50s, even as he moved between labels for his own recordings, cutting pop instrumental albums for Decca, Kapp, and Liberty Records, and "space age" pop music for RCA, as well as a pair of bossa nova albums on the Mainstream label.

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