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Jack Sperling: 1922-2004
Jack Sperling

Born: August 17, 1922
Died: February 26, 2004

Big band, TV, studio drummer

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Drummer Jack Sperling, whose career spanned over five decades from the big-band era to pop and television, died on February 26, 2004, at the age of 81.

Born on August 17, 1922, Sperling began his career in the early 1940s. He backed Bunny Berigan in last years of the trumpeter's career, then performed with Tex Beneke's band during and after World War II. Sperling's creative drumming on Beneke's 1948 version of "St. Louis Blues March" (RCA Victor) helped him gain renown. Along with Louis Bellson, Sperling pioneered using paired bass drums in the trap set.

From the late 1940s onward Sperling performed with the cream of big bands and traditional jazzmen: Les Brown (Over the Rainbow, 1951, Coral), Bob Crosby's Bobcats, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, and around forty albums with clarinetist Pete Fountain. He was a member of the innovative Dave Pell Octet (Plays Irving Berlin, 1953, Trend). In 1954 producer Gene Norman included Sperling in The Original Reunion of the Glenn Miller Orchestra (reissued 1990, GNP Crescendo).

He worked often with Henry Mancini, both on record (Music from 'Peter Gunn', 1959) and in film scores (Blake Edwards' "Days of Wine and Roses", 1962).

In 1961 Sperling recorded his own session for Coral Records, Jack Sperling and His Fascinatin' Rhythm. Shortly thereafter he joined the NBC house orchestra and played for variety shows hosted by Dean Martin, Andy Williams, and Steve Allen. His rimshots got a good workout later on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In". His studio gigs spanned the jazz of Ella Fitzgerald (Get Happy, 1957, Verve), Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, The Four Freshmen, and Peanuts Hucko; singers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and Mel Tormé; country guitarist Chet Atkins (In Hollywood, 1959, RCA Victor), pop stars Bobby Darin and Ann-Margret; and more novel performers like Scatman Crothers and Sheb Wooley.

Sperling remained active in the 1990s, recording with Tom Talbert's big band (Duke's Domain, 1993, Sea Breeze) and clarinetist Abe Most (Live!, 1995, Canard) among others. His survivors include his son, Matthew.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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