Sammy Kaye and his Swing and Sway Band were one of the top bands during the heyday of the Big Band era. Sammy spent his musical formative years in Athens at Ohio University. He started a band as a college student in the early 1930s. One of his first gigs was at the Varsity Inn, a swinging dance spot in Athens. After graduation, Sammy and his band were already in demand. They played 18 weeks at a Cleveland nightspot, four weeks in Rochester and another four weeks at the Club Lido in Syracuse. In addition to the nightclub performances, they also played countless radio shows. In 1938, Sammy Kaye and band gained another notch of success in New York City with an act called “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye.” At this point Sammy was in the big time with other big band leaders, such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. The band had several hit songs such as, “Harbor Lights”, “There Will Never Be Another You” and “Daddy.” The latter was a song about a sweet and charming young woman named Daisy Mae. The song tells of Daisy speaking with her tall, dark and handsome man: “Hey, Daddy, I want a diamond ring, bracelets, everything. Daddy you ought to get the best for me.” On December 7th 1941, Sammy and his band were performing their weekly show on the radio when a news flash interrupted their music with the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Starting that day, along with friend, Don Reid, Sammy wrote the patriotic song “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Some of the lyrics go: “Let’s remember Pearl Harbor, as we go to meet the foe. Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor as we did The Alamo.” The tune was adapted from Ohio University’s “Alma Mater, Ohio.” Just a few short years earlier; Sammy Kaye may have sung this school song at an O.U. event. A few short weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this song was on the Hit Parade and sold a million copies. It was considered the first American war song of World War II. During the 1950s, Sammy hosted several television shows, including a show titled, “So You Want to Lead a Band.” Members of the television audience were given the chance to conduct the band. During a visit to Athens in 1979, Kaye recreated the “Lead the Band” contest at a homecoming dance at Baker Center. O.U. President Charles Ping was the first to take up the challenge. The photo of Sammy with baton in hand was taken in 1950. The 1979 photo featuring the two animated fellows, show Sammy on the right and saxophone player, Rex Koons on the left. Rex was an Athens native who played in the band right from the beginning. If anyone has any memories or comments about Sammy Kaye or Rex Koons, please drop me a note. I will add it to my files. John Halley jhalley@athensmessenger.com

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