Ray Bloch

1902-1982

"The Flower of the Musical World"

A Tribute

  • Johnny Green letter
  • Photo album
  • Ray Bloch has made his orchestra a much admired and envied band. Diminutive and bespectacled, conductor of Ed Sullivan's CBS-TV "Toast of the Town," Steve Allen's "Songs for Sale," CBS-Radio's "Big Time," and NBC-TV's "Kate Smith Evening Hour," he is a tireless worker who seems never the least upset by the pressure of combined radio and video chores. Bloch's theory in handling multiple assignments is simple. First, he attacks the confronting problem with all the skill and expertise at his command; second, he hires only the most competent and thoroughly trained musicians. In his band are such outstanding instrumentalists as Chris Griffin, "Toots" Mondello, Johnny Guarnari, Bernie Leighton, Jack Zayde.

    When still quite young, Ray Bloch was brought to America from Alsace-Lorraine, where he was born August 3, 1902. In the United States, his father, a chef, encouraged his musical ambition, making sacrifices in order to pay for lessons. At the age of eight, the Bloch childish soprano could be heard in the neighborhood choirs. Singing in choirs didn't appeal to him, but directing them did; so when he was twelve, he conducted his first chorus at a Christmas festival. He has been leading choral groups ever since.

    Bloch was first employed as office boy at $6.00 a week for the New York French language newspaper, Courier des Etats-Unis. His first job of any importance was as piano player for a leading music publisher. He turned from this to play piano with ballroom bands in the city. During these formative days in the early 1920s he also played with an orchestral quintet which was billed opposite the famed original Dixieland Jazz Band, a fact which gave him the greatest emotional boost of his young professional life.

    Bloch's initial experience as maestro came when he organized a jazz quintet which toured from New York to California. In the late 1920s he switched to radio, as pianist at various stations. In 1931, he became arranger-accompanist for the popular quartet of the day, the Eton Boys. Following a long stay with this foursome, he became leader of several choral groups, the most notable of which was the Swing Fourteen. His advent into conducting came through a CBS sustaining series and a prominent sponsored show, "Johnny Presents," which had been fronted by such toppers as Ferde Grofé, Leo Reisman, Russ Morgan, and Johnny Green. Early in this series, Bloch had charge of the choral group. Later, he was promoted to orchestra leader. This was the turning point of his career -- he launched into an energetic schedule of conducting, coaching, orchestrating, and choral directing that gained tempo and laurels with the passing years.

    As a vocal coach, one of his proudest achievements was the development of soloists from his vocal groups, a few of which are Jack Smith, Gordon MacRae, Genevieve Rowe, Benny Venuta, Alan Dale, Sally Sweetland, and others too numerous to mention. His baton has directed the music of many major shows during the last decade.

    (liner notes for Coral CRL 56074)

     

    Ray Bloch, regular orchestra leader for "The Ed Sullivan Show," and soprano Dorothy Kirsten, who will appear on the "See America With Ed Sullivan" show, Sunday, Oct. 16 on the CBS Television Network (8:00-9:00 PM, EDT), had an opportunity to renew an old friendship during the video-taping of the program in San Francisco. Miss Kirsten was first introduced to Bloch some 20 years ago by another singer, Ann Seaton (later to become Bloch's wife). [My aunt -- PDM] Bloch heard Dorothy Kirsten sing and signed her to the "Swing Fourteen" show he was then directing on CBS Radio. Miss Kirsten didn't stay with the show for too long (she left to study opera in Europe a few months later), but she feels that the time was highly rewarding. "Bloch taught me to swing in those few months," she remarked. "I've always been grateful. After all, my Gershwin records have consistently outsold my operatic albums."

    CBS press release, September 29, 1960

    Bloch, Raymond A. (Ray), composer, author, conductor, arranger, pianist; b. Alsace-Lorraine, Aug. 3, 1902. To US during World War I. ASCAP 1939. Pianist in NY ballroom; organized own orch., toured US in vaudeville. Pianist in radio, then music dir., arr. on radio, TV networks, incl. Ed Sullivan Show. Chief collaborators: W. Edw. Breuder, Paul Rusincky. Songs: "When Love Has Gone"; "You're Everything That's Lovely"; "In the Same Old Way"; "In My Little Red Book"; "The Wide Open Spaces"; "Sam the Vegetable Man"; "Let's Make Up a Little Party"; "If You Were Mine."

    The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, 1966 Edition