vital stats:
given name   Shep Feldman
birth   Sept. 12, 1910, Brooklyn, NY
death   Feb. 26, 1981, Los Angeles, CA, heart attack
father   Jack, ran Queen Mountain House resort in Catskills, d.1929
education   Erasmus High School, Brooklyn, NY; attended St. John's University (Law School),
    Brooklyn, NY, for a year
first wife   Evy Ryerson?
second wife   Zook Kline
children   two
brother   Freddie, agent-producer, d.Dec. 11, 2007, lung cancer
brother   Elliot
memberships   American Federation of Musicians Local 802 (New York City)

    Actually, Fields' first big break came around 1932, when he was invited to become conductor for the Veloz and Yolanda dance team.  They toured "many of the smart hotels and dine and dance spots" along the eastern seaboard, including Boston, New York, Atlantic City, and Miami.  They even traveled to Canada and Argentina. 
    Fields' first coast-to-coast radio broadcast was said to have taken place over WGN on May 30, 1935, when he opened with Veloz and Yolanda at the Empire Room of the Palmer House in Chicago.
    On his own and signed to Bluebird Records in 1936, Fields' band was in the company's recording studios nearly every month for the first two years of his contract.
    "We were lucky from the very beginning," he once commented.
    Members of his band included, at various times, trumpeters Lou Halmy, Bernie Privin, and Larry Orenstein [Neill]; trombonist Jack Jenney (on an April 1, 1940 record date); saxophonists Romeo Penque, Babe Fresk, and (future comedian) Sid Caesar; guitarist-vocalist Hal Derwin; and vocalists Bob Goday and (future actor) Ken Curtis. 
    He abandoned the "Rippling Rhythm" in 1941, in favor of an all-reed band, praised by critics for being novel and intriguing.  The group, billed as "Shep Fields and His New Music," continued to record for Bluebird and made a USO trip to Europe in the summer of 1945, but not long afterwards reverted to its original music policy. 
    In 1955, he settled in Houston, TX, working as a disc jockey and occasionally leading a band at, for instance, the Shamrock Hotel in town.
    More recordings took place, for MGM, Golden Crest, Jubilee, and Dot.
    He officially retired from bandleading in August 1963, and became an agent alongside his brother, Freddie, who had three years earlier formed with David Begelman one of the industry's most influential talent agencies, Creative Management Associates (Freddie even said that its initials, C.M.A., were purposefully an anagram of their competitor, the Music Corporation of America, or M.C.A.). 
    Shep Fields did make a brief return to music in 1977, lending his name for some new records commissioned by Reader's Digest.  Of course, they opened with the "Rippling Rhythm" effect.
"Big-band leader Shep Fields dies," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 24, 1981, p.A7.
"Fields to Open On WGN From Palmer House: Batoneer Plays with Veloz-Yolanda,"
    Chicago Daily Tribune, May 26, 1935.
Margalit Fox, "Freddie Fields, Hollywood Talent Agent, Dies at 84," New York Times,
    Dec. 13, 2007.
Charles Garrod, Shep Fields and His Orchestra (Zephyrhills, FL: Joyce Record Club, 1987).
Richard Lamparski, "Shep Fields" in Whatever Became of ... ?: Third Series (New York
    City: Crown Publishers, 1970), pp.96-97.
"On This Day in History: September 12: His Rippling Rhythm Was Unique," Brooklyn [ NY ]
    Daily Eagle, Sept. 12, 2007.
"'Rippling Rhythm' Orchestra Leader Shep Fields Dies at 70," Los Angeles Times,
    Feb. 24, 1981, p.C6.
Brian Rust, The American Dance Band Discography 1917-1942 (New Rochelle, NY:
    Arlington House Publishers, 1975), pp.514-520.
"Shep Fields Retires as Bandleader," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 9, 1963, p.11.
"Shep Fields' Rippling Rhythm Will Return to W-G-N-MBS Dec. 14," Chicago Daily
  Tribune, Dec. 5, 1937, p.W8.
Leo Walker, "Shep Fields" in The Big Band Almanac (Pasadena, CA: Ward Ritchie Press,
    1978), pp.126-127.

    I would like to expand this tribute with, if possible, a new interview of someone who was important to Shep Fields' life or career.  Are you an alumnus of his band, a member of his family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about his accomplishments?  Please contact me via e-mail

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by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
August 2008

    He was a part-time law student who played the saxophone and clarinet, but became a popular bandleader for almost thirty years. 
   The idea for his group's distinctive sound, known as "Rippling Rhythm," came when, while taking a break in an Illinois drugstore, he heard and watched his wife blowing on a straw into a soda.
    Not long after that, he began blowing into a straw in a glass filled with water - over the radio, on most of the hundreds of recordings which his band made, and in-person at ballrooms and hotels.
    Among the highlights of his career were being featured in the film "The Big Broadcast of 1938," which starred W.C. Fields and Bob Hope, and conducting his orchestra at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles in 1939.