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Leroy Anderson

For other people named Leroy Anderson, see Leroy Anderson (disambiguation).
Leroy Anderson
File:Leroy Anderson, from The Best of Leroy Anderson cover, 1997.jpg
Leroy Anderson on the CD cover of The Best of Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
Born (1908-06-29)June 29, 1908
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Died May 18, 1975(1975-05-18) (aged 66)
Woodbury, Connecticut
Alma mater Harvard University (B.A., 1929; M.A., Music, 1930)
Occupation Composer

Leroy Anderson (/ləˈrɔɪ/ ~ lə-ROY); (June 29, 1908 – May 18, 1975) was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler. John Williams described him as "one of the great American masters of light orchestral music."[1]

Early life

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Swedish parents, Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, who was a church organist. He continued studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard University, where he studied musical harmony with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, canon and fugue with William C. Heilman, orchestration with Edward B. Hill and Walter Piston, composition with Walter Piston and double bass with Gaston Dufresne. He also studied organ with Henry Gideon. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Magna cum laude in 1929 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.[2] In Harvard University Graduate School, he studied composition with Walter Piston and Georges Enescu and received a Master of Arts in Music in 1930.[3]


Anderson continued studying at Harvard, working towards a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages; Anderson spoke English and Swedish during his youth and eventually became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

At the time he was working as organist and choir director at the East Milton Congregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arranging for dance bands around Boston. In 1936 his arrangements came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler, who asked to see any original compositions.[4] Anderson's first work was the 1938 Jazz Pizzicato, but at just over ninety seconds the piece was too short for a three-minute 78-RPM single of the period.[5] Fiedler suggested writing a companion piece and Anderson wrote Jazz Legato later that same year. The combined recording went on to become one of Anderson's signature compositions.[6]

In 1942 Leroy Anderson joined the U.S. Army, and was assigned in Iceland with the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps as a translator and interpreter;[7] in 1945 he was reassigned to the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. However his duties did not prevent him from composing, and in 1945 he wrote "The Syncopated Clock"[8] and "Promenade." Anderson became a reserve officer and was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. In 1951 Anderson wrote his first hit, "Blue Tango," earning a Golden Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.

His pieces and his recordings during the fifties conducting a studio orchestra were immense commercial successes. "Blue Tango" was the first instrumental recording ever to sell one million copies. His most famous pieces are probably "Sleigh Ride" and "The Syncopated Clock." In 1950, WCBS-TV in New York City selected "Syncopated Clock" as the theme song for The Late Show, the WCBS late-night movie. Mitchell Parish added words to "Syncopated Clock", and later wrote lyrics for other Anderson tunes, including "Sleigh Ride", which was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946. The Boston Pops' recording of it was the first pure orchestral piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart.[9] From 1952 to 1961, Anderson's composition "Plink, Plank, Plunk!" was used as the theme for the CBS panel show I've Got A Secret.

Anderson's musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally makes use of sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper. (Krzysztof Penderecki also used a typewriter in his orchestral work "Fluorescences" (1961–62), but with a decidedly less humorous effect.)

Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it had weak spots. In 1988 the Anderson family decided to publish the work. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this work; four other recordings, including one for piano and organ, have since been released.

In 1958, Anderson composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks did not achieve commercial success. Anderson never wrote another musical, preferring instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including "The Typewriter," "Bugler's Holiday," and "A Trumpeter's Lullaby" are performed by orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations.

Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For "The Typewriter" Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played.

Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omicron chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969.


In 1975, Anderson died of cancer in Woodbury, Connecticut[10][11] and was buried there.[12]

In popular culture

For his contribution to the recording industry, Leroy Anderson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1620 Vine Street. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and his music continues to be a staple of "pops" orchestra repertoire. In 1995 the new headquarters of the Harvard University Band was named the Anderson Band Center in honor of Leroy Anderson.[13] The Leroy Anderson House in Woodbury, Connecticut has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[14]

In 2006, one of his piano works, "Forgotten Dreams", written in 1954, became the background for a British TV advertisement for mobile phone company '3'. Previously, Los Angeles station KABC-TV used the song as its sign-off theme at the end of broadcast days in the 1980s, and Mantovani's recording of the song had been the closing theme for WABC-TV's Eyewitness News for much of the 1970s.

The Typewriter was used as the theme song for Esto no tiene nombre, a Puerto Rican television comedy program – loosely based on the US television series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In – produced by Tommy Muñiz between the late 1960s and late 1970s. It is also the signature tune for the BBC Radio 4 series, The News Quiz which has been running since 1977.

"Forgotten Dreams" was used as a recurring theme in the French film Populaire (2012).


  • Alma Mater (1954)
    1. Chapel Bells
    2. Freshman on Main Street
    3. Library Reading Room
    4. Class Reunion
  • Arietta (1962)
  • Balladette (1962)
  • Belle of the Ball (1951)
  • Birthday Party (1970)
  • Blue Tango (1951)
  • Bugler's Holiday (1954)
  • Cambridge Centennial March of Industry (1946) (written for organ)
  • Captains and the Kings, The (1962)
  • Chatterbox (1966)
  • Chicken Reel (1946)
  • China Doll (1951)
  • Christmas Festival, A (1950) (original version was 9:00, later shortened in 1952 to 5:45)
  • Clarinet Candy (1962)
  • Classical Jukebox (1950)
  • Concerto in C Major for Piano and Orchestra (1953) (withdrawn by the composer, and released posthumously)
  • Cowboy and His Horse, The (1966)
  • Do You Think That Love Is Here To Stay? (1935)
  • Easter Song (194-) (written for organ)
  • Fiddle-Faddle (1947)
  • First Day of Spring, The (1954)
  • Forgotten Dreams (1954)
  • Girl in Satin, The (1953)
  • Golden Years, The (1962)
  • Goldilocks (musical) (1958) (some numbers in the Suite did not appear in the original musical, and some numbers from the musical are not in this Suite)
    1. Overture (1958)
    2. Come to Me (1958)
    3. Guess Who (1958)
    4. Heart of Stone (Pyramid Dance) (1958)
    5. He'll Never Stray (1958)
    6. Hello (1958)
    7. If I Can't Take it With Me (1958)
    8. I Never Know When to Say When (1958)
    9. Lady in Waiting (1958)
    10. Lazy Moon (1958)
    11. Little Girls (1958)
    12. My Last Spring (1958)
    13. Save a Kiss (1958)
    14. Shall I Take My Heart and Go? (1958)
    15. Tag-a-long Kid (1958)
    16. The Pussy Foot (1958)
    17. Town House Maxixe (1958)
    18. Who's Been Sitting in My Chair ? (1958)
  • Governor Bradford March (1948) (published posthumously)
  • Harvard Fantasy (1936)
  • Harvard Festival, A (1969)
  • Hens and Chickens (1966)
  • Home Stretch (1962)
  • Horse and Buggy (1951)
  • Irish Suite (1947 & 1949)
    1. The Irish Washerwoman (1947)
    2. The Minstrel Boy (1947)
    3. The Rakes of Mallow (1947)
    4. The Wearing of the Green (1949)
    5. The Last Rose of Summer (1947)
    6. The Girl I Left Behind Me (1949)
  • Jazz Legato (1938)
  • Jazz Pizzicato (1938)
  • Love May Come and Love May Go (1935)
  • Lullaby of the Drums (1970) (published posthumously)
  • March of the Two Left Feet (1970)
  • Melody on Two Notes (~1965)
  • Mother's Whistler (1940) (published posthumously)
  • Music in My Heart, The (1935)
  • Old Fashioned Song, An (196-)
  • Penny Whistle Song, The (1951)
  • Phantom Regiment, The (1951)
  • Piece for Rolf (1961)
  • Pirate Dance (1962) (optional SATB chorus)
  • Plink, Plank, Plunk! (1951)
  • Promenade (1945)
  • Pussy Foot Ballet Music, The (1962)
  • Sandpaper Ballet (1954)
  • Saraband (1948)
  • Scottish Suite (1954)
    1. The Bluebells of Scotland
    2. Turn Ye To Me
  • Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March (1973)
  • Serenata (1947)
  • Sleigh Ride (1948)
  • Song of Jupiter (1951)
  • Song of the Bells (1953)
  • Suite of Carols for Brass (1955) (seven carols)
  • Suite of Carols for Strings (1955) (six carols)
  • Suite of Carols for Woodwinds (1955) (six carols)
  • Summer Skies (1953)
  • Syncopated Clock, The (1945)
  • Ticonderoga March (1939) (Anderson's only work written for concert band)
  • To a Wild Rose (1970) (arranged from the song by Edward MacDowell) (published posthumously)
  • Trumpeter's Lullaby, A (1949)
  • Typewriter, The (1950)
  • Waltz Around the Scale (1970)
  • Waltzing Cat, The (1950)
  • Wedding March for Jane and Peter (1972)
  • What's the Use of Love? (1935)
  • Whistling Kettle, The (~1965)
  • Woodbury Fanfare (1959) (for four trumpets)
  • You Can Always Tell a Harvard Man (1962)

[15] [16]


The following is a selected discography of original recordings by Leroy Anderson. They were released from 1958 to 1962 on 3313 rpm discs and on digitally remastered compact discs released posthumously. 78 rpm and 45 rpm discs from 1945-1962 and releases of identical recordings on different labels in U.K., Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere are not listed.[17]

Recordings by Leroy Anderson
  • Leroy Anderson's Irish Suite (Decca DL 4050; 1952)
  • Leroy Anderson conducts Blue Tango and Other Favorites (Decca DL 8121; 1958)
  • A Christmas Festival (Decca DL 78925 (s); 1959)
  • Leroy Anderson Conducts Leroy Anderson (Decca DL 78865 (s); 1959)
  • Leroy Anderson Conducts His Music (Decca DL 78954 (s); 1960)
  • The New Music of Leroy Anderson (Decca DL 74335 (s); 1962)
  • The Leroy Anderson Collection (Digitally remastered from original Decca analog recordings) (MCA Classics MCAD2-9815-A&B; 1988)
  • The Best of Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride (Digitally remastered from original Decca analog master recordings) (MCA Classics MCAD -11710; 1997)

Honors and Awards

  • Phi Beta Kappa, elected June 17, 1929.[18]
  • Music Director, Harvard University Band 1929, 1931-1935[19]
  • Gold Record, Blue Tango, 1952
  • Member, Board of Directors, ASCAP, New York, New York 1960-1964
  • Member, Music Department Committee, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1962-1968
  • Goldman Citation, American Bandmaster Association, March 10, 1966
  • Member of Board of Board of Directors of symphony orchestras:
    • New Haven, Connecticut 1969-1975
    • Hartford, Connecticut 1971-1975
  • Honorary Doctorate (Ph.D), Portia Law School, Boston, Massachusetts June 1971
  • Honorary Doctorate (Ph.D), Western New England College, Springfield, Massachusetts May 1974
  • Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1976[20]
  • Named to Songwriters Hall of Fame, April 18, 1988[21]
  • Anderson Band Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University, dedicated October 26, 1995[22]
  • Leroy Anderson Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated May 31, 2003[23]


  • Burgess Speed, Eleanor Anderson, Steve Metcalf: Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography (Praeger, 2004) ISBN 0-313-32176-0
  • Howard Pollack, Harvard Composers - Walter Piston and his Students (The Scarecrow Press, 1992) ISBN 0-8108-2493-0
  • Edward Jablonski, The Encyclopedia of American Music (Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1981) ISBN 0-385-08088-3
  • George McCue, Music in American Society 1776-1976 (Transaction Books., 1977) ISBN 978-0-87855-634-2
  • Christopher Pavlakis, The American Music Handbook (MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974) ISBN 0-385-08088-3
  • David Ewen, Popular American Composers - from Revolutionary Times to the Present (H.W. Wilson Co., 1962)
  • Jan-Erik Ander & Jeremy Lamb (translator): New Sweden 1638-1988 (Swedish National Committee for New Sweden '88, 1992) ISBN 91-7176-146-2
  • Steven Ledbetter: 100 Years of the Boston Pops (Boston Symphony Orchestra, Inc., 1985)
  • Joseph Smith: Leroy Anderson - Scandinavian Review (American-Scandinavian Foundation, 2009)
  • Eliot Spalding: Vita: Leroy Anderson (Harvard Review, 1993)
  • Janet Frank: Syncopated Clock, Indeed! (The American Scholar - Phi Beta Kappa Society, 2008)
  • Jane Anderson Vercelli: Composer Leroy Anderson: Cambridge Born and Bred (The Newetowne Chronicle - Cambridge Historical Society, 2008)
  • Joanne Kaufmann: Leroy Anderson: Tuneful Blade Runner (Wall Street Journal, 1995)
  • Anthony Tommasini: Tuneful Gems from a Master: Leroy Anderson (New York Times, 1996)
  • Frederick Fennell: Music by Leroy Anderson (The Instrumentalist, 1990)
  • Anders Neumueller, editor: Leroy Anderson (Swedish Press Society, 1994)
  • Andrew & Martha Sherman, editors: Annual Report dedication to Leroy Anderson (Town of Woodbury, 2008)
  • Svea: Svenskättling Berömd Amerikansk Kompositör; Worcester, Massacusetts USA; (Svea Publishing Company, weekly Swedish American newspaper, November 10, 1949)
  • Norra Strö Hembygdsförening: Norra Strö: Bygden och Folket (Norra Strö Hembygdsförening, 2009) - documentation of Leroy Anderson's parents birthplaces in Sweden
  • Carin Dohlman: Leroy Andersons Julmusik; Wellesley, Massachusetts USA; (Gult och Blatt i Boston-New England, 2009)
  • Hans-Walter Berg: Leroy Anderson: ein Meister der Miniatur; Buchloe, Germany; (Neue Blasmusik, 1992)


  1. ^ Comment from John Williams
  2. ^ "Syncopated Clock, Indeed"; Janet Frank, The American Scholar, Summer 2008, Phi Beta Kappa Society
  3. ^ Official Leroy Anderson website, biography section
  4. ^ PBS – Biography
  5. ^ PBS – Compositions – Jazz Pizzicato
  6. ^ PBS – Compositions – Jazz Legato
  7. ^ "Once Upon a Sleigh Ride: The Music & Life of Leroy Anderson
  8. ^ PBS – Compositions – Syncopated Clock
  9. ^ PBS – Compositions – Sleigh Ride
  10. ^ Official Leroy Anderson website, biography section
  11. ^ NNDB profile
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Leroy Anderson Foundation, Cambridge Massachusetts, Birthplace of Leroy Anderson [1908-1975]". Retrieved 2012-05-01. 
  14. ^ "Leroy Anderson house, Woodbury", Connecticut Preservation News, May/June 2013, Volume XXXVI, No. 3, page 9, CT Trust for Historic Preservation.
  15. ^ "Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography", Praeger 2004, Chapter 2 – "Works", Pages 25–81.
  16. ^ "Published Music" of the Leroy Anderson's website, maintained by his family.
  17. ^ Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography; Burgess Speed, Eleanor Anderson, Steve Metcalf. "Discography - Recordings by the Composer", Praeger, Westport CT USA; 2004, pp 84-94
  18. ^ "Syncopated Clock, Indeed"; Janet Frank, The American Scholar, Summer 2008, Phi Beta Kappa Society
  19. ^ Spalding, Walter Raymond: Music at Harvard, New York: Coward-McCann, 1935
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links

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