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Clebanoff, Herman (2 May 1917 – 13 January 2004)

Concertmaster, composer and violinist, born in Chicago, Illinois, to Russian immigrants. He started playing violin at age five and by his teens had served in the capacity of concertmaster and first violinist in a variety of string quartets.

After graduating high school, he became the youngest member, at twenty, of the Chicago Symphony , and concertmaster of the Chicago Civic Orchestra. In 1939, he joined the Illinois Works Progress Administration Symphony and toured the U.S. It was back home in Chicago, however, that he would meet and marry soprano Helen Margolyne of the Chicago Civic Opera.

To put bread on the table, he worked at NBC Radio as a session musician, but bigger things were in store for him. In the mid-forties, he emigrated to Louisiana, where he served as assistant conductor and concertmaster for the New Orleans Symphony. In 1945, he moved back to Chicago and worked with NBC again, this time as concertmaster, a post he would hold for the next decade.

Opportunity came knocking in the guise of David Carroll, music director for Mercury Records, who encouraged him to move to L.A. in 1960. His first album was entitled Moods in Music. A series of albums followed, including Exciting Sounds and Strings Afire.

In the 1960s, Herman formed The Clebanoff Strings, an eighteen-piece orchestra that toured the U.S. and appeared on a number of recordings, by themselves and as background for a litany of stars. Artists Clebanoff has collaborated with in the recording studio include the likes of Ann-Margret, Chet Atkins, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Duane Eddy, The Everly Brothers, Sonny James, Quincy Jones, The Platters, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. Working in L.A. also afforded him the chance to play on some movie soundtracks, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, Che!, The Color Purple, Dirty Harry, Enter the Dragon, and Love at First Bite.

Herman Clebanoff’s career spanned seven decades.  He died on 13 January 2004 in Sherman Oaks, California, of natural causes, at age 86.

A couple of compositions Clebanoff is remembered for are “Millionaire’s Hoedown” and “Wildwood Flower”, which he co-wrote with one of his arrangers, Wayne Robinson. Both remain staples in high-school band concerts throughout the U.S.

Lalo Schifrin recordings
Love Rhapsody from “The Concorde – Airport ’79” (Lalo Schifrin )
MCA-41110 (MC9073)

Theme from “The Concorde – Airport ’79” (Lalo Schifrin )
MCA-41110 (MC-9074) (US 45)

Here’s The Clebanoff Strings performing “Misirlou”…