May, Billy

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American arranger, composer, musician, and bandleader (b. Nov. 10, 1916, in Pittsburgh, Penn.; d. Jan. 22, 2004, in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.). May began his career as trumpeter and arranger for Charlie Barnet's big band. He was best known for his collaborations with Frank Sinatra. In addition, he composed for film, television, and children's albums.

From the description of Billy May arrangements, 1939-1995. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 692085363

Biographical Note

  • 1916 November 10: Born in Pittsburgh to Isabel Stevenson and Ed May
  • 1933: Arranges first work, When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba, while at Schenley High School
  • 1936 October: Joins the Pittsburgh Local AFM and tours with the Etzi Covato band as a trombone player
  • 1938: Meets Charlie Barnet and begins writing arrangements for him on a weekly basis, including the hit Cherokee
  • 1939 August: Charlie Barnet hires him to play trumpet with his band on a permanent basis
  • 1940 - 1942 : Joins the Glenn Miller band and delivers his first trumpet solo on I Dreamt I Dwelt In Harlem
  • 1944: Writes arrangements for Frank Sinatra's Your Hit Parade and for the Phil Harris band on The Jack Benny Show Begins career as a recording arranger/conductor
  • 1944 - 1946 : Plays on the Red Skelton Show under Ozzie Nelson and works with John Scott Trotter on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall
  • 1946 - 1950s : Works with Alan Livingston at Capitol Records to produce recordings for children, including the hit tune I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat
  • 1950s - 1960s : Arranges and records almost constantly for the music and entertainment industry's biggest names, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer, Mel Blanc, and Stan Freberg Composes original soundtrack for the film Sergeants Three, as well as music for various television shows, such as The Green Hornet
  • 1953 - 1954 : Abandons road touring and sells rights for the traveling Billy May Band to entrepreneur Ray Anthony
  • 1958: Wins Grammy Award for best arrrangement for his album Big Fat Brass
  • 1959: Wins Grammy Award for best arrrangement for Come Dance With Me
  • 1969 - 1973 : Produces arrangements for Time-Life documentaries The Swing Era and As You Remember Them
  • 1973: Marries Doris Ranson
  • 2004 January 22: Dies in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

From the guide to the Billy May Arrangements, 1939-1995, (Music Division Library of Congress)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Eugene Earle Collection, 1939-1980s University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Folklife Collection.
referencedIn Anita O'Day Papers, 1937-2004, 1940s-1970s Library of Congress. Music Division
referencedIn The Benny Goodman Papers, 1910-1992, inclusive Irving S. Gilmore Music Library
creatorOf UNCSA Brass Quintet. Music for brass from around the world [sound recording] University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Semans Library
creatorOf May, Billy. Billy May arrangements, 1939-1995. Library of Congress
referencedIn Ella Fitzgerald Collection, 1956-1992, (bulk 1960-1985) Library of Congress. Music Division
creatorOf Billy May Arrangements, 1939-1995 Library of Congress. Music Division
creatorOf John R. Tumpak Big Band Oral History Collection National Museum of American History (U.S.). Archives Center
referencedIn Duke Ellington recordings collection Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Charlie Barnet Collection of Big Band Arrangements, 1939-1949 Library of Congress. Music Division
creatorOf Barnet, Charlie. Charlie Barnet collection of big band arrangements, 1939-1949. Library of Congress
creatorOf Fitzgerald, Ella. Ella Fitzgerald collection, 1956-1992 (bulk 1960-1985). Library of Congress
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Barnet, Charlie. person
associatedWith Dodge, Joseph Jeffers person
associatedWith Earle, Eugene. person
associatedWith Fitzgerald, Ella. person
associatedWith Fitzgerald, Ella. person
associatedWith Goodman, Benny, 1909- person
associatedWith O'Day, Anita person
associatedWith Sinatra, Frank, 1915-1998. person
associatedWith UNCSA Brass Quintet. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Arrangers (Musicians)
Arrangers (Musicians)
Big band music
Motion picture music
Popular music
Popular music
Television music


Birth 1916-11-10

Death 2004-01-22




Ark ID: w6q63f9z

SNAC ID: 85712975