Jackie Gleason Orchestra: Laura


The Jackie Gleason Orchestra playing Laura.

The same Jackie Gleason that portrayed Ralph Kramden on the Honeymooners had his own orchestra and his Music For Lovers Only album was on the Billboard charts for 153 weeks which was about about three weeks short of being on the charts for three years.

He couldn’t read or write music but he could play a song while a composer would write down the notes. There are conflicting reports on the internet about whether he actually played an instrument yet he is shown playing the bass many years ago in a band but then other reports said he never played an instrument.

Bobby Hackett who was a member of the Jackie Gleason Orchestra has this to say about Gleason’s musical knowledge in this paragraph from suite101.com.:

One might ask how somebody who does not know how to write music could compose it. The great trumpeter, Bobby Hackett, had this to say about Gleason’s musical ability. “Jackie knows a lot more about music than he is given credit for. I have seen him conduct a sixty-piece orchestra and detect one discordant note in the brass section. He would immediately stop the music and locate the wrong note. It always amazed the professional musicians how a guy who technically didn’t know one note from another could do that. And he was never wrong.”

Capitol Records only offered him a $1,000 contract for his first record album. Gleason had no part in conducting the orchestra. His first ten albums made over $10 million each showing there was a market for romantic music.

Gleason hired Bobby Hackett to play the trumpet and combined his trumpet players with forty mandolin players to get the sound he wanted. Easy listening is a perfect description of his music.

He would release 53 record albums from 1952-1971. Six of those albums held the No.1 position in the Billboard 200 chart.

His albums earned $120 million showing that Gleason was not only a successful actor in television and the movies but his love for easy listening music gave Americans some of the greatest music ever recorded.

Sadly orchestra music was on the way out by 1957 with the advent of rock and roll and the popularity of romantic music waned as the new rock and roll sound took over the record charts for the most part as Elvis Presley changed music as did the Beatles six years later in 1964.

The Jackie Gleason Orchestra playing Misty which a fine example of easy listening music at its best.

Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

4 thoughts on “Jackie Gleason Orchestra: Laura”

  1. The music reminds me of my childhood days when my Dad would play his records on the console while I was doing homework in the kitchen while Mom was fixing up dinner. Thanks for the great flashbacks!

    1. Cecil, Thank you for sharing your experience about what it was like, when Jackie Gleason music was playing in your home growing up. I didn’t even know Jackie Gleason had an orchestra till in the last few years. I had always thought he was only a comedian and actor, so when I found his music, I bought the Best of Jackie Gleason album on CD.

  2. At 71 I remember Jackie Gleason’s show live on the tele – and still love the music! The man had a gentle soul and it came through in his musical interpretations. Thank you for helping to keep the memories alive for the next generations.

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