Tutti Camarata, who died on Wednesday April 13th 2005, aged 91, played an important role in American popular music as an arranger, conductor, musical director and record company executive; his career stretched from the early days of Bing Crosby to the digital age, and he arranged and conducted television shows for artists as diverse as Louis Armstrong and Noel Coward.
Salvatore Tutti Camarata (sometimes also known as “Toots”) was born on May 11 1913 at Glen Ridge, New Jersey, one of eight children of Sicilian immigrants. He learned the violin from the age of 11 and took up the trumpet at 14. He won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied composition and orchestration with Walter Damrosch and conducting with Cesare Sodero of the Metropolitan Opera.
At 21, Camarata joined the band of Charlie Barnet as both trumpeter and staff arranger, later going on to arrange for Bing Crosby’s radio show. After a brief stay with Paul Whiteman in 1938, he joined Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra and played an important part not only in Dorsey’s success but also in that of his star vocalists, Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell.
To comply with a radio sponsor’s request that the last three minutes of each show should feature all the band’s stars, Camarata devised the “three-in-one” arrangement, incorporating a section in slow tempo for Eberly, another in swing-time for O’Connell, and a bravura finale by the orchestra. This led directly to two No 1 records – Green Eyes and Maria Elena – in 1941, and several minor hits.
After leaving Dorsey in 1942, Camarata worked briefly for the Casa Loma Orchestra and Benny Goodman, before joining the US Army Air Force as a flight instructor.
On leaving the forces, he arranged and conducted a series of recording sessions for Billie Holiday which yielded such widely loved pieces as Loverman, That Ole Devil Called Love and Don’t Explain. He was subsequently appointed musical director at Decca Records in New York.
In 1945 Camarata accepted an invitation from J Arthur Rank to come to London to act as musical director on London Town, an ambitious attempt to create a British film musical to rival the Hollywood product. Although the film was not a success, his stay in Britain made Camarata a convinced Anglophile.
He set up London Records, an American Decca subsidiary devoted to British artists. It was by this means that Vera Lynn gained an unexpected gold disc for her recording of Now Is The Hour, and Ted Heath, Mantovani and others found an audience in America. Also for the London label, he formed a British session orchestra, the Kingsway Orchestra, to record classical music for the American market.
Back in the United States, Camarata set up Decca’s resident big band, a stirring, brassy outfit called the Commanders, which had great popular success with records such as Meet The Commanders and Dance Party. Throughout the 1950s he acted as musical director for numerous television specials by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Vic Damone.
In 1958 Camarata became co-founder and musical director of Disneyland Records, for which he produced 300 discs over the course of 16 years, including soundtrack albums of Snow White and The Jungle Book. For the subsidiary Disney label, Buena Vista, he had great success with two “easy listening” albums, Tutti’s Trumpets and Tutti’s Trombones.
Tutti Camarata continued to conduct and record into the 1990s, and to run his own recording studio, Sunset Sounds, on Sunset Boulevard, which he eventually handed over to his son, Paul, who survives him. Dorene, his wife of 67 years, died in 2004.