A name from the past remembered by
Although not too well-known to the general public, the
name and reputation of Matty Malneck are a legend in the
music business in America which he graced for something
like sixty years as musician, composer, arranger and conductor.
Born in Newark, New Jersey on 10 December 1904, he went
into music at the age of sixteen, when he began taking violin
lessons from his school music teacher Wilberforce J. Whiteman,
whose son Paul was to play an important role in the young
Matty's future career. He was soon playing with small local
bands until he was 22, when he met up again with Paul Whiteman
who asked him to join the mammoth (for those days) Whiteman
Concert Orchestra on violin and viola.
His first recording session with the band was an (unreleased)
version of Ferde Grofe's Mississippi Suite on 27
March 1926, and an early live appearance with Whiteman was
at the Royal Albert Hall in London two weeks later, which
HMV recorded but never issued. Malneck left the band for
a few months in 1928 to do a number of sessions with that
ubiquitous self-publicist and musical faker Irving Mills
& His Hotsy-Totsy Gang, and other Mills groups like
Goody & His Good-Timers and The Whoopee Makers.
He returned to Whiteman as a major influence in composing
and arranging, his fiddle playing was a by no means negligible
part of the bands string section and he
was a jazz performer in recordings by Whiteman splinter
groups led by sidemen such as Frankie Trumbauer, which found
Matty Malneck partnering Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke,
Jimmy Dorsey, Lennie Hayton, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang &
On a return visit to London in November 1932 he guested
on violin with Carroll Gibbons & His Boy Friends in
a new version of On The Air/Till Tomorrow. His first
experience as a leader was on a 1931 session for singer
Mildred Bailey when he led a sextet to accompany her, repeating
his function as leader a few months later when he conducted
more or less the full Whiteman orchestra for a batch of
singles including her famous version of Rockin
Deciding it was time he earned all the fruits of his labours
Matty Malneek formed his own band in 1935 with dates booked
in hotels, restaurants, theatres and clubs, but he was still
busy doing recordings with Bing Crosby with whom had worked
back in the Paul Whiteman days. If fact it was he who had
put Bing together with Al Rinker and newcomer Harry Barris
to form Whitemans Rhythm Boys.
The Malneck orchestra worked steadily featuring his bespectacled
piano-accordionist Milton Delugg, until it got around to
recording for Columbia in 1940 with Helen Ward as vocalist.
But it wasn't a successful venture, as of the nine sides
the band made the company issued only four in the USA and
none at all in this country.
Matty appeared with his band in films like "St. Louis Blues"
(1938) for which he and Frank Loesser wrote I Go For
That, and in 1939 they wrote Fidgety Joe for
"Man About Town", but Matty didn't contribute any songs
to "Scatterbrain" (1940) and 1944' s "Trocadero" in which
the band was featured.
Other film songs written by Mattv Malneck were for "Transatlantic
Merry-Go-Round" (1932), If I Had A Million Dollars
written in collaboration with Johnny Mercer, as was Central
Park which they did for "Let's Make Music" (1941) and
the complete score for "To Beat The Band" which included
Eeny Meeny Miney Mo and If You Were Mine.
He worked again with Frank Loesser on "Hawaiian N/ghts"
in 1939, once more doing the entire score including Hey
Good-Looking and I Found My Love.
Most of Matty's songs became standards, as did many not
written for films, like Goody Goody, Pardon My Southern
Accent , I'm Thru With Love, Deep Harlem
and Snug As A Bug In A Rug. He also did such instrumentals
as Little Buttercup and Park Avenue Fantasy
co-written with his Whiteman cohort Frank Signorelli. The
latter was premiered by Paul Whiteman in his 'Experiments
In Modern Music at the Metropolitan Opera
House in December 1933, and was later lyricised by Mitchell
Parish as Stairway To The Stars while the Buttercup
opus was transformed by Gus Kahn into Ill Never
Be The Same. One work that has not been heard since
was Matty's collaboration with Harry Barris on Metropolis,
an ambitious fantasy for piano and orchestra.
Clearly Matty Malneck was no ordinary musician/writer,
and the only facet of his talent that might have limited
his appeal to RFS members is that he does not appear to
have entered the light orchestral field to any great extent.
In fact, going back over the years he apparently made no
records, LPs or CDs under his own name. His post-war activities
decreased somewhat, although he carried on working. He did
well with Bebop Spoken Here reuniting with his pre-war
accordionist Milton Delugg, teamed up with harpist Robert
Maxwell for Shangri-La, and resumed his old partnership
with the great Johnny Mercer in two songs from the Audrey
Hepburn-Gary Cooper movie "Love In The Afternoon".
His long association with dance music and jazz in the thirties
made Malneck an obvious choice as MD of the 1959 United
Artists film "Some Like It Hot", set around that era. His
contribution was to supervise and conduct the band sequences
by "Sweet Sue & Her Society Syncopators"... also to
ensure that the score included his own I'm Thru
With Love as a feature for Marilyn Monroe and Stairway
To The Stars as romantic background music for her and
It's virtually inconceivable that such a man would not
have continued making his mark musically, yet as far as
I have been able to ascertain this might well have been
his last assignment of any stature and importance before
his death in March 1981 at the age of 77. A name from the
past, perhaps, but what a name and what a past!
Editor: Matty Malnecks date of birth is given
as 9 December 1903 in some reference works; his date of
death also appears as 25 February 1981.
This article first appeared in Journal Into Melody