Axel Stordahl

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Axel Stordahl
Axel stordahl with sinatraedited.jpg
Axel Stordahl at rehearsal with Frank Sinatra, Liederkranz Hall, New York, c. 1947.
Background information
Born(1913-08-08)August 8, 1913
Staten Island, New York
Died August 30, 1963(1963-08-30) (aged 50)
Encino, California
Associated acts Tommy Dorsey
Frank Sinatra

Axel Stordahl (August 8, 1913 – August 30, 1963) was an American arranger who was active from the late 1930s through the 1950s. He is perhaps best known for his work with Frank Sinatra in the 1940s at Columbia Records. With his sophisticated orchestrations, Stordahl is credited with helping to bring pop arranging into the modern age. [1]

Arrangement musical composition in altered form

In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging differs from orchestration in that the latter process is limited to the assignment of notes to instruments for performance by an orchestra, concert band, or other musical ensemble. Arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings.. .. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety".

Frank Sinatra American singer, actor, and producer

Francis Albert Sinatra was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

Columbia Records American record label; currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment

Columbia Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. It was founded in 1887, evolving from the American Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest surviving brand name in the recorded sound business, and the second major company to produce records. From 1961 to 1990, Columbia recordings were released outside North America under the name CBS Records to avoid confusion with EMI's Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia is one of Sony Music's four flagship record labels, alongside former longtime rival RCA Records, as well as Arista Records and Epic Records.


Early years

Stordahl was born in Staten Island, New York to Norwegian immigrant parents. He began his career as a trumpeter in jazz bands which played in several dance bands around Long Island and the Catskills during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He also began arranging around this time, and in 1933 he joined Bert Bloch's orchestra in both capacities. Over the next couple of years, Stordahl sang on the side in a vocal trio dubbed the Three Esquires. [2]

Staten Island Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Staten Island is one of the five boroughs of New York City, in the U.S. state of New York. Located in the southwest portion of the city, the borough is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay. With an estimated population of 479,458 in 2017, Staten Island is the least populated of the boroughs but is the third-largest in land area at 58.5 sq mi (152 km2). The borough also contains the southern-most point in the state, South Point.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. To distinguish the state from the city in the state with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.

Norway constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northwestern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

Big bands

In 1935, he joined Tommy Dorsey's new orchestra and soon became the band's main arranger. The same year appeared their first big hit named "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You". [3] In January 1940, Sinatra joined the group as vocalist, and it became apparent that Stordahl's arrangements were particularly well suited to the singer's voice. [4]

Tommy Dorsey American big band leader and musician

Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr. was an American jazz trombonist, composer, conductor and bandleader of the big band era. He was known as the "Sentimental Gentleman of Swing" because of his smooth-toned trombone playing. His technical skill on the trombone gave him renown among other musicians. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey. After Dorsey broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular and highly successful band from the late 1930s into the 1950s. He is best remembered for standards such as "Opus One", "Song of India", "Marie", "On Treasure Island", and his biggest hit single, "I'll Never Smile Again".


In January 1942, Stordahl arranged Sinatra's very first commercial solo recordings (which appeared on the RCA Records sub-label Bluebird), and when Sinatra left Dorsey seven months later to go solo, Stordahl went with him. And became his music director. In the subsequent decade, Sinatra cut close to three hundred sides for Columbia Records, of which three quarters were arranged by Stordahl. In addition, Stordahl provided the orchestral backings, both as arranger and conductor, for several hundreds of songs in various Sinatra radio shows. He was the credited orchestrator for the 1945 Academy Award-winning picture Anchors Aweigh which starred Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. [5] His most successful songs of that time were the likes of "You'll Never Know," "Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week," "They Say It's Wonderful," and "Mam'selle." In 1946 they recorded the album The Voice which was the first album with 8 ballads. [3] His other songs as a composer such as "I Should Care" (1945), "Day by Day" (1946), and "Night after Night" (1949) were recorded with Paul Weston and Sammy Cahn. [3]

RCA Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. It is one of Sony Music's four flagship labels, alongside RCA's former long-time rival Columbia Records, Arista Records, and Epic Records. The label has released multiple genres of music, including pop, classical, rock, hip hop, electronic, R&B, blues, jazz, and country. Its name is derived from the initials of its defunct parent company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). It was fully acquired by Bertelsmann in 1986, making it a part of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG); however, RCA Records became a part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a merger between BMG and Sony Music, in 2004, and was acquired by the latter in 2008, after the dissolution of Sony BMG and the restructuring of Sony Music. It is the second oldest record label in American history, after sister label Columbia Records.

<i>Anchors Aweigh</i> (film) 1945 film by George Sidney

Anchors Aweigh is a 1945 American Technicolor musical comedy film directed by George Sidney and starring Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Gene Kelly, with songs by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. In the film, two sailors go on a four-day shore leave in Hollywood, meet a young boy and his aunt, an aspiring young singer, and the sailors try to help her get an audition at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In addition to a live-action Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse the cartoon mouse, the film also features José Iturbi, Pamela Britton, Dean Stockwell, and Sharon McManus.

Gene Kelly American dancer, actor, singer, director, producer and choreographer

Eugene Curran Kelly was an American dancer, actor of film, stage, and television, singer, film director, producer, and choreographer. He was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks, and the likable characters that he played on screen.

Stordahl was admired for his skills in framing Sinatra's voice, creating a soft, opulent sound with swirling strings, understated rhythms and woodwinds. He was one of the first American arrangers to tailor his work to the vocal qualities of a specific singer. When Sinatra moved to Capitol Records in 1953, Stordahl arranged his first recording session there (which produced four songs). From then, however, Sinatra worked extensively with Nelson Riddle, who cultivated his jazz-oriented qualities, as well as Gordon Jenkins, Billy May, Don Costa, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones, and others.

Capitol Records American record label

Capitol Records, Inc. is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Capitol Music Group imprint. It was founded as the first West Coast-based record label in the United States in 1942 by Johnny Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn E. Wallichs. Capitol was acquired by British music conglomerate EMI as its North American subsidiary in 1955. EMI was acquired by Universal Music Group in 2012 and was merged with the company a year later, making Capitol and the Capitol Music Group both a part of UMG. The label's circular headquarter building in Hollywood is a recognized landmark of California.

Nelson Riddle American arranger, composer, bandleader and orchestrator

Nelson Smock Riddle Jr. was an American arranger, composer, bandleader and orchestrator whose career stretched from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s. His work for Capitol Records kept such vocalists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith household names. He found commercial and critical success again in the 1980s with a trio of Platinum albums with Linda Ronstadt. His orchestrations earned an Academy Award and three Grammy Awards.

Gordon Hill Jenkins was an American arranger, composer and pianist who was an influential figure in popular music in the 1940s and 1950s, renowned for his lush string arrangements. Jenkins worked with The Andrews Sisters, Johnny Cash, The Weavers, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Harry Nilsson, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.

Stordahl went on to work with such singers as Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, Dinah Shore, and Dean Martin, among others. Although best known as an arranger, Stordahl also composed a number of songs of which Day by Day with music by Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston and lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the best known.

Bing Crosby American singer and actor

Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. The first multimedia star, Crosby was a leader in record sales, radio ratings, and motion picture grosses from 1931 to 1954. His early career coincided with recording innovations that allowed him to develop an intimate singing style that influenced many male singers who followed him, including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes, and Dean Martin. Yank magazine said that he was "the person who had done the most for the morale of overseas servicemen" during World War II. In 1948, American polls declared him the "most admired man alive", ahead of Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII. Also in 1948, Music Digest estimated that his recordings filled more than half of the 80,000 weekly hours allocated to recorded radio music.

Doris Day American actress, singer, and animal rights activist

Doris Day is an American actress, singer, and animal welfare activist. After she began her career as a big band singer in 1939, her popularity increased with her first hit recording "Sentimental Journey" (1945). After leaving Les Brown & His Band of Renown to embark on a solo career, she recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular and acclaimed singers of the 20th century.

Eddie Fisher (singer) American entertainer and singer

Edwin John "Eddie" Fisher was an American singer and actor. He was one of the most popular artists during the first half of the 1950s, selling millions of records and hosting his own TV show. Fisher divorced his first wife, actress Debbie Reynolds, to marry Reynolds' best friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, after Taylor's husband, film producer Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash. The scandalous affair was widely reported, bringing unfavorable publicity to Fisher. He later married Connie Stevens. Fisher fathered Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher with Reynolds, and Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher with Stevens.

In 1961, Sinatra returned to collaborate with an already ailing Stordahl for his final Capitol album, Point of No Return .


Stordahl worked with Fisher's television program for four years [6] and composed and orchestrated the theme to the television sitcom series McHale's Navy . [7]

In 1953, was signed to do a twice-weekly 15-minute program on NBC television with Coca-Cola as sponsor. Audio of the program was recorded and broadcast on a delayed basis on NBC's radio network. [8]


In addition to his work as conductor on Sinatra's radio program, [9] Stordahl conducted the orchestra on Eddie Fisher's Coke Time show [10] and worked on the radio version of Your Hit Parade . [6]

Personal life

Stordahl married singer June Hutton (of the Pied Pipers) in 1951. They made some joint recordings for Capitol records.


In 1967, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences established a scholarship in Stordahl's memory at the University of California, Los Angeles. Only graduate students were eligible for the $300 scholarship through the music department. [11]


Stordahl died August 30, 1963, at the age of 50 of cancer in Encino, California. [12] He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California and was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. [12] His wife June Hutton, who died in 1973, is interred next to him. [13] [14]

Selected compositions


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  1. Axel Stordahl Biography (Yahoo! Music FoxyTunes)
  2. Axel Stordahl, biography (The encyclopedia of big band, lounge, classic jazz and space-age sounds) Archived January 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine .
  3. 1 2 3 AXEL STORDAHL Retrieved on 5 Feb 2018
  4. "Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra: The Early Years (Michael P. Zirpolo)". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  5. The Men Behind the Music – Axel Stordahl (The Palomar)
  6. 1 2 "Axel Stordahl, Composer, Dies". Traverse City Record-Eagle. August 31, 1963. p. 3. Retrieved July 16, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  7. Huey, Steve. Biography of Axel Stordahl at AllMusic . Retrieved 2012-04-17.
  8. "Stordahl AM-TV Seg for Coca-Cola". Billboard. April 4, 1953. p. 3. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  9. Hilton, Chuck (October 18, 1944). "On The Beam". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. p. 2. Retrieved July 16, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  10. "Senator Anderson Interview Guest". Brownwood Bulletin. June 29, 1953. p. 1. Retrieved July 16, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  11. "Stordahl Grant Is Set Up by NARAS". Billboard. June 24, 1967. p. 6. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Axel Stordahl Dies In California". The Times Record. August 31, 1963. p. 19. Retrieved July 16, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  13. "Axel Stordahl". Find a Grave . Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  14. "June Hutton". Find a Grave . Retrieved October 5, 2015.