Elliot Lawrence

Elliot Lawrence (born Elliott Lawrence Broza,[1] February 14, 1925)[2] is an American jazz pianist and bandleader.

Elliot Lawrence
Lawrence at the piano with three band members, 1946
Background information
Birth nameElliot Laurence Broza
Born (1925-02-14) February 14, 1925
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresJazz, big band
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader
Years active1940scurrent
LabelsColumbia, Decca, SESAC, Fantasy, King, Vik
Associated actsGerry Mulligan, Johnny Mandel, Red Rodney, Mary Osborne, Tyree Glenn, Gower Champion

Son of the broadcaster Stan Lee Broza, Lawrence led his first dance band at age 20, but he played swing at the time its heyday was coming to a close. He recorded copiously as a bandleader for Columbia, Decca, King, Fantasy, Vik, and SESAC between 1946 and 1960. Lawrence is currently music director for the Tony awards show.[3]

Life and career

Elliot Lawrence was born Elliot Lawrence Broza on February 14, 1925 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[4] His parents, Stan Lee Broza and Esther Broza were radio and television pioneers. In 1927 they created and produced the Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, which ran on WCAU radio from 1927–1958 and concurrently on television from 1948–1958. Stan Lee Broza was also the first president of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia from 1962-1963. Stan Lee was the host of the Children’ Hour and Esther produced it. Childhood stars that appeared on the show include Eddie Fisher, Frankie Avalon, Joey Bishop, Bernadette Peters and best selling author Jacqueline Susann. The idea for The Children's Hour was originally born by Stan Lee when a new shopping mall in Philadelphia was looking to sponsor a show on the radio. He came up with the idea to create a variety show in which talented children would sing and perform. While looking for sponsors, one of Stan Lees’ first customers was William Paley, who bought advertising time on WCAU for his fathers cigar shop. William Paley went on to become the chairman of CBS. Stan Lee Broza and Esther Broza were pioneers of broadcasting and of the variety show. Both are in the Philadelphia Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Elliot grew up in this show biz environment and began studying piano at the age of 3. His first public performance was at age 4 conducting the orchestra on the Children’ Hour stage show. At the age of six he wrote his first composition, “Falling Down Stairs” and he was stricken with polio.[5] Lawrence fought the illness for 6 months, after which he recovered. By the age of 12, Elliot had formed his first band; a 15-piece unit called The Band Busters. and had already begun doing club dates on the weekends. Elliot finished high school at age 16 and entered The University Of Pennsylvania. During his junior year his band, now named The Elliot Broza Orchestra, began playing college proms around Pennsylvania. At Penn, he majored in symphonic conducting under Harl McDonald, who offered him a position as assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra upon graduation. In 1944, after three years at Penn, Elliot graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree and received the Thornton Oakely Award, given each year to the undergraduate who has contributed most to the arts.

Elliot took on the name Elliot Lawrence to distinguish himself from his family name when he became the music director of WCAU’S House Band in 1945. The band premiered on the radio on January 18, 1945 as The Elliot Lawrence Orchestra in a weekly half-hour broadcast “Listen to Lawrence”. The Eliot Lawrence Band, of which he was the piano player and leader, soon incorporated classical instruments like oboe, French horn, English horn and bassoon. “Listen to Lawrence" became nationally broadcast on CBS radio in 1945 shortly after a rave review in the March 1945 issue of Metronome Magazine by George T. Simon. Elliot's theme song was “Heart to Heart”.

From 1946–1954 The Elliot Lawrence Band became a traveling band performing at dances, concerts, college proms and headline gigs around the United States year round while recording albums for Decca, Columbia, RCA, Fantasy and Vic records. In 1949 the band performed a three-week stint with the Nat King Cole Trio at the Paramount Theatre in New York City, the same during which time it recorded Gerry Mulligan “Elevation”, later named “one of the top 50 best jazz recordings of the 20th century” by the Smithsonian Institution. The Elliot Lawrence Band performed in Philadelphia at the World Series in 1950, playing his original song “The Fightin’ Phils”. By this time, however, the band had become known for their “sweet” commercial sound. From 1947–1949 the band was the “campus choice” in Billboard's most promising new orchestra polls. Elliot was also voted one of America's “most eligible bachelors” by Look magazine in 1949.

Recording landed him in New York City in 1955 where, as the big band era came to a close, the Ray Bloch agency signed Elliot to a contract and he began to do radio shows such as The Red Buttons show and the Jack Sterling Show as well as weekend gigs with his big band. He was a host of the DuMont Television Network program Melody Street (1953–1954). In 1953 he was asked to go to the Soviet Union with The Ed Sullivan Show to be part of the first American band to broadcast form the Soviet Union. On the show were Marge and Gower Champion, the well known dancing and theatrical couple. Gower asked Elliot to be the musical director of his next show, Bye Bye Birdie (1960) for which he was nominated for a Tony award. In 1956 on a blind date in New York City, Elliot met Amy Jane Bunim. They were married three months later. Elliot and Amy have four children: Alexandra, Daniel, James and Mariana (Mia). They are still married. After 1960, Lawrence gave up jazz and began composing and arranging for television, film, and stage. He won the Tony Award for his second show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1962. This led to a 16-year career as a Broadway Conductor and Musical Director and later to his almost 50-year career as the “go to” conductor for big television events and specials. Over that span, Elliot has worked with almost every big-name celebrity in show business.

Among his many television credits, Elliot was the musical director and conductor for every Tony Award telecast from 1965 (its first year on T.V) to the present, 2011, and other big gala shows like Night of the 100 Stars 1 (1982) 1 and 2 (1985), the Bicentennial Celebration for the Statue of Liberty (1986 at Giants Stadium) and The Kennedy Center Honors (from 2000–2006). As a composer, Elliot Lawrence has scored the movies Network and The French Connection. As a musical director he has won 9 Emmy awards for musical direction and been nominated for many others.


With Serge Chaloff, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward


  • The Jack Sterling Radio Show (1950–1957)
  • The Red Buttons Show (1952–1955)



  • The Kennedy Center Honors (1987–2005)
  • Dames at Sea (1971), TV adaptation of stage musical[7]
  • The Plácido Domingo Special 1985
  • Night of 100 Stars 1 (1982) and 2 (1985)
  • Tony Award Show (1967 (first network televised) – 2010)
  • The State Department Tour of Russia (with Ed Sullivan) 1959
  • That's Life (TV musical sitcom) 1968
  • Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell 1976
  • The NBC 60th Anniversary show 1989
  • CBS: The 50th Birthday Celebration
  • The Berenstain Bears (6 TV specials, 1985–87)
  • The Anne Bancroft Special – Annie and the Hoods 1974
  • The Anne Bancroft Christmas Special 1977
  • The Goodwill Games 1989, 1990
  • Miss USA Pageant 1975–1986
  • Miss Universe Pageant 1975–1986
  • Miss Teenage America 1978, 1979
  • Parade of Stars 1983
  • The David Frost Show 1978
  • The Emmy Awards Show 1978 – 1986
  • The Songwriters Hall of Fame
  • Irving Berlin 100th Anniversary Show 1988
  • Cole Porter in Paris 1984
  • S'wonderful, S'marvelous, S'Gershwin 1972
  • The Mighty Heroes 1966 animated series
  • The Cavalcade of Stars (series) 1956
  • Jazz: It's My Beat 1957


Soap operas


  • N.W. Ayer (music consultant/producer) 1978 – 2002 including the award-winning;
  • U.S Army (Be All You Can Be)
  • AT&T Reach Out and Touch Someone (composed by David Lucas)


  1. Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 100.
  2. "Elliot Lawrence Orch". Big Bands Database. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  3. "Alumni Profiles". Pennsylvania Gazette. 2009.
  4. Yanow, Scott. "Elliot Lawrence | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  5. "Alumni Profiles"
  6. The Lost Recordings of Lucie Bigelow Rosen "recording session at Columbia Records"
  7. Dames at Sea (1971, TV adaptation) at IMDb
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