Eddy Duchin

Edwin Frank Duchin (April 1, 1909 – February 9, 1951) was an American jazz pianist and bandleader during the 1930s and 1940s.[3]

Eddy Duchin
Eddy Duchin in a 1942 advertisement
Background information
Birth nameEdwin Frank Duchin
Born(1909-04-01)April 1, 1909[1][2]
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedFebruary 9, 1951(1951-02-09) (aged 41)
Manhattan, New York City
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader
Years active1930–1951
LabelsColumbia, Brunswick
Associated actsPeter Duchin

Early career

Duchin was born on April 1, 1909 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States,[3] to Bessarabian Jewish immigrants Tillie (née Baron; 1885 – March 21, 1962) and Frank Duchin (June 2, 1885 – May 15, 1957).[2]

He was originally a pharmacist before turning full-time to music and beginning his new career with Leo Reisman's orchestra at the Central Park Casino in New York, an elegant nightclub where he became popular in his own right and eventually became the Reisman orchestra's leader by 1932.[3] He became widely popular thanks to regular radio broadcasts that boosted his record sales, and he was one of the earliest pianists to lead a commercially successful large band.[3]

Musical style

Playing what later came to be called "sweet" music rather than jazz,[3] Duchin opened a new gate for similarly styled, piano-playing sweet bandleaders such as Henry King, Joe Reichman, Nat Brandwynne, Dick Gasparre, Little Jack Little, and particularly Carmen Cavallaro (who acknowledged Duchin's influence) to compete with the large jazz bands for radio time and record sales.

Duchin had no formal music training—which was said to frustrate his musicians at times—but he developed a style rooted in classical music that some saw as the forerunner of Liberace's ornate, gaudy approach. Still, there were understatements in Duchin's music. By no means was Duchin a perfect pianist, but he was easy to listen to without being rote or entirely predictable. He was a pleasing stage presence whose favourite technique was to play his piano cross-handed, using only one finger on the lower hand, and he was respectful to his audiences and to his classical influences.

Duchin would often use beautiful, soft-voiced singers such as Durelle Alexander and Lew Sherwood to accommodate his sweet and romantic songs, giving them extra appeal and making them more interesting.


Duchin's 1938 release of the Louis Armstrong song "Ol' Man Mose" (Brunswick Records 8155) with vocal by Patricia Norman caused a minor scandal at the time with the lyric "bucket" being heard as "fuck it." Some listeners conclude that there is no vulgarism uttered, while others are convinced that Norman does say "fuck."[3]

The "scandalous" lyrics caused the record to zoom to #2 on the Billboard charts, resulting in sales of 170,000 copies when sales of 20,000 were considered a blockbuster. The song was banned after its release in Great Britain. The notorious number can be heard on a British novelty CD, Beat the Band to the Bar.

Late career and death

Duchin entered the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving as a combat officer in a destroyer squadron in the Mediterranean and Pacific.[4] He attained the rank of lieutenant commander (O4). Duchin's military awards included the Navy Commendation ribbon with Combat "V", Combat Action ribbon, American Area Campaign medal, the European-Africa-Middle Eastern Area Campaign medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign medal, and the World War II Victory medal.[5] After his discharge from the military, Duchin was unable to reclaim his former stardom in spite of a stab at a new radio show in 1949.

On February 9, 1951, Eddy Duchin died at age 41 at Memorial Hospital in Manhattan of acute myelogenous leukemia.[3] He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.


By the mid-1950s, Columbia Pictures, having enjoyed success with musical biographies, mounted a feature film based on the bandleader's life. The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) is a fictionalized tearjerker, with Tyrone Power in the title role. The film did well in theaters, and was well enough known to be referenced in one of Columbia's Three Stooges shorts: the Stooges' spaceship is about to crash when Joe Besser yelps, "I don't want to die! I can't die! I haven't seen The Eddy Duchin Story yet!"

An anthology of some of Duchin's best recordings, Dancing with Duchin, was released in 2002.

Personal life

Duchin had two kids, Peter Duchin (b. 1937), with his wife, Marjorie Oelrichs. He also had a child with model Marguerite O'Malley who was born on August 15, 1938. He also had another child, Annette Kalten, with Millie Giammarino. In his 1996 memoir Ghost of a Chance, Peter wrote of the factual discrepancies in the film The Eddy Duchin Story.

In 1947, he married a second time to Spanish-Filipina Maria Teresa "Chiquita" Parke-Smith (1912-1980), daughter of Teresa Parke-Smith Bertran de Lis y Pastor.

Further information

The Duchin Lounge in the Sun Valley Lodge was reportedly named after Marjorie Duchin by W. Averell Harriman, who raised Eddy Duchin's son Peter as his own after both of his parents were dead.[6]


  1. "Eddy Duchin, Top Pianist, Bandleader, Dies at 41". Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh Press. UP. February 10, 1951. p. 18.
  2. 1910 United States Census, United States Census, 1910; Cambridge, Massachusetts; roll 597, page 114, line 43-45, enumeration district 769. Retrieved on March 21, 2013.
  3. Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 399/400. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  4. "Big Band Library: Eddy Duchin: "Soft Lights and Sweet Music"". Bigbandlibrary.com.
  5. "Shadow box". Navy.togetherweserved.com. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-15. Retrieved 2017-08-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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