During the big band era, one of the most popular ‘sweet’ bands around (as opposed to cutting-edge ‘hot’ bands) was the outfit whose motto was: ‘the music of yesterday and today, styled the Blue Barron way’. But the leader’s name wasn’t originally Blue Barron, and fronting a band — or performing in one, for that matter — wasn’t a part of his earlier professional career. He had instead been behind the scenes, a manager of bands.
Cleveland native Harry Friedland was a skilled violinist who played in a college band, but when he began pursuing a career in music in the early 1930s it was on the management side of things. He did well enough for a few years — rising star bandleader Sammy Kaye was one of his clients — but Friedland decided that his best bet for success lay in reinventing himself.
Now going by the name Blue Barron, he recruited a bunch of good musicians and decided to aim for the large number of conservative folks who loved their music sweet and straight. In keeping with what would become the band’s motto, the idea was that they’d play old songs and then follow with similar, but newer sounds. Fans seemed to like the idea, and for a period of several years leading up to World War II, the band headlined in New York and also sold a lot of records with songs like the one that would become its theme, “Sometimes I’m Happy,” featuring vocalist Russ Carlyle.
During the war years, Barron turned the leadership of the band over to others while he fulfilled his military obligation, but he returned to lead the group later. In fact, the band had its biggest selling record in 1949, hitting the top of the charts with “Cruisin’ Down the River.” But the big band era was beginning to wind down by then, and even though Barron kept things going for a few more years, he eventually left the music business and went into real estate. When he died in 2005, he was 91.