Bandleader Dick Jurgens was a prominent figure in the sweet style of swing music, achieving his greatest popularity in the late '30s and early '40s. He was credited with co-writing several hit songs, among them "Careless," "Elmer's Tune," and "One Dozen Roses." The son of Dietrich Heinrich Jurgens and the former Clara Matilda Erath, Jurgens showed an early interest in music, studying with Henry E. Marvin, Robert Fenton, and Harry Wills.
He was dismissed from his high school orchestra for playing popular music and jazz, but that only encouraged him to organize his own dance orchestra, which he first did in 1928 while still in high school. (He always worked closely with his brother, Will Jurgens, who eventually became his personal manager.) In 1933, he graduated from Sacramento Junior College (he also attended the University of California at Berkeley)
Dick Jurgens Orchestra
and immediately turned to bandleading full-time, earning his first important engagement at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. He was signed to newly formed Decca Records and had his first recording session on October 22, 1934. Singer Eddy Howard, who would be an important part of Jurgens' band during his 1934-40 tenure with it, first recorded with him on the 1935 Decca single "The Martinique."
Arguably, Jurgens was at the peak of his career in mid-1942. Just then, the recording ban by the American Federation of Musicians prevented him from making further recordings, and at the same time, he disbanded and joined the U.S. Marine Corps to participate in World War II. He remained with the service through the end of the war in 1945, serving as musical director for Marine shows.
He reorganized his band in 1946 and went back to work, albeit in a musical climate that was less conducive to his kind of musical approach. Nevertheless, he continued recording for Columbia through the early 1950s, later switching to Mercury. From July to September 1948, he had a half-hour weekly radio berth on CBS, the Summer Spotlight Revue. He married Miriam Davidson on December 6, 1948.
As the popularity of swing diminished, he continued leading his band until 1956, when he gave it up and started an electronics business in Colorado Springs, CO with his brother, though he continued to perform occasionally at the local Broadmoor Country Club. In 1965, he relocated to California and began to make occasional appearances. By the late '60s he had reformed his band, and he played with it part-time until 1976, even making some new recordings in the early '70s. Then he left the music business again, returning home to Sacramento, where he got into real estate. In 1986, he sold the rights to his band's name to singer Don Ring. He died of cancer at 85.
Courtesy of William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide Discography