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Jack Sheldon (1931–2019), “Merv Griffin Show” trumpeter and “Schoolhouse Rock” singer

Jack Sheldon (1931–2019), “Merv Griffin Show” trumpeter and “Schoolhouse Rock” singer

by Linnea Crowther

Jack Sheldon was a jazz trumpeter and singer who was known for his work on “The Merv Griffin Show” and “Schoolhouse Rock.” A member of Mort Lindsey’s Orchestra on “The Merv Griffin Show” for 18 years, Sheldon often stepped out from the band, becoming Griffin’s sidekick. His trumpet solos were frequently heard on the show, including his famous solo in “The Shadow of Your Smile,” the 1965 Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards and Best Song at the Oscars. Sheldon also sang on several installments of the popular “Schoolhouse Rock” educational short films — he was the voice of the Conjunction Conductor in “Conjunction Junction,” and he sang “I’m Just a Bill.” He starred in the TV shows “Run, Buddy, Run” and “The Cara Williams Show.”

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Died: December 27, 2019 (Who else died on December 27?)


Details of death: Died at the age of 88.

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Jazz career: Though Sheldon became known to his widest audience via “The Merv Griffin Show” and “Schoolhouse Rock,” he was a well-established jazz musician before he took those gigs. A prominent part of the West Coast jazz scene, he led the Jack Sheldon Orchestra and the California Cool Quartet, as well as backing notable singers including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, and Mel Torme.

Notable quote: “Merv’s been really great to me. Through him I got to work with every bandleader ever known: Basie, Dorsey, Glenn Miller, even Lawrence Welk. I’ve gotten to sing with Ethel Merman and do magic with Orson Welles.” —From a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times

What people said about him: “I’m sorry to note the passing of Jack Sheldon, jazz trumpeter supreme, singer, part-time actor, and one of the funniest men on earth. He was awfully kind to me. My greatest thrill was sitting in with his big band on piano — not once, but twice. Rest in peace.” —Film critic Leonard Maltin

“Years ago on the Venice Boardwalk, I heard an ebullient trumpet. The player had a hat set out, collecting change. I realized it was West Coast Jazz great Jack Sheldon. When I asked about his situation he said: ‘I’m A-OK. I just like playing in the sun.’ He liked a big room.”  —Journalist Lynell George

“Xers, take a moment to honor Jack Sheldon, who write and performed some of your favorite Schoolhouse Rock songs, and who passed on December 27 at 88. He taught us all a bunch of stuff — in song!” —Author John Scalzi

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

Related lives:

  • Merv Griffin (1925–2007), talk show host and “Jeopardy” creator
  • Roy Hargrove (1969–2018), Grammy-winning visionary jazz trumpeter
  • Ed McMahon (1923–2009), “Tonight Show” sidekick

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