Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 27 July 1922, Brooklyn, NYC; d 30 January 1996, NYC) Producer, label boss, songwriter. He was an announcer on jazz radio shows '36-44, led a 14-piece dance band on clarinet, was editor/publisher of Jazz Magazine '39-41, and formed the Signature label '39-48: first to record Erroll Garner in the studio; many priceless sessions later on his Signature CD label included Classic Tenors compilations (various editions have included Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Lockjaw Davis, Julian Dash), A Melody From The Sky by Flip Phillips, I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out by Anita O'Day (including 'Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip', something of a hit '47).

Thiele joined Decca '52 on Coral/Brunswick labels, producing Teresa Brewer, Pearl Bailey, McGuire Sisters, the rockabilly Burnette brothers, Lawrence Welk; made cult LPs of Al 'Jazzbeaux' Collins's hip versions of fairy tales; signed Buddy Holly after he'd been turned down by Decca; among the first to spot the talent of Eydie Gormé, Steve Lawrence, Henry Mancini, Jackie Wilson. To Dot label '59; produced Pat Boone and the Mills Brothers; edited the soundtrack of the Red Nichols biopic; recorded the Clara Ward Singers live at the Apollo. Label boss Randy Wood refused to release an album with poet Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen on piano, so Thiele quit and took the album with him, formed the Hanover-Signature label with Allen and made another LP with Kerouac adding Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. He also had a novelty hit by the Nutty Squirrels (Don Elliot, Sascha Burland) and recorded Ray Bryant (R&B hit 'Little Susie' '60).

He went to Roulette, where he recorded Louis Armstrong playing Duke Ellington with Duke on piano, an underrated album; then to ABC-Impulse '61-9, where he recorded more than 100 classic and influential sets by John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Johnny Hodges, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Earl Hines, Albert Ayler, Count Basie, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra etc, and two of the most beautiful LPs of the decade: Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins and Duke Ellington And John Coltrane, successful far beyond the usual all-star efforts. Thiele also produced sessions for parent ABC including Frankie Laine, Della Reese etc; he instituted the BluesWay label which recorded T-Bone Walker, B. B. King, John Lee Hooker etc. He formed the Flying Dutchman/BluesTime/Amsterdam labels '69-77, made albums by Otis Spann, Joe Turner, Eddie Vinson, Gil Scott-Heron, Gato Barbieri, Nelson, Hodges, Basie, Armstrong (three sessions for Louis Armstrong and his Friends on Amsterdam were Louis's last; 'What A Wonderful World' was co-written by Thiele).

Thiele went freelance again with the Mysterious Flying Orchestra on RCA with Larry Coryell, Lonnie Liston Smith; took Smith to Columbia/CBS, where he also recorded Arthur Blythe. He had married Brewer '72, recorded her with Basie, Ellington, Hines etc; formed the Teresa Gramophone Co. Ltd. '82 with Dr Jazz and Signature labels: recorded Brewer with Stéphane Grappelli, Oily Rags (see Chas and Dave); also Smith again, composer/saxophonist Arnie Lawrence; previously unreleased Ellington, Basie's Afrique etc as well as reissuing classic Signature stuff. Other compositions included words for 'Duke's Place' (tune of 'C Jam Blues'), also 'Bean's Place', 'Dear John C', others; own LP The 20s Score Again with the New Happy Times Orchestra. In the '90s Thiele's Red Baron label had items by McCoy Tyner, David Murray, Hines, Ellington, John Hicks, Ruby Braff, Clark Terry and others, plus the Bob Thiele Collective: Sunrise Sunset with Murray, Kenny Barron, Cecil McBee and Andrew Cyrille; Louis Satchmo with Red Rodney, Joshua Redman, others; and Lion-Hearted '93, with Gary Bartz, Ravi Coltrane and Steve Marcus on reeds, the incredible Ray Anderson on trombone, Roy Hargrove guesting on two tracks and an all-star rhythm section of Barron on piano, Ray Drummond on bass and Grady Tate on drums: another delightful album, arranged by Glenn Osser and described by Bartz as sounding like a cross between Charles Mingus and Claude Thornhill, half the tracks co-credited to Osser and Thiele. There have been few behind-the-scenes careers with so many high spots.