"Renown" Bandleader Les Brown 2001 Westwood Village Cemetery
Les Brown, Sr. (March 14, 1912 – January 4, 2001) and the Band of Renown are a big band that began in the late 1930s, initially as the group Les Brown and His Blue Devils that Brown led while a student at Duke University. The band now performs under the direction of his son Les Brown, Jr.
Les Brown was a big band leader and composer, best known for his nearly seven decades of work with the group Les Brown and His Band of Renown (1938-2001). After graduating from New York Military Academy in 1932, Les Brown attended college at Duke University from 1932-1936. There he led the group Les Brown and His Blue Devils, who performed regularly on Duke's campus and up and down the east coast. Brown took the band on an extensive summer tour in 1936. At the end of the tour, while some of the band members returned to Duke to continue their education, others stayed on with Brown and continued to tour, becoming in 1938 the Band of Renown. A few years later, in 1945, this band brought Doris Day into prominence with their recording of "Sentimental Journey." The song's release coincided with the end of WWII in Europe and became the unofficial homecoming theme for many veterans. The band had nine other number-one hit songs, including "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm."
Les Brown and the Band of Renown performed with Bob Hope on radio, stage and TV for almost fifty years. They did 18 USO Tours for American troops around the world, and entertained over three million people. Before the Super Bowls were televised, the Bob Hope Christmas Specials were the highest-rated programs in television history. Tony Bennett was "discovered" by Bob Hope and did his first public performance with Les and the Band.
The first feature length film that Les and the band appeared in was the war-time movie "Seven Days Leave" starring Victor Mature and Lucille Ball. "Rock-A-Billy Baby," a low budget 1957 film, was the Band of Renown's second movie and in 1963, they appeared in Jerry Lewis' comedy "The Nutty Professor."
Les Brown and the Band were also the house band for the Steve Allen show (1959-1961) and the Dean Martin Variety Show (1963-1972). Brown and the band performed with virtually every major performer of their time, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat "King" Cole.
Les Brown Sr. died in 2001 and is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
In 2001, Les Brown Jr. became the full-time leader of the Band of Renown. They continue to perform throughout the world and have a regular big band show in Branson, Mo. Les Brown Jr. also hosts a national radio show on the Music Of Your Life network. Les Jr. was a television actor in the 1960s (Gunsmoke, General Hospital, Gilligan's Island), a rock musician and producer who worked with Carlos Santana, and a concert promoter for many country music artists including Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn. In 2004 Les Brown Jr. received the Ambassador of Patriotism award from the POW Network.