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Songbook Archives adds new collections

3/4/2021 12AM

Latest acquisitions include arrangements from ’50s pop singer

Kay Starr, arrangers Ralph Carmichael and Terry Woodson


CARMEL, Ind. – Historic archival collections from a groundbreaking composer and arranger, a 1950s pop star, and the Sinatra family’s longtime conductor and music librarian are among the latest acquisitions for the Great American Songbook Foundation’s Songbook Archives & Library.


Executive Director Christopher Lewis

Executive Director Christopher Lewis

Founded in 2008, the Songbook Archives has become a major repository for the preservation of artifacts and arrangements from the 20th century golden age of American popular music. The collections attract musicians and scholars from around the world and provide content for the Foundation’s educational programs.


“So much of America’s musical and cultural history is at risk, unless special efforts are made to catalog and preserve materials from the pre-digital era,” Executive Director Christopher Lewis said. “We all should be grateful to the artists and their families who have entrusted these one-of-a-kind collections to the Songbook Foundation.”


The new acquisitions come from the personal collections of:


Ralph Carmichael (born 1927) – pop, jazz and gospel composer and arranger

The musically precocious son of a Pentecostal minister, Carmichael caused a stir as a California Bible college student by forming ensembles that performed sacred music with jazz, pop and classical influences. As a professional, he went on to arrange music for top TV programs (I Love Lucy, Bonanza) and performers including Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Julie London, Roger Williams, Stan Kenton, the London Symphony Orchestra and most notably Nat King Cole. In 1966, Carmichael founded Light Records, signing gospel artists such as Andrae Crouch and the Winans, and came to be known as the “father of contemporary Christian music.” His compositions include “Reach Out to Jesus,” recorded by Elvis Presley on the Grammy-winning 1972 album He Touched Me.

Acquired materials include: 50 big band arrangements created for Carmichael’s own orchestra and various special events. Over 140 other arrangements of religious-themed music were donated to Baylor University in Texas for use by its student ensembles.


Pop singer Kay Starr

Kay Starr (1922-2016) – jazz and pop singer

Born Katherine Laverne Starks on an Oklahoma Indian reservation, Starr was singing on the radio for pay by age 10 and performed as a teen for bandleaders including Glenn Miller and Joe Venuti. Equally at home with jazz, pop and country tunes, her biggest hits as a solo artist came in the 1950s and included “Wheel of Fortune” (No. 1 for 10 weeks in 1952), “The Rock and Roll Waltz” and a Christmas favorite, “(Everybody's Waitin' for) The Man with the Bag.” Starr continued to record, perform and tour into the 1990s.

Acquired materials include: Hundreds of classic song arrangements written for recording sessions, pops concerts, Las Vegas shows and other performances. Many of Starr’s original master recordings are thought to have been lost in the 2008 Universal Studios fire, increasing the potential historical value of these materials, which were donated by her estate.


Terry Woodson (born 1941) – musician, arranger, conductor, music librarian

Another Oklahoma native, Woodson moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s and gained attention as a trombonist for trumpeter Don Ellis’ big band. In the ’70s, he began playing, arranging and conducting for the Henry Mancini and Sinatra orchestras – associations that would continue for three decades – and later worked with artists including Rosemary Clooney, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Vince Gill, Barry Manilow and Amy Grant. Woodson also built successful businesses in music copying and music library management for artists including Frank Sinatra Sr. and Jr.

Acquired materials include: Arrangements written for artists including Clooney, Ronstadt, Ella Fitzgerald, Glen Campbell and Mel Tormé, as well as Nelson Riddle scores.


About the Great American Songbook Foundation

The mission of the Great American Songbook Foundation, founded in 2007 by five-time Grammy® Award nominee Michael Feinstein, is to inspire and educate by celebrating the timeless standards of pop, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood. Headquartered at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, the Foundation advances this rich musical legacy by curating a vast archive of items representing its creators, performers and publishers; operating a multimedia exhibit gallery; overseeing the Songbook Hall of Fame; offering programs for the public and research opportunities for scholars and artists; and providing educational opportunities for student musicians, including the annual Songbook Academy® summer intensive. The Foundation is a Cultural Affiliate of the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum®. More information is available at