Arthur Jacob Arshawsky


Arthur Jacob Arshawsky, better known as Artie Shaw, was born May 23, 1910 in New York City.  At an early age Shaw and his family moved to New Haven Connecticut.

Artie Shaw is considered to be one of the best jazz musicians of the century. As a jazz clarinet player he was known as ‘King of the Clarinet’. Shaw was also a composer, bandleader and author of both fiction and non-fiction.

The Early Years

Artie Shaw began learning how to play the saxophone when he was 15. By age 16 he started to tour with a band. A few years later he returned to New York City and became a session musician. During the Swing Era, Shaw’s big bands were very popular with hits like “Begin the Beguine”, “Stardust”, and “Interlude in B-flat”.

During World War II

During Second World War, Shaw enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific theater as the leader of a service band called The Rangers which was similar to Glenn Miller’s wartime band in Europe.

Political Troubles

In 1953, Shaw was called up before the House of Un-American Activities Committee for his leftist associations and activities. The committee was investigating the World Peace Congress, a peace activist organization, which it considered a communist front.

Writing career

In 1955 Shaw quit playing clarinet for good and walked away from fame and the music business to pursue his writing career. He mostly focused on writing semi-biographical fiction.

Artie Shaw’s Legacy

In 1981, Shaw organized a new Artie Shaw Band with clarinetist Dick Johnson as bandleader and soloist. From time to time Shaw would guest conduct the orchestra but since 1955 he would again never play clarinet with another band.

The Artie Shaw Collection which was comprised of 30 linear ft. (93 boxes) of musical arrangements, business records, photographs, and awards was originally loaned to Boston University by Artie Shaw in the early 1980s. However, it was later transferred, at Shaws request, to The University of Arizona in May 1991.

In 2004 Artie Shaw was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Artie Shaw’s 8 Wives

Shaw was married eight times: Jane Cairns (1932); Margaret Allen (1934-37); Lana Turner (1940); Betty Kern (1941-43), daughter of songwriter Jerome Kern; Ava Gardner (1945-46); Forever Amber author Kathleen Winsor (1946-48); Doris Dowling (1952-56) and Evelyn Keyes (1957-85). He had two sons; Stephen Shaw (1953-2015),  with Betty Kern and Jonathan Shaw (1953-), with Doris Dowling.

The Later Years

In his later years, Shaw lived in the Newbury Park neighborhood of Thousand Oaks, California. Shaw suffered from diabetes and on December 30, 2004 he died from complications of the disease at age 94. 

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