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(1909 - 1967)

Pianist, Composer, Conductor, Business Executive

Walter Gross was a pianist in bands in the 1930’s and played a short stint with Paul Whiteman. After service in WWII he became an executive at Musicraft Records (1946-47) where he arranged and conducted several sessions, including Rosemary Clooney’s single of Gross’s own “Tenderly” which became a million-seller in the early ’50s.

The story behind “Tenderly” is that Gross was feeling guilty for having been rude to Margaret Whiting at a party where he’d had too much to drink. He wrote a waltz as an apologia to her and asked Jack Lawrence to write the lyrics for what became “Tenderly” (1946). It was introduced by Clark Dennis on record and soon entered the jazz standards repertoire. It was recorded by a host of vocalists and instrumentalists, including Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Burrell, Lionel Hampton, and Stan Kenton. It was also picked up by the Dominoes and country guitarist Chet Atkins. Joan Crawford sings it over the opening credits in the 1953 film Torch Song. Margaret Whiting never performed it.

None of Gross’ other tunes—“Your Love,” “I’m in a Fog About You” or “Just a Moon Ago”-- compared to “Tenderly.” But he continued to play piano on dates with notables such as Maxine Sullivan and Alec Wilder.

-- Sandra Burlingame

Courtesy of JazzStandards.com

Role: Non-Classical Composer 
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