Joe Graydon, big band singer popular on radio’s “Your Hit Parade” during the mid-1940s and a lifelong champion of big band music, died Saturday of cancer at his home in Glendale, Calif. He was 82.
Best known for his definitive version of “Again,” in collaboration with bandleader Gordon Jenkins, Graydon was one of the most popular singers of the big band era.
During the late 1940s, he served as a conductor for radio station KLAC’s house band, which became known as the Joe Graydon Orchestra for both the radio station and KLAC-TV, and he was featured as a singer-bandleader on early TV shows including Al Jarvis/Betty White’s daytime variety show.
Graydon later represented big band icons such as Ray Eberle, Helen Forrest, Connie Haines, Dick Haymes, the Pied Pipers and the Ink Spots and featured them in their own stage shows.
He also created the Battle of the Big Bands, in which orchestras would perform the arrangements of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and others. The show simulated four bands in one evening, and the audience, with applause meters, would decide which band won that evening’s battle.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Graydon worked his way through law school at Catholic University by singing in local nightclubs.
An undercover FBI agent who was dispatched to trail foreign spies during World War II, he took Frank Sinatra’s place as the leading male singer on “Your Hit Parade” with an air of mystery. Referred to only as “Joe” when he debuted on the show in the mid-1940s, the mystery surrounding his identity only increased his popularity.
Graydon caught the eye of Warner Bros., but his studio contract proved fruitless. He returned to music in the late 1940s.
Graydon produced shows until his final days, recently emceeing and singing at a regional SoCal show based on his four-band concept and working on a Glendale benefit show slated to star Debbie Reynolds.
Graydon is survived by his wife, Marion, two sons, two grandchildren and a brother.