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Milt Gabler


Record Producer, Record Label Owner, Lyricist

(1911 - 2001)

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Milt Gabler developed his love for jazz as a youngster and convinced his father to carry records in his New York City radio shop which became known as the Commodore Music Shop. Gabler promoted jazz concerts free to the public and in 1938 established his own independent record label, Commodore, to record such artists as Eddie Condon.

As early as 1934 Gabler became the first to deal in reissues, buying the masters of out-of-print recordings and releasing them on his label. When Billie Holiday’s label balked at her recording the controversial “Strange Fruit,” Gabler produced it in 1939.

In 1941 Gabler went to Decca Records as their A&R man and made history with hit after hit covering a wide spectrum of music: Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home” (1941), Jimmie Lunceford’s “Blues in the Night” (’42), The Andrews Sisters’ “Rum and Coca-Cola” (’45), Hoagy Carmichael’s “Ole Buttermilk Sky” (’46), The Russ Morgan Orchestra’s “Cruising Down the River” (’49), The Weavers’ “Goodnight Irene” (’50), Pearl Bailey’s “Takes Two to Tango” (’52), The Mills Brothers’ “Glow-Worm” (’52), and Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” (’54). He also produced the debut albums of country singer Red Foley and the multi-talented Sammy Davis, Jr. and the cast album of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Gabler also collaborated with Duke Ellington on “In a Mellow Tone” (1940), with Louis Jordan on “Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie” (’46), with Bert Kaempfert on L-O-V-E” (recorded by Nat “King” Cole in 1964), and on the English lyrics to “Danke Schoen,” a hit for Wayne Newton in 1963.

Gabler’s brother-in-law Jack Crystal kept the Commodore Music Shop open until 1957 and continued the weekly jam sessions until his death in 1963. In 1971 Gabler left Decca and continued to produce music, but he never fulfilled his dream of compiling his many gold records. That was left to his nephew, actor/comedian Billy Crystal, who has recently produced a CD tribute to Milt Gabler and a compilation of Billie Holiday’s Commodore work.

In 1991 Milt Gabler received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and in 1993 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

- Sandra Burlingame


The Commodore Story

various artists



Commodore Piano Anthology

various artists



Rum & Coca Cola

The Andrews Sisters



The Weavers - Greatest Hits

The Weavers



In a Mellow Tone Tribute to Duke Ellington

John Dankworth Quintet



Choo Choo Ch'boogie

Louis Jordan



Billy Remembers Billie

Billie Holiday



Billy Crystal Presents: The Milt Gabler Story

Original Soundtrack



Jesus Christ Superstar

Steve Pearce, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Michael Dixon, Ralph Salmins, Fridrik "Frizzy" Karlsson, Paul Keogh, Keith Fairbairn, Pete Adams [keyboards], Peter Adams [cello], Alice Cooper, David Burt, Glenn Carter, Joanna Ampil, Jonathan Hart
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