Nelson Riddle

Arranger + Composer + Bandleader and Orchestrator
Born Jun 1, 1921

Nelson Smock Riddle, Jr. was an American arranger, composer, bandleader and orchestrator whose career stretched from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s. His work for Capitol Records kept such vocalists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith household names. He found commercial and critical success again in the 1980s with a trio of Platinum albums with Linda Ronstadt.… Read More

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1921 Birth Born on June 1, 1921.


1943 22 Years Old In 1943, Riddle joined the Merchant Marine, serving at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York for about two years while continuing to work for the Charlie Spivak Orchestra. … Read More
1944 23 Years Old After his enlistment term ended, Riddle traveled to Chicago to join Tommy Dorsey's orchestra in 1944, where he remained the orchestra's third trombone for eleven months until drafted by the Army in April 1945, shortly before the end of World War II.
1945 24 Years Old While in the Army, Riddle married his first wife, Doreen Moran, in 1945. … Read More
1946 25 Years Old He was discharged in June 1946, after fifteen months of active duty. … Read More
1949 28 Years Old In May 1949, Doris Day had a #2 hit, "Again," backed by Riddle.
1950 29 Years Old In 1950, Riddle was hired by composer Les Baxter to write arrangements for a recording session with Nat King Cole; this was one of Riddle's first associations with Capitol Records. … Read More


1953 32 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1953, Capitol Records executives viewed the up-and-coming Riddle as a prime choice to arrange for the newly arrived Frank Sinatra. … Read More
1955 34 Years Old For example, Riddle's most successful tune was "Lisbon Antigua", which was released in November 1955 and reached and remained at the #1 position for four weeks in 1956. … Read More
1957 36 Years Old 1 More Event
While at Capitol, Riddle continued his successful career arranging music for film, most notably with MGM's Conrad Salinger on the first onscreen duet between Bing Crosby and Sinatra in High Society (1956), and the 1957 film version of Pal Joey directed by George Sidney for Columbia Pictures. … Read More


1962 41 Years Old In 1962, Riddle orchestrated two albums for Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson, and Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, their first work together since 1959's Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book. … Read More
1963 42 Years Old In 1963, Riddle joined Sinatra's newly established label Reprise Records, under the musical direction of Morris Stoloff. … Read More
1966 45 Years Old 1 More Event
Although Riddle would write various arrangements for Sinatra until the late 1970s, Strangers In The Night, released in 1966, was the last full album project the pair completed together. … Read More
1968 47 Years Old In 1968, Riddle separated from his wife Doreen; their divorce became official in 1970. … Read More


1971 50 Years Old He wrote the theme song for the 1971 television series Emergency!, and scored the 1977 miniseries Seventh Avenue. … Read More
1977 56 Years Old On March 14, 1977, Riddle conducted his last three arrangements for Sinatra. … Read More


1982 61 Years Old 1 More Event
1982 saw Riddle work for the last time with Ella Fitzgerald, on her last orchestral Pablo album, The Best Is Yet to Come.
On January 19, 1985, he conducted at the nationally-televised 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala, the day before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan. … Read More
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