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Challis, Bill (actually, William H.)

Challis, Bill (actually, William H.)

Challis, Bill (actually, William H.), jazz arranger; b. Wilkes-Barre, Pa., July 8, 1904; d. there, Oct. 4, 1994. Originally a saxophonist and clarinetist, he was a self-taught pianist. He played “C” melody sax at high school (1921); later studied economics and philosophy at Bucknell Univ. and led his own student band. He graduated in June 1925 and joined Dave Harmon’s Band as saxist/arranger. He submitted arrangements to Jean Goldkette and was asked to join Goldkette’s organization as staff arranger (autumn 1926). A recorded chart on “Blue Room” caught the ear of young Benny Carter. Challis worked for a year with Goldkette, then joined Paul Whiteman until the spring of 1930. Occasionally he led a radio orchestra in the 1930s, but was mainly active as a freelance arranger for Fletcher Henderson, Frank Trumbauer, the Dorsey brothers, Lennie Hayton, the Casa Loma Band, Nat Shilkret, and others. He continued to work through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, including arrangements for Bobby Hackett, Bucky Piz-zarelli (arranging Bix Beiderbecke’s piano compositions for guitar quintet), and Manhattan Transfer. Among his last projects was recreating the original Goldkette charts for Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks in 1986; they were subsequently recorded and issued two years later.

Discography

Goldkette Project (1988); Bill Challis and His Orchestra 1936 (1988); More 1936 (1988).

—John Chilton Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter

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