Light, Enoch (Henry)

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Light, Enoch (Henry)

Light, Enoch (Henry), American orchestra conductor, violinist, and record company executive; b. Canton, Ohio, Aug. 18, 1907; d. N.Y., July 31, 1978. Though his career dated back to the 1930s, when he became a bandleader and fronted a successful dance orchestra in hotels, Light gained his greatest fame for a series of albums primarily in the early 1960s that exploited the sonic possibilities of stereo sound, notably Persuasive Percussion and Stereo 35/MM.

Light was the son of Morris and Rose Feiman Light; his father was a musician. He earned a B. A. from Johns Hopkins Univ. in 1926. He attended the Dana Musical Inst., then moved to N.Y., where he studied violin with Michael Banner and Arthur Lichstein and piano and harmony with Modena Scoville in 1928–29. He married Mary Danis on Nov. 18, 1929; they had two daughters. He went to Europe in 1930 and attended the Mozarteum in Salzburg, then made his conducting debut with the Salzburg Symphony. He returned to the U.S. in 1931 and earned an M. A. from N.Y.U., then organized his own band, The Light Brigade, which performed in theaters and enjoyed residencies in several N.Y. hotels, notably the Taft.

Light was involved in a serious automobile accident while touring with his band, and during his recuperation he resolved to focus his activities on conducting and producing records. He formed his own label, Grand Award, which enjoyed its first successes with a series of albums devoted to the music of the 1920s, The Roaring 20’s, two of which reached the charts in 1957, credited to the Charleston City All-Stars. As Enoch Light and the Light Brigade he scored a Top 40 hit with “I Want to Be Happy Cha Cha” (music by Vincent Youmans, lyrics by Irving Caesar) in the fall of 1958, and he charted with an identically titled LP in the spring of 1959.

Light sold Grand Award to ABC Records and stayed on as the label’s managing director while launching the stereo sister label Command Records. The initial Command release, Persuasive Percussion, credited to Terry Snyder and the All-Stars, hit #1 in April 1960, remained in the charts more than two years, and went gold. Light also put five more albums into the charts in 1960, under such names as the Command All-Stars and Los Admiradores as well as Enoch Light and the Light Brigade. He returned to #1 in November 1961 with Stereo 35/MM, the title referring to the procedure of recording on film stock rather than audio tape for greater fidelity. The albums Stereo 35/MM, Volume Two (1962), and Big Band Bossa Nova (1962) also reached the Top Ten.

In 1965, Light left Command Records and founded a new label, Project 3, with which he continued to issue frequent instrumental albums. The last of these to reach the charts was Big Band Hits of the ’30s & ’40s in July 1971. He died at age 70 in 1978.

—William Ruhlmann