Along with his brother Larry, trumpeter Les Elgart led one of the more popular swing orchestras of the '50s. His smooth, tightly arranged sound helped keep the declining big band style alive on the charts for a little while longer, and his later reunions with Larry often produced stylistic detours into contemporary easy listening trends. Elgart was born August 3, 1917, in New Haven, CT, to parents who both played the piano; he took up the trumpet in his early teens and was already performing professionally by the time he turned 20. During the early '40s, Elgart performed in orchestras led by Raymond Scott, Charlie Spivak, and Harry James, among others, and sometimes wound up in the same groups as his sax-playing brother, Larry. The two formed their own orchestra in 1945, and hired top-notch arrangers like Nelson Riddle, Ralph Flanagan, and Bill Finegan. However, a number of factors conspired against them: the Musicians' Union recording strike, the declining popularity of live swing music, conflicts over leadership, and the end of World War II. They wound up disbanding in 1946, and Les and Larry went their separate ways, making a living as freelancers in whatever orchestras could pay them.