Cries from audience: Objection! Rubbish! Resign!
I stand corrected. The harmonica player (though he preferred to stick with mouth organ); and a brilliant wit and raconteur with it. Born in Baltimore on 11* February 1914, and still going strong, still playing as well as reminiscing and joking.**
He played the chromatic harmonica in all styles, classical, jazz, and "popular": he turned it into a concert instrument and composers wrote for him. Darius Milhaud wrote Suite anglaise for him in 1942. The Vaughan Williams Romance for Harmonica and Orchestra (1952) was the first major orchestral piece for harmonica: and when it was premiered at the Proms, it was the first premiere ever to be encored.
George Gershwin arranged Rhapsody in Blue for him, and there is a recording of Adler with Gershwin accompanying him on pianola roll. But his first playing of it was at a party, with Gershwin, in 1934. The host simply announced that Larry and George would now play Rhapsody in Blue, assuming Larry would know it. In fact he had never played it before, but simply by having heard the music generally, he performed it, and Gershwin said it was as if he had written it for him. Adler's 1994 album The Glory of Gershwin also featured Sting, Sinead O'Connor, Cher, Jon Bon Jovi, and Elton John. This sold over two million copies, and since he was 80 at the time, he set a world record for the oldest performer to have a hit record.
He does not, however, relish the blues harmonica; "I think they all sound alike except for Bob Dylan -- who sounds worse! ... if I were dictator of the world my first act would be to forbid Bob Dylan from playing the mouth organ! God, I think he's bad!"
The United States blacklisted him, so he could not go to Korea with Jack Benny, whom he had joined on tour several times before. He mentioned this when he happened to be dining with Woodrow Wyatt, the British Defence Minister, who exclaimed "Good lord! Won't your chaps take you? Come and do it for us!". Within a very short time he was entertaining Commonwealth troops in Korea, and that is why he made his home in England for the rest of his life.
His two autobiographies and collections of stories have been It Ain't Necessarily So (1987), which is authentically his and which he approves of, and Me and My Big Mouth (1994), which was ghosted and which he hates because it fails to capture his style. Unfortunately the good one is out of print.
He tells of a time when he was playing mixed doubles with Charlie Chaplin against Greta Garbo and Salvador Dali. Dali was hopeless, so it was essentially Adler and Chaplin combined against Garbo. He also said if he ever got round to another volume of reminiscences he could call it Namedrops Keep Falling on my Head.
There is an official Larry Adler website but it's pants.
Much of this is from an interview with him at
* or 10 February. Don't you just hate the Web?
** Sadly, Larry Adler finally stopped playing and joking on 7 August 2001, at the age of 87. A couple of paragraphs of this were added when I heard a radio interview with him rebroadcast that night.