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At the time he was working as organist and choir director at the East Milton Con

gregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arra
nging for dance bands around Boston. In 1936 his arrangements came to the attent
ion of Arthur Fiedler, who asked to see any original compositions that he could
use to make the concerts he gave as the 18th conductor of the Boston Pops Orches
tra at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA more enjoyable for his audiences there.[4] An
derson's first work was the 1938 Jazz Pizzicato, but at just over ninety seconds
the piece was too short for a three-minute 78-RPM single of the period.[5] Fied
ler suggested writing a companion piece and Anderson wrote Jazz Legato later tha
t same year. The combined recording went on to become one of Anderson's signatur
e compositions.[6]
In 1942 Leroy Anderson joined the U.S. Army, and was assigned in Iceland with th
e U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps as a translator and interpreter;[4] in 1945 he
was reassigned to the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military In
telligence. However his duties did not prevent him from composing, and in 1945 h
e wrote "The Syncopated Clock"[7] and "Promenade." Anderson became a reserve off
icer and was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. In 1951 Anderson wrote
his first hit, "Blue Tango," earning a Golden Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Bil
lboard charts.
His pieces and his recordings during the fifties conducting a studio orchestra w
ere immense commercial successes. "Blue Tango" was the first instrumental record
ing ever to sell one million copies. His most famous pieces are probably "Sleigh
Ride" and "The Syncopated Clock." In February 1951, WCBS-TV in New York City se
lected "Syncopated Clock" as the theme song for The Late Show, the WCBS late-nig
ht movie (using Percy Faith's recording). Mitchell Parish added words to "Syncop
ated Clock", and later wrote lyrics for other Anderson tunes, including "Sleigh
Ride", which was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes
a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946. The
Boston Pops' recording of it was the first pure orchestral piece to reach No. 1
on the Billboard Pop Music chart.[8] From 1952 to 1961, Anderson's composition
"Plink, Plank, Plunk!" was used as the theme for the CBS panel show I've Got A S
Anderson's musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally
makes use of sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper. (Krzyszto
f Penderecki also used a typewriter in his orchestral work "Fluorescences" (1961 6
2), but with a decidedly less humorous effect.)
Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it
had weak spots. In 1988 the Anderson family decided to publish the work. Erich K
unzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this wor
k; four other recordings, including one for piano and organ, have since been rel
In 1958, Anderson composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orche
strations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks d
id not achieve commercial success. Anderson never wrote another musical, preferr
ing instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including "Th
e Typewriter," "Bugler's Holiday," and "A Trumpeter's Lullaby" are performed by
orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations.
Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to
conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For "The Typewr
iter" Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working
on an old typewriter while the orchestra played.
Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omega chapter of Phi M
u Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969.