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Reser was regarded by some as the best banjoist of the 1920s. He played with midwestern dance bands, relocating to Buffalo, New York in 1920. Arriving in Manhattan the following year, he became an in-demand session musician during the early 1920s. Reser had three original compositions written for tenor banjo; The Cat and the Dog, Cracker Jack, and Lolly Pops.
In 1925, he found fame as the director for NBC's Clicquot Club Eskimo Orchestra, continuing with that weekly half-hour until 1935. At the same time, he also led other bands using pseudonyms. "Harry Reser and His Six Jumping Jacks," with vocals by Tom Stacks, were the zany forerunners to comedy bands like Spike Jones and His City Slickers.
Reser and his band introduced on record, the standard "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" in 1934.
Harry Reser played "Tiger Rag" and "You Hit the Spot" in the Vitaphone musical short Harry Reser and His Eskimos (1936).
Reser remained active in music for the rest of his life, leading TV studio orchestras and playing with Broadway theatre orchestras. In 1960 he appeared with Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee and Buster Keaton in "A 70th Birthday Salute to Paul Whiteman" on TV's The Revlon Revue. He wrote several instructional books for the banjo, guitar, and ukulele.
In 1965 Reser died of a heart attack in the orchestra pit of the Broadway stage version of Fiddler on the Roof just prior to a performance. He was inducted into the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame, a museum in Oklahoma, in 1999.
In 2002, banjoist Michael Mason portrayed Harry Reser in Heartland Chautauqua, a tent-show recreation of a 1920s traveling Chautauqua show at Nifong Park in Missouri. Guitarist Howard Alden switched to a banjo to recreate the sound of Harry Reser in his recording Howard Alden Plays the Music of Harry Reser (Stomp Off Records, 1988). Alden recorded 15 compositions written by Reser during the years 1922 to 1935.
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Gear used by Harry Reser
Harry Reser links
1896-01-17 to 1965-09-27
member of band
- Harry Reser and His Orchestra
- Harry Reser’s Syncopators
- Harry Reser & The Radio All-Star Novelty Orchestra
- Harry Reser & The Clicquot Club Eskimos
- Okeh Syncopators
- The Jazz Pilots
- Six Jumping Jacks