Fredrick Malcolm Waring (June 9, 1900 – July 29, 1984) was a popular musician, bandleader and radio-television personality, sometimes referred to as "America's Singing Master" and "The Man Who Taught America How to Sing." He was also a promoter, financial backer and namesake of the Waring Blendor, the first modern electric blender on the market.
From 1923 until late 1932, "Waring's Pennsylvanians" were among Victor Records
best-selling bands. In late 1932, he abruptly quit recording, although his band continued to perform on radio. In 1933, "You Gotta Be A Football Hero
" was performed on radio to great acclaim, and some recordings of this still exist.
Adding a men's singing group to his ensemble, he recruited Robert Shaw, recently out of the Pomona College glee club, to train his singers. Shaw later founded the Robert Shaw Chorale, directed the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and became America’s preeminent conductor of serious choral music. The Waring glee club sound can be detected in some Robert Shaw Chorale recordings. Pembroke Davenport (1911-85) was Waring's pianist and arranger.
During World War II, Waring and his ensemble appeared at war bond rallies and entertained the troops at training camps. He also composed and/or performed dozens of patriotic songs, his most famous being "My America." Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, Waring and His Pennsylvanians produced a string of hits, selling millions of records. A few of his many choral hits include "Sleep," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Button Up Your Overcoat," "White Christmas," "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" and "Dancing In The Dark."
In 1947, Waring organized the Fred Waring Choral Workshop at his Pennsylvania headquarters in Shawnee-on-the Delaware, which was also the home of Shawnee Press, Inc.
, the music publisher which he founded. At these sessions, talented musicians learned to sing with precision, sensitivity and enthusiasm. When these vocalists returned home and shared what they had learned with fellow musicians, Waring’s approach to choral singing spread throughout the nation. He taught and supervised these summer workshop for 37 years, continuing right until the day he died.
Waring expanded into television in 1949, with The Fred Waring Show
. The program ran from 20 June 1948
to 30 May 1954
and received several awards for Best Musical Program. (The show was 60 minutes long until January 1952, and 30 minutes thereafter.) In the 1960s and 1970s, popular musical tastes turned from choral music, but Waring changed with the times, introducing his Young Pennsylvanians, a group of fresh-faced, long-haired, bell-bottomed
performers who sang old favorites and choral arrangements of contemporary songs. In this way he continued as a popular touring attraction, logging some 40,000 miles a year.
In the 1930s, inventor Frederick Jacob Osius went to Waring for financial backing for an electric blender he had patented. The Osius patent (#2,109,501) was filed March 13
and awarded March 1
. Some $25,000 later, Waring-owned Miracle Mixer blendor was introduced to the public at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago retailing for $29.75. In 1938, Fred Waring renamed his Miracle Mixer Corporation as the Waring Corporation, and the mixer's name was changed to the Waring Blendor
(the "o" in blendor giving it a slight distinction from "blender").
The Waring Blendor became an important tool in hospitals for the implementation of specific diets, as well as a vital scientific research device. Dr. Jonas Salk used it while developing the vaccine for polio. In 1954, the millionth Waring Blendor was sold, and it is still as popular today.
Recognitions and awards
Throughout his career, Fred Waring received many awards, but none was as illustrious as his last one. In 1983, the 83-year-old Waring — by now considered king of popular choral music — was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal
, the nation’s highest honor for a civilian, by President Ronald Reagan
Fred Waring died suddenly of stroke on July 29, 1984 at the place where it all began — Penn State University — just after videotaping a concert with his ensemble and completing his annual summer choral workshop. He conducted many such workshops at Penn State in his later years, and in 1984, designated Penn State to house his collection of archives and memorabilia. He also served his alma mater as a trustee and was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University. Although many believe that Waring Commons at Penn State is named for him, it is actually named for his grandfather, William Waring. In Long Beach, California, there is a Fred Waring Drive named for him. Another Fred Waring Drive is a major arterial road in the Palm Springs-Indio area of Southern California (where many major roads are named for post-World War II era entertainers).
Comic strip collection
Waring was a cartoon and comic strip collector, and a small meeting room by the West Wing restaurant has dozens of cartoons drawn by artists such as Al Hirschfeld
in Waring's honor.
Fred Waring was survived by five adult children; Dixie, Fred Waring Jr., William "Bill", Paul and Malcolm. Son Fred Jr. enjoyed a long and varied musical career as conductor and jazz trombonist. Grandson Jordan Waring is a critically acclaimed orchestral composer.