Joe Graydon, the former FBI agent who became a debonair big band crooner, television host, personal manager and, finally, producer of road shows for the sedentary circuit, has died. He was 82.
Graydon died Saturday at his home in Glendale, said his longtime friend Chuck Benedict.
Since 1978, the suave singer had packaged shows featuring artists, bands and the music he used to perform in the 1940s. At the time of his death, Benedict said, Graydon was working on a benefit show in Glendale starring Debbie Reynolds.
Graydon’s mix of the law and music seemed a bit odd to everybody but him. Growing up in Washington, D.C., he worked his way through its Catholic University by singing in clubs and college venues.
“I was probably the only one who ever went to law school wearing a tux,” he joked to The Times in 1983.
Graydon joined the FBI in 1940 and spent World War II investigating spy cases and tracking down military deserters. But after six years with the bureau, he returned to music, landing a four-month stint as singer on the highly popular radio show “Your Hit Parade.”
When Graydon made his first appearance, singing “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair,” announcer Kenny Delmar gave the song’s title and then added, “Sing it, Joe. . . .” Graydon’s surname was never uttered, prompting publicity-gleaning gossip among columnists and audience members about the “mystery man.”
The show helped land Graydon a contract at Warner Bros., not to sing, but to act. But eventually, he left to take a recording contract.
In 1950, he recorded his best-selling “Again” with the Gordon Jenkins band. The single success caused him to quip in later decades, “As they say, I’d like to sing a medley of my hit.”
But the record won him another contract, this time on television. Graydon had a talk-variety program, “The Joe Graydon Show,” in the early 1950s on Los Angeles’ Channel 13 and later on Channel 7, and in 1955 on San Diego’s Channel 8.
Graydon briefly owned a supper club in Long Beach and then moved to Las Vegas, where he sang on radio, television and in Strip showrooms until rock knocked him off the stage.
“I view rock as a giant tidal wave. I can’t sing rock,” he told The Times. “It was then I decided to try the other side of the business, which always fascinated me. I became a personal manager instantly.”
For two decades, Graydon represented such musicians as Dick Haymes, Ray Eberle, the Pied Pipers, Helen Forrest, Connie Haines, the De Castro Sisters and the Mary Kaye Trio.
Realizing the resurgent popularity of 1940s swing music, Graydon produced his first concert in 1978, starring Haymes and Forrest. A road tour of one-night shows followed, with Forrest and the Pied Pipers.
Working with the New York-based Columbia Artists Management concert-tour agency, Graydon put together an average of four big band shows a year, booking them on such stages as the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, the 7,169-seat Sundome in Sun City, Ariz., and on cruise ships.
Graydon, who sometimes emceed the shows, staged Battles of the Big Bands--not the contests of old, but one band playing in the style of several popular big bands, including those of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James.
“To me, it’s like the big band never left,” he told The Times in 1997. “I feel like I know every note of every arrangement that was a hit in those days.”
Graydon is survived by his wife, Marion; two sons, Jay and Gary; a brother, Walter Dosh, and two grandchildren.
Services are scheduled for noon Wednesday at St. Bede the Venerable Church, 215 Foothill Blvd., La Canada Flintridge.