George Gaffney, 62; Pianist Accompanied Top Singers

From a Times Staff Writer

George Gaffney, a pianist who made a living accompanying some of the leading names in American song, including Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee, Engelbert Humperdink and, most notably, Sarah Vaughan, has died. He was 62.

Gaffney died Dec. 4 in Los Angeles of complications from a severe stroke he suffered in September, friends reported. While hospitalized for surgery related to the stroke, he suffered a second stroke and never regained consciousness.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 14, 2002 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday December 14, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 5 inches; 187 words Type of Material: Correction
Gaffney obituary -- An obituary of pianist George Gaffney in the California section Thursday gave his age as 62. He was 61.

A native of New York City, Gaffney began studying the piano at age 10 but switched to the trombone. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1961, Gaffney returned to New York City, picked up the piano again and began arranging and backing singers.


In the mid-’60s, Gaffney moved to the Chicago area, where was he was musical director of the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wis. It was there that he first met Vaughan, with whom he would reconnect much later.

Gaffney came to California in the early 1970s and found work as a studio musician and accompanist. He worked on a number of television programs, most notably the Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepherd series “Moonlighting,” and was nominated for an Emmy. From 1980 to 1990, he was Vaughan’s accompanist and musical director.

“She could fill a house without a microphone. You’d feel [her voice] in the wood and in the floor,” Gaffney told the Ottawa Citizen some years ago.

He moved to Las Vegas in 1994 and worked for a time as Humperdink’s musical director. In recent years, he also orchestrated tunes for Rita Moreno.

Gaffney is survived by three children and five grandchildren.