Alex Kramer was one of the most successful and highly regarded songwriters of the big band era, composing over 180 songs with his songwriting partner and wife, Joan Whitney.
Born in Montreal, Quebec in 1903, Kramer began his career at 17 years of age, working as a pianist for a silent movie theatre in his native city. He studied at McGill Conservatory of Music and later joined Meyer Davis and his Orchestra for one season in Florida, before returning to Montreal to lead his own orchestra on radio shows for CFCF and CKAC.
Kramer travelled to Paris and Cannes before moving to New York in 1938, where he continued his work as a bandleader on radio shows and as an accompanist in vaudeville and nightclubs throughout the city. He also worked as a vocal coach, training aspiring young talents. One of his students was a Broadway performer named Joan Whitney, who later became his wife and songwriting partner. As Kramer continued performing, the couple began to write an extensive body of songs that would evoke passionate performances from notable singers and consistently dazzle audiences. Their total body of work is believed to be over 180 songs.
High on a Windy Hill was the pair’s first #1 hit as performed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in 1941. Collaborations with Hy Zaret (It All Comes Back to Me Now, My Sister and I) and Mack David (Candy) were also immediate chart-toppers.
Other popular songs include It’s Love Love Love, Comme-ci, Comme-ca, That’s the Beginning of the End, Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Money Is the Root of All Evil, Love Somebody, Dangerous Dan McGrew, You’ll Never Get Away, Far Away Places, Summer Rain, I Only Saw Him Once, Story of My Life, So You’re the One and No Other Arms, No Other Lips.
After a string of successful hits, Kramer and Whitney began to publish music through their own firm, Kramer-Whitney, Inc., which was established in 1947.
Over 300 different artists have covered Kramer and Whitney songs in various musical genres, most notably Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Dorsey, Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Buddy Clark, Louis Jordan, Johnny Mercer and Jo Stafford, Margaret Whiting, Glenn Miller and others.
In addition to performing and composing songs, Kramer was an active member of the American Guild of Actors and Composers, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), where he sat on the Board of Directors. Kramer also co-established the Veterans Hospital Radio Guild. Still in existence today, the program is aimed at bringing entertainment to hospitalized veterans by recording them singing their favourite songs, which are then played on a veteran’s radio station.
Alex Kramer passed away in Fairfield, Connecticut on February 10, 1998, at the age of 95. Kramer and Whitney were inducted into the US Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982. One of their best-known songs, Far Away Places, was previously inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.