Scope and arrangement
The bulk of the Sy Oliver papers are the scores and parts he used. A number of these stem from his days with the Jimmie Lunceford and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, while others stem from recordings such as "Sy Oliver Back Stage." On occasion manuscripts indicate that arrangements were produced for various artists, such as the Mills Brothers, Chick Webb, or Erskine Hawkins. Many vocal arrangements indicate they were made for his wife, Lillian Clark, and her singing group. A few others were made for the Pied Pipers, a group that appeared with the Tommy Dorsey band. His successful career as an arranger led him to publish "Sy Oliver's self-instructor arranging course" (see folder 1632).
Some scores were used for the New York Jazz Repertory Company in 1974. A large portion of material comes from Oliver's eight-part ensemble which appeared at the Rainbow Room. Many of these arrangements were modified slightly (often with the addition of guitar) when the band played at Monte Carlo. Probably from around this time he also made some arrangements for ten-piece band. Apparently he gave the original manuscripts of these away but retained photocopies, which are included in this collection.
Oliver organization for his collection is to be found in his inventory (see folder 1633). It has listing by song title as well as indicies.
Sy Oliver's birth certificate, military discharge, and several passports are among the personal documents. The majority of correspondence stem from the 1970s through his death. Among the significant files are those relating to the Rainbow Room as well as a large amount of fan mail.
There are a number of clippings concerning Oliver's work after 1970, in particular his European tours and his work at the Rainbow Room. There are also programs from this period, most of them containing concerts at which Oliver's arrangements were played.
Among the nearly hundred photographs are publicity "collages" from the Apollo Theatre in New York City, portraits, photographs taken during live concert appearances, and several photographs of family members. Among the celebrities seen are Josephine Baker, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr., Lionel Hampton, and Frank Sinatra.
The Sy Oliver papers are arranged in five series: