Scope and arrangement
The Luther Henderson papers are arranged in six series:
Series contains the sub-series Biographical Information, Family Materials, and General Correspondence. Biographical Information includes vital records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates and school transcripts, profiles and resumes, notebooks, early composition books, programs, and awards. A 1928 program from the "First Annual Recital and Dance, Studio Classes of Margaret Murray and Sonoma Talley" lists the nine-year-old Henderson on the roster of pianists. A second program for the "Mid-Year Complimentary Recital by the Studio Classes of Sonoma Talley and Margaret Murray", the following year, again lists Henderson as a soloist. A number of newspaper and magazine profiles trace various stages of Henderson's career. Among the earliest is a 1958 interview for the Afro-American. The success of Ain't Misbehavin' resulted in a number of articles on Henderson during its run on Broadway, including a lengthy one in the New Yorker in 1978. There is also material concerning Henderson's numerous household moves between New York City and California. The Family series contains vital records, correspondence, drafts of articles, outlines and notes for projects, and programs. The bulk of the correspondence concerns Henderson's four wives and three children, their education, professional lives, and household moves. There is considerable material regarding his son Luther III's education at Eastman School of Music, and his career as a conductor and his daughter Melanie's schooling at Lincoln Square Academy and early television roles. There are also several letters from his mother, Florence Black Henderson (affectionately known as "Mudsin") and his sister, Thelma Henderson Ray, sending holiday greetings and discussing family and health matters. Programs, articles, drafts, and outlines for theatre and magazine projects document the early performing and writing career of his second wife, Stephanie Locke. There is a wedding guest book for her 1956 marriage to Henderson, at which Billy Strayhorn served as best man, and correspondence tracing her illness and death from cancer in 1967. Additional material, such as song lists and contracts for the nightclub acts of Henderson's daughter Melanie and third wife, Margo Semos, may be found in the PRODUCTION MATERIALS series under Individual Artists. Three music composition notebooks contain Henderson's earliest unpublished work, academic exercises, and songs written in 1935-1936 for his future wife Tealene Berry, as well as arrangements of Mercer Ellington songs, including their original composition, A Slip of the Lip. Additional certificates, diplomas, and awards may also be found in the Oversize box. While most of Henderson's correspondence is found in the Professional Papers and Production Materials series, the General Correspondence sub-series included here contains letters and cards from to and from friends concerning his attempts to find work as a free-lance arranger in New York and Los Angeles, a notice of a reunion of his World War II Great Lakes Naval Air Station unit with a list of the members, a request from Patricia Willard to share thoughts about Duke Ellington for a 1974 75th anniversary tribute with notes for Henderson's response attached. Other letters of less significance include thank you notes and requests for tickets or other assistance.
Series is organized in the sub-series Appointment Books, Business Records, Financial and Tax Records, Unsolicited Scripts received by Henderson. The Business Records contains material documenting the various songwriting partnerships and companies Henderson formed, for example, Lu-Mel, which published his own work and Quel Else Enterprises and Margo Tree, which managed his income and expenses from productions. (Financial statements for these companies were sometimes consolidated.) There is also a small folder for Tempo Music Inc., a Duke Ellington-owned company, containing contracts and a list of Henderson and Mercer Ellington songs published by Tempo. Although much additional professional correspondence is found in the Production Materials series, which is organized in sub-series according to the shows or performers with which Henderson was associated, there is correspondence with agents and colleagues found here, particularly concerning musical collaborations and his moves between New York and Los Angeles as he attempted to find employment as a freelance arranger and to promote his ideas for musical theater productions. Individuals to whom Henderson wrote to discuss possible collaborations include Quincy Jones, Berry Gordy, and Marvin Hamlisch. Letters between Henderson and his agents, accountants and attorneys also reveal his financial and tax difficulties, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s following the illnesses and deaths from cancer of his wives Stephanie and Margo. Important correspondents include his attorney Egon Dumler, Lee Winkler of Global Business Management, Freddie Fields of Creative Management Associates (now International Creative Management), and collaborators Charles Burr and Evelyne Love Cooper. An additional sub-series, Unsolicited Scripts, contains folders of various scripts received by Henderson.
Series contains correspondence, notes, agreements, contacts, vouchers, receipts, scripts, programs, marketing materials, contact lists, reviews, rehearsal schedules, typescripts of lyrics, and published sheet music. The series is arranged alphabetically in ten sub-series by production category: Broadway; Off-Broadway and Regional; Special Concerts and Productions; Unproduced Projects and Uncredited Arrangements; Television; Dance Theater; Films; Industrials and Commercials; Recordings; and Individual Artists. For many of his shows and recording sessions, Henderson kept a large binder labeled "L. H. Workbook" or "Pre-Production Book" containing many of these materials. He made detailed charts listing each song, its order in the show, and the stages of production, which help document his creative process as orchestrator and arranger. Henderson's scribbled comments about rehearsals or auditions reveal insights about his preferences for performers' styles, as well as his process of arranging and revising his work. That's Entertainment (1972) contains notes on music dynamics and a query to himself on how to translate "spoken emotion into vocal emotion." Lists of changes for The First (1981), based on the Jackie Robinson's first season in Major League baseball, indicate that one song, "The National Pastime" was originally to be called "This Year's Nigger." Letters of appreciation and support appear from noted performers, composers, writers and musicians, with whom he worked, including Carol Haney, Polly Bergen, Carol Lawrence, Nancy Wilson, Teo Macero, Juanita Hall, Charlayne Woodard, Tammy Grimes, and Cy Coleman. Opening night telegrams from lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green and composer Jule Styne, express their gratitude and deep admiration of Henderson's orchestrations for their Broadway show Do Re Mi. Occasionally, correspondence will reveal disagreements during the production process, such as occurred in a Victor Borge television show and a telethon for sickle-cell anemia.
A particularly significant group of material in the Broadway sub-series traces the development of one of Henderson's most successful productions, Ain't Misbehavin' (1978), from its inception at the Manhattan Theatre Club, through its Broadway production and tours, including London (coinciding with the final illness and death of his wife Margo) and Paris (where Henderson was injured in a stage accident). The London folder contains an 11-page letter from the show's director, Richard Maltby, written in September 1979, critiquing in detail the company's "cold" and "ragged" performance. There are also programs, reviews, opening night telegrams from show business notables, financial records, and Henderson's notes on auditions and scheduling. Material for some of his earliest Broadway shows, such as Flower Drum Song (1958) and Funny Girl (1964), is limited largely to reviews and advertisements, although the folders for Do Re Mi (1960) contains numerous song lists with changes in the order, notes, correspondence, scripts, and reviews. Beggar's Holiday (1946) contains only material for a revival with some original published sheet music. Material for another of Henderson's important Broadway productions, Jelly's Last Jam (1992), is not included in the collection, although there are revised drafts and notes for an earlier 1985 workshop version, Mr. Jelly Lord. Correspondence and notes for The Crystal Tree, a 1981 production by the AMAS Repertory Theatre, directed by Henderson's wife Billie Allen, in the Off-Broadway sub-series trace the show's roots to its original concept by Henderson and Doris Julian in 1956 and their difficulties in getting it produced in the years following.
Material in the Unproduced and Uncredited sub-series, such as correspondence and annotated scripts, document the difficulties faced by Henderson in translating the wide range of his ideas into successful productions. In 1954, he and Billy Strayhorn collaborated on an experimental musical, Rose-Colored Glasses. The file contains extensive notes and story treatments are in Henderson's hand. Other story and character outlines and lyrics written on The Copasetics, Inc. stationery are likely in Strayhorn's hand, as he founded and presided over this organization of show business professionals for many years. While Henderson later told Strayhorn's biographer that Duke Ellington intervened during the creation of the show and it was never completed, there is no reference to that in the material. (The show was later produced by David Rousseve in a 2003-2004 workshop, with a new book exploring the lives of several jazz greats, including Strayhorn and Henderson, as they struggled in the shadow of Ellington.) As noted above, Henderson discusses his relationship with Ellington in a 1974 draft reminiscence found in the General Correspondence folder of the Professional Papers series.
The Television sub-series traces Henderson work from its earliest years, as musical director for Polly Bergen, in both her 1957-1958 variety series and specials, Victor Borge and Phil Silvers in several specials in the 1960s, Ann-Margret, the Miss Teen USA pageants throughout the 1980s, and several public television productions. The materials trace the evolution of the shows, with Henderson's notations on rehearsals, script changes, the show's order of production, and the addition of special lyrics, as well as financial records and contracts included in his production books. There is also a script and correspondence concerning the 1982 adaptation of Ain't Misbehavin' for television, for which Henderson was nominated for an Emmy for music direction.
The Special Concerts, Dance, Film, and Industrials and Commercials sub-series contain less material then the Broadway and Television ones. The Dance materials include typescript treatments and clippings for a 1958 ballet choreographed by his friend Peter Gennaro. In the Film sub-series there is evidence of another early Henderson collaboration with John Latouche, lyricist for Beggar's Holiday, with the holograph lyrics of the song "The Girl With the Pre-Fabricated Heart," which Henderson may have arranged for the first surrealist film, Dreams That Money Can Buy (1948). His feature film work included The Slams (1973), with Jim Brown. There is considerable material regarding the sequencing of the music in the film, and substantial notes on characters and themes, scripts, and lists. In the Industrials and Commercials sub-series, there are scripts, specialty lyrics, programs, contracts, notes, and scheduling lists documenting the annual announcement show for new Oldsmobile models, which Henderson orchestrated for 30 years, from the 1950s to the 1980s.
The material for the Recordings sub-series documents the many orchestras with whom Henderson worked, including his own. He was an arranger for Andre Kostelanetz on a number of albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and for the Canadian Brass in the 1980s, generating numerous contracts, invoices, and scheduling notes. The most significant material concerns both the Luther Henderson orchestra and sextet, which recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s. Included are typescripts and hand-written notes for proposed recording projects, correspondence with recording companies and producers regarding efforts to re-release his albums, and memoranda and correspondence concerning ideas for an album, Last Night When We Were Young recorded by the sextet in 1956, with biographical profiles of Henderson, and the vocalists Marian Bruce (later Marian Bruce Logan, wife of Henderson's close friend and physician, Dr. Arthur C. Logan) and Ozzie Bailey.
The materials in the Individual Acts sub-series generally consist of contracts, invoices, correspondence, lyrics and sheet music, lists of songs, rehearsal schedules, and notes on choice of songs, accompanying musicians, and ideas for the act. The nightclub acts containing most of this material (as well as the greatest number of arrangements in the SCORES series) include Tammy Grimes, Nancy Wilson, Carol Lawrence, Dinah Shore, Liza Minnelli, Diahann Carroll, Teresa Brewer, Shani Wallis, and Leslie Uggams. In the Nancy Wilson folder is also correspondence regarding management agreements and disagreements. For Dinah Shore, he wrote special lyrics and spoken material. Henderson would also assist guest performers on television variety shows with one or two numbers as part of a larger show. For smaller projects, such as performances by Katherine Dunham, Melba Moore and Ben Vereen, there is less material, limited to signed invoices and scheduling notes. Some performers such as Dinah shore and Melba Moore worked with Henderson on both club acts and television, with production materials in both sub-series. Oversized advertisements, clippings, and programs may be found in the Oversize box.
Series contains Henderson compositions of individual songs on score sheets in various stages of completion. Some are unfinished or untitled sketches, which he referred to as "snatches and scratches," some are printed piano-vocal scores, while others are full scores. They range from school assignments to published sheet music for the tune A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship), written with Mercer Ellington, which became a number one hit for the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1943. (There are also three early composition notebooks in the Personal Papers series.) In addition to compositions by Henderson, the series contains songs written by members of his immediate family, including his father Luther Henderson Sr., son Luther III, daughter Melanie, and wife Stephanie. Scores, lyrics and any notes or correspondence relating to the song are foldered alphabetically by song title.
Henderson collaborated with numerous songwriting partners, including Carmen McRae, Mercer Ellington, Frances Reckling, Doris Julian, and Evelyne Love Cooper. His relationship with lyricist Charles Burr was especially significant, as shown by the many informal, humorous notes from Burr which not only discuss lyrics, but also might suggest melodies, rhythmic patterns, or to whom a song might be sent. The majority of these notes are undated. As noted, general correspondence with collaborators, particularly Charles Burr and Evelyne Love Cooper, may also be found in the Professional Papers series. Original music written by Henderson for specific theatrical and other productions will be found in the Scores Series.
The bulk of the collection consists of the Scores series, which includes sketches, reduction scores, full scores, and parts for Henderson's numerous arrangements and orchestrations in a career that spanned six decades. Similar to the arrangement of the Production Materials series, they are arranged alphabetically by production or artist within ten sub-series: Broadway; Off-Broadway and Regional; Unproduced Projects and Uncredited Arrangements; Special Concerts and Productions; Television; Dance Theater; Films; Industrials and Commercials; Recordings; and Individual Artists, which generally includes his work for nightclub acts, personal appearances on stage and television, and arrangements prepared for coaching sessions. A complete list of the shows in each of these categories with dates and Henderson's role is attached as an addendum. (Note that the addendum only contains material held in the collection; it is not a comprehensive list of all of Henderson's work.) A final Miscellaneous sub-series includes some very early arrangements, including Henderson's first full symphonic band score, Tchaikovsky's Valse des Fleurs, arranged while at Juilliard in the 1940s, as well as others that have not been identified.
Henderson's Broadway and Off-Broadway musical scores, beginning in the Golden Age of the Broadway musical from the 1940s to the 1960s and continuing into the era of the rock and jazz musicals of the 1970s and 1980s, include Ain't Misbehavin', The All Night Strut!, Do Re Mi, The First, Good News, Happy New Year, I Had a Ball, Mahalia, Miss Waters to You, No, No, Nanette, and Wild and Wonderful. In a number of shows, there are songs that ultimately did not appear in the final stage version. Several of Henderson's own compositional efforts, including The Crystal Tree, Doctor Jazz, Riviera on the Rocks, Siren Song and Sweeter and Sweeter, are also included. Some of the dance music arrangements for his earlier Broadway shows, such as Flower Drum Song, Bravo Giovanni, and Funny Girl, are not included in the collection, but there are scripts, programs, and reviews in the Production Materials series. As noted above, scores for his last important musical, Jelly's Last Jam (1992), are also not included, although sketches for Mr. Jelly Lord, a preliminary workshop version originating in1985, may be found in the Off-Broadway sub-series.
Material that was apparently not produced, such as Siren Song and Riviera on the Rocks, are included in the Unproduced Projects and Uncredited sub-series. Arrangements for which there are scores that are not attributed to Henderson are also included in that sub-series. As a free-lance arranger, Henderson occasionally served as a "script doctor" for arrangements by others and worked with friends, such as choreographer Peter Gennaro in Seventh Heaven, on productions for which he was uncredited. Henderson's early television work is also represented in the Television sub-series by scores for early Victor Borge and Phil Silvers specials in the 1960s, particularly the specialty numbers by Borge, such as his comic version of "Peter and the Wolf". There are also sketches and scores for several public television documentaries, including "Eliza Lucas Pinckney", in which Henderson adapts 18th century period music.
Scores for the Recordings sub-series include sessions with conductor Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Canadian Brass, and Henderson's own music groups. These are listed alphabetically by song name under the group or artist's name. Although it was not always possible to determine definitively the album for every song, likely titles are listed in the addendum. It is important to note that the date following the song name applies to the date of arrangement, not of the song composition or it's ultimate recording date. Some of Henderson's earliest arrangements and orchestrations of popular songs with specialty lyrics, created between the 1955 and the 1986 for an annual show announcing new models by Oldsmobile, and originally featuring choreographer and dancer Carol Haney, appear in the Industrials and Commercials sub-series. This is a large group of sketches, reduction and full scores, and parts reflecting Henderson's work each summer for 30 years in preparation the announcement show held in the Fall.
Scores and parts of orchestrations and arrangements for nightclub acts and personal appearances by many performers, such as Polly Bergen, Tammy Grimes, Nancy Wilson, Carol Lawrence, Dinah Shore, Liza Minnelli, Diahann Carroll, Teresa Brewer, Shani Wallis, Leslie Uggams, and Leslie Gore are also included in the Individual Artists sub-series and document the transition from the popular standards and show tunes of 1950s and early 1960s acts to the addition of Rock and Roll arrangements after the mid-1960s.
Throughout the collection, the music in the Henderson papers exists in a variety of formats and stages of preparation. A given musical selection may be a sketch, reduction score, full score, or instrumental part. The full scores are usually in Henderson's hand and served as the authoritative source from which copyists prepared the individual instrumental parts. Henderson's colleague and friend, J. Roger "Brick" Fleagle (1906-1992), served as his chief copyist from 1947 until his death. (Originally a guitarist and arranger, Fleagle was at one time employed as a copyist for Duke Ellington.) The original manuscript instrumental parts in the Henderson collection, which appear on transparent onion skin paper or standard score paper, are often in Fleagle's hand or in the hand of a copyist from his staff. Many ozalid reproductions and photocopies of Henderson's full scores, reduction scores, piano-vocal scores and individual parts are also found in the collection. Original manuscript masters in Henderson's hand are identified as "holograph" Part masters in Fleagle's or another copyist's hand are specified as "copyist holograph". The few full scores not in Henderson's hand are identified as "holograph (not L. H.)".
Ozalid and other reproductions are described as such. If possible, ozalids, in which ammonia was used in the reproduction process, are separated from other papers due to their acidic quality. Scores copied using other types of reproduction processes, such as Xerox or Thermo-fax, are simply labeled "Reproduction". Annotated published sheet music is identified as lead sheet, piano-vocal or reduction score, depending upon the markings. Many incidental sketches in Henderson's hand are found in the series. As in the Original Compositions series, he often referred to them as "scratches and snatches". Some are very brief; others resemble a full score, with assignments of melodies to specific instruments. Sketches and reduction scores may have multiple instruments labeled upon each melodic line, whereas full scores provide one staff line per instrument.
Series contains a library of sheet music and songbooks which Henderson may have collected early in his career, and to which he could have referred as he created his own arrangements. The songs range from classical scores and operetta to popular music from the 1920s and 1930s. It is also possible that the music was collected by his parents. Although teachers by profession, his father, Luther Henderson Sr., performed with theatrical and a cappella groups in that period and his mother, Florence Black Henderson, was an accomplished pianist.