Hy White, jazz and blues guitarist, was 95


Hy White, an accomplished guitarist who played with Ray Bloch’s orchestra on the Ed Sullivan Show for more than 15 years, died on Feb. 28 due to complications from an infection. He was 95.

Mr. White lived on Netherland Avenue in Riverdale for the last 56 years.

During his long career as a musician, Mr. White played live and recorded with many legendary performers including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Gene Krupa, Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins and Doris Day.

“He had a great sense of humor, he was funny, he was lively, he was independent ... He didn’t worry about things. He was a very relaxed sort of person,” his granddaughter, Erika White Abrams, said.

“He always wanted to be the life of the party. He was a good family man,” said his son Alan, who also noted that he was sharp-witted and continued to play the guitar, the instrument he loved, until his death.

Mr. White was born in Boston, Mass. He moved to New York in the early 1940s to begin a career as a musician. After his two sons, Kenneth and Alan, were born, he moved with his wife, Edith, to Riverdale.

Mr. White started his music career as a member of the Woody Herman Orchestra but reached higher acclaim as a guitarist in Ray Bloch’s orchestra on the Ed Sullivan Show. The unique style Mr. White developed in the Woody Herman Orchestra can be heard on songs such as “Blues Upstairs” and “Red River Blues.”

“Guitarists in the rhythm sections of top big bands are expected to provide completely dependable timekeeping as well as chord voicings that simultaneously fill in whatever gaps exist, and not get in the way of anything else. White did this, and is in fact considered one of the masters of such playing,” wrote critic Eugene Chadbourne for All Music Guide, who also wrote that Mr. White was an accomplished soloist who “would spit forth fine solos when the bandleader pointed at him.”

Mr. White was also a dedicated guitar educator. He wrote instructional music books, including Leeds Guitar Method and Song Folio, Folklore for Guitar and Hy White’s Guitar Plus.

After his wife died in 1976, Mr. White revamped his music career and started playing at local senior centers and nursing homes, including the Hebrew Home at Riverdale.

Mr. White is survived by his son, Kenneth White, and his wife, Ruchana; his son, Alan White, and his wife, Angela; grandchildren Nicole White Thomas, Daniel White, Evan White, Erika White Abrams and Andrew White; and granddaughter Brilynn White.