Tuesday, April 3, 2012

R.I.P.: Sonny Igoe

Sonny Igoe, Drummer for Big Band Greats, Dies at 88
Jay Levin for Bergen Record

April 3, 2012

Sonny Igoe of Emerson, a Big Band drummer and a prolific teacher, died Wednesday. He was 88. he cause was a heart attack, according to his son Tommy Igoe, also a professional drummer.

Owen Charles Igoe -- "Sonny" from the get-go -- won a regional Gene Krupa drumming competition while a student at Ridgewood High School. Krupa, the Chicago-born jazz great, became his mentor.

After his Marine service in World War II, Mr. Igoe toured with orchestras led by Tommy Reed, Les Elgart, Ina Ray Hutton and, most notably, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman.

The 1960s found him ensconced in the NBC Television Orchestra and then the CBS Television Orchestra, where his credits included "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Jackie Gleason Show."

He and his friend Dick Meldonian, a saxophonist from Haworth, formed Dick Meldonian and Sonny Igoe and Their Big Swing Jazz Band in the early 1980s. The band rehearsed at Emerson Junior-Senior High School, performed regionally and recorded a pair of albums.

Mr. Igoe's professional hallmark was lack of ego, his son said.

"He was an amazing team player," Tommy Igoe said. "He was content with being the engine of the band. He made the musicians around him sound better."

Mr. Igoe taught the drums from a New York studio and then from his Emerson home. "For 30 years he saw more than 40 students a week," his son said. "He worked with anyone serious about studying. He saw aspiring professionals and a lot of hard-core enthusiasts and hobbyists."

Mr. Igoe continued seeing students even after a small stroke six years ago caused him to give up performing.

Meldonian, 82, saw his old friend and band mate a week before his death. "We ran into each other at the ShopRite," the saxophonist said. "We compared our illnesses and showed each other our hands. We talked about some of our friends who've died. My God, I feel so bad."

Mr. Igoe is survived by his son, of Mill Valley, Calif.; his daughters, Jan Igoe of Little River, S.C., and Joan Igoe of Maui, Hawaii, and six grandchildren.

His wife of 59 years, Claire -- a former chorus girl -- died in 2010.A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Becker Funeral Home in Westwood.

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