Skitch Henderson's Beard - In 1955,
Skitch Henderson, conductor of NBC's THE TONIGHT SHOW orchestra, began to sport
his now famous Van Dyke beard.
Skitch informed reporters that he grew his beard following the example of Sir Thomas
Beecham, a conductor he admired. He hoped the beard would inspire him to become
a serious musician.
Before his gig as conductor and bandleader on TONIGHT! and later THE TONIGHT SHOW
from 1953-1966, Skitch Henderson led bands on such radio programs as THE PEPSODENT SHOW
Hope, THE LUCKY STRIKE SHOW starring Frank Sinatra and THE PHILCO HOUR starring
In 1983, Skitch founded the New York Pops. He later received the James Smithson
Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution in recognition of his
contributions to American Culture.
A legacy of Henderson's works (The Skitch Henderson Collection) now resides
at the UW–Madison’s Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin.
Skitch at the piano on set of TONIGHT! (circa 1952-54)
Born Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson on January 27, 1918 in Birmingham, England, noted composer, conductor, and
bandleader Skitch Henderson died of natural causes on November 1, 2005 in New
Henderson's nickname "Skitch" (derived from "Sketch kid") was given by singer
Bing Crosby because of Skitch's ability to "Sketch" out musical scores in
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