THE EARLY YEARS
February 15, 1905, Samuel and Celia Arluck gave birth to twin boys; one
weighing seven pounds and the other, a mere four pounds. The larger of
the two sadly died the following day. The Arlucks quickly changed their
surviving son's name to "Hyman," after his twin that passed.
Seven years later, on November 11, 1911, the Arlucks had their second
and last son, Julius. The family of four resided in a modest two-family
home in Buffalo, New York.
Father of the household, Samuel Arluck, was a celebrated cantor in Buffalo's rapidly growing Jewish community. Around the time when Julius was born, Samuel Arluck took a position as cantor of the Pine Street synagogue where he directed the choir. It was here that Hyman first started singing and developing his musical talents.
Hyman loved to sing, but was extremely shy. In hope that her eldest son would become a music teacher, Celia introduced a piano into the Arluck home. Hyman began studying around the age of nine and quickly outgrew the neighborhood piano teacher. He therefore went on to study with the leading local teacher, who was also a conductor, organist and composer.
Hyman, like most nine and ten year-old piano students, did not like to practice. Though he found the classical pieces that he studied beautiful, he was much more interested in modern music. Hyman was twelve years old when he played his first popular composition, Indianola. Something about the ragtime syncopation and unconventional harmonies stirred and captured his imagination. He began to collect jazz records, which sounded strange coming from the Victrola accustomed to playing what his father liked - traditionally Hebraic melodies and Italian opera. Desperate to hear more modern music, whenever a new jazz band came to Buffalo, Hyman Arluck managed to see them perform.
Before long, Hyman began to play the piano in different bands around town and even took jobs as a pianist in various movie houses and for a vaudeville troupe. His show-business experience eventually led to the formation of his band, The Snappy Trio. With Hymie Sandler on the drums and Ted Myers on the violin, fifteen-year-old Hyman completed the personnel of The Snappy Trio, in which he sang, played the piano, and devised the arrangements. Even though all members of the trio were teenagers, they had little trouble getting work in Buffalo's red-light-district cabarets.
Hyman began earning good money as a young band leader. He loved that his work enabled him to purchase sporty new clothes and a Model T Ford, which was the first and only one in his neighborhood at that time. At sixteen years old, Hyman was much more interested in pursuing a musical career than an education, and decided to drop out of high school. Not surprisingly, his parents were quite annoyed and objected strongly. In order to pacify them, he halfheartedly attended a vocational school where he studied subjects such as astronomy and woodworking, which were clearly less challenging and time-consuming than arithmetic and Latin.
Meanwhile, The Snappy Trio was doing quite well and expanded to form a five-man band called The Southbound Shufflers, which now included younger brother Julius on the saxophone. The Southbound Shufflers performed on the Crystal Beach lake boat "Canadiana" during the summer of 1923 and then at nearby Lake Shore Manor during the summer of 1924. It was during the summer of '24 that Hyman took his first crack at songwriting by collaborating with friend Hyman Cheiffetz to write My Gal, My Pal. The two copyrighted the song as My Gal, Won't You Please Come Back to Me? and listed lyrics by Cheiffetz and music by Harold Arluck.
Although nothing ever happened with his first song, things began to takeoff for Harold Arluck, the pianist, the singer and arranger. Harold was invited to join a local band, The Yankee Six, that was very popular on the collegiate dance circuit. Before long, the band grew into an eleven-man group called The Buffalodians and became one of the best and most popular bands around Buffalo. Besides playing college and society dates, the band played in Geyer's ballroom restaurant in downtown Buffalo in the theater district. It was while playing here that Harold Arluck met an eccentric young dancer from Boston named Ray Bolger (now best known for his role as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz), who later became one of Harold's best friends. As a member of the celebrated Buffalodians, known for its modern, jazz-inspired arrangements, the twenty-year-old musician was now earning an average of $75 to $110 a week! The Buffalodians recognized their marketability and decided to take their act on tour.