Born: December 27, 1916 Primary Instrument: Violin
Johnny Frigo was born in 1916 on the south side of Chicago. His earliest gigs were playing string bass and tuba in nightclubs and amusement parks. In the early 1940's, Johnny played bass in the Chico Marx Orchestra.
During WWII, Johnny joined the Coast Guard and played with Al Haig and Kai Winding. After the war, Johnny was called to play with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. Afterward, he formed a group to play at the Stuyvesant Hotel in Buffalo, the Soft Winds Trio with Herb Ellis on guitar and Lou Carter on piano.
That became a phenomenal trio. We were all single, rehearsing like crazy, and were playing that George Shearing sound before George even had it. We wrote songs like I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out! Cybill Shepard later sang that in the season opening episode of Moonlighting. And I wrote Detour Ahead that became a jazz standard. (Johnny Frigo)
Frigo went home to Chicago in 1951 and spent the next 35 years as a studio bass player. Settling into a busy post-war jingle scene, Frigo quickly became the Windy City's first-call studio bassist, a position bolstered by his songwriting abilities.
In the early 1980's, he decided to devote his energies fully to the violin. After sitting in one night with Herb Ellis, Monty Alexander, and Ray Brown, he was invited to record two live albums with them in LA, Triple Treat II and Triple Treat III on Concord records. He became Johnny Carson's favorite fiddler, appearing twice on the Tonight Show. When Carson asked Frigo why it had taken so long to get his jazz violin career going, he said, I don't know Johnny. I probably waited as long as I could so I wouldn't have any time left to become a has - been