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Mickey Katz

KATZ, MICKEY (1909–1985), U.S. musician, comic. Known for his unusual blend of klezmer music and Borscht Belt humor, Katz began playing the clarinet as a young child in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. He was performing with local bands by the time he was in high school. After he began to incorporate comic routines into his musical act, he gained the attention of Spike Jones, who invited Katz to become a member of his City Slickers band in 1946. Katz can be heard on a number of classic Spike Jones recordings including "Hawaiian War Chant," in which he provides the "glug-glug-glug" sound effect. It wasn't long before Katz pitched his own solo act to Spike Jones' label RCA and got a record deal of his own, performing popular American tunes with a Yiddish interpretation, adding Yiddish lyrics and instrumentation to the well-known songs as well as a comically exaggerated Jewish accent. After his RCA singles met with success, Katz went on the road, doing a tour he called the "Borscht Capades." Katz's son, later to be known in his own right as actor Joel *Grey, was included in the cast of Katz's road show. Katz eventually left RCA for Capital Records, where he remained until his retirement in the 1960s. However, this was not to be the last that the American public heard from Mickey katz, who went on to publish his autobiography, papa play for me, in 1977. Katz's legacy received another boost with the 1993 release of Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz by the noted African-American jazz artist. In addition to being the father of Joel *Grey, Katz is the grandfather of Dirty Dancing dynamo Jennifer Grey.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.