Born: July 24, 1918
Died: January, 13, 2012
Studies: Juilliard School of Music (Diploma 1938)
Living up to his motto, “Have Percussion, Will Travel,” Phil Kraus is one of the most recorded percussionists in history. Kraus was just 8 years old when he began playing the xylophone, and upon graduation from high school, he was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Julliard School of Music. After graduating, he was hired by WNEW to play in the studio band. After serving during WWII, Kraus became one of the industry’s most in-demand session players, and he would continue to be as such through the 1970s. He also played in the studio band for numerous television programs. Over the years, he graced recordings by and/or shared the stage with such luminaries as Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Quincy Jones, Billie Holiday and Ray Charles. On May 19, 1962, he was playing in the orchestra at Madison Square Garden when Marilyn Monroe famously sang, “Happy Birthday To You,” to President John F. Kennedy. In later years, Kraus worked with the Houston Symphony and Houston Pops. He also taught percussion at Rice University. Phil Kraus was 93 when he passed away on January 13, 2012.
PAS "in Memoriam"
Percussionist Phil Kraus died January 13, 2012 in Houston, Texas. He was 93.
Born in New York City in 1918, Kraus started studying xylophone at age 8. He won a full scholarship to the Juilliard School at 17. After graduation he worked in a radio band at WNEW and then joined the Army duringWorld War II, where he was recruited to play in the band for Irving Berlin's This is the Army, both on Broadway and in the movie version.
After the war, Kraus became an in-demand studio musician, workingin television, concerts, and recording sessions in New York. He played themarimba riff in Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem," the guiro on "Stand by Me," and various percussion instruments for such artists as Billie Holliday, Carol King, and Ray Charles. He played with groups led by Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman, and Doc Severinson; was in the bands of such TV shows as The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Perry Como Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and Howdy Doody; and played on the soundtracks of such movies as Midnight Cowboy, Carrie, and The Godfather.
Kraus recorded a few albums under his own name in the 1950s for the Golden Crest label, including The Percussive Phil Kraus and Conflict, both of which include original compositions by Kraus. He teamed with drummer Bobby Rosengarden for an album on the Time label called Like—Bongos. The two went on to record albums for RCA, Decca, and Project 3 during the 1960s. He worked with Dick Hyman and the Living Percussion on The Beat Goes On. He wrote five instructional books, including the three-volume Modern Mallet Method.
In 1978, Kraus moved to Houston, Texas. He worked as personnel manager for the Houston Symphony, taught percussion at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, and played in the Houston Pops.
Works for Percussion