Jack Sheldon, jazz musician and ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ singer, dies at 88

Credit: Heritage Images

Credit: Heritage Images

Acclaimed jazz musician Jack Sheldon, known for lending his voice to the “Schoolhouse Rock!” educational series and for years spent as talk show host Merv Griffin’s sidekick, has died, according to family members. He was 88.

Sheldon died Friday of natural causes, his longtime manager and partner, Dianne Jimenez, said in a statement Tuesday. Further details were not provided.

Sheldon was a prominent part of the vibrant West Coast jazz movement in the 1950s. He performed with artists such as Art Pepper, Curtis Counce, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, according to The Los Angeles Times. He played regularly in Los Angeles clubs as part of the California Cool Quartet and occasionally with an 18-piece big band, the Times reported.

"I love to work," he told the Times in 1987. "If I don't have a job, I'll get on the phone, call some clubs and get one. I don't stay out of work."

Over the course of his career, Sheldon appeared in dozens of films and television shows, including an 18-year stint on "The Merv Griffin Show," according to JazzTimes. He appeared on "Schoolhouse Rock!" for "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction." He reprised the later role years later in appearances on "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," Variety reported.

He also appeared on more than 200 CDs and recordings, according to the Times.

"I like the music to swing," Sheldon told the Times in 1987, "and I like to make people feel it, feel happy and sad, everything. If the music makes me smile and happy, then maybe the people will feel it, too."

Sheldon was born in 1931 in Jacksonville, Florida, and began playing trumpet at age 12, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He moved in 1947 to Los Angeles and attended L.A. City College before joining the U.S. Air Force, where he played in the military band, the entertainment site reported.

Sheldon's solo on "The Shadow of Your Smile," which was introduced in the 1965 film "The Sandpiper," helped earn it song of the year at the Grammys and best original song at the Oscars.

"It's a haunting trumpet he plays," Griffin told the Times in 2002. "Henry Mancini once told me, 'If I've got a couple making passionate love on screen and I'm writing the score, it's Jack Sheldon's trumpet I want.'"

Sheldon is survived by his longtime partner, Jimenez, and two of his children, Jessie and John.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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