Skitch Henderson gets Smithsonian honor

Jan. 6, 2005 at 12:09 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Skitch Henderson, founder and director of the New York Pops orchestra, has been named winner of the Smithsonian's 2005 James Smithson Bicentennial Medal.

The honor will be bestowed on Henderson, 86, on Jan. 29 at a ceremony at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

The event will feature a performance by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Henderson at the piano singing several songs. There also will be an exhibition, "Skitch Henderson: A Man and His Music," on view at the Smithsonian's "Castle" building through March.

Henderson was born Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson in Birmingham, England, and nicknamed Skitch by Bing Crosby after immigrating to the United States in 1932 for a career as musician and musical director. He began by touring with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and then became a fixture of Bob Hope's Pepsodent Show and musical director of Frank Sinatra's Lucky Strike show, both on radio.

For many years Henderson was musical director for NBC television and founded the New York Pops in 1983 with its home base in Carnegie Hall from which it tours the United States and the Far East.

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