Larry Adler papers, 1927-1995

Overview of the Collection

Adler, Larry
Larry Adler papers
1927-1995 (inclusive)
3.82 cubic ft. (6 document boxes, 1 slim document box, and 1 oversize box)
Collection Number
Collection contains personal and professional correspondence (1929-1975); 2 contracts for performances (1935, 1937); miscellaneous writings; newspaper clippings and other materials on the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings; nearly 1000 photographs of Adler, including a USO tour with Jack Benny and Ingrid Berman in Germany, Italy, Australia and Iran during World War II (1931-1945); musical scores; a 1995 compact disc of an Adler performance; and programs, posters, and other miscellaneous materials.
American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming
American Heritage Center
University of Wyoming
1000 E. University Ave.
Dept. 3924
Laramie, WY
Telephone: 3077663756
Access Restrictions
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public.

The creation of the EAD-version of this finding aid was made possible through a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Lawrence Cecil “Larry” Adler was born in Baltimore on February 10, 1914 to parents Louis and Sadie.

A self-taught harmonica player, he gained worldwide recognition as the musician who brought the instrument to the ‘serious music’ stage.

He began playing early and won the Maryland Harmonica Championship at the age of 13. After attending Baltimore City College (1926-1928), his musical career began in 1928 in New York when he was given a job by Rudy Vallee to play at the Heigh-Ho Club.

He became the harmonica player at Paramount Theater in 1928, then at the Streamline Revue Palace Theater, London, in 1934. In 1939 he joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as a soloist. During World War II, from 1943-45, he went on USO tours with the dancer Paul Draper; the pair joined together again after the war to tour worldwide. He performed in Germany in 1947 and 1949, in Korea in 1951, and in Israel in 1967 and 1973. He appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, Scotland, in 1963 and 1965. In 1989 he played at the London Promenade Concert at the Albert Hall with the Wren Orchestra and John Ogdon. During his career he also played with the Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony and the BBC Symphony, and has had music composed for him by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold and Darius Milhaud.

On April 11, 1938 Larry Adler married Eileen Walser with whom he had three children: Carole, Peter and Wendy, before they divorced in 1959. He was married again in 1967 to Sally Cline and had a daughter, Katelyn, a marriage that lasted 9 years until a divorce in 1976.

In 1949 Larry Adler was blacklisted in the U.S. for having alleged procommunist leanings and later emigrated to Great Britain. During the investigations by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities into communism in the entertainment industry, he and Paul Draper were accused by Hester McCullough of being communist sympathizers. Mrs. McCullough, the wife of an editor of Time-Life, objected to Larry Adler playing a concert at the Abraham Lincoln School in Chicago, an organization blacklisted by the committee. Adler stated that he had only wanted to play for the children.

In 1950 Larry Adler and Paul Draper brought a libel suit against Mrs. Hester McCullough for $200,000. The case concluded when the jury could not reach a verdict. Adler and Draper claimed the jury’s inability to support Mrs. McCullough’s accusations was a sign of support. However, the effect of the accusation was long-standing and both Larry Adler and Paul Draper lost concert bookings which seriously threatened their careers in America. Adler has since claimed that his career has never regained its momentum in the U.S.

During his career he wrote several film scores: “Genevieve” 1953 (for which he received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Film Score in 1954), “King and Country” 1963, “High Wind in Jamaica” 1964, “The Singing Marine,” “St. Martin’s Lane,” “Sidewalks of London,” “The Big Broadcast of 1937,” and “The Great Chase,” as well as appearing in “Many Happy Returns,” “Music for Millions,” and “Three Daring Daughters.” His television credits include “The Monte Carlo Show” and “Midnight Men.”

He has published sound recordings “Larry Adler Live at the Ballroom” on Newport Classic and “Larry Adler Plays Works for Harmonica and Orchestra” on the RCA label.

He has also released several written publications: How I Play (1937), Larry Adler’s Own Arrangements (1960), Jokes and How to Tell Them (1963), and his autobiography It Ain’t Necessarily So (1985). He wrote as a food critic for Harper’s Queen and Portrait and Boardroom and also published several columns in Punch, Spectator, New Statesman, New Society, Sunday Times, Observer, and Mail on Sunday.

Most recently he wrote the soundtrack to the 1992 film “My Life.”

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Larry Adler papers, 1927-1995, focus on his personal and professional life and include personal and professional letters, news clippings, music, photographs, and manuscripts.

The personal correspondence and news clippings during the years 1947-1951, describe the proceedings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities against Larry Adler for alleged communist activities. They also describe the civil law suit brought by Larry Adler and Paul Draper against Mrs. Hester McCullough for accusing them of being communists. There is material relating to the court case brought by Larry Adler and Paul Draper against Hester McCullough in response to her charges of pro-communist leanings.

Also included are the photographs that document the U.S.O. tours Larry Adler made with Jack Benny. They contain Larry Adler’s personal documentation of the war.

The collection includes restaurant reviews written by Larry Adler in London, Great Britain, and Jewish Gazette Columns. Also contained is a special edition of Tutti Magazine as a tribute to George Gershwin, with a compact disk featuring Larry Adler playing “Our Love is Here to Stay,” 1987 Newport Classic recording.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright Information

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Preferred Citation

Preferred Citation

Item Description, Box Number, Folder Number, Larry Adler papers, 1927-1995, Collection Number 08198, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Alternative Forms Available

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of select material from this collection are available at

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Related Materials

Related Materials

There are no other known archival collections created by Larry Adler at the date of processing.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition Information

The Larry Adler papers were given to the American Heritage Center by Mr. Larry Adler, with additional material donated by Mr. Aubrey J. Halter, between 1982 and 1995. These papers were received in good condition and good order. Another accretion was received in June 2000, from Southern Connecticut State University.

Processing Note

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Kim Mainardis in October 1997. Updated by Kim Mainardis Winters in October 2000.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I.:  Personal Correspondence, 1927-1959, 1975Return to Top

(4 file folders)

Arranged chronologically. The series contains correspondence with family and friends.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folders
1 1 1927-1939
1 2 1940-1949
1 3 1950-1959
1 4 undated

Series II.:  Professional Papers, 1929-1995Return to Top

(14 file folders and 2 F24 folders)

Arranged chronologically. Contains business letters, programs, posters, manuscripts and galleys, Tutti Magazine and C.D., restaurant reviews, Jewish Gazette columns, news clippings of personal and professional life.

Container(s) Description Dates
Sub-series 1.: Business Correspondence
1929-1977, undated
Box Folders
1 5 1929-1938, 1946, 1949
1 6
1 7
1975-1977, undated
Sub-series 2.: Publicity
1931-1973, 1995
Box Folders
7 1-3
Programs and Posters
1 8
Programs and Posters
Of Larry Adler performances.
1931-1973, undated
1 9
Manuscripts and Galleys
Includes manuscripts of U.S.O. tours with Jack Benny.
7 4
Manuscripts and Galleys
1 10
Tutti Magazine and compact disk
Special edition with compact disk as a tribute to George Gershwin, features Larry Adler playing ‘Our Love is Here to Stay,’ 1987 Newport Classic.
Sub-series 3.: News Clippings
Box Folder
2 1
Restaurant Reviews
Written by Larry Adler in London, Great Britain.
January 1981-May 1984
2 2
Jewish Gazette Columns
Written by Larry Adler.
March 1984-May 1985
2 3
Reviews and Publicity
Of Larry Adler’s first performances and U.S.O. Tours.
2 4-5
Reviews and Publicity
Larry Adler performances and the first reports of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
2 6
Reports on Pro-Communism investigation
Also includes some performance reviews.
2 7
Reviews and Publicity
Includes details of Larry Adler and Paul Draper reunion.
7 5
Reviews and Publicity
Larry Adler Performances.
2 8
Miscellaneous Reviews and Publicity

Series III.:  Music, undatedReturn to Top

(6 file folders and 1 F24 folder)

Arranged alphabetically. Contains manuscripts of music performed by Larry Adler.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
3 1
Bolero (Ravel)
3 2
Concerto for Harmonica
7 6
Concerto for Harmonica
(Original; also miscellaneous music.)
3 3
Kern Medley
3 4
Roumanian Rhapsody
3 5
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
3 6

Series IV.:  Photographic Material, undatedReturn to Top

(13 file folders and 2 F24 folders)

Contains photographs of personal and professional life.

Container(s) Description Dates
Sub-series 1.: Professional Photographs
Box Folders
4 1-5
U.S.O. Tours
With Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Draper.
5 1-2
Publicity Portraits
Portrait shots of Larry Adler.
7 7
Publicity Portraits
Portrait shots of Larry Adler.
5 3-4
Miscellaneous Publicity Shots
Taken of Larry Adler, including film stills.
4 8
Miscellaneous Negatives
Includes images from Adler's USO tours, photographs of war-era Europe, and photographs of Adler.
5 5
Miscellaneous Publicity Shots Signed to Larry Adler
7 8
Miscellaneous Publicity Shots Signed to Larry Adler
Sub-series 2.: Personal Photographs
Box Folders
6 1-3
Family and Friends
4 6
Concentration Camps
4 7
World War II postcards

Series V.:  Draper and Adler v. McCullough, 1949-1950Return to Top

(7 file folders)

Arranged alphabetically. Contains material relating to the court case brought by Larry Adler and Draper against Hester McCullough for the charges she brought against them for pro-communist activities. Included is correspondence between lawyers and court officials, a deposition of Nelson Macy, excerpts of depositions, shorthand records of depositions (including that of Larry Adler), notes from a meeting, and a transcript and sound recording of Fulton Lewis, Jr. on WOR Radio Station.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
8 1 1949-1950
8 2 1949
8 3 1950, undated
8 4 1949
8 5
Fulton Lewis, Jr. on WOR Radio Station - Gray Flexograph
8 6 October 27, 1949
8 7
Shorthand Record of Depositions
circa 1950

Additional Container ListsReturn to Top

The American Heritage Center is in the process of converting its older container lists to a more accessible format. This link is to an older version of a container list.

Container(s) Description

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Harmonica music.
  • World War, 1939-1945--War work.

Personal Names

  • Benny, Jack, 1894-1974.
  • Bergman, Ingrid, 1915-1982.
  • Draper, Paul, 1909-
  • McCullough, Hester.

Corporate Names

  • United Service Organizations (U.S.)
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities.

Geographical Names

  • Australia--History.
  • Germany--History--1933-1945.
  • Italy--History--1922-1945.
  • Iran--History.

Form or Genre Terms

  • Compact disks.
  • Photographs.
  • Scores.


  • Harmonica players.