Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Stabile, Dick, 1909-1980


Richard D. “Dick” Stabile (1909-1980) was a musician, big-band leader, composer, and orchestral arranger. Born in Newark, New Jersey, he was the eldest son of a professional musician. He began playing the saxophone at fifteen and joined the Ben Bernie Band in 1928 at the age of nineteen. By 1936, he was leading his own orchestra and recording for the Decca, Bluebird, and Vocalion labels.

In 1937, Stabile married Gracie Barrie, a singer, and continued recording and playing in clubs in major United States cities. In December of 1942, Stabile and his orchestra performed along with comedian Benny Rubin at the Oriental Theater in Chicago, Illinois. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Coast Guard, turning the running of the band over to his wife. On his return to civilian life in 1945, Stabile formed a new band in California, playing in clubs like Slapsie Maxie and Ciro’s. It was at Ciro's that he met young entertainers Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in 1949. Soon after, the pair hired Stabile as their musical director, a position he held until 1956 when the comedy duo disbanded. In addition to his role as musical director for their shows, he often served as a comedic foil for the pair, and more importantly as the conductor and arranger for many of the records Martin and Lewis made together and individually.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Stabile also recorded several albums under his own name and led the house band at the Cocoanut Grove club at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, and later, the Circus Lounge in the Sheraton-Universal Hotel, also in Los Angeles. In the 1970s, he relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, where his band was featured in the Fairmont Hotel’s Blue Room. After suffering a paralyzing stroke in the late 1970s, he recovered and returned to work. His final public appearance was on Jerry Lewis’s 1980 Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethon; he died in New Orleans three weeks later, at the age of 71.


Popa, Christopher, "Dick Stabile: Memories are Made of This," July 2009, accessed 10 Aug 2018,