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Phil Kraus

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Phil Kraus (1918-2012) was a percussionist who performed on several Sesame Street albums. Kraus was proficient in many percussion instruments, including the vibraphone (his specialty), xylophone, marimba, timpani, bells, chimes, gong, bongos, and on occasion, simply the drums. He worked for decades as one of the most in-demand studio percussionists in New York.

After studying at Juilliard, Kraus spent his early musical career at radio station WNEW, working many series before enlisting in the United States Army in 1941. While in the service, he performed in Irving Berlin's revue This Is the Army. Post-war, Kraus returned to New York, working commercials and television (heard on Studio One, The Ed Sullivan Show, Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, and The Jackie Gleason Show). In recordings, he backed Buddy Holly, Billie Holliday, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, The Village People (on "Macho Man"), Bette Midler, and in the bands of Doc Severinsen, Quincy Jones, and Don Sebesky. He played the güiro in the opening of Ben E. King's 1961 single "Stand By Me." On his own, Kraus demonstrated his versatility in his 1957 solo album The Percussive Phil Kraus.

In 1960, Kraus wrote the first of several volumes on the Modern Mallet Method, which with revisions and reprints, remain in use as teaching texts. On film soundtracks, he was heard on The Godfather, Carrie, The Wiz, and Midnight Cowboy.


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