He spent 1936 and 1937 mostly working as a studio musician with Gus Arnheim, Glenn Miller, Raymond Scott's radio orchestra, and others, followed by periods with Bob Crosby (1938), Tommy Dorsey (1938–1939), and Jack Teagarden (1939). Finally, with the encouragement and financial backing of Glenn Miller, he formed his own band in November 1939. Though it failed within a year, he tried again shortly afterwards, this time taking over an existing band (Bill Downer's) and making a success of it. Spivak's band was one of the most successful in the 1940s, and survived until 1959. Spivak's experience playing with jazz musicians had little effect on his own band's style, which was straight dance music, made up mainly of ballads and popular tunes. Spivak himself (known as "Cheery, Chubby Charlie") had always been noted and used for his tone rather than for any improvisational ability. A number of the band's musicians were to make names for themselves, including drummer Davey Tough, bassist Jimmy Middleton, trumpeter Les Elgart, trombonist Nelson Riddle, and singers Garry Stevens, June Hutton, Tommy Mercer, Jimmy Saunders, and Irene Daye (who had sung with Gene Krupa, and whom Spivak married in 1950).
Riddle was also responsible for many of the band's arrangements, together with Sonny Burke. When the Spivak orchestra broke up, he went to live in Florida, where he continued to lead a band until illness led to his temporary retirement in 1963. On his recovery, he continued to lead large and small bands, first in Las Vegas, then in South Carolina; in Greenville, South Carolina in 1967 he led a small group featuring his wife as vocalist. She died in 1971 after years of fighting cancer. Spivak continued to play and record until his death.
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