Adler was born in Baltimore, and early in his childhood mastered the harmonica, winning a local talent contest sponsored by the Baltimore Evening Sun at age 13. His older brother Larry Adler, four years his senior, had won the same contest five years earlier, performing the same piece, Beethoven's Minuet in G.
Later, Adler found work with Paul Whiteman and performed regularly with his orchestra. After starting his solo career, he joined the Army Air Corps, where he did theater and film work in the entertainment division.
Adler focused on popular music as his career developed, and he soloed in numerous film soundtracks from the 1940s to the 1960s, including Shane, High Noon, Mary Poppins, and My Fair Lady. He also taught actors how to pretend to play the instrument convincingly where their on-screen performances required.
He published an autobiography, Living from Hand to Mouth, in 2005.
Jerry Adler died of prostate cancer in 2010, aged 91.
"I had the unbelievable good fortune to work with Jerry several times when I played guitar with the Mark Joice Showband on the QE2. He used to embark in Ft Lauderdale with his wife who was in a wheelchair, then off to the Caribbean. I'm sure he got bored with me asking him about people like George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers but I was smitten. He was a total gentleman and a fantastic player. We played great music on his shows; West Side Story, Slaughter on 10th Ave, Rhapsody in Blue, etc. What a privilege, he was my conduit to the golden era of music and so kind, I'll never forget him." John Hedley
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