Odd Axel Stordahl was born August 8, 1913, in Staten Island, New York, to immigrants from Norway. He learned to play the trumpet in public school and became an ace arranger. Most people in school and professional life called him by his middle name, Axel. However, as an arranger, Odd became more than a name; it became his trademark.
He played trumpet for many name bands in New York in the 1920s and '30s. Tommy Dorsey hired him away from his main job in the 1930s of arranging music for Bert Block. At the same time Dorsey hired another trumpeter, Joe Bauer, and vocalist Jack Leonard. The trio became the Three Esquires. While with Dorsey, he worked with Paul Weston as co-arrangers. They hired singer Jo Stafford who later became Mrs. Paul Weston.
Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra had a short working relationship which was passed on to Axel Stordahl in the early 1940s. Stordahl was the bandleader on the radio series Your Hit Parade, which also often featured Sinatra. Because this show was sponsored by a tobacco program, it's interesting to point out that Stordahl was often photographed leading his groups while smoking a pipe. In the 1945 movie musical Anchors Aweigh (which starred Sinatra and Gene Kelly), Stordahl wrote the orchestrations. He worked with Sinatra (at Columbia Records) from 1942 to 1951, when Sinatra signed up with Capitol Records.
Stordahl married June Hutton, who was a singer with the Pied Pipers in 1951. During the 1950s, he worked with many of the popular singers of the time (Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, and Bing Crosby). He did some work on television on the show, Startime.
In the early 1960s, he worked on Sinatra's two last albums for Capitol Records. Diagnosed with cancer, he stayed at home for his remaining months of life and composed the theme music for the situation comedy, McHale's Navy. He died on August 30, 1963, at age 50, in his home in the Encino district of Los Angeles, California. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. His wife died in 1973 at the age of 52. She is buried next to him.