Though Shep Fields will always best be remembered for his ''Rippling Rhythm,'' he also lead one of the most critically-acclaimed sweet orchestras of his day. Fields began his career as a bandleader while in college. He later turned professional and in 1934 accepted an invitation for his orchestra to go on the road with Veloz and Yolande, the nation's top dance team at that time. Dubbed the ''Veloz and Yolande Orchestra under the direction of Shep Fields,'' they began an engagement in Chicago. There he began to experiment with arrangements. Taking a hodgepodge of styles from different, popular sweet orchestras of the time, he blended them together to form his own unique sound. Radio listeners and audiences responded enthusiastically. A contest was held to name this new sound. Four hundred entries called it ''rippling rhythm.''
When the Chicago engagement ended, Fields and his orchestra traveled to Los Angeles with Veloz and Yolande but soon quit and headed back to New York. On their way to the East Coast the band stopped for a one night stand in Rockford, Illinois. It was there that his legendary trademark was born. Fields tells it that he and his wife were sitting in a soda shop when she began to blow into her drink. Fields immediately grabbed onto the gimmick, and from then on the orchestra introduced each performance with Shep blowing through a straw into a pot of water. Though he was constantly kidded about the sound, it served as a memorable trademark throughout the band's existence.
The orchestra signed to RCA's Bluebird label and produced a string of successful hits throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, but Fields wasn't satisfied. He desired to put together a more musical orchestra, and in 1942 he disbanded the group and formed a new dance orchestra, Shep Fields and His New Music, made up entirely of reed instruments. Among its members were future TV stars Sid Caeser (saxophone) and Ken ''Festus'' Curtis (vocalist).
Though the new orchestra met with great critical acclaim it failed to find as much favor with the public as had Fields' earlier group, so in 1947 he gave up and returned to his previous sound. He continued rippling into the 1950s. His popularity waned, however, and he disbanded his group for good in 1955 and became a disc jockey for a Houston radio station. In 1963 he and his brother, Freddy, formed a talent agency, Creative Management Associates. Shep Fields died of a heart attack in 1981.