From the Land of Band Box Records

Mr. Whiteman…& All that Jazz

August 19, 2019

(Note: Paul Whiteman was born Paul Samuel Whiteman on March 28th, 1890 in Denver, Colorado. Whiteman attended East High School as well as other Denver high schools (some say as many as five) including Denver West High School,due to his rambunctious ways and frequent suspensions.  His first instrument as a boy was the violin.  At the early age of 16 Whiteman was a short-term member of the Denver Symphony.  He left Denver in the spring of 1914 where he joined Max Bendix’s Exposition Orchestra playing both violin and viola.  He would next join the San Francisco Symphony and also played with the Minetti String Quartet.  During World War I Whiteman  conducted the U.S. Navy band, the Mare Island Naval Training Camp Symphony Orchestra.  After the war he formed his own “Paul Whiteman Orchestra”.  By 1922 Whiteman’s popularity soared and he was earning a staggering sum of around one million dollars a year!)

The Versatile Paul Whiteman

In the spring of 1929 Paul Whiteman was interviewed by Radio Digest Magazine.  Reflecting on a burgeoning musical form – jazz – he stated, “Jazz is what we are as we go about day to day; it is our life expressed in musical terms.”

He further related that jazz in many ways was a way of bringing the music of “the masters” (think the classical composers) to the masses.  Whiteman has been challenged through the years by critics as not being a purveyor of ‘genuine’ jazz.

But defenders point out that Whiteman was genuinely interested in and an early practitioner of the form – and that while performing in an era of stringent racial segregation in music (as in all areas of life in America) he often worked with black musicians.

He offered, “When it is all over I want to know more about what the American public likes than anyone else has ever known before.”  Whiteman believed strongly about interpreting the classics into a rhythmic jazz form.

He summarized, “I do believe the radio public is willing to receive jazz with an unprejudiced mind.”  By the 1920’s, America’s media was calling Whiteman “The King of Jazz”.

From Classical to Jazz

Whiteman’s musical background was firmly classical music and his initial exposure was – as stated above – with symphony orchestras.  So how did he evolve into the world of jazz?  In a November, 1929 article – again appearing in Radio Digest magazine,

Seems that Paul – while in San Francisco – had fallen into a period of depression that he just couldn’t shake.  An acquaintance of his steered him into a Barbary Coast jazz venue (which was alluded to as a “hell hole”).  Paul relates what happened next:  “”Here it was that jazz and I met for the very first time, and I, at least, have since never been the same!”

Whiteman’s jazz men 1929 on the CBS Old Gold Hour radio program

He continued “Jazz bowled me over the moment I heard its screeching notes which seemed to strike at me from out of the not too pleasantly aromatic haze of a beer dive back room where men and women seemed to be contorting themselves in a queer gyration that stressed the mad house blare beat of the music.”   

“….I wanted to shout, with the ecstasy of the spiritual release from all oppression that I felt, and so I did it.  No one heard me.  They were all doing the very same thing because they felt the very same way!  Hurrah for JAZZ!”

Whiteman was on his way to a new way of life.  And soon he would be freed from the fiscal restrictions of being a symphony performer.

Whiteman acknowledges the many critics that he faced and would continue to face summing up “To my caustic critics, the the preachers, the pedagogues, to all others I have since, and more than once, pointed out that for me jazz was nothing short of a moral agent.  Yes, of course they laughed at the idea, but that was their mistake…”

By 1931, Whiteman was being referred to as “The King of Jazz” and was appearing on a weekly NBC radio program which was extremely popular with his fans.

The Rhapsody of Whiteman

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In 1924 – the always versatile and diverse Paul Whiteman commissioned composer George Gershwin.  A true American standard, Rhapsody made its debut on February 12th, 1924 with a presentation by Whiteman and orchestra performing in New York City at Aeolian Hall – constructed in 1912 the by Aeolian Piano Company.  Gershwin participated in the concert playing piano.  The number would establish George Gershwin and set the stage for a marvelous composing career.

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George and Paul (no Ringo or John)

The song didn’t lend itself to recording on the 78 rpm format due to it’s length which approached 18 minutes.  A 1945 version by Oscar Levant managed to chart on the Cash Box charts reaching number 23.  A jazz-rock version was released in 1973 by Eumir Deodato reaching number 41 on the Billboard charts.  The piece was originally referred to as a “jazz concerto” before becoming “Rhapsody in Blue”.  Analysis of the composition is complex and far-ranging but there was no doubt that jazz was the impetus for the number.

NBC’s Synchronization Experiment

In 1932 the Whiteman Orchestra participated in an NBC bold first time radio experiment in which musicians performing over 1,000 miles apart were synchronized – the result being vocalist Bebe Daniels singing in Hollywood backed by the Whiteman Orchestra who were in Illinois.  Radio Doings Magazine stated, “Without missing a single note or losing the rhythm, Miss Daniels sang to Whiteman’s music as perfectly as if they had been in the same room.”

Synchronized: Daniels West – Whiteman Midwest

Whiteman Hard at Work 1932

The Daily Grind

Paul gave an interview in late 1933 with Radio Stars Magazine explaining how tedious his daily routine was – a routine which included constant touring, often performing three times daily, delivering a weekly radio broadcast, making special guest appearances – with much more crammed in – and all on about 5 hours of sleep per night.  He recognized radio as a means of promoting and enlarging his audiences at live performances.

Margaret Livingston

In the summer of 1931, Paul Whiteman tied the knot with the attractive motion picture actress – with the ceremony back in Paul’s home town of Denver.  Margaret was interviewed by Radio Stars Magazine.  She related how a condition of Paul’s marriage proposal was an edict for the 300 pound-plus Whiteman to trim down.  And trim down he did – losing more than 100 pounds!  The article also relates how – before departing for the West Coast – Whiteman held down a job in Denver as a taxi driver.

It was revealed that in 1932 Whiteman earned over $150,000 from broadcasting and an additional $250,000 to $300,000 from his appearances and recordings.  The couple were unable to have children of their own and so they adopted four.

Into the Halls

Paul Whiteman ranks right near the top as a successful recording artist ranking in the “Top Ten” artists of all-time.  That listing also includes Coloradoan’s Glenn Miller and Billy Murray.

Whiteman is an inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.  He has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Big Band Hall of Fame and the Jazz Hall of Fame.  He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – one for Radio and one for Recording.

What’s on the Air Magazine – 1931

Radio Land Magazine – August, 1934

Radio Stars Magazine – March, 1936

Billboard Magazine – January, 1938

Radio Guide Magazine – September, 1940

Tune In Magazine – September, 1944

Radio Album Magazine – 1948

The Paul Whiteman Family

Many musicians of note passed through the Whiteman band/orchestra over the years.  He had an excellent eye and ear for talent and was constantly on the lookout for new promising musicians.

(Row 1: Billie Holiday; Al Caiola; Bix Beiderbecke; The Brox Sisters – Row 2: Vic Berton; Tommy Dorsey; Roy Barby; Red Norvo; Bing Crosby – Row 3: Red Nichols; Red McKenzi; The Pickens Sisters; Paul Robeson; Billy Murray – Row 4: The Original Rhythm Boys; The Modernaires; Mildre Bailey; Jimmy Dorsey; Billy Butterfield – Row 5: Jack Teagarden; Hoagy Carmichael; Henry Busse; Helen Clark; Bunny Berrigan – Row 6: George Gershwin; Elsie Baker; Eddie Lang; Carl Kress)

Recording Success

Paul Whiteman enjoyed 209 charting records from 1920 through 1940 – with 30 records obtaining the number 1 position.  He recorded primarily on Victor Records but also Columbia and Decca – as well for a short time on Capitol Records.

Visit the Paul Whiteman 78 RPM Discography here (or click on the image below

Paul Whiteman in the Movies

King of Jazz – 1930

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Thanks A Million -1935

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Strike Up The Band – 1940

Atlantic City – 1944

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Rhapsody in Blue – 1945

The Fabulous Dorseys – 1947

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Vernon Duke

August 15, 2019

Autumn in New York

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Vernon Duke

I ‘discovered’ a writer named Amor Towles recently – a fiction writer who has two works to his credit to date:  “A Gentleman in Moscow” (his third novel from 2016); preceded by his debut novel “Rules of Civility” (2011) and a novella – “Eve in Hollywood” from 2013 – a follow-up to “Rules of Civility” of sorts – tracking one of the characters – “Eve” out to Tinsel Town during it’s glory days.

I am currently about half way through “Rules of Civility” which is primarily set in New York City during the Great Depression.  I came across a reference to the song “Autumn in New York” which made its debut in 1934.

“Autumn in New York” was recorded by an impressive roster of artists – including Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Oscar Petersen, Jo Stafford and more – In the book the lead character Katey states that the tune “…practically debuted as a jazz standard…” and followed with “Why does it seem so inviting?”

She surmises that many locations have their own “romantic seasons” (think “April in Paris”) and that “Autumn in New York” aligns with the streets of New York.

“That’s the way we New Yorkers feel about fall.  Come September, despite the waning hours, despite the leaves succumbing to the weight of gray autumnal rains, there is a certain relief to having the long days of summer behind us, and there’s a paradoxical sense of rejuvenation in the air.”

“Glittering crowds
And shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel –
They’re making me feel
I’m home

It’s autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love”

Katey, upon listening the song, reflects “But still, you have to ask yourself: If it’s such an uplifting song, then why did Billie Holiday sing it so well?”

Sentiments from another time…..

Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Feb. 1947 (William P. Gottlieb 04251).jpg


“Autumn in New York” was composed in 1934 by Russian immigrant Vladimir Aleksandrovich who  most often composed as “Vernon Duke”.  Vladimir and his family were of Russian royalty lineage and were forced to flee to America in 1920 due to the Russian Revolution.

Duke wrote the song – both music and lyrics – independent of any stage production – but had the song picked up by stage producer Murray Anderson and included in the 1935 Broadway show “Thumbs Up” where it was performed by J. Harold Murray.

Speaking of “April in Paris” – that too was a Duke co-composition – He also teamed up with Ted Fetter and John Latouche on “Taking a Chance On Love” – and paired with Ira Gershwin on “I Can’t Get Started”.  Duke’s bread and butter was writing for the stage – contributing to “Tarnished Lady” (1931); “Walk a Little Faster” which premiered “April in Paris” (1932); “Ziegfeld Follies” (1934); “Cabin in the Sky” (1940); “Jackpot” (1944) and many more.

During a stint in the United States Coast Guard in the early 1940’s, he discovered a saxophone player Sid Caesar.  Sid participated in a Duke production called “Tars and Spars” – and Caesar’s career was launched – without the saxophone.

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Autumn in New York Debut

In spite of becoming a ‘standard’, “Autumn in New York” never reached the popularity charts as far as I can determine.  Wikipedia states that Frank Sinatra took the tune to number 27 in 1949 – but I can’t locate any national listing – Billie Holiday has a 1954 version – a “B” side on Clef Records in the spring of 1954.

Autumn being pitched – November, 1948

She may have cut the track on a 78 rpm in the 1930’s but I doubt it.  There is probably an early version out there somewhere on an early LP – perhaps one of those early 10-inch releases.

Jo Stafford’s 1950 version on Capitol is the earliest single I have been able to locate.

He lived in France for a time – composing – and eventually returned to the United States.  He passed away in 1969 losing a battle with cancer – He was 65 years old.  He was inducted into the Song Writer’s Hall of Fame in 1970.

Magic in the Music….

August 14, 2019

Music Magic in Boulder….

There Were Hippies and then there Were Hippies!

I received the following email this past week from Lynne Parker Poyer:

“Hi Craig,

In reference to The Showmen, a 60’s garage band from Boulder, the person identified as Lynn Porter was actually Lynn Poyer. Lynn went on to be one of the founders of Magic Music as well as several other groups in the 60’s and 70’s.   A documentary about Magic Music and 1970’s Boulder was  produced last year. Although Magic Music was not a garage band  you might find the documentary interesting. There is a fb page about Magic Music and I believe the movie is available on Amazon and iTunes.
I really enjoyed looking at your list!  
Lynne Parker Poyer (sister-in-law)”

I nice surprise to learn about this Colorado-based band who sort of had the jump on the ‘gathering of tribes’ that occurred in the early 1970’s in the area west of Boulder including the Sugar Hill Road community and of course Nederland and famed Caribou Ranch scene – as well as in and around many Colorado mountain towns and communities.

“Magic Music” had it’s formative roots through band founder and Boulder resident Lynn Poyer who had been a member of Boulder’s “Showmen”.  Poyer, along with Marty Trigg, Will Luckey, George Cahill, Rob Galloway and Kevin Milburn would make-up the original lineup.  Poyer would depart and Chris Daniels would come join up in 1972 and Bill Makepiece replaced Galloway on bass – when Rob joined up with Carol King and Navarro who recorded at the Caribou. – Daniels would go onto Colorado music fame being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.  Daniels later formed “Chris Daniels and the Kings” and he would eventually record more than 15 albums.

Magic Music at Telluride Early 1970’s

Although Magic Music did not leave us with a long play album or a recording history, the did come close – flirting with large record labels but just not quite nailing it down.  (They did receive offers from Columbia , Asylum and Flying Fish).  The band was true to their ‘hippie image’ which was much more than an image – they were the real deal.  Initially they resided out of a converted school bus located up in El Dorado Canyon – a true hippie enclave – and then later migrating to Aspen Park outside of Evergreen.  One of their first local gigs was at the legendary “Sink” located ‘on the hill’ adjacent to the University of Colorado.

They opened for some big names at local concerts including Richie Havens

Thanks to record producer and TV program script writer Lee Aronsohn, Magic Music has returned to life in a 2018 award winning documentary titled “40 Years in the Making – The Magic Music Movie”/  Aronsohn, who wrote for television’s “The Big Band Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” garnered a handful of motion picture awards.

The movie is available on-line and is well worth getting a hold of – giving us a glimpse and listen to a significant time in Colorado’s musical past.  Aronsohn attended the University of Colorado and saw Magic Music perform live.  He carried around his memories of the band for nearly four decades before deciding to see if he could make the music happen once again.

Film Producer Aronsohn – CU Campus 1972

Getting in touch with Chris Daniels set the wheels in motion.  He tracked down original members and eventually it all came together.  The group reunited and the award winning film was the result.  A soundtrack film included some very early tape – set down between the years of 1970 and 1976.

Founding member and Showman garage band member Lynn “Flatbush” Poyer passed away in 2011.

Boulder’s Showmen – 1960’s

Click on the Magic Music banner below to visit their web site and to learn more