Denver East High Graduate’s “Philadelphia Story”
….has some subtle ties to the Philadelphia rock and roll music scene. Whiteman was one of the most successful band recording artists of all time. He was a Denver, Colorado native – born in 1890 and graduated from Denver’s East High School.
Whiteman’s tremendous popularity during the 1920’s and 1930’s earned him the moniker the “King of Jazz” a title belittled by some but respected by those in the know. During his reign Whiteman amassed over 200 top hundred charting songs with 29 rising to the number 1 position. His last successful recording was “Travlin’ Light” (1942) which ironically was his only song to chart on the R&B charts – and then rising all the way to the number 1 position!
The American Band Stand Connection
When Whiteman’s recording success came to an end he would disband his big band but continue other musical pursuits. One of these included hosting an early television program for ABC called “Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club” out of Philadelphia.
Columnist Bob Sarrentino reflects that the teen club program was “something of an indirect predecessor to “American Bandstand” (Like “Bandstand,” it originated in Philadelphia and had many of the same technical crew).”
He continues (Whiteman) “enjoyed doing this show, wearing loud sport clothes, using the kids’ catch phrases of that period (“Real gone, man!”), and handing the sponsors’ Tootsie Rolls and chewing gum out of a paper bag. Whiteman was always a good judge of talent (Bing Crosby got his start with Whiteman’s band in the late-1920’s).”
The program was an effort to defuse what was seen then as rampant juvenile delinquency. Dick Clark did make some cameo appearances on the program reading “Tootsie Roll” commercials. But the program was definitely not Clark’s “big break” as some have suggested.
Whiteman’s “All Star” Ensemble
But Whiteman and Clark would share other connections via the Philadelphia music scene. Clark while doing his Tootsie Roll commercials for the Whiteman program would meet Bernie Lowe who would go on to form Cameo-Parkway Records with Kal Mann. Bernie had earlier performed as “Dizzy Brown”. Lowe played piano in Whiteman’s TV program ensemble – a group which also included Artie Singer on bass. Artie would go on to form Singular Records where he would record Danny & the Juniors doing “At the Hop” before being released on ABC-Paramount and skyrocketing to number 1 in the U.S. Later on Danny and the Junior would be signed to Clark’s Swan label (Thanks Paul).
Guitarist Dave Appell also performed with the Whiteman TV group. He would form the studio group “The Applejacks” and they would serve as the house band for Cameo-Parkway when Appell signed on as a label business partner.
One other Whiteman band member from the same grouping was Arnold Maxim playing violin Arnold would later head up MGM Records serving as president. On a side note, he lobbied very hard for Connie Francis to not release “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” which was originally written as an intended R&B song for Laverne Baker. But Francis wanted to take a shot at the country and western market after a tour of Germany revealed how much the Germans loved country music. The tempo was changed to suit the targeted genre. “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” shot to number 1 and became Connie’s biggest selling world-wide song ever!
By the mid 1950’s Whiteman’s career as a band leader was all but finished although he did make guest conductor appearances around the country from time to time. Whiteman passed away in December of 1967. His musical legacy placed him near the very top of all recording artists for all time.