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"In the era of the Stutz Bearcat, the raccoon coat and the hip flask, Mr. Whiteman was the hero of flaming youth."
-The New York Times, December 30, 1967
Paul Whiteman, popularly known as "Pops" and the "King of Jazz," was one of the most successful and influential bandleaders of the 1920s and 1930s. After playing the viola for the Denver and San Francisco symphonies, young Whiteman turned to popular music, applying his knowledge of orchestral music to jazz. He was the first bandleader to arrange jazz music instrumentally, as well as the first to feature vocalists, including female soloists. Beginning with his Experiment in Modern Music concert in 1924, when he debuted George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Whiteman made jazz respectable. Extremely popular and versatile, Whiteman and his orchestra played not only at prestigious concert halls, but also for private parties, especially those of the rich and famous. Whiteman was also involved in other entertainment media, performing on radio and television programs, appearing in films, providing music for Broadway musicals, and producing many record albums.
Photograph by Maynard Clark. James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Philip A. and Dianna T. Betsch.
Education and Training
Early training as a classical viola player
Employed by the Denver Symphony Orchestra, Denver, Colorado, 1907-1914
Employed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco, California, 1914-1916
Teachers and Influences
His parents, Wilberforce and Elfrida Whiteman, were his mentors and great influences. Both were musicians. His mother was a vocalist. His father apprenticed him to the violin at age seven.
Paul Whiteman included many young jazz artists in his bands such as Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Bix Beinderbecke, Jack Teagarden, Henry Bussee, Ferde Grofe, and Frank Trumbauer. Vocal soloists included Mildred Bailey, Morton Downey, and a three-man group called The Rhythm Boys, which included a young Bing Crosby.
Connection to Bucks County
Paul Whiteman resided at Walking Horse Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey from 1941 to 1961 and then at Great Oaks, which he nicknamed Coda Cottage, in Solebury Township from 1961 until his death in 1967. Delighting in the relaxed and congenial lifestyle of the Bucks County region, Whiteman kept a regular table at Colligan's Stockton Inn. Possessed of a strong social conscience, Whiteman hosted teen dances for the Lambertville Recreation Association in attempt to steer youth away from juvenile delinquency.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Paul Whiteman collaborated with film producer Justin Herman, creating the film short The Lambertville Story about the bandleader's work with the Lambertville Recreation Association. Whiteman also worked with his friend St. John Terrell, director of the Lambertville Music Circus, conducting A Night of George Gershwin in 1960. Whiteman served as a trustee of the Bucks County Arts Foundation.
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Bandmaster, Navy band, World War I
Musical Director for American Broadcasting Company, 1943-1950
Major Theatre Performances
Paul Whiteman's orchestra was featured in the Broadway shows Lucky, 1927, and Jumbo, 1935-1936.
Paul Whiteman's orchestra was featured in the following films:
King of Jazz, 1930
Thanks a Million, 1935
Strike Up the Band, 1940
Atlantic City, 1944
Rhapsody in Blue, 1945
Major Television Performances
Paul Whiteman Presents, later titled Paul Whiteman's Teen Club, first broadcast, 1943
Paul Whiteman Hour, first broadcast, 1946
Kraft Music Hall Show, 1934-1935
The Whiteman Varieties, first broadcast, 1954
Chesterfield Show, 1938-1939
George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, also titled Maxwell House Coffee Time, first broadcast, 1931-1940s
On Stage America, 1945-1948
George Jessel Salutes, 1953
Hosted Jackie Gleason replacement show, 1955
Big Hit Records
Whispering/Japanese Sandman, sold over one million copies, 1920
Whiteman Stomp, 1927
Concerto in F (Gershwin), 1928
Nobody's Sweetheart/After You've Gone, 1929
I'm Coming Virginia/Aunt Hagar's Blues, 1938
Crinoline Days/Pack Up Your Sins
Wonderful One/Under the Mellow Moon
I'm Goin' South/Steppin' Out
Valencia/No More Worrying
Meditations From Thais, classical music
Rhapsody in Blue
Major Musical Performances
Ambassador Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1920
Palais Royale on Broadway, New York, New York, 1920
Aeolian Hall, New York, New York, 1924