Bandleader Paul Whiteman

Paul Whiteman

Paul Whiteman was a prominent American bandleader, composer, and orchestral director who played a significant role in popularizing jazz music during the 1920s and 1930s. Born on March 28, 1890, in Denver, Colorado, Whiteman grew up in a musical family. His father, Wilberforce J. Whiteman, was a music teacher and music supervisor for the Denver Public Schools.

Whiteman began studying the violin early on and eventually took up the viola. He played in the Denver Symphony Orchestra and later joined the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. In 1918, Whiteman formed his dance band, which soon gained popularity for its unique fusion of classical music and jazz.

  • Whiteman’s big band became known as the “Paul Whiteman Orchestra” and was one of the most popular dance bands of the 1920s.
  • He earned the nickname “The King of Jazz” for popularizing jazz music.
  • Whiteman’s orchestra featured many talented musicians, including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, and Joe Venuti.
  • He is credited with helping to launch the careers of famous singers like Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey.
  • Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” a groundbreaking piece that blended jazz and classical music, and premiered it in 1924.
  • He co-wrote the popular song “Whispering,” which became a hit in 1920.
  • Whiteman was known for his innovative arrangements and orchestrations, often using symphonic instruments like violins and cellos alongside traditional jazz instruments.
  • He appeared in several films during the 1920s and 1930s, including “The King of Jazz” (1930) and “Strike Up the Band” (1940).
  • Whiteman hosted several radio shows throughout his career, including “The Paul Whiteman Hour” and “The Kraft Music Hall.”
  • His orchestra recorded more than 800 songs during its existence.
  • Whiteman was an early advocate for racial integration in music, working with African-American musicians like Louis Armstrong and James P. Johnson.
  • He was known for his large frame and imposing stage presence, standing at 6’2″ and weighing over 300 pounds.
  • Whiteman was married five times and had four children.
  • He authored an autobiography, “Music for the Millions,” in 1948.
  • Whiteman was an avid art collector and amassed an impressive collection of modern art.
  • His orchestra’s signature theme song was “My Blue Heaven.”
  • Whiteman’s career slowed down during the 1940s and 1950s, but he continued performing and recording music.
  • In 1959, Whiteman appeared on the television show “This Is Your Life,” which celebrated his life and accomplishments.
  • Paul Whiteman died on December 29, 1967, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
  • Whiteman’s impact on American music has been widely recognized, and he was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1993.