About this Recording
8.120579 -


Themes of the Big Bands, Vo l. 2 (1934 - 1945)

With the first flowering of commercial dance units and pioneering days of radio broadcasting during the early 1920s, bands had need of a good number to use as a signature-tune. Often the tunes were borrowings or adaptations of well-known numbers, or in a few cases were specially commissioned (Sammy Kaye wrote his own "Kaye’s Melody") – but whatever their provenance they were usually either sweet or catchy, something the listeners might whistle or at least instantly identify. ‘King of Jazz’ Paul Whiteman cornered the market in this respect with no fewer than three whistling good theme-tunes. The first, the Schonberger Brothers’ 1920 million-seller "Whispering" (a song resurrected a decade later in England by his fellow- American Roy Fox) was soon to be followed by his 1921 U.S. No.1 best-seller "Say It With Music" and 1924 million-selling No.1 "Three O’Clock In The Morning". He set the trend and the other bands soon followed suit. As already noted in Let’s Dance! – Themes of the Big Bands, Vol. 1 (Naxos 8.120536), by the time Swing had really taken off during the mid-1930s, themes had become paramount and their arrangers were kept busy adapting numbers specially for radio intros and exits (the most notable example being the Goodman Orchestra, with George Bassman’s "Let’s Dance" followed by Gordon Jenkins’ "Good Night").

Leap Frog … Leaping first into action is the Reinertown (Philadelphia)-born saxophonistclarinettist and songwriter Les Brown (1912-2001) and His Band of Renown with his jaunty signature tune. This number can, incidentally, only have been more famously associated with Les than his own million-selling U.S. No.1 composition "Sentimental Journey" (with Doris Day) by dint of the fact that it introduced his many radio and TV appearances. And The Very Thought Of You (originally a 1934 hit for his British outfit, featuring his star vocalist Al Bowlly, 1894-1941) was, similarly, only one of many best-selling songs penned by the Sussexborn composer-arranger Ray Noble (1903-1978) before he led a band the United States.

Summertime … As the non-instrumental front-man of one of the finest swing and Dixielandstyle swing bands of the 1930s, Bing’s vocalist brother Bob (b. Spokane, Washington (DC), 1913) produced a steady flow of U.S. chart hits for Decca, including the three No.1s "In a Little Gypsy Tea Room" (1935), "Whispers In The Dark" (1937) and "Day In , Day Out" (1939). Also a noted actor and songwriter, he chose as his band’s promotional theme Clara’s solo from the now time-honoured 1935 Gershwin folk-opera Porgy And Bess.

The Waltz You Saved For Me … Born in Savannah, Illinois, songwriter Wayne King (1901- 1985), aka ‘The Waltz King’, began as a featured sax player with the Del Lampe jazz-dance orchestra in Chicago, Illinois, but soon relinquished this style in favour of the smooth sound of his own band, which he formed at the Aragon Ballroom, in 1927. During the next eight years he became a U.S. household name on radio through Lady Esther Serenade, The Elgin-American Watch Company Show and, later, his own show, sponsored by the United Drug Company. His many hits included two 1931 U.S. No.1s ("Dream A Little Dream Of Me" and the U.S. cover-version of the Ray Noble song "Goodnight, Sweetheart") and the 1937 No.3 "Josephine". His theme, which he co-wrote in 1930 with Gus Kahn and Emil Flindt, was a U.S. No.18 in 1934.

My Time Is Your Time … A popular Depression era heart-throb vocalist, the Vermont-born saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and singing-actor Rudy Vallee (aka Hubert Prior, 1901- 1986) borrowed his name and playing style from sax ace Rudy Wiedoeft. Graduating from Yale in 1927, he led a band at the New York Heigh-Ho Club (whence his subsequent radio catch-phrase "Heigh-ho, everybody"). In 1929, he formed his own recording band, starred in his first film The Vagabond Lover and became one of the first crooners to generate masshysteria. He had five U.S. No.1s : "Honey" (1929), "Stein Song" (anthem of Maine University, 1930), "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" (1932), "Vieni, Vieni" (1937) and "As Time Goes By" (1943). From 1942 until the end of World War 2 he led the U.S. Coastguards Band.

It’s A Lonesome Old Town … Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, ex-vaudeville violinist Ben Bernie (1891-1943) formed his own band, on the advice of Sophie Tucker, shortly after World War 1. Early on, he secured a booking at New York’s prestigious Reisenweber’s Restaurant and was also long resident at the Hotel Roosevelt. ‘Ole Maestro’ Bernie led bands which recorded prolifically (first for Vocalion, later for Decca) from 1922 until 1941, appeared in a few films and broadcast in a typically laid-back style, punctuating his numbers by the "Yowsah, yowsah" catch-phrase which endeared him to millions.

Nola … This best-selling 1916 salon novelty which the New York-born composer, pianist and organist Felix Arndt (1889-1918) named after his wife was first adopted and recorded in 1922 (U.S. No.3 hit) by pianist-composer Vincent "Hello, everybody" Lopez (1894-1975). His band, formed in 1918, gave the first live U.S. radio broadcast, from WJX, in Newark, in 1921. A pioneer of the TV chat show, Lopez also had long residencies at New York Hotels (notably, 27 years at the Taft) and appeared on Broadway and in films. He never retired and ran a band until his death.

Racing With The Moon … Ohio-born trumpeter, songwriter, bandleader Vaughn Monroe (1911-1973) produced no fewer than nine U.S. No.1 hits, including "There, I’ve Said It Again" (1945), "Ballerina" (1947) and "Riders In The Sky" (1949). Popular on radio and screen and dubbed ‘Nelson Eddy in Swing Time’, Vaughn also penned – or co-wrote – a number of songs, including this, his theme, a million-selling U.S. No.25 in 1941. From 1940 to 1953, he toured with his band as vocalist-leader.

Hell’s Bells … Tenor-saxophonist and sweet-bandleader Art Kassel (1896-1965) formed his first band in 1924, in Chicago, Illinois, and made his first records, as Art Kassel and His Kassels-In-The-Air (for Victor) in January 1929. Some of jazz’s finest sidemen passed through his band’s ranks, including Bud Freeman, Benny Goodman, Jimmy McPartland and Dave Tough. Almost exclusively Midwest-based until the late 1950s, he became widely known via radio on sponsored shows, including the Shell Oil Show and Elgin Show. His theme-song was a U.S. No.2 hit in July 1932.

A Blues Serenade … Classically-trained, New York-born Henry King (1906-1974) formed his own piano-led, violin-orientated, society and ballroom sweet band in the early 1930s. Although for a time resident at the Los Angeles Biltmore, the King orchestra toured to San Francisco, Denver, Memphis, New Orleans and Houston and became very popular on radio (King later claimed to have recorded more than 5,000 broadcasts for various networks). From 1933, he recorded for Vocalion, Victor, Columbia and Decca until the 1950s (with five pre-1949 hits in the U.S. Top Ten).

Quaker City Jazz … Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, child prodigy violinist and songwriter Jan Savitt (1913-1948) trained at the Curtis Institute. At fifteen he was invited by Stokowski to join the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. He formed a string quartet which broadcast on coast-to-coast radio but switched to popular music in 1937 to form his distinctive Top Hatters, which featured the black vocalist Bon-Bon (aka George Tunnell) and pianist-arranger Jack Pleis. Savitt’s hits, on Bluebird and Decca, included "Hi-Yo, Silver" (No.14, in 1938) and "Make Believe Island" (No.8, in 1940).

Piano Concerto In B Flat … Encouraged by his mentor Guy Lombardo, Ohio-born tenorsaxophonist Freddy ‘Mr Silvertone’ Martin (1906-1983) recorded his first hit with his Hotel Bossert Orchestra for Columbia in New York in 1932. By 1933 his society band had a prestigious three-year contract with Brunswick (first U.S. No.1 hit in 1934). A radio stalwart, Martin’s fashionable venues included the New York Waldorf-Astoria and the Los Angeles Ambassador (Cocoanut Grove). He recorded prolifically for Victor’s Bluebird label from 1938 and, in August 1941, set a trend with this million-selling U.S. No.1 hit arrangement of the theme from Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.1 in B flat minor (1875), featuring his virtuoso pianist Jack Fina.

Drifting And Dreaming … St Louis (Missouri)-born saxophonist, composer-lyricist, vocalist and bandleader Orrin Tucker (b. 1911) wrote several of his own numbers. His theme-tune, however, was a revival of a 1925 Haven Gillespie-Egbert Van Alstyne hit-song. Raised in Wheaton, Illinois, Tucker led his own hotel band at Chicago venues during the early 1930s. In 1936 he hired vocalist Evelyn Nelson and re-named her Bonnie Baker. In 1939, they recorded a smash-hit, million-selling U.S. No.2 revival of the 1917 Abe Olman song "Oh, Johnny, Oh!", which sold a million and made Tucker a national attraction. Featured on CBS radio’s Your Hit Parade, the Tucker band appeared in the 1941 film-musical You’re The One.

I’m Getting Sentimental Over You … With this 1932 Ned Washington– George Bassman standard as his theme-tune, Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956) became known as ‘The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing’. The Pennsylvanian trombone ace became world-renowned through his many Victor (HMV) recordings (including seventeen U.S. No.1s between 1935 and 1943 alone), both as a remarkably smooth soloist and as the leader of the jazz-orientated big band in which Frank Sinatra first won pop-idol status.

Outstanding among the other jazz-orientated big bands, those of Stan Kenton (1912-1979), Gene Krupa (1909-1973), Jack Teagarden (1905-1964) and Charlie Barnet (b.1913) all used characteristic theme-tunes. Kansas-born pianist and composer-arranger Kenton worked with Everett Hoagland and Gus Arnheim in the mid-1930s before forming his own 13-piece band in 1940. A renowned experimenter, he came to embody the more marketable aspects of progressive jazz. Commercially-minded, he joined Capitol Records in 1943 and played on Bob Hope’s radio show. Composed in 1941, his Artistry In Rhythm, the first of several ‘Innovations in Modern Music’ was a million-seller by 1945. Through his association with Goodman, the best-known (and the most commercial) of all the great jazz-drummers, ‘Chicago Flash’ Krupa was, by mid-1935, already a hero of Swing whose virtuosic playing and screen-idol looks had won him a large female following. Krupa formed his own first band in Atlantic City, in April 1938. Its theme was Apurksody. Texan Jack Teagarden, vocalist, bandleader and instrumentalist in equal proportions, was one of the few white trombonists to be rated on a par with the greatest black exponents. A member of the Ben Pollack band from 1928 and Whiteman’s orchestra from 1933 to 1938, he ran his own bands from 1939 until 1946. His theme, Harold Arlen’s "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues", was originally included in EarlCarroll’s Vanities of 1932. Like most other 1930s American "all-star" swing big-bands, that of saxophonist-composer Charles Daly Barnet was more accurately an augmented jazz ensemble. Barnet formed his first society band in 1933 and his early style found its most significant expression in 1939 in a U.S. No.15 Billy May arrangement of Ray Noble’s "Cherokee" and the 1940 U.S. No.1 "Where Was I?". However, by far his best seller – and indeed, one of the greatest of all 1940s big-band swing hits – was Skyliner. A 1943 Billy May arrangement conceived as a theme for Midnight In Munich, it was a U.S. No.19 hit in March 1945.

Peter Dempsey, 2001

1. LEAP FROG (Corday–Garland)

Les Brown and his Orchestra

(Columbia 36857; mx CO 34716) Recorded 10th May, 1945, New York 2:33


Ray Noble and The New Mayfair Orchestra; Al Bowlly, vocal

(HMV B 6482; mx OB 6874-1) Recorded 21st April, 1934, London 3:30

3. SUMMERTIME (Gershwin–Gershwin–Heyward)

Bob Crosby and His Orchestra

(Decca 2205; mx 91550A) Recorded 21st October, 1938, Chicago 3:01

4. THE WALTZ YOU SAVED FOR ME (Kahn–King–Flindt)

Wayne King and His Orchestra

(Victor 27224; mx BS 053564-1) Recorded 23rd October, 1940, Chicago 3:04

5. MY TIME IS YOUR TIME (Little–Dance)

Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees; Rudy Vallee, vocal

(Victor 27841; mx PBS 072077-1) Recorded 6th February, 1942, Hollywood 3:05


Stan Kenton and His Orchestra

(Capitol 159; mx 114A) Recorded 19th November, 1943, Los Angeles 3:17

7. IT’S A LONESOME OLD TOWN (Tobias–Kisco)

Ben Bernie and His Orchestra; Don Saxon, vocal

(Decca 4158; mx 69639A) Recorded 15th August, 1941, New York 2:40

8. NOLA (Arndt)

Vincent Lopez and His Suave Swing Orchestra

(Bluebird B 10601; mx PBS 042340-1) Recorded 8th January, 1940, Hollywood 2:52

9. APURKSODY (Krupa–Willett)

Gene Krupa and His Orchestra

(Brunswick 8296; mx LA 1764A) Recorded 12th December, 1938, Los Angeles 2:55

10. RACING WITH THE MOON (Pope–Monroe–Watson)

Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra; Vaughn Monroe, vocal

(Bluebird 11070; mx BS 060651-1) Recorded 17th February, 1941, New York 3:14

11. HELL’S BELLS (Kassel)

Art Kassel and His Kassels-In-The-Air; The Three Romeos, vocal

(Bluebird B 10508; mx 044003-1) Recorded 24th October, 1939, Chicago 2:20

12. A BLUES SERENADE (Parish–Signorelli)

Henry King and His Orchestra; Joseph Sudy, vocal

(Decca 1063; mx DLA 504-A) Recorded 2nd August, 1936, Los Angeles 2:59

13. QUAKER CITY JAZZ (Savitt–Schultz)

Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters

(Bluebird B 10005; mx BS 028143-1) Recorded 21st October, 1938, New York 1:57


Jack Teagarden and His Orchestra; Jack Teagarden, vocal

(Brunswick 8397; mx WB 24452A) Recorded 28th April, 1939, New York 2:45

15. PIANO CONCERTO IN B FLAT (Tchaikovsky, arr. Ray Austin)

Freddy Martin and His Orchestra

(Bluebird B 11211; mx PBS 061301-1) Recorded 16th June, 1941, Hollywood 3:14

16. DRIFTING AND DREAMING (Gillespie–Van Alstyne–Schmidt–Curtis)

Orrin Tucker and His Orchestra; The Bodyguards, vocal

(Columbia 35332; mx LA 2073-A) Recorded 5th December, 1939, Los Angeles 2:57


Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra

(Victor 25236; mx BS 95145-3) Recorded 18th October, 1935, New York 3:35

18. SKYLINER (Barnet–Allen)

Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra

(Decca 18659; mx L 3487-A) Recorded 3rd August, 1944, Los Angeles 2:58

Transfers and Production by David Lennick. Digital Noise Reduction by Graham Newton. Special thanks to Joe Showler. Photo of Les Brown’s Band, c.1945, © Hulton/Archive

The Naxos Historical labels aim to make available the greatest recordings of the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.

David Lennick

As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennick’s work in this field grew directly from his own needs as a broadcaster specializing in vintage material and the need to make it listenable while being transmitted through equalizers, compressors and the inherent limitations of A.M. radio. Equally at home in classical, pop, jazz and nostalgia, Lennick describes himself as exercising as much control as possible on the final product, in conjunction with CEDAR noise reduction applied by Graham Newton in Toronto. As both broadcaster and re-issue producer, he relies on his own extensive collection as well as those made available to him by private collectors, the University of Toronto, the International Piano Archives at Maryland, Syracuse University and others.

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