Paul Whiteman

Active - 20th Century  |   Born - Mar 28, 1890 in Denver, CO  |   Died - Dec 29, 1967 in Doylestown, PA  |   Genres - Drama, Musical, Dance [nf], Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Roly-poly bandleader Paul Whiteman was born in Denver, where his father was music supervisor for the city's public school system. After playing viola in his hometown symphony orchestra, Whiteman led a U.S. Navy band then formed his own group in San Francisco. A recording artist from 1919, he scored a hit with the 1920 tune "Whispering," and soon became a staunch proponent of what he called "symphonic jazz." He was embraced by the intelligentsia in 1924, when he introduced George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," specially arranged for Whiteman's 35-piece orchestra by the conductor's right-hand man Ferde Grofe. Designated "The King of jazz" by fans and critics alike, Whiteman starred in a lavish, Technicolor film bearing that title in 1930. Also appearing in King of Jazz was Whiteman's newest discovery, Bing Crosby, one of many rising stars who worked with the Whiteman band over the years. Other Whiteman film appearances include Thanks a Million (1935), Strike Up the Band (1940), and, inevitably, Rhapsody in Blue (1945). Officially retiring from bandleading in 1943, Paul Whiteman nonetheless became a fixture of early television, headlining such variety series as TV Teen Club (1949-1954) and The Paul Whiteman Goodyear Revue (1949-1952).

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