Close Window

Paul Whiteman (1890 - 1967)

Jazz Bandleader

Born in Denver, Colorado, Paul Whiteman began his career in music as a violinist for the Denver Symphony Orchestra. His father was the superintendant of musical education for the Denver school system, so he had a head start on his musical education. By the time he was in his mid-20's he had moved to San Francisco and played with various bands there. His interests turned from classical to the popular music of the day, jazz and dance music.

Whiteman assembled a dance band in San Francisco, but later moved to the Los Angeles area and began playing in venues there. By 1920 his band began recording with Victor Records, and his popularity soared. In 1923 he was crowned "King of Jazz" by a musical instrument company as a promotional event, and controversy has surrounded his use of the title ever since. Many argue that his music has little or nothing in the way of jazz elements, and the title best belongs elsewhere, among the black musicians who created jazz.

Controversy notwithstanding, Paul Whiteman contributed to the popularization of the Fox Trot, a style that dominated the dance halls throughout the 1920's and 30's. His music was tremendously popular, and its merit endures.