Today is the birthday of big band leader Paul Specht (1895-1954). Much like Paul Whiteman, his contemporary and competitor, though he often used the word “jazz” to describe his work, his was both a pre-swing sound, and a post-New Orleans one. It was mainstream dance music in a predominantly white culture which had only just emerged from Victorianism. It was fun, it was even sometimes peppy, but never “low-down”, “dirty”, “feverish” or some of the other adjectives that are often used to describe other forms of jazz.
But it was wildly popular, especially during the 1920s and 30s. In addition to live performances in ball rooms, night clubs and big-time vaudeville, Specht’s bands recorded for Columbia records, and had shows on ABC radio with The Three X Sisters. He even played the 1929 inaugural of President Herbert Hoover. Originally from Pennsylvania, Specht started his career in 1916 and led bands through the 1940s. In later years he worked as an arranger in the broadcast industry.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.