George Paxton

Composer and arranger George Paxton was a busy man during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Paxton grew up in New Jersey, where he learned to play the saxophone and trombone as a youth. He formed his first group, a six-man outfit, in 1933 while still in high school. The band included guitarist Tony Mottolo and saxophonist Herbie Haymer. The three later moved to New York, where bandleader and Meadowbrook Inn owner Frank Dailey hired Paxton to write arrangements.

In the late 1930s, Paxton joined George Hall as an arranger and sax player. He also sang novelty numbers with the orchestra. When Hall went on tour, Paxton remained in New York and found work arranging for Bunny Berigan and singer Bea Wain. He became part of Charlie Spivak’s new band for a short while in early 1940 before Ina Ray Hutton hired him in February 1942 as arranger and saxophonist.

Hutton, who had recently disbanded her all-female orchestra and formed a new all-male group. reportedly paid Paxton fifty percent of her profits for his talent. He eventually came to play an important role in the band, becoming its music director and de facto leader. Paxton also arranged for Vaughn Monroe, Paul Lavelle and Sammy Kaye.

Forms Own Orchestra

In May 1944, Paxton announced the formation of his own 18-piece orchestra, comprised of six brass, five sax, three rhythm and four strings. Alan Dale and Liza Morrow provided vocals. By the time of its debut on June 23, 1944, at the Palisades in New Jersey, it had become 19 pieces with the addition of another musician to the brass section. The group would play Paxton arrangements exclusively. After three nights at the Palisades, the band made a short trip to Florida and then back to New Jersey before opening at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, where it had been booked for ten weeks.

Paxton’s orchestra was highly promoted. Paxton himself made the cover of Billboard magazine on September 16, 1944, and the band’s Roseland stay was extended into 1945. In late 1944, the group signed with the Hit recording label, which later merged with the Classic label to form Majestic. They also made two soundies with Filmcraft: Dance with a Dolly in late 1944, and Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes in early 1945. Liz Morrow sang on the former, with Ann Parker on the latter.[1] Virginia Maxey took Morrow’s place in February 1945 but was dropped in March when Paxton cut expenses. Dottie Reid joined in April and was also dropped from the orchestra after less than a month.

Paxton’s band was one of the most expensive orchestras in the business. Its large size taxed the pocketbooks of both leader and theater owner, as the hype and promotion surrounding it drove booking prices well above what the band could make at the door. Booking agents charged top band prices, when Paxton drew only average attendance. While at New York’s Hotel Lincoln in March 1945, Paxton dropped his string section in an effort to save money. Rumors suggested that the hotel had demanded it.

In May 1945, Paxton left Majestic for the Guild label. Dale still provided male vocals. Julie Hewitt became female vocalist in July 1945, and trumpet player Johnny Bond, who sang novelty tunes, joined in mid-1945. Rosemary Calvin replaced Hewitt in August 1945, and a vocal group, the Five Lynns, sang in late 1945 and early 1946. Dale left to go solo in April 1946, and Lee Taylor was brought in to replace him. Dick Merrick had replaced Taylor by October. The orchestra was back on Majestic by mid-1946.

Continued Financial Problems

The band’s expensive nature continued to plague Paxton. In January 1946, his orchestra became the focal point of a breakup between partners of the Robbins booking agency. Paxton was reportedly $35,000 in debt to Robbins, and the question of who would take on the band was contentious. Paxton eventually ended up in an unhappy relationship with the Frederick Brothers agency before managing to part with them in August 1946, after making payment arrangements for his massive debt. Paxton hopped between different booking agencies for the next two years, trying to find one that could book the band profitably.

In an effort to cut expenses, Paxton revamped and streamlined his orchestra in May 1947, reducing its size to twelve musicians. Bond was gone, either among those whom Paxton let go or on his own due to the nature of the updated grouping. Calvin was no longer vocalist by this point, with singer Betty Norton joining the orchestra at that time. Merrick remained. The new band had an unusual composition, featuring an accordion, vibes, two trumpets, one trombone, one french horn, four rhythm, and two sax players who also doubled on flute and clarinet. Paxton played trombone and shared arrangement duties with Fred Weismantel. The grouping, which featured many musical gimmicks, proved unsuccessful, and Paxton returned to sixteen pieces the following month. Norton stayed only briefly, remaining into June but gone by August. Merrick also left soon after the initial reorganization, joining Jerry Wald in June. After falling out with Wald almost immediately, Merrick returned to Paxton.

1947 also saw Majestic drop Paxton from its stable in June. The band didn’t sign another recording contract until October, with MGM. In the interim, the Musicraft label released a few previously unreleased Paxton recordings made for the Hit label in 1944. Paxton reorganized again in mid-1948. In late 1948, Calvin and Bond rejoined the band, but Paxton had grown weary of leading an orchestra. In early 1949, he scrapped it and opened his own music publishing house.

Later Years

In 1958, Paxton co-founded the Coed record label, which had as its biggest stars Adam Wade, the Crests, the Duprees, and the Rivieras. Paxton became embroiled in the 1960 payola scandal in which DJ and American Bandstand host Dick Clark was accused of accepting payment to promote songs on his various programs. Paxton, who testified before the House of Representatives, paid Clark to push the Crests’ recording of “16 Candles,” making a reported $200,000 personal profit from the deal. Coed went out of business in the early 1960s.

George Paxton died in 1989, age 75, of an apparent suicide. His body was found on the beach of his oceanfront condominium in Vero Beach, Florida.


  1. Singer Ann Parker was not a member of Paxton’s band. She made several soundies and was teamed with Paxton on this one short. ↩︎

Vocalist Timeline

Alan Dale
Liza Morrow
Julie Hewitt
Lee Taylor

Note: Dates may be approximate. Some vocalists may not be listed due to lack of information on their dates of employment.


  1. “Dolly Dawn Stars in Hall's Orchestra.” The Pittsburgh Press 7 Jul. 1939: 25.
  2. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 21 Feb. 1942: 25.
  3. “Paxton Third Robbins' Band.” Billboard 13 May 1944: 13.
  4. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 15 May 1944: 5.
  5. “Paxton's Band Gets 13 Weeks.” Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 13,15.
  6. “35C Per Week for Paxton Band In Fla.” Billboard 24 Jun. 1944: 29.
  7. Secon, Paul. “On the Stand: George Paxton.” Billboard 1 Jul. 1944: 23.
  8. “Advanced Bookings.” Billboard 15 Jun. 1944: 16.
  9. Cover. Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 1.
  10. “Paxton Ork To Theatres.” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1944: 1.
  11. “Paxton Stays at Roseland.” Billboard 25 Nov. 1944: 13.
  12. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 2 Dec. 1944: 92.
  13. “Popular Record Releases.” Billboard 30 Dec. 1944: 13.
  14. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Feb. 1945: 5.
  15. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 3 Feb. 1945: 64.
  16. “Strings, Chirp Get Paxton Axe.” Down Beat 15 Mar. 1945: 1.
  17. “Small Diskers Bag Names.” Billboard 24 Mar. 1945: 20.
  18. “Pitch for Treasury.” Billboard 10 Mar. 1945: 15.
  19. “George Paxton Shows Trials and Tribulations Of A Band Leader.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1945: 2.
  20. “Musical Notes.” The Austin Daily Texan 24 Apr. 1945: 3.
  21. “George Paxton Is Set for Penn, Sherman Hotels.” Billboard 26 May. 1945: 17.
  22. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Jul. 1945: 1.
  23. “Night Club Reviews: Panther Room, Hotel Sherman, Chicago.” Billboard 1 Sep. 1945: 32.
  24. “Paxton Music Tops, Success Is Certain.” Down Beat 15 Sep. 1945: 3.
  25. “Calvin Joins Paxton.” Down Beat 15 Sep. 1945: 4.
  26. Advertisement Billboard 29 Sep. 1945: 31.
  27. “Robbins Divorcement.” Billboard 5 Jan. 1946: 20.
  28. “In Short.” Billboard 13 Apr. 1946: 42.
  29. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 1 Jun. 1946: 30.
  30. “Music Popularity Chart: New Records.” Billboard 20 Jul. 1946: 33.
  31. “Paxton to Exit Frederick Bros.” Billboard 10 Aug. 1946: 18.
  32. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 2 Nov. 1946: 25.
  33. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 11 Jan. 1947: 31.
  34. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 21 May 1947: 5.
  35. Webman, Herb. “On the Stand: George Paxton.” Billboard 31 May 1947: 23.
  36. Ronan, Eddie. “George Paxton Tries Something New In Instrumentation, Voicing.” Down Beat 18 Jun. 1947: 9.
  37. “Majestic Signs Morgan, Hires Savin, Chops Pax.” Billboard 28 Jun. 1947: 20.
  38. “Vaudeville Reviews: Capitol, New York.” Billboard 5 Jul. 1947: 45.
  39. “Johnny Bond Fronts.” Down Beat 16 Jul. 1947: 3.
  40. “Music As Written.” Billboard 13 Sep. 1947: 36.
  41. “MGM Records Sign George Paxton's Ork.” Billboard 4 Oct. 1947: 19.
  42. “Strand Inks Bill, Billie.” Down Beat 30 Jun. 1948: 1.
  43. “Vaudeville Reviews: Capitol, New York.” Billboard 18 Dec. 1948: 47.
  44. “Capsule Comments.” Down Beat 29 Dec. 1948: 11.
  45. “The Band Biz Story--1948.” Billboard 5 Mar. 1949: 15.
  46. “Two 'O Sole Mios' Are One Too Many for George Paxton.” Billboard 1 Oct. 1949: 20.
  47. “Star Chamber Testimony.” Billboard 9 May 1960: 20.
  48. “Bandleader, arranger George Paxton dies.” Ocala Star-Banner 22 Apr. 1989: 2B.