George Paxton

Photo of George Paxton
  • Born

    Jacksonville, Florida
  • Died

    April 19, 1989
    Vero Beach, Florida

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 in 1940, Paxton re­mained in New York and found work ar­rang­ing for Bunny Berigan and singer Bea Wain. He briefly moved to Cincinnati to join Charlie Spivak but soon re­turned to New York, where 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.

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 Liz 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; Ann Parker on the lat­ter.

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 had be­come fe­male vo­cal­ist by late 1945, and trum­pet player Johnny Bond also sang. Dale left to go solo in April 1946, and Lee Taylor was brought in to re­place him. Taylor stayed un­til the end of 1946, when Dick Merrick took over his du­ties. Rosemary Calvin be­came fe­male vo­cal­ist in August 1945, and a vo­cal group, the Five Lynns, sang in early 1946. 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. 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. Merrick and Betty Norton pro­vided vo­cals. The new group­ing, which fea­tured many mu­si­cal gim­micks, proved un­suc­cess­ful, and Paxton re­turned to six­teen pieces the fol­low­ing month.

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.

Later Years

By late 1948, Calvin had re­turned as fe­male vo­cal­ist, but Paxton had grown weary of lead­ing a band. In early 1949, he scrapped it and opened his own mu­sic pub­lish­ing house. He later co-founded the Coed record la­bel in 1958, 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.


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  • Just the Other Day
    George Paxton (Rosemary Calvin), Majestic (1946)
  • South America, Take It Away
    George Paxton (Rosemary Calvin), Majestic (1946)
  • I've Never Loved Anyone
    George Paxton (Dick Merrick), MGM (1947)
  • I've Only Myself to Blame
    George Paxton (Dick Merrick), MGM (1947)
  • Judaline
    George Paxton (Dick Merrick), MGM (1947)
  • Rambling Rose
    George Paxton (Dick Merrick), MGM (1947)

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  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. “Paxton's Band Gets 13 Weeks.” Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 13 and 15.
  5. “35C Per Week for Paxton Band In Fla.” Billboard 24 Jun. 1944: 29.
  6. Secon, Paul. “On the Stand: George Paxton.” Billboard 1 Jul. 1944: 23.
  7. “Advanced Bookings.” Billboard 15 Jun. 1944: 16.
  8. Cover. Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 1.
  9. “Paxton Stays at Roseland.” Billboard 25 Nov. 1944: 13.
  10. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 2 Dec. 1944: 92.
  11. “Popular Record Releases.” Billboard 30 Dec. 1944: 13.
  12. “Movie Machine Reviews.” Billboard 3 Feb. 1945: 64.
  13. “Small Diskers Bag Names.” Billboard 24 Mar. 1945: 20.
  14. “Pitch for Treasury.” Billboard 10 Mar. 1945: 15.
  15. “George Paxton Is Set for Penn, Sherman Hotels.” Billboard 26 May. 1945: 17.
  16. “Night Club Reviews: Panther Room, Hotel Sherman, Chicago.” Billboard 1 Sep. 1945: 32.
  17. Advertisement Billboard 29 Sep. 1945: 31.
  18. “Robbins Divorcement.” Billboard 5 Jan. 1946: 20.
  19. “In Short.” Billboard 13 Apr. 1946: 42.
  20. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 1 Jun. 1946: 30.
  21. “Music Popularity Chart: New Records.” Billboard 20 Jul. 1946: 33.
  22. “Paxton to Exit Frederick Bros.” Billboard 10 Aug. 1946: 18.
  23. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 2 Nov. 1946: 25.
  24. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 11 Jan. 1947: 31.
  25. Webman, Herb. “On the Stand: George Paxton.” Billboard 31 May 1947: 23.
  26. “Majestic Signs Morgan, Hires Savin, Chops Pax.” Billboard 28 Jun. 1947: 20.
  27. “Vaudeville Reviews: Capitol, New York.” Billboard 5 Jul. 1947: 45.
  28. “Music As Written.” Billboard 13 Sep. 1947: 36.
  29. “MGM Records Sign George Paxton's Ork.” Billboard 4 Oct. 1947: 19.
  30. “Vaudeville Reviews: Capitol, New York.” Billboard 18 Dec. 1948: 47.
  31. “The Band Biz Story--1948.” Billboard 5 Mar. 1949: 15.
  32. “Two 'O Sole Mios' Are One Too Many for George Paxton.” Billboard 1 Oct. 1949: 20.
  33. “Star Chamber Testimony.” Billboard 9 May 1960: 20.
  34. “Bandleader, arranger George Paxton dies.” Ocala Star-Banner 22 Apr. 1989: 2B.