George Paxton

Photo of George Paxton
  • Born

    1914
    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.

Music

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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)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Sources

  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.