Jan Garber

Photo of Jan Garber
  • Born

    November 1894
    Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Died

    October 5, 1977 (age 82)
    Shreveport, Louisiana

Known as the Idol of the Air Lanes,” band­leader Jan Garber stud­ied mu­sic at the Combs Conservatory in Philadelphia. He was a mem­ber of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra be­fore re­ceiv­ing his draft no­tice in WWI. While sta­tioned at an Army train­ing camp in Alabama he was asked to form a march­ing band. He soon be­came fas­ci­nated with pop­u­lar mu­sic, and upon his dis­charge he de­cided to aban­don his clas­si­cal ca­reer in fa­vor of a job with band­leader/​con­trac­tor Meyer Davis.

Garber was quickly made leader of one of the Davis or­ches­tras. He proved him­self a crowd pleaser and in 1920 left to form his own hot jazz out­fit. In 1921, he joined his or­ches­tra with that of Milton Davis. Taking the new name the Garber-Davis Orchestra, the group be­came very pop­u­lar in the South. In 1924, Davis found him­self in trou­ble when a jeal­ous hus­band threat­ened his life. He sold out his half of the or­ches­tra to Garber and headed north.

In 1932, in­flu­enced by Guy Lombardo, Garber de­cided to switch gears and play sweet dance mu­sic. He fired all the mem­bers of his pre­sent band ex­cept one and bought out the Freddie Large Orchestra, a Canadian out­fit. Large be­came Garber’s lead sax­o­phon­ist, a po­si­tion he kept, ex­cept dur­ing Garber’s 1942-45 flir­ta­tion with swing, un­til his death in 1968.

The new group be­came quite suc­cess­ful, tour­ing the coun­try and ap­pear­ing on the Burns and Allen ra­dio pro­gram. Lee Bennett was male vo­cal­ist from 1933 to 1936. He was suc­ceeded by Russ Brown, who left in 1938 when Bennett re­turned. Bennett re­mained with Garber un­til 1942. Tommy Traynor and Ray Cordell also sang. Female vo­cal­ists in­cluded Virginia Hamilton and Dorothy Corday.

In 1942, Garber de­cided to switch gears again. He dis­banded his dance or­ches­tra and formed a swing out­fit. The new group fea­tured young mu­si­cians, with Gray Rains writ­ing arrange­ments. Vocalists in­cluded Bob Davis and Liz Tilton, Martha Tiltons younger sis­ter, as well as, briefly, Ray Eberle. Though it had a nice sound, Garber’s swing or­ches­tra never achieved the pop­u­lar­ity of his older group, and in 1945 he formed a new dance or­ches­tra.

During the 1950s, Garber’s group ap­peared reg­u­larly in Las Vegas and played the Southern horse show cir­cuit. They con­tin­ued to record ac­tively through the 1960s. Garber re­tired from show busi­ness in 1971 and set­tled in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he had real es­tate hold­ings. His daugh­ter, Janis, led the band un­til 1973, when it dis­banded. It was later re­formed. Jan Garber passed away in 1977.

Music

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  • Shoo Shoo Baby
    Jan Garber (Liz Tilton), Hit (1943)
  • They're Either Too Young or Too Old
    Jan Garber (Liz Tilton), Hit (1943)

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

Radio

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  • One Night Stand: Jan Garber
    May 25, 1944 (AFRS) 30:14
  • One Night Stand: Jan Garber
    June 1, 1944 (AFRS) 30:32