The first Philadelphia TV personality to host a network television show spotlighting area teenagers was bandleader turned disc jockey Paul Whiteman. He was dubbed the King of Jazz in the twenties and had the most popular band of that era. Starting on April 2, 1949, Whiteman asked Philadelphia teenagers to a Saturday evening dance and talent show. It was called “Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club,” which was originated by WFIL-TV, Channel 6 in Philadelphia. The program was also aired over the ABC-TV network. Whiteman was the network’s Vice-President in charge of music. Paul also underwrote the show’s production. A young, recently hired talent from New York state did a fair amount of announcing on this program after joining the station; his name was Dick Clark. Broadcast Pioneers member Allen Stone also did so.

Weighing three hundred pounds, and dressed in ornate shirts and colorful sports coats, Whiteman spoke “hip phrases” like “real gone.” He was 62 years old at the time. The show was sponsored by Tootsie Roll and Whiteman handed out samples to his teenage friends while Clark pitched the treats to the viewers at home. Bernie Lowe of Cameo-Parkway fame, was the program’s Musical Director.

Another interesting aspect of this show was that it started as a TV program only. It became so successful that it was added to the ABC Radio Network’s schedule.

The show featured Whiteman with a 10 piece band. Rock and Rollers Charlie Gracie and Bobby Rydell got their start on this program. Rydell started with the show at age nine as the band’s drummer and stayed for three years. Leslie Uggams also appeared on the broadcast at the age of eight.

The telecast was produced by Skipper Dawes, the Educational Director for WFIL-TV. Really, Skipper was a talent scout who looked through the area schools for performers. One of Dawes finds was Eddie Fisher. The program’s last airing was in 1954. When the show premiered in 1949, it aired Saturday evenings from 8 to 9 pm. In 1952, the show moved an hour earlier to 7 pm and was shortened to 30 minutes and lasted for another two years in this configuration. However, the search for talent never ended. Just before the show ended, Whiteman featured a young singer by the name of Dion DiMucci, known to us now as “Dion,” of “Dion and the Belmonts” fame.

Paul Whiteman was born on March 28, 1890 in Denver, CO. He started his career playing viola in the Denver Symphony in 1907. He then went to the San Francisco Symphony in 1914. During the First World War, he led a 40 piece US Navy band. He organized his now famous dance band in 1918 in San Francisco. He then moved to New Jersey and finally to New York City. Though he was married four times, his last one to wife Margaret lasted 36 years. He passed away on December 29, 1967 in Doylestown, PA.

On Saturday, December 29, 1951, the show aired from 8 pm to 8:30. A TV listing referred to it as “Young talent in songs and dances. Nancy Lewis, co-emcee.”

Åke Roos of Sweden, a visitor to our website e-mailed: As a fan of Philadelphia´s legendary rock´n roller, Charlie Gracie (who, by the way, turns 67 today, May 14, 2003) I want you to know that there is a live recording from Paul Whiteman´s Teen Club in Philadelphia. The young Charlie Gracie (remember this is recorded some five years before Gracie made it into the big time when recording his classic “Butterfly”) sings “Rock The Joint” accompanied by Paul Whiteman´s Orchestra and it was recorded live on July 14, 1952 for ABC TV.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia

Picture courtesy of Broadcast Pioneers member Francis Davis

Researched and compiled by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson

TV Teen Club (1949 TV series)

by Bob Sorrentino

Something of an indirect predecessor to “American Bandstand” (Like “Bandstand,” it originated in Philadelphia and had many of the same technical crew), this teen-oriented music-variety program was hosted by veteran bandleader/performer Paul Whiteman. Whiteman, a fixture on the American pop music scene since the early 1920s, genuinely enjoyed doing this show, wearing loud sport clothes, using the kids’ catch phrases of that period (“Real gone, man!”), and handing the sponsors” Tootsie Rolls and chewing gum out of a paper bag. A good judge of talent (Bing Crosby got his start with Whiteman’s band in the late-1920s), Whiteman gave both Dick Clark and Bobby Rydell major early breaks on this program, as well as future recording company executive Bernie Lowe.



Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in 1921.

Paul Samuel Whiteman (March 28, 1890 – December 29, 1967) was an American bandleader and orchestral director.

Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman’s recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the “King of Jazz.” Using a large ensemble and exploring many styles of music, Whiteman is perhaps best known for his blending of symphonic music and jazz, as typified by his 1924 commissioning and debut of George Gershwin’s jazz-influenced “Rhapsody In Blue”. Whiteman recorded many jazz and pop standards during his career, including “Wang Wang Blues”, “Mississippi Mud”, “Rhapsody in Blue”, “Wonderful One”, “Hot Lips”, “Mississippi Suite”, and “Grand Canyon Suite”. His popularity faded in the swing music era of the 1930s, and by the 1940s Whiteman was semi-retired from music.

Whiteman’s place in the history of early jazz is somewhat controversial. Detractors suggest that Whiteman’s ornately-orchestrated music was jazz in name only (lacking the genre’s improvisational and emotional depth), and co-opted the innovations of black musicians. Defenders note that Whiteman’s fondness for jazz was genuine (he worked with black musicians as much as was feasible during an era of racial segregation),[citation needed] that his bands included many of the era’s most esteemed white jazz musicians, and argue that Whiteman’s groups handled jazz admirably as part of a larger repertoire.[1] In his autobiography, Duke Ellington[2] declared, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.”


Early life and career

Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado. After a start as a classical violinist and violist, he led a jazz-influenced dance band, which became popular locally in San Francisco, California in 1918. In 1920 he moved with his band to New York City where they started making recordings for Victor Records which made the Paul Whiteman Orchestra famous nationally. (In his first five recordings sessions for Victor, Aug 9-Oct 28, 1920, Whiteman used the name “Paul Whiteman and His Ambassador Orchestra,” presumably because he had been playing at the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City; from Nov. 3, 1920, he started using “Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.” [3])

Whiteman became the most popular band director of the decade. In a time when most dance bands consisted of six to 10 men, Whiteman directed a much larger and more imposing group of up to 35 musicians. By 1922, Whiteman already controlled some 28 ensembles on the east coast and was earning over a $1,000,000 a year.[4]

He recorded Hoagy Carmichael singing and playing “Washboard Blues” to the accompaniment of his orchestra in 1927.[5]

In May 1928 Whiteman signed with Columbia Records, and stayed with that label until September 1931, when he returned to Victor. He would remain signed with Victor until March 1937.

“The King of Jazz”

In the 1920s the media referred to Whiteman as “The King of Jazz”.[6] Whiteman emphasized the way he had approached the already well-established style of music, while also organizing its composition and style in his own fashion. While most jazz musicians and fans consider improvisation to be essential to the musical style, Whiteman thought the genre could be improved by orchestrating the best of it, with formal written arrangements. Whiteman’s recordings were popular critically and successful commercially, and his style of jazz music was often the first jazz of any form that many Americans heard during the era.

For more than 30 years Whiteman, referred to as “Pops”, sought and encouraged musicians, vocalists, composers, arrangers, and entertainers who looked promising. In 1924 Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which was premiered by Whiteman’s orchestra with George Gershwin at the piano. Another familiar piece in Whiteman’s repertoire was Grand Canyon Suite, by Ferde Grofé.

Whiteman hired many of the best jazz musicians for his band, including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Steve Brown, Mike Pingitore, Gussie Mueller, Wilbur Hall (billed by Whiteman as “Willie Hall”), Jack Teagarden, and Bunny Berigan. He also encouraged upcoming African American musical talents, and initially planned on hiring black musicians, but Whiteman’s management eventually persuaded him that doing would be career suicide due to racial tension and America’s segregation of that time.[7] However, Whiteman crossed racial lines behind-the-scenes, hiring black arrangers like Fletcher Henderson and engaging in mutually-beneficial efforts with recording sessions and scheduling of tours.

In late 1926 Whiteman signed three candidates for his orchestra: Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Harry Barris. Whiteman billed the singing trio as The Rhythm Boys. Crosby’s prominence in the Rhythm Boys helped launch his career as one of the most successful singers of the 20th century. Paul Robeson (1928) and Billie Holiday (1942) also recorded with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

Whiteman had 28 number one records during the 1920s and 32 during his career. At the height of his popularity, eight out of the top ten sheet music sales slots were by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

His recording of José Padilla’s Valencia topped the charts for 11 weeks, beginning 30 March 1926, becoming the #1 record of 1926.[8]

Whiteman signed singer Mildred Bailey in 1929 to appear on his radio program. She first recorded with the Whiteman Orchestra in 1931.

Jazz musician and leader of the Mound City Blue Blowers Red McKenzie and cabaret singer Ramona Davies (billed as “Ramona and her Grand Piano”) joined the Whiteman group in 1932. The King’s Jesters were also with Paul Whiteman in 1931. . .from the trailer for the film Rhapsody in Blue (1945)/

In 1933 Whiteman had a #2 hit on the Billboard charts with the song, “Willow Weep for Me” .[9]

In 1934 Paul Whiteman had his last two #1 hits, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, with vocals by Bob Lawrence, which was #1 for six weeks, and “Wagon Wheels”, which was #1 for one week, his final hit recording. From 1920 to 1934 Whiteman had 32 #1 recordings, charting 28 of them by 1929. By contrast, during the same period, the 1920s Jazz Age, Louis Armstrong had none.

In 1942 Whiteman began recording for Capitol Records, cofounded by songwriters Buddy DeSylva and Johnny Mercer and music store owner Glenn Wallichs. Whiteman and His Orchestra’s recordings of “I Found a New Baby” and “The General Jumped At Dawn” was the label’s first single release. (Another notable Capitol record he made is the 1942 “Trav’lin Light” featuring Billie Holiday (billed as “Lady Day”, due to her being under contract with another label). Later career and personal life

Whiteman was married four times; to Nellie Stack in 1908; to Miss Jimmy Smith; to Mildred Vanderhoff in 1922. In 1931 Whiteman married motion picture actress Margaret Livingston following his divorce from Vanderhoff that same year. The marriage to Livingston lasted until his death.

Whiteman resided at Walking Horse Farm near the village of Rosemont in Delaware Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey from 1938 to 1959. After selling the farm to agriculturalist Lloyd Wescott, Whiteman moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania for his remaining years.[10][11][12]

Whiteman died at the age of 77 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1967.

Movie appearances

In 1930 “Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra” starred in the first feature-length movie musical filmed entirely in Technicolor, King of Jazz. The film was technically ahead of its time, with many dazzling camera effects complementing the Whiteman music. Whiteman appeared as himself, and good-naturedly kidded his weight and his dancing skills. A highlight was a concert rendition of Rhapsody in Blue. Unfortunately, by the time King of Jazz was released to theaters, audiences had seen too many “all-singing, all-dancing” musicals, and much of the moviegoing public stayed away. (It also didn’t help that the film was shot as a revue with no story and not particularly imaginative camerawork.) The expensive film didn’t show a profit until 1933, when it was successfully reissued to cash in on the popularity of 42nd Street and its elaborate production numbers.

Whiteman also appeared as himself in the 1945 movie Rhapsody in Blue on the life and career of George Gershwin and also appeared in The Fabulous Dorseys in 1947, a bio-pic starring Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey. Whiteman also appeared as the baby in Nertz (1929), the bandleader in Thanks a Million (1935), as himself in Strike Up the Band (1940), and in the Paramount Pictures short The Lambertville Story (1949).

Radio and TV

During the 1930s Whiteman had several radio shows, including Kraft Music Hall and Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties, which featured the talents of Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, Jack Teagarden, Johnny Mercer, Ramona, Durelle Alexander and others.

In the 1940s and 1950s, after he had disbanded his orchestra, Whiteman worked as a music director for the ABC Radio Network. He also hosted Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club from Philadelphia on ABC-TV from 1949–1954. The show was seen for an hour the first two years, then as a half hour segment on Saturday evenings. In 1952 a young Dick Clarkread the commercials for sponsor Tootsie Roll.[13] He also continued to appear as guest conductor for many concerts. His manner on stage was disarming; he signed off each program with something casual like, “Well, that just about slaps the cap on the old milk bottle for tonight.”


The Paul Whiteman Orchestra introduced many jazz standards in the 1920s, including “Hot Lips”, which was in the Steven Spielberg movie The Color Purple (1985), “Mississippi Mud”, “From Monday On”, co-written and sung by Bing Crosby with Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, “Nuthin’ But”, “Grand Canyon Suite” and “Mississippi Suite” composed by Ferde Grofe, “Rhapsody in Blue”, composed by George Gershwin who played piano on the Paul Whiteman recording in 1924, “Wonderful One” (1923), and “Wang Wang Blues” (1920), covered by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Joe “King” Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators in 1926 and many of the Big Bands. “Hot Lips” was recorded by Ted Lewis and His Jazz Band, Horace Heidt and His Brigadiers Orchestra (1937), Specht’s Jazz Outfit, the Cotton Pickers (1922), and Django Reinhardt Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France.

Herb Alpert and Al Hirt were influenced by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, particularly the solo work of trumpeter Henry Busse, especially his solo on “Rhapsody in Blue”.


Whiteman composed the standard “Wonderful One” in 1922 with Ferde Grofé and Dorothy Terris (also known as Theodora Morse), based on a theme by film director Marshall Neilan. The songwriting credit is assigned as music composed by Paul Whiteman, Ferde Grofe, and Marshall Neilan, with lyrics by Dorothy Terriss. The single reached #3 on Billboard in May 1923, staying on the charts for 5 weeks. “(My) Wonderful One” was recorded by Gertrude Moody, Edward Miller, Martha Pryor, Mel Torme, Doris Day, Woody Herman, Helen Moretti, John McCormack; it was released as Victor 961. Jan Garber and His Orchestra, and Ira Sullivan with Tony Castellano also recorded the song. Henry Burr recorded it in 1924 and Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1940. On the sheet music published in 1922 by Leo Feist it is described as a “Waltz Song” and “Paul Whiteman’s Sensational Waltz Hit” and is dedicated “To Julie”. “Wonderful One” appeared in the following movies: The Chump Champ (1950), Little ’Tinker (1948), Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), Sufferin’ Cats (1943), Design for Scandal (1941), Strike Up the Band (1940), and Westward Passage (1932).

In 1924 Whiteman composed “When the One You Love Loves You” with Abel Baer and lyricist Cliff Friend. Whiteman recorded the song on 24 December 1924 in New York with Franklyn Baur on vocals and released it as Victor 19553-B backed with “I’ll See You in My Dreams”. The single reached #7 on the Billboard national pop singles charts in April 1925, staying on the charts for 3 weeks. The song is described as “A Sentimental Waltz Ballad” on the 1934 sheet music. Singer and composer Morton Downey, Sr., the father of the talkshow host, recorded the song in 1925 and released it as Brunswick 2887. Eva Shirley sang the song in Ed Wynn’s Grab Bag, a Broadway musical which opened in 1924 at the Globe. Leo Feist published the sheet music for the Shirley version in 1924 featuring Eva Shirley on the cover.

Paul Whiteman composed “Flamin’ Mamie” in 1925 with Fred Rose, one of the top hits of 1925, which was recorded by the Harry Reser Band, Merritt Brunies and the Friars Inn Orchestra, Billy Jones and Ernest Hare, the Six Black Diamonds in 1926 on Banner, the Toll House Jazz Band, Aileen Stanley in 1925 with Billy “Uke” Carpenter on the ukulele, Hank Penny in 1938, Turk Murphy, the Frisco Syncopators, the Firehouse Five Plus Two, Bob Schulz and His Frisco Jazz Band, and the Coon-Sanders Nighthawk Orchestra led by Carleton Coon and Joe Sanders with Joe Sanders on vocals. The lyrics describe Mamie as a Roaring Twenties vamp: “Flamin’ Mamie, a sure-fire vamp/When it comes to lovin’/She’s a human oven/Come on you futuristic papas/She’s the hottest thing he’s seen since the Chicago fire.”

Paul Whiteman also composed “Charlestonette” in 1925 with Fred Rose which was published by Leo Feist. The song was released as Victor 19785 backed with “Ida-I Do” in 1925. Ben Selvin’s Dance Orchestra and Bennie Krueger and His Orchestra also recorded the song in 1925.

Paul Whiteman composed the piano work “Dreaming The Waltz Away” with Fred Rose in 1926.[14] Organist Jesse Crawford recorded the song on October 4–5, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois and released it as a 78 on Victor Records, 20363 . Crawford played the instrumental on a Wurlitzer organ.

In Louis Armstrong & Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz (2004), Joshua Berrett wrote that “Whiteman Stomp” was credited to Fats Waller, Alphonso Trent, and Paul Whiteman. Lyricist Jo Trent is the co-author. The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra first recorded “Whiteman Stomp” on 11 May 1927 and released it as Columbia 1059-D. The Fletcher Henderson recording lists the songwriters as “Fats Waller/Jo Trent/Paul Whiteman”. Paul Whiteman recorded the song on 11 August 1927 and released it as Victor 21119.

“Then and Now”, recorded on December 7, 1954 and released in 1955 on Coral, was composed by Paul Whiteman with Dick Jacobs and Bob Merrill. The song was released as a 45 inch single in 1955 as Coral 61336 backed with “Mississippi Mud” by Paul Whiteman and His New Ambassador Orchestra with the New Rhythm Boys.

Whiteman also co-wrote the popular song “My Fantasy” with Leo Edwards and Jack Meskill, which is a musical adaptation of the Polovtsian Dances theme from the opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin. The Paul Whiteman Orchestra recorded “My Fantasy” in 1939.


In 2006 the Paul Whiteman Orchestra’s 1928 recording of Ol’ Man River with Paul Robeson on vocals was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The song was recorded on 1 March 1928 in New York and released as Victor 35912-A.)[15]

Major recordings


1. Critic Scott Yannow declares that Whiteman’s orchestra “did play very good jazz;
[. . .] His superior dance band used some of the most technically skilled musicians of the era in a versatile show that included everything from pop tunes and waltzes to semi-classical works and jazz. [. . .] Many of his recordings (particularly those with Beiderbecke) have been reissued numerous times and are more rewarding than his detractors would lead one to believe.” “Paul Whiteman” Allmusic profile; URL retrieved 14 August 2009

2. Ellington, Edward Kennedy. 1976. Music Is My Mistress. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80033-0

3. Albert Haim, “Paul Whiteman and His Ambassador Orchestra.”.

4. “History of Jazz Time Line: 1922”. All About Jazz. Retrieved December 2, 2010.

5. Wilder, Alec (1990). American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900–1950. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-501445-6.

6. Berrett, Joshua (2004). Louis Armstrong & Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz. Yale University Press. p. 123. ISBN 9780300103847.

7. Giddins, Gary & Scott DeVeaux. Jazz (2009). New York: W.W. Norton & Co, ISBN 978-0-393-06861-0

8. CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.

9. Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)

10. “Entertainers”. Time. 1944-03-06.,9171,774835-2,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-19.

11. “Stockton”. Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. Retrieved 2009-04-19.

12. “Bucks County Artists”. James A. Michener Art Museum. Retrieved 2009-04-19.

13. The complete directory to prime time network and cable TV shows, 1946-present. Tim Brooks, Earle Marsh. pp 918, 919


15. Abrams, Steven and Settlemier, Tyrone. “The Online Discographical Project: Victor 35500 - 36000 numerical listing”. Retrieved December 26, 2010