Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jan Garber & His Orchestra - Christmas Dance Party

Many moons ago, this elegantly lush album was offered at Christmas time at Basic Hip - one of the first vinyl sharity sites. It was a good rip of the mono version of this album, with a good scan of the front cover only.

(BTW, they still offer a great deal of rare, exotic, and incredibly strange albums via their Basic Hip Digital Gold service where I picked up the soundtrack to "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls"!)

I searched high and low, both on the Internet and off, to find a copy of this album so I could acquire the back cover or perhaps (dare I say it) a stereo version!

Late last November, a member of the FaLaLaLaLa community named PDMan (he was once a program director in radio, hence PD, man!) stunned everyone when he shared a pristine copy of the STEREO version of this album with complete artwork!

The "Idol Of The Air Lanes" aka Jan Garber would have been mighty proud.

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1894, Garber studied music at the Combs Conservatory in Philadelphia, hoping to enter the classical music field. Before his career began to take off, he was drafted into WWI. How many people have we talked about here at the yuleblog who were born in the 19th Century and a World War I doughboy?

While stationed at an Army training camp in Alabama, Garber formed a marching band and became fascinated with popular music. After his discharge, he wisely abandoned his classical career in favor of a job with bandleader/contractor Meyer Davis.

Garber was quickly made leader of one of the Davis orchestras, proved himself a crowd pleaser, so in 1920 left to form his own hot jazz outfit for a brief time. In 1921 he joined Milton Davis' Orchestra and rechristened the name to The Garber-Davis Orchestra.

For several years, the orchestra was the toast of the South, playing one successful tour after the other. But in 1924, Davis found himself in trouble. Seems a jealous husband threatened his life and Davis quickly sold out his half of the orchestra to Garber and headed north.

In 1932, Garber fell under the spell of Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo. Garber was so smitten that he fired all the members of his present band except one and bought out the Freddie Large Orchestra, a Canadian orchestra to get that Lombardo feel. Large became Garber's lead saxophonist - a position he kept until his death in 1968!

The new group became quite successful, playing lush music, touring the country, and appearing on the "Burns & Allen" radio program where he acquired his colorful moniker "Idol Of The Air Lanes". How or why is still a mystery to me!

Around the start of World War II, Garber decided to switch gears again. He disbanded the dance orchestra and formed a swing band. It was bad timing since the big band/swing band era was just about dead and the recording ban of 1942-1943 hurt Garber's chances of becoming a success.

At the end of World War II, he formed a new dance orchestra which gained popularity and Garber never again tinkered with his orchestra. During the 1950s, Garber's group appeared regularly in Las Vegas and played the Southern horse show circuit.

According to the Goldmine Christmas Record Price Guide, Garber recorded and released as a single a version of "Blue Christmas" in 1950 on Capitol Records (Capitol F1257). Anyone have a copy? It would be nine years later when Garber - now recording for Decca Records - came out with this album - both in mono and full stereo in 1959.

The very first song is "Jumpin' Jiminy Christmas", a wonderful tune with chorus that bounces your right into the mood. Other standouts include "Jingle Bell Rock" (an obvious nod to rock n roll), "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", and "Christmas Chopsticks".

Many of the instrumentals ("Sleigh Ride", "Silver Bells", "Winter Wonderland") have that old 1920s - 1930s Guy Lombardo sound to them. However, Garber elevates it to pure dance music, full of whimsy. This is a wonderful, elegant, fun Christmas album!

The Jan Garber Orchestra continued to record actively through the 1960s and tour into the 1970s. Garber retired from show business in 1971 and his daughter, Janis, led the band until 1973, when it disbanded. Jan Garber passed away in 1977.

However, the Orchestra continues on to this very day! It has an active website where you can learn more about Garber, the latest incarnation of the orchestra, and their schedule of performances - last month, it played some dates in the Indiana area - had I known, I would have made a road trip!

PDMan, thanks again for sharing this album (and a whole slew of others that I've yet to review - coming soon to a yuleblog near you)!

UP NEXT: The Moog Machine - Christmas Become Electric



Ernie said...

This was one of the albums I wanted to share out last year, but PDman beat me to the punch. Plus, he had a stereo copy, so it worked out better this way. Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

This is awesome!! Thank You so much for making these great christmas albums available. Top notch recording of the vinyl!!!


PDMan said...

Thanks for the kind words, Capt! This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums and to happen onto a stereo copy was a real thrill. Glad everyone is enjoying it!

CaptainOT said...

Ernie / Anon / PDMan -

It's safe to say that this was one of THE finds of the 2006 downloading season!


Anonymous said...

Ha-ha-ha. My grandfather was Milton Davis! I wish he had been alive when I heard this story so I could have asked him about all the details. I bet it was a dilly.

CaptainOT said...

Anon 3:40 PM - If you ever find out the details, let us know!

Anon from "Welcome" - Check out the "Repost Request" section in the FLLLL forums. There's a good chance that if you request it there, it will be filled.