Roger Wolfe Kahn
Kahn circa 1925
|Birth name||Roger Wolff Kahn|
|Born||October 19, 1907|
Morristown, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||July 12, 1962 54) (aged|
Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Bandleader, composer, test pilot, aviator|
|Instruments||Saxophone, violin, drums, piano, etc.|
Roger Wolfe Kahn (October 19, 1907 – July 12, 1962) was an American jazz and popular musician, composer, bandleader (Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra) and an aviator.
Roger Wolfe Kahn (originally spelled "Wolff") was born in Morristown, New Jersey, into a wealthy German Jewish banking family. His parents were Adelaide "Addie" (Wolff) and Otto Hermann Kahn, a famous banker and patron of the arts. His maternal grandfather was banker Abraham Wolff. Otto and Roger Kahn were the first father and son to appear separately on the cover of Time magazine: Otto in November 1925 and Roger in September 1927, aged 19.
On 16 August 1926, Time magazine wrote: "If it is strange that Otto Hermann Kahn, sensitive patron of high art in Manhattan, should have a saxophone-tooting, banjo-plunking, clarinet-wailing, violin-jazzing son, it is stranger still that that son, Roger Wolfe Kahn, has become a truly outstanding jazzer at the perilous age of 18. Roger's ten orchestras, one of which he leads, have netted him some $30,000".
Kahn began studying the violin aged sevenand is said to have learned to play eighteen musical instruments before starting to lead his own orchestra in 1923, aged only 16. At the age of ten, Kahn had bought a ukulele in a Ditson Music Shop in Manhattan together with special-priced instruction on how to play; such was his keen interest in music. The ukulele lured him away from his studies at St. Bernard's School and turned his mind toward violins, pianos, banjos and jazz orchestras. At St. Bernard's he took no more interest in athletics than he did in studies or in social activities. By the age of sixteen, he’d rejected studying at college. Instead, he formed his own booking agency and organized a paying band and installed it at the Knickerbocker Grill in New York. He could play every instrument in the outfit, all self-taught, and his favorite instruments to play were the piano and saxophone. By the time he reached nineteen, he had eleven orchestras on his books that played in resorts and hotels from Newport, Rhode Island to Florida. They’d netted him personally an average of $50,000 a year for the four years of their existence. His success enabled him to pursue his passion for composing music and aviation.
In 1925, Kahn appeared in a short film made in Lee De Forest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process. Kahn hired many famous jazz musicians and singers of the day to play and sing in his band, especially during recording sessions (e.g.) Tommy Dorsey, Morton Downey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden, Red Nichols, Libby Holman, Gertrude Niesen, Franklyn Baur, Dick Robertson, Elmer Feldkamp and Gene Krupa. Early on in his career Kahn made several recordings under the name Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Hotel Biltmore Orchestra. It was during September, 1925, that Joe Venuti joined the Kahn Orchestra during their residency at the New York Biltmore Hotel.
On 15 December 1925, Kahn and his Orchestra recorded four takes of the song Rhythm Of The Day for Victor Records and for some reason Victor chose not to release any of them. Undeterred, Kahn wrote the song Following You Around, which made him money and George Whiteman went on to arrange the score of Kahn’s stage musical Rhapsurdity. Another musical comedy Kahn wrote, (a satire on musical comedy) called Hearts and Flowers, was produced by Horace Liveright.
He made recordings for:
In February 1926, Kahn's recording of I'm Sitting On Top Of The World charted at #9. It was reported in Variety, (September 29, 1926); "Roger Wolfe Kahn and his original Victor orchestra of eleven are getting $4200 for five and a half days booking commencing October 4 at the New Orpheum Palace, Chicago, which Kahn's band will headline at the opening attraction. The Kahn outfit returns to the Albee, Brooklyn, NY followed by the Palace Theatre, New York, following which they commence rehearsals for their new cafe, Le Perroquet de Paris, scheduled for opening in November".
Kahn fronted several fashionable night clubs in New York. One of his own clubs, Le Perroquet de Paris, opened in New York in November 1926 with a five-dollar cover charge. On 16 August 1926, Time magazine wrote: "Last week, Roger announced his purchase of Giro's (night club) in Manhattan; his partner is Rene Racover of the Perroquet in Paris (France); his resort's new name is Perroquet de Paris."Kahn spent $250,000 of his father’s money on decorating the club and installing a silver stage proscenium. The club had a mirrored dance floor and aquariums beneath the individual tables and Kahn made a point of following the Parisian example of giving expensive souvenirs to the women that visited his clubs. At Le Perroquet de Paris he gave each female guest a bottle of premier perfume. Variety magazine reported Le Perroquet de Paris to be, "the last gasp in smart night clubs. Ultra artistic with an ultra 'In following' (with) the millionaire maestro's own crack dance band. Be sure to make it. $5 couvert."
In 1927, Kahn produced two Vitaphone film shorts called Night Club.One short featured an act called the Williams Sisters (a singing/dancing duo). Both shorts were filmed on February 14, 1927 at the Manhattan Opera House on 315 West 34th Street in New York, and the Williams Sisters were featured in the short numbered Vitaphone #469 as 'signing and dancing youngsters' performing a number titled "Thinking of You." The Vitaphone film was an early attempt at sound movies which used both film and disk for sound. A reviewer in the San Antonio Express, April 10, 1927 wrote: "Roger Wolfe Kahn's specialty on the Vitaphone is undoubtedly the best subject offered since the installation of the devise. His instrumental harmony is wonderful and original... and the Williams Sisters act brings the act above par for any circuit." A copy of the sound disk supposedly exits at the Library of Congress in Washington, but the film elements are missing and presumed lost.
In some respect, due to his father's prominence, Kahn’s imagined Gatsbyesque lifestyle made him a regular feature of gossip columns, although in reality he was carefully unobtrusive and shied away from company. Were it not for his precipitous enthusiasms and precocious successes he may well have attracted little more than statistical notice. Unlike his younger days when he took little interest in fashion, by the time he’d reached twenty, as an eligible bachelor he’d grown more debonair. During one trip to Europe in 1927, he returned to New York City with fifty new tailored-suits and untold neckties, shoes and hats. It was even reported in the press that during the trip he’d become engaged to marry a Miss Virginia Franck (a professional dancer), which turned out to be an untruth.
During 1927, Kahn hired Hannah Williams from the Williams Sisters to dance in a revue at his New York Night Club, Le Perroquet de Paris. It was during her engagement at the club that she popularised the song, "Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)".
In 1928, Kahn co-wrote the jazz standard "Crazy Rhythm" with Irving Caesar and Joseph Meyer for the Broadway musical Here's Howe.
Kahn always had fun leading and conducting his orchestra. Reportedly, when the band was playing especially well he used to throw himself onto the floor and wave his legs in the air.However, the passion Kahn had for music was usurped by his deeper passion for flying and it was during his many trips accompanying his parents to Europe that Kahn developed his aviation skills. During one trip to France he chartered his own plane in Paris and flew it to London. Unlike the transatlantic hero, Charles Lindbergh, who after his triumphant arrival in Paris was to cross the English Channel by air the same day and had to postpone the flight on account of a heavy fog, Kahn flew anyway. As well as owning a string of expensive motor vehicles and a speedboat, Kahn went on to purchase a stunt airplane, which he flew to compete in transcontinental races. Kahn’s love of ‘speed’ became an ongoing worry for his parents.
On March 29, 1934, Kahn’s father, Otto Hermann Kahn died.Doubtless, his father’s sudden and unexpected death played a major role in Kahn reassessing his own life and career. Kahn's interest in aviation was no secret; he was already a member of the Advisory Board for the American Society for the Promotion of Aviation. He joined as early as 1928 and in 1933, Kahn had become a test pilot for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation on Long Island, a well-known aircraft manufacturer. When, in 1934, Kahn finally quit show business to devote his time to his other great passion in life, aviation, it came as no surprise to those closest to him.
Kahn would later excel in the role of managing the technical service and sales division of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and Grumman built a special sales aircraft, known as a G-58B (a modified F8F Bearcat fighter plane), in which he toured numerous military bases across North America during his career with the company. In 1943, Kahn was chairman of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences and later became its vice-president . In 1956, Kahn became a member of the Laura Taber Barbour Air Safety Award Board (LTBASAB).Kahn also became chairman of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA).
In 1938, the Kahn Orchestra reformed to perform a special one-off concert, in what could possibly have been the Kahn Orchestra’s last ever concert. The show was held in honor of the unveiling of the enormous Golden Age Aviation Mural installed at Roosevelt Field Airport: the mural was painted by the artist Aline Rhonie Hofheimer (a pilot in her own right) who had been commissioned to paint a fresco mural on the north brick wall of Roosevelt Field Hangar F. The mural commemorated the history of aviation from 1908 to 1927 ending with Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight.After Rhonie's mural was completed, there was an artist's reception and party held at Roosevelt Field Airport on October 15, 1938. The invitation’s read, ‘You are invited to attend a party and barn dance given in honor of Aline Rhonie commemorating her achievement in the completion of the world’s largest aviation fresco depicting the history of aviation.’ It was at this reception that ‘"A" Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra’ performed. "A" Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra might have meant a tribute-type band, or it may have been that Rhonie was able to use her pilot network to coax Kahn to reform a band to perform during this special occasion. The party ran from ten in the evening until dawn. The New York Times on October 17, 1938 reported, 'The fresco was unveiled at a party on Saturday night, attended by more than 500 guests. This all-night party, with informal dress, was probably THE event for October at Roosevelt Field.' It doesn't mention in the report whether Kahn himself fronted the orchestra.
Roger Wolff Kahn was born in Morristown, New Jersey, into a family surrounded by wealth, art and artistic people. He had one elder brother, Gilbert, and two elder sisters, Maude and Margaret Dorothy. It was at Morristown that the children grew up and where their days were carefully scheduled and regulated by their mother Adelaide Wolff Kahn. During week days the children followed a scheduled program of lessons interspersed with play. At the weekends, the routine was shattered with the arrival of their father, Otto Kahn, from New York. For when he was near his children, he was irrepressible and would constantly divert them and give them his undivided attention. Otto Kahn's wisdom in life was to "Live life. Love beauty. Be happy," and as such, young Kahn grew up with encouragement from his parents to pursue his dreams. When Kahn was five, he and his family moved from New Jersey to live in London where they resided for two years at St Dunstan's House in Regent's Park; this was rebuilt as Winfield House in the 1930s and is now the American Ambassador's residence. The house had the largest private garden in London second only to the garden at Buckingham Palace. The constant travelling Kahn experienced during his childhood accompanying his parents to Europe gave Kahn and his brother and sisters a broader education than most children would have received. Kahn's passion for aviation grew from these frequent trips abroad.
In 1931, Kahn made headlines on the New York society pages when he married Broadway musical comedy actress Hannah Williams on January 16, 1931.The wedding was held at Oheka Castle, his family's country estate on Long Island, and the marriage was kept secret from the public for two weeks, until the Broadway show Williams was appearing in, Sweet and Low , had had its final performances. The American public took the newlyweds to their hearts and Kahn referred to his wife as the "Cheerful Little Earful", after the song of the same name which his wife had sung on Broadway. The marriage did not last and the couple made headlines again when they divorced two years later and when, after only a few weeks, Williams married boxing champion Jack Dempsey. Two days after the divorce, on April 7, 1933, Roger Wolfe Kahn married Edith May Nelson, a Maine politician's daughter and they lived on Muttontown Road, Syosset, Long Island. Their marriage lasted until Kahn's death of a heart attack in New York City on July 12, 1962. By his second wife, he had two children, Peter W. Kahn and Dacia W. Kahn.
In the 1979 film The Jerk , listening to a version of Kahn's song Crazy Rhythm on the radio inspires Steve Martin's character to hitchhike to St. Louis, setting in motion his rise, fall, and eventual reunion with his adopted family.
Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra have four song entries in the ‘Top 1000 instrumentals of all time’, no. 360 - "Mountain Greenery", no. 782 - "A Little Bungalow", no. 823 - "Clap Yo' Hands", and at no. 889 - "I'm Sitting on Top of the World".
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than six decades.
The Jazz Singer is a 1927 American musical drama film directed by Alan Crosland. It is the first feature-length motion picture with not only a synchronized recorded music score but also lip-synchronous singing and speech in several isolated sequences. Its release heralded the commercial ascendance of sound films and ended the silent film era. It was produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system. The film features six songs performed by Al Jolson. It is based on the play of the same name by Samson Raphaelson, which itself was adapted from one of his short stories titled "The Day of Atonement".
This is a list of notable events in music that took place in the year 1925.
James Wesley "Bubber" Miley was an American early jazz trumpet and cornet player, specializing in the use of the plunger mute.
Otto Hermann Kahn was a German-born American investment banker, collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts.
Giuseppe "Joe" Venuti was an Italian-American jazz musician and pioneer jazz violinist.
Noble Lee Sissle was an American jazz composer, lyricist, bandleader, singer, and playwright, best known for the Broadway musical Shuffle Along (1921), and its hit song "I'm Just Wild About Harry".
John Waldo Green was an American songwriter, composer, musical arranger, conductor and pianist. He was given the nickname "Beulah" by colleague Conrad Salinger. His most famous song was one of his earliest, "Body and Soul" from the revue, Three's A Crowd. Green won four Academy Awards for his film scores and a fifth for producing a short musical film, and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. He was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Gold Diggers of Broadway is a 1929 American Pre-Code musical comedy film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Winnie Lightner and Nick Lucas. Distributed by Warner Bros., the film is the second two-color Technicolor all-talking feature-length film.
"The Man I Love" is a popular standard with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother Ira. Part of the 1924 score for the Gershwin government satire Lady, Be Good as "The Girl I Love", the song was deleted from the show and from both the 1927 anti-war satire Strike Up the Band and 1928 Ziegfeld hit Rosalie after tryouts.
Tea for Two is a 1950 American musical film directed by David Butler. The screenplay by Harry Clork and William Jacobs was inspired by the 1925 stage musical No, No, Nanette, although the plot was changed considerably from the original book by Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel; and the score by Harbach, Irving Caesar, and Vincent Youmans was augmented with songs by other composers.
"Sometimes I'm Happy" is a popular song. The music was written by Vincent Youmans, the lyrics by Irving Caesar. The song was published in 1927 and introduced in the Broadway musical Hit the Deck, starring Stanley Holloway, and opened in April 1927.
"Crazy Rhythm" is a thirty-two-bar swing show tune written in 1928 by Irving Caesar with music by Joseph Meyer and Roger Wolfe Kahn for the Broadway musical Here's Howe.
Blackbirds of 1928 was a hit Broadway musical revue that starred Adelaide Hall, Bill Bojangles Robinson, Tim Moore and Aida Ward, with music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It contained the hit songs "Diga Diga Do", the duo's first hit, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "Bandanna Babies" and "I Must Have That Man" all sung by Hall.
Vic Berton, was an American jazz drummer.
The musical short can be traced back to the earliest days of sound films.
Aline "Pat" Rhonie Hofheimer Brooks was an American aviator. Rhonie had several firsts as a pilot and was one of the pioneering women aviation pilots in World War II. She became one of the first members of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Rhonie also drove an ambulance in France. Rhonie is also known for her aviation history mural which is now located at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology.
The period from the end of the First World War until the start of the Depression in 1929 is known as the "Jazz Age". Jazz had become popular music in America, although older generations considered the music immoral and threatening to cultural values. Dances such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom were very popular during the period, and jazz bands typically consisted of seven to twelve musicians. Important orchestras in New York were led by Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman and Duke Ellington. Many New Orleans jazzmen had moved to Chicago during the late 1910s in search of employment; among others, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and Jelly Roll Morton recorded in the city. However, Chicago's importance as a center of jazz music started to diminish toward the end of the 1920s in favor of New York.
Gertrude Niesen was an American torch singer, actress, comedian, and songwriter who achieved popular success in musicals and films in the 1930s and 1940s.
Roger Wolfe Kahn short biography
Roger Wolfe Kahn dies at 54
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