Ben Selvin

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Ben Selvin
Ben Selvin.jpg
Ben Selvin, c. 1945
Background information
Birth name Benjamin Bernard Selvin
Born (1898-03-05)March 5, 1898
New York City
Died July 15, 1980(1980-07-15) (aged 82)
New York City
Genres Jazz, big band
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader, record producer

Benjamin Bernard Selvin (March 5, 1898 – July 15, 1980) was an American musician, bandleader, and record producer. He was known as the Dean of Recorded Music.

Selvin was the son of Jewish Russian immigrants. He started his professional life at age 15 as a fiddle player in New York City night clubs. Six years later, as leader of his own dance band, the Novelty Orchestra, he released the biggest-selling popular song in the first quarter-century of recorded music. "Dardanella" sold more than six million copies and an additional million pieces of sheet music. It was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) that was presented to Selvin on his retirement on March 14, 1963.[1]

According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Selvin recorded more musical sides (on 78-rpm discs) than any other person. One reason for this prolific output is that he recorded for dozens of different record labels during this productive time in the industry, using a different name for each label. His output has been estimated at 13,000 to 20,000 song titles.


Selvin started recording for Victor in 1919. He proceeded to record for almost all record companies at the time including Paramount, OKeh, Emerson, Lyric, Arto, Cardnal, Vocalion, Pathe, Federal, Brunswick, Grey Gull, Banner (and the related dime store labels), and Columbia. From 1922-1925, over half of his records were on Vocalion, but he apparently did not have an exclusive contract with any of these labels until he signed with Columbia in 1927.


From 1927 to 1934 Selvin was artists and repertoire (A&R) director for Columbia Records, where his many productions included musicians Manny Klein, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, and Bunny Berigan. Many of these recordings are collectable and prized (especially those recorded in 1931-1934).

There were incorrect reports that Ben Selvin's Band played under the name "Perley Stevens and his Orchestra". Perley Stevens occasionally played with Ben Selvin's Band and many others, including Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras and Paul Whiteman's Band. During the Columbia era, Selvin recorded under many different names (for Columbia, OKeh, Odeon, Parlophone, Harmony, Diva, Velvet Tone, and Clarion) including

  • The Broadway Nightlites
  • The Knickerbockers
  • The Columbians
  • The Cavaliers
  • Barney Trimble and his Oklahomans
  • Jerry Mason and his Californians
  • The Harmonians
  • Rudy Marlow and his Orchestra
  • Columbia Photo Players
  • Frank Auburn and his Orchestra
  • Kolster Dance Orchestra
  • Lloyd Keating and his Music
  • Earl Marlow and his Orchestra
  • Ed Loyd and his Orchestra
  • Ray Seeley and his Orchestra
  • Sam Nash and his Orchestra
  • Mickie Alpert and his Orchestra
  • Johnny Walker and his Orchestra
  • Chester Leighton and his Sophomores
  • Wally Edwards and his Orchestra
  • Roy Carroll and his Sands Point Orchestra
  • Buddy Campbell and his Orchestra
  • Golden Terrace Orchestra
  • Bar Harbor Society Orchestra
  • Ted Raph and his Orchestra
  • Georgia Moonlight Serenaders
  • Cloverdale Country Club Orchestra
  • Ed Parker and his Orchestra

After Columbia[edit]

Selvin helped develop Muzak in the mid-1930s. He was musical director of Majestic Records beginning in 1947. He was a vice-president and A&R director (artists and repertoire) at Columbia Records in charge of the recordings of Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark in the late 1940s and early '50s.

He was an A&R director at RCA Victor in charge of the company's popular Camden Records label and served as the musical director for a recording in 1954 with John Serry Sr. (See RCA Thesaurus). In 1956 he served once again as musical director with Serry for another swing jazz album at Dot Records (See Squeeze Play).

After retirement, he became a consultant to 3M, helping them make the transition from vinyl records to audio cassettes.

Selected discography[edit]

The Knickerbockers (Ben Selvin & His Orch.)
NYC – Apr. 10th, 1925
Voc. vocal breaks by Ben Selvin
Columbia 355–D, mx.140514–1
Selvin's Novelty Orchestra
NYC – Nov., 1920
Voc. Arthur Hall
Grey Gull L–1036–(a), mx.J–3–10
  • "So This Is Venice"
Ben Selvin & His Moulin Rouge Orchestra
NYC – Dec., 1923
Voc. Irving Kaufman
Vocalion A–14757, mx.12641
  • "Steppin' in Society" (the Columbia 78 rpm version)
The Knickerbockers
NYC – May 26th, 1925
Columbia 391–D, mx.W–140623–2
  • "We'll Have a New Home (In the Morning)"
Ben Selvin & His Orchestra
NYC – Dec. 28th, 1927
Vocs. unidentified trio
Columbia 1274–D, mx.W–145445
Annette Hanshaw
(Ben Selvin & His Orchestra – vocs. Annette Hanshaw & The Rollickers)
NYC – Feb. 11th, 1930
Diva Records 3106–G; Harmony 1106–H; Velvet Tone 2106–V
(Felix Bernard – Johnny S. Black)
(Six-million seller – No. 1 hit for 13 weeks, 24 in charts)
Selvin's Novelty Orchestra
NYC – Nov. 20th, 1919
Victor 18633–A, mx.23344–3
(John Kellette – Jaan Kenbrovin)
(No. 1 hit for 4 weeks)
Selvin's Novelty Orchestra
NYC – Jul. 31st, 1919
Victor 18603–A, mx.B–22966–6
(Richard RodgersLorenz Hart)
(No. 1 hit for 4 weeks)
The Knickerbockers
NYC – Jul. 15th, 1925
Columbia 422–D, mx.W–140765
(Richard Rodgers – Lorenz Hart)
(No. 2 hit)
The Knickerbockers
NYC – Jul. 15th, 1925
Columbia 422–D, mx.W–140766
(Jimmy McHughDorothy Fields)
(No. 2 hit)
The Knickerbockers
Voc. Vaughn De Leath
NYC – Jun. 1st, 1928
Columbia 1424–D, mx.W–146380
(Ray HendersonBuddy DeSylvaLew Brown)
(No. 2 hit)
Eddie Thomas' Collegians (and/or) The Broadway Nitelites (Ben Selvin & His Orch.) –
Voc. Jack Parker
NYC – Oct. 19th, 1928
Columbia 1604–D, mx.W–147140–3


  • Johnson, Richard J., and Shirley, Bernard H. (American Dance Bands on Record and Film 1915–1942. Rustbooks, 2010.
  • Rust, Brian. American Dance Discography. Arlington House, 1975.


  1. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 11. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.