Jan August

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August in 1959.

Jan August (born Jan Auggustoff; 24 September 1904 in New York City – 9 January 1976 in New York City) was an American pianist and xylophonist. He had a hit with his version of "Misirlou" in 1947 with Carl Frederick Tandberg.[1][2]

August, who was self-taught and began his career at age 17 in Greenwich Village, had hits with several other songs that blended classical styles and Latin beats. He was discovered in 1946 in a New York City nightclub by an executive for Diamond Records. The executive was so eager to have August with his label, he wrote the recording contract on one of the club's tablecloths.[3] Early in his career August recorded on the Diamond label ("Misirlou" is on his album Piano Magic for Diamond). He played his hit for the Press Photographers' Ball in Washington, DC, in 1947, and in turn, Harry Truman responded by playing the "Missouri Waltz" for August.[1]

In the early 1950s he was recording on Mercury; one notable Mercury side is a swinging and thoughtful arrangement of "Hot Lips".[4] Later LP albums demonstrated a shift away from August's distinctive earlier style, toward the semi-satirical "honky-tonk" style of the late 50s personified by such artists as Joe "Fingers" Carr.

In 1974, a musician calling himself Jan August played an extended engagement at St. Petersburg's La Ronda restaurant.[5] When a newspaper reporter for the St. Petersburg Times went to see him perform, she realized he did not look like Jan August and had a different musical style. She became suspicious and traced August through the musicians' union in New York City. August declined pressing charges, but indicated that his name could no longer be used by the other musician.[6]

August died of heart disease and was survived by his wife, Bette, three daughters and six grandchildren.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b c "Jan August, pianist, dies in New York". Bangor Daily News. January 19, 1976. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  2. ^ "Bass Player Marking 11th Year at Ricky's". Pasadena Star-News. April 25, 1969. Retrieved 2008-10-01. Bass player Carl F. Tandberg is an 11-year man at Dick White's Rickey's Restaurant in Alhambra and a 42-year man in the music business. ... before recording "Misirlou" with Jan August in 1945 [sic].
  3. ^ a b "Pianist Jan August Dies". Star-News. January 17, 1976. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  4. ^ Mercury Records ad featuring Jan August. Billboard. December 1, 1956. p. 29. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  5. ^ "ad for La Ronda restaurant featuring the Jan August imposter". The Evening Independent. July 25, 1974. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  6. ^ Shenk, Mary Nic (September 7, 1974). "Was Jan August Playing in Town? Well, Not Exactly". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved September 30, 2013.

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