Jean Goldkette

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Jean Goldkette
Background information
Birth nameJohn Jean Goldkette
Born(1893-03-18)March 18, 1893
Valenciennes, France(Disputed)
DiedMarch 24, 1962(1962-03-24) (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, dixieland
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader

John Jean Goldkette (March 18, 1893 – March 24, 1962) was a jazz pianist and bandleader.


Goldkette was reportedly born on March 18, 1893, in Valenciennes, France,[1][2] but there is evidence that he was born in Patras, Greece.[3][4] His mother, Angela Goldkette, was a circus performer from Denmark. His father is unknown.[3][4]

He spent his childhood in Greece and Russia, where he studied piano at the Moscow Conservatory as a child prodigy.[2][4] The family emigrated to the United States in 1911.[1] He performed in a classical ensemble in Chicago at the age of 18, later joining one of Edgar Benson's dance orchestras.[2]

He leased a ballroom in Detroit and formed a band which grew to success, and was the foundation for a business empire acting as an agency for twenty orchestras and owning many dance halls.[2] In 1936, he filed for bankruptcy; however, over the next three decades, he built up business again as a musician, conductor, and promoter. He married Lee McQuillen, a newspaperwoman, on March 4, 1939.[4]

Music career[edit]

He led many jazz and dance bands, of which the most popular was his Victor Recording Orchestra of 1924–1929. The band defeated Fletcher Henderson in a battle of the bands contest. The head arranger was Bill Challis and the musicians included Bix Beiderbecke, Steve Brown, Hoagy Carmichael, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Eddie Lang, Chauncey Morehouse, Don Murray, Bill Rank, and Spiegle Willcox.[1] Rex Stewart, a member of Henderson's band, wrote that "It was, without any question, the greatest in the world...the original predecessor to any large white dance orchestra that followed, up to Benny Goodman."[2] Brian Rust also called it "the greatest band of them all."[2]

Goldkette was music director for the Detroit Athletic Club for over 20 years and co-owned the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit with Charles Horvath, who performed with the Goldkette Victor Band in its early years. He owned his own entertainment company, Jean Goldkette's Orchestras and Attractions, working out of the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. He co-wrote the song "It's the Blues (No. 14 Blues)" which was recorded in Detroit and released by Victor. He also wrote the words to the 1926 song "New Steps".[5]

In 1927, Paul Whiteman hired most of Goldkette's better players[6][1] due to Goldkette's inability to meet payroll for his top-notch musicians. Goldkette helped organize McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Glen Gray's Orange Blossoms, which became popular as the Casa Loma Orchestra. In the 1930s, he left jazz to work as a booking agent and classical pianist. In 1939, he organized the American Symphony Orchestra which debuted at Carnegie Hall. Frankie Laine worked as Goldkette's librarian.[4]


He moved to California in 1961 and the following year died in Santa Barbara, California, of a heart attack at the age of 69.[7] He took a taxi to the hospital by himself and died that same day. He is buried in the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott. "Jean Goldkette". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Russel B. Nye (1976). Music in the Twenties: The Jean Goldkette Orchestra. Prospects, 1, pp 179-203 doi:10.1017/S0361233300004361
  3. ^ a b Anthony Baldwin Le Mysterieux Monsieur Goldkette
  4. ^ a b c d e f Archived 2016-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ 1953 Catalog of Copyright Entries.
  6. ^ "Jean Goldkette (1899-1962)". Red Hot Jazz Archive. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Goldkette, Jean - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved 2021-12-11.