Jean Goldkette

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Jean Goldkette
Jean Goldkette, William P. Gottlieb's office, New York, ca. June 1947 (William P. Gottlieb).jpg
Background information
Birth name John Jean Goldkette
Born March 18, 1893
Died March 24, 1962 (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California
Genres Jazz, dixieland
Occupation(s) Bandleader
Instruments Piano
Years active 50

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


Goldkette is said to have been born March 18, 1893 in Valenciennes, France.[1][2] However, there is some evidence that despite what he claimed, he was actually born in Patras, Greece.[3][4] He was named after his mother, Angela Goldkette, a circus peformer from Denmark, his father being 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, and he performed in a classical ensemble in Chicago at the age of 15, 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, but 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]

He moved to California in 1961, and the following year died in Santa Barbara, California, of a heart attack, aged 69. 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]

Music career[edit]

He led many jazz and dance bands, of which the best known was his Victor Recording Orchestra of 1924–1929, which included, at various times, Bix Beiderbecke, Hoagy Carmichael, Chauncey Morehouse, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Bill Rank, Eddie Lang, Frankie Trumbauer, Pee Wee Russell, Steve Brown, Joe Venuti, and arranger Robert Ginzler among others. Vocalists included the Keller Sisters and Lynch. Rex Stewart, a member of Fletcher Henderson's band at the time, 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]

Jean Goldkette was also the Music Director for the Detroit Athletic Club for over 20 years, and co-owned the legendary Graystone Ballroom with Charles Horvath, who also 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 still-standing Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. He co-wrote the song "It's the Blues (No. 14 Blues)" which was recorded in Detroit and released on Victor.

In 1927, Paul Whiteman, the controversially self-proclaimed "King of Jazz," hired away most of Goldkette's better players[5] due to Goldkette not being able to meet the payroll for his top-notch musicians. Goldkette later helped organize McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Glen Gray's Orange Blossoms, which became famous 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]


  1. ^ Ted Gioia: The History of Jazz, Oxford University Press 2011, p. 83
  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
  4. ^ a b c d e f
  5. ^ Goldkette on The Red Hot Jazz Archive Retrieved 19 June 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Russel B. Nye (1976). Music in the Twenties: The Jean Goldkette Orchestra. Prospects, 1, pp 179–203 doi:10.1017/S0361233300004361

External links[edit]