Inducted: April 16, 2016

Paul Whiteman

Born in Denver in 1890, Whiteman was raised in serious music by his father Wilberforce, director of music for the Denver Public Schools. As a student at East High School, he learned viola and started in 1916 with the Denver Symphony Orchestra as first chair.


After time with the San Francisco Symphony, he formed the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1918.

The nine-piece ensemble had relocated to New York City by 1920; it played the Palais Royal for the next four years—the earliest dance band from the West to take the East Coast by storm. In 1924, Whiteman staged a concert blending symphonic music and jazz at Aeolian Hall, New York’s temple of classical music. George Gershwin, playing piano, introduced “Rhapsody in Blue,” which became Whiteman’s theme song.

Whiteman had the country’s largest and best-paid dance orchestra, an imposing ensemble of up to 35 musicians—the first to play arrangements; the first to use full brass and reed sections; the first to tour Europe. Sidemen included many greats and future bandleaders—Bix Beiderbecke, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Johnny Mercer and Jack Teagarden. In late 1926, Whiteman signed the Rhythm Boys to sing for his band; Bing Crosby’s prominence in the trio helped launch his career.

Whiteman had 28 No. 1 records during the Roaring ’20s, and his version of “Ol’ Man River” with Paul Robeson on vocals would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006.

By 1928, Whiteman was on the air when live radio programming was on the increase. He and the band made The King of Jazz for Universal Pictures in 1930, one of the first feature-length movies filmed entirely in Technicolor. As the band became more of a show unit, the size decreased, but as late as 1938, Whiteman’s personnel roster included 27 musicians and a vocalist.

When disc jockeys took over radio, Whiteman briefly spun platters on ABC. After television came onto the market, he made a number of special appearances and was Jackie Gleason’s summer replacement in 1955. In the early 1960s, he promoted sports car racing in Florida and California. Whiteman died in a Pennsylvania hospital in 1967 at the age of 77.


The Paul Whiteman Orchestra was the earliest dance band from the West to take the East Coast by storm.

Paul Whiteman Discography

16 Classic Performances

1932 – Willow Weep for Me

1921 – Make Believe

1934 – You’re The Top

1978 – A Paul Whiteman Concert

1920 – Wang Wang Blues

1920 – Whispering

1924 – Somebody Loves Me

The Complete Capitol Recordings

1928 – Ramona

1952 – An American in Paris

1954 – Rhapsody in Blue

1929 – Coquette

1939 – My Fantasy

1972 – Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra

1921 – My Mammy

1923 – You Remind Me of My Mother

1928 – Mississippi Mud

1922 – Wonderful One

1942 – Trav’lin Light

1923 – I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise

1921 – Say It With Music

1924 – Rhapsody in Blue

1998 – Greatest Hits

1921 – Second Hand Rose

1991 – King of Jazz

1954 – All Time Dance Party Vol 1

1921 – Cherie

1924 – When the One You Love Loves You

1959 – The night I played 666 Fifth Avenue

1922 – Three O’clock in the Morning

1926 – Birth of the Blues

1954 – Cavalcade of Dance

1930 – Body and Soul

1933 – As Thousands Cheer

1932 – Grand Canyon Suite

1954 – All Time Dance Party Vol 2

1959 – Cavalcade of Music

1928 – Ol’ Man River

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