Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Billed as "the Idol of the Airwaves," Jan Garber led a big band in the 1930s that was the epitome of "sweet" music. His reed section's quavering saxophones (sounding as if they were overflowing with emotion that almost bordered on sarcasm) were the band's trademark and, when it came to corn, few could compete with Garber. Many of his prime period's recordings are barely listenable today, but strangely enough, Garber was responsible for some worthwhile music during two periods. Garber went to the University of North Carolina, and shortly after World War I he played violin in the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. In 1921 with pianist Milton Davis, he co-founded the Garber-Davis Orchestra. Chelsea Quealey and Harry Goldfield (who would eventually join Paul Whiteman) were the orchestra's trumpeters. In 1924 Garber and Davis split up and during the 1924-1930 period the Jan Garber Orchestra played dance music and some hot jazz. With the rise of the Depression, Garber's ensemble was struggling. After hearing the very commercial Freddie Large Orchestra in 1933, he arranged to take over the big band and adopted a very sweet sound, in the tradition of Guy Lombardo. His orchestra recorded popular recordings for Victor up to 1935 and then for Decca during the next seven years. In 1942 Jan Garber surprised his fans by switching gears and reorganizing his orchestra into a swing band; he was apparently persuaded by his 12-year old daughter! Gray Rains' arrangements transformed the orchestra's sound and Liz Tilton took pleasing vocals, but the recording ban of 1942-1944 kept the big band from recording much, and by 1945 Garber had returned to his former sweet sound. He continued working on at least a part-time basis into the mid-'70s, performing music that pleased dancers but was so commercial as to now sound very dated.