He was a jazz
bandleader born Jacob Charles Garber in Indianapolis, Indiana, as the tenth child in a family of
twelve children. He was raised
in Louisville, Kentucky from the time he moved there with his family
when he was three months old until he was thirteen.
When he was
thirteen he moved with the family to live near Philadelphia and here he became a student at Combs
Conservatory of Music studying the violin and attended the University of North Carolina.
professional career in music saw him becoming a the
leader os his own quartet in the New York area while he was still only 21. His
quartet enlarged into an orchestra and during the 1920s and ‘30s his
popularity had grown in the jazz world to the point that his “sweet
music” got him dubbed “The Idol of the Airwaves”.
didn’t just stick to leading his own ensembles,
however, as in the years following WWI aside from joining with Milton Davis
and establishing the Garber-Davis Orchestra, he performed as a member of
the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.
1924 he and Milton Davis went their own way and he put together his own
orchestra who were known for their performances of dance music. In 1933 he took over Freddie Large’s Orchestra and turned it into a big band
following the Great Depression.
The band then began releasing recordings for the Victor label which
brought him a lot of recognition and acclaim and got him the further nickname
of “The Mighty Little Maestro of Modern Melody”. The band then moved to making
recordings for the Decca label from 1935 until 1942.
When the next
war happened he started to perform swing jazz but his ability to record
with his band became more and more problematic due to recording
restrictions that had been put on during wartime. From the end of WWII he performed
constantly with his band and during the 1950s was a regular at gala horse
shows. For the rest of his
career until his retirement in 1971 he led his own ensembles and was known
for his renditions of “Mexicali Rose”
and “My Dear”. His daughter Janis led his band until 1973.
course of his career he appeared on television several times, recorded some
movie shorts and made more than 750 recordings. Just a small selection of these
recordings include America Swings:
The Great Jan Garber, Catalina Nights, College Songs Everybody Knows, Dance
Program, Dance to the Songs Everybody Knows, Everybody Dance with Jan
Garber and His Orchestra, Hot Years 1925-1930, Melody from the Sky, 1939-1941,
1946-1947, Plays 22 Original Big Band Records, Street of Dreams, Swinging
Sweet Bands: Vol. 2 and You
Stepped Out of a Dream as well as Tuneful
Twenties by Jack Crawford.
He passed away
in October 1977 in Shreveport,
Louisiana when he was 82 years old but his band
lives on and The Garber Orchestra still performs today.