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Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra records

 Collection
Identifier: M031

Scope and Content Note

The records of Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra (1915-1979) document the administrative and promotional activities as well as the musical development, style, and repertoire of this pioneering swing band.  The material offers insight into the history of the band and the musical careers and sensibilities of some of the band's more prominent members, including Glen Gray, Walter "Pee Wee" Hunt, Larry Wagner, and F.C. "Cork" O'Keefe.

The collection contains original musical scores and arrangements, photographs of Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra at all stages of the band's career, and newspaper clippings and scrapbooks documenting the band's performance history and reception by both critics and the public over time.  Also included are audio tapes of the Orchestra's recordings and interviews with band associates, phonograph records of original recordings and cover recordings of Big Band music (conducted by Gray in his later years), videotaped interviews of former band members, promotional and biographical materials, financial records, awards and citations received by Gray and the band, and some of Gray's personal effects.

Dates

  • 1915-1979

Creator

Conditions Governing Access:

Musical scores may not be performed until the copyright expires (see control file).

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Considered to be the first swing band in the United States, the Casa Loma Orchestra got its start in Detroit as Jean Goldkette and the Orange Blossoms.  In 1929 the band was scheduled to play at the exclusive Casa Loma, a new club in Toronto.  Later that year, the band adopted the club's name and set up a corporation, becoming the first cooperative band of its kind.  After playing at prestigious venues like New York's Roseland Ballroom and the Glen Island Casino, the Orchestra appeared on the "Camel Caravan" (1933), the first radio commercial series to feature a swing band.  After recording for Okeh Records, the Orchestra signed with Brunswick, then simultaneously with RCA Victor, recording under the names Casa Loma Orchestra and Glen Gray Orchestra, respectively.  Eventually, the band recorded exclusively for Brunswick, then Decca, under the name Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra.  Gray, a saxophonist, began fronting the band in 1937 and remained its leader until the group disbanded in 1950.  In 1956 Gray came out of retirement to record a popular series of phonograph records for Capitol Records, "Sounds of the Great Bands."  He died in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1963.

Chronology

  • ca. 1900 Glen Gray Knoblauch is born in Roanoke, Illinois.
  • 1919 "Spike" Gray starts Spike's Jazz Band.
  • 1926 Gray joins the saxophone section of Jean Goldkette's Detroit band, the Orange Blossoms.
  • 1929 The Orange Blossoms are scheduled to play at the new Canadian nightclub, the Casa Loma, built especially for the Prince of Wales.  Subsequently, the band changes its name to the Casa Loma Orchestra. The group dismisses its leader, Henry Biagini, and forms a corporation -- the first cooperative band of its kind – with Gray as president, Pat Davis as secretary-treasurer, and Francis "Cork" O'Keefe as manager. The band is offered a recording deal with Okeh Records while booked at New York's Roseland Ballroom.
  • ca. 1930-1934 The Casa Loma Orchestra leaves Okeh to record for Brunswick Records, then simultaneously for RCA Victor, under the names Casa Loma Orchestra and Glen Gray Orchestra, respectively.  The band then records exclusively for Brunswick under the name Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra.
  • 1933 The Orchestra appears on the first radio commercial series to feature a swing band, the "Camel Caravan." 
  • 1933-1934 The band plays summers at the Glen Island Casino (New Rochelle, NY) and winters at New York's Essex House.
  • 1934 The group leaves Brunswick to record exclusively for Decca Records.
  • 1935 The Orchestra plays at New York's Paramount Theater, inaugurating its famous stage-band policy.
  • 1937 Gray replaces Mel Jenssen as the band's leader. The CLO is named the best swing band in the country by Downbeat magazine.
  • 1938 The group is named the "sweetest" band in the country by Downbeat magazine.
  • 1941 The band appears in the film "Time Out for Rhythm."
  • 1943 Two of the band's most important members, trombonist Billy Rausch and vocalist Kenny Sargent, leave. The Casa Loma Orchestra appears in the film, "Gals, Inc." 
  • 1950 The Casa Loma Orchestra disbands.
  • 1956 Gray comes out of retirement to record a series of phonograph records for Capitol Records, entitled "Sounds of the Great Bands."
  • 1963 Gray dies in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
ca. 1900
Glen Gray Knoblauch is born in Roanoke, Illinois.
1919
"Spike" Gray starts Spike's Jazz Band.
1926
Gray joins the saxophone section of Jean Goldkette's Detroit band, the Orange Blossoms.
1929
The Orange Blossoms are scheduled to play at the new Canadian nightclub, the Casa Loma, built especially for the Prince of Wales.  Subsequently, the band changes its name to the Casa Loma Orchestra. The group dismisses its leader, Henry Biagini, and forms a corporation -- the first cooperative band of its kind – with Gray as president, Pat Davis as secretary-treasurer, and Francis "Cork" O'Keefe as manager. The band is offered a recording deal with Okeh Records while booked at New York's Roseland Ballroom.
ca. 1930-1934
The Casa Loma Orchestra leaves Okeh to record for Brunswick Records, then simultaneously for RCA Victor, under the names Casa Loma Orchestra and Glen Gray Orchestra, respectively.  The band then records exclusively for Brunswick under the name Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra.
1933
The Orchestra appears on the first radio commercial series to feature a swing band, the "Camel Caravan." 
1933-1934
The band plays summers at the Glen Island Casino (New Rochelle, NY) and winters at New York's Essex House.
1934
The group leaves Brunswick to record exclusively for Decca Records.
1935
The Orchestra plays at New York's Paramount Theater, inaugurating its famous stage-band policy.
1937
Gray replaces Mel Jenssen as the band's leader. The CLO is named the best swing band in the country by Downbeat magazine.
1938
The group is named the "sweetest" band in the country by Downbeat magazine.
1941
The band appears in the film "Time Out for Rhythm."
1943
Two of the band's most important members, trombonist Billy Rausch and vocalist Kenny Sargent, leave. The Casa Loma Orchestra appears in the film, "Gals, Inc." 
1950
The Casa Loma Orchestra disbands.
1956
Gray comes out of retirement to record a series of phonograph records for Capitol Records, entitled "Sounds of the Great Bands."
1963
Gray dies in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Extent

24.00 cubic feet (48 containers, 3 flat file folders)

Language

English

Overview

Considered to be the first swing band in the United States, the Casa Loma Orchestra got its start in Detroit as Jean Goldkette and the Orange Blossoms. Glen Gray, a saxophonist, began fronting the band in 1937 and remained its leader until the group disbanded in 1950.

Overview

The records of Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra (1915-1979) document the administrative and promotional activities as well as the musical development, style, and repertoire of this pioneering swing band. The collection contains original musical scores and arrangements, photographs of Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra at all stages of the band's career, and newspaper clippings and scrapbooks documenting the band's performance history and reception by both critics and the public over time.  Also included are audio tapes of the Orchestra's recordings and interviews with band associates, phonograph records of original Casa Loma Orchestra recordings and cover recordings of Big Band music (conducted by Gray in his later years), videotaped interviews of former band members, promotional and biographical materials, financial records, awards and citations received by Gray and the band, and some of Gray's personal effects.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into 5 series: 1. Subject Files; 2. Interviews; 3. Photographs; 4. Musical Scores; and 5. Musical Recordings.

Physical Location

69/1, 70/4, FF4/D8

Bibliography

  • The Big Bands Database.  (http://www.nfo.net/)
  • Cape Cod Jazz Society.  The Glen Gray/Casa Loma Collection. Jazz Notes. 1979 (Nov.-Dec.).
  • Chilton, John.  Who's Who of Jazz: Storyville to Swing Street. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1972.
  • Claghorn, Charles Eugene.  Biographical Dictionary of American Music.  West Nyack, NY: Parker, 1973.
  • Garrod, Charles.  Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra. Zephyrhills, FL: Joyce Record Club, 1993.
  • Gottlieb, William P.  The Golden Age of Jazz.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.
  • Hamm, Charles.  Yesterdays: Or, Popular Song in America.  New York: Norton, 1979.
  • Jackson, Arthur.  The World of Big Bands: The Sweet and Swinging Years.  New York: Arco, 1977.
  • The Musicians Birthday Page.  (http://www2.coastalnet.com/~r3s5p6ws/birthday/birthday.html)
  • Simon, George T.  The Big Bands.  New York: Macmillian, 1971.
Title
Finding aid for the Gray, Glen and the Casa Loma Orchestra Records
Author
Finding aid prepared by Karen Abramson
Date
June 1999
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US