Greg Poppleton

21 May - Hear 1940s Jazz Harpsichord on this week's Phantom Dancer LISTEN

Jan Savitt and his Top Hatters – Phantom Dancer 1 Dec 2020

Jan Savitt, child prodigy classical violinist and popular dance band leader is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist. You’ll Jan Savitt and his Top Hatters in broadcasts from 1937-39.


The Phantom Dancer is your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV which I’ve been bringing you every week on 107.3 2SER Sydney since 1985. Listen here

From Jan Savitt’s IMDB Bio and other sources,

“Jacob Sarvetnick was a child prodigy on the violin, destined to become Jan Savitt, leader of a popular swing band. Of Russian-Jewish ancestry, his father had variously worked as a motor mechanic and as a drummer in Tsar Nicholas II‘s Imperial Regimental Orchestra.

In the U.S. from the age of fifteen, Jan became the youngest musician to play in the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, and, from there, he advanced to concert master for the great Leopold Stokowski.

In the wake of multiple scholarships and being recipient of the Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal Award, he was soon leading his own string quartet. In 1935, after graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music with a B.A., Jan suddenly decided to forsake classical for popular music and organise a dance band. He was eventually engaged by Philadelphia radio station KYW as musical director.


In 1938, Jan Savitt & His Top Hatters broadcast from 5–5:30 pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as the KYW staff orchestra at KYW/NBC in Philadelphia. Saturday’s weekly broadcast was one hour, coast-to-coast.

The group also played at the Earl Theatre and performed with The Andrews Sisters and The Three Stooges. The resulting national broadcasts proved popular with audiences and ‘Jan Savitt & His Top Hatters’ (so named, because their ensemble uniform consisted of white tie, tails and top hat) soon became one of the most highly rated big bands in America, playing the swank hotels, theatres and ballrooms. The band featured a unique beat called ‘shuffle rhythm’ (which may, or may not, have been originated by another bandleader, Henry Busse).

The ‘Top Hatters’ comprised between fifteen and eighteen musicians, plus vocalists. Famous sidemen included trombonist and future television composer Earle Hagen, drummer Nick Fatool and trombonist Urbie Green. Among the vocalists were Carlotta Dale, future movie actress Gloria DeHaven and Bon Bon (aka George Tunnell), the first black musician to work long-term in a white orchestra. Jan’s theme song was “Quaker City Jazz”.

Other unique compositions for the band included the swinging “720 In the Books” (by arranger Johnny Watson), “Meadowbrook Shuffle”, “It’s a Wonderful World” and “Now and Forever”. Jan also had noteworthy hits with his interpretation of “Tuxedo Junction” and “Make Believe Island”. By the early 1940’s, he added swing versions of classical compositions (mostly arranged by Jack Pleis), such as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, “Prelude to Carmen” and Claude Debussy‘s “Afternoon of a Faun” to his repertoire.

The band was featured in several B-movies, released by Warner Brothers and Columbia. After World War II, Jan was forced to reduce the size of his band (now based on the West Coast) to eight musicians, due to tax debts. In 1948, on his way to a one-nighter in Sacramento, he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and later died in a local hospital at the age of just thirty-six.

Savitt was married to model Barbara Ann Stillwell from 1940 until his death in 1948, and had two daughters with her, Devi Marilyn and Jo Ann. Jo Ann was married to Joel Douglas, son of Kirk, from 2004 until her death in 2013.


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney, Live Stream Community Radio Network Show CRN #444

107.3 2SER Tuesday 1 December 2020 12:04 – 2:00pm (+11 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm National Program 5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am 3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am 4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am 2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am 2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4pm 2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4pm 3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm 7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm 1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am 2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm 5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm 7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am 3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am 6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am 3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
Women on 1940s Radio 
Theme + Down By The Riverside
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (voc) Lucky Millinder Orchestra
‘Jubilee’ AFRS Hollywood 2 Aug 1943
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
Rose Murphy ‘The Chi-Chi Girl’
‘Jubilee’ AFRS Hollywood 18 Jan 1945
Sweet Georgia Brown
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm
‘Jubilee’ AFRS Hollywood 1945
Prelude in C#m + One O’Clock Jump (close)
Dorothy Donnegan
‘Jubilee’ AFRS Hollywood 5 Jun 1944
Set 2
Paul Whiteman 1936 
Theme + Cosi Cosa
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) The King’s Men
‘Musical Varieties’ WJZ NBC Blue NY 12 Jan 1936
The Music Goes Around
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc + tb) Jack Teagarden
‘Musical Varieties’ WJZ NBC Blue NY 12 Jan 1936
More Than You Know
Paul Whiteman Orchestra (voc) Morton Downey
‘Musical Varieties’ WJZ NBC Blue NY 12 Jan 1936
Soap Ad and Station ID
Paul Whiteman Orchestra
‘Musical Varieties’ WJZ NBC Blue NY 12 Jan 1936
Set 3
Midday Music 1945 
News + My Dog Has Fleas
Dave Rose Orchestra
WOR Mutual NY 10 Aug 1945
Lady of the Evening
Dave Rose Orchestra
WOR Mutual NY 10 Aug 1945
Holiday for Strings
Dave Rose Orchestra
WOR Mutual NY 10 Aug 1945
Fascinating Rhythm
Piano Duo
WOR Mutual NY 10 Aug 1945
Time On My Hands + Close
Unidentified Orchestra
WOR Mutual NY 10 Aug 1945
Set 4
Jan Savitt 
Quaker City Jazz
Jan Savitt and the Top Hatters
Arcadia Restaurant KYW NBC Philadelphia 2 Dec 1938
Monday Morning
Jan Savitt and the Top Hatters (voc) Carlotta Dale
KYW NBC Philadelphia Studios 17 Oct 1938
On The Road to Mandalay
Jan Savitt and the Top Hatters (voc) Bon Bon
Radio Transcription New York City 1939
Old Man Moon + Rigamarole + Close
Jan Savitt and the Top Hatters
KYW NBC Philadelphia New Studio Opening 14 Sep 1937
Set 5
Spotlight Bands 
Open + Hallelujah
Ina Ray Hutton Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’ Blue Network Fort Monroe Va 13 Apr 1943
Tommy Tucker Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’ Blue Network Biloxi Miss. 15 Feb 1945
Rose of the Rio Grande
Hal McIntyre Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’ Blue Network Miami Beach Fl 20 Nov 1943
Dark Eyes + Close
Jimmy Joy Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’ Blue Network Harlingen Tx 6 Jan 1945
Set 6
Trad Jazz Radio 
Basin Street Blues
Jimmy Dorsey’s Dorseyland Band
Radio Transcription Los Angesles 1950
Riverside Blues
Muggsy Spanier
Club Hangover KCBS San Francisco 18 Apr 1953
Maryland, My Maryland
George Lewis Jazz Band
‘Dixieland Jambake’ WDSU ABC New Orleans 20 Apr 1951
Set 7
1930s-40s British Dance Bands 
Ellingtonia Medley
Jack Hylton Orchestra
London 18 Nov 1933
My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean
Johnny Claes Claepigeons (voc) Irene King
London 1941
Here Lies Love
Ambrose Orchestra (voc) Sam Browne
London 8 Nov 1932
It’s a Pair of Wings for Me
Nat Gonella Orchestra (voc) Nat Gonella
London 1940
Set 8
1950s Mod Radio 
The Duke
Dave Brubeck
Basin Street WCBS CBS NY Feb 1956
Miles Davis
‘Stars of Modern Jazz Concert’ Carnegie Hall Voice of America 25 Dec 1949
Night in Tunisia
Dizzy Gillespie
‘Symphony Sid Show’ Birdland WJZ NY 31 Mar 1951

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