Arnošt Kavka began learning saxophone at fifteen. A year later he switched to drums, studying with drummer Laci Ollah.

He founded the student orchestra Black and White in 1934, then worked as a drummer in the Gramoklub orchestra led by Jan Šíma and finally the Blue Music band which became the Karel Vlach Orchestra.

Karel Vlach suggested he move from drums to singing. So he studied with Josef Malina and with the Robert de Kers Orchestra in Oostende, Belgium, where he mainly learned  microphone technique.

Returning from Belgium, he sang with the Blue Boys Orchestra and made his first records for Ultraphon in 1939

That year he entered the law faculty of Charles University in Prague. When the Second World War came the universities were closed.

Karel Vlach formed his orchestra in 1939 and Arnošt Kavka became his permanent singer until 1944. During this time he acquired his nickname “Doctor Swing” from his most famous Vlach recording (you’ll hear it on the Allan Sisters Phantom Dancer show) and which became his trademark.


During the war Arnošt Kavka trained as a bookseller and publisher with orchestra leader RA Dvorský, who protected him from total deployment.

Total deployment (German Totaleinsatz or NS-Zwangsarbeit ) was the name for forced labor deployment which inhabitants of occupied countries were subjected to during Nazi Germany.

Totally deployed, they were mostly involuntarily transported to the Third Reich, where they performed slave labor under inhumane conditions.

Kavka was arrested by the Gestapo in Zlín in 1944 for avoiding total deployment and spent the rest of the war in concentration camps.

Shortly before the end of World War II, he managed to escape from the labour camp in Prague’s Hagibor . In 1944, his daughter died during the bombing of the Holešovice power plant. 

He finished law school after 1945 and started his own septet.

Following the communist coup in 1948, he tried to meet the demands of the time and play socialist jazz based on folk motifs. However, by the 1950s, he was forbidden to perform in public and had to take band exams.

Later he performed as a musical comedian in spa towns and abroad.

After the Prague Spring in the 1960s he played on radio and television. He used his own instrument, the Kavka eintet – he played the organ with his left hand, an electrophonic instrument like a piano with thirty registers with his right, and operated a large drum and cymbal with his feet.

In the early 1970s, he performed on an American ocean liner.

He appeared on Czechoslovak Television programs, including Televariete in the 1980s

In 1987 he was named a meritorious artist.