James Harold "Hal" Kemp

Born: Mar. 2, 1904, Marion, AL

Died: Dec. 21, 1940 Madera, CA

Voted the "nation's favorite dance band" in 1935. His orchestra was first to broadcast dance music from England to the U.S. Made over 400 recordings for Brunswick, Columbia and RCA Victor. Performed in the leading hotel ballrooms across the nation. The group reached stardom when it's performances at Chicago's Blackhawk Cafe were broadcast over WGN and the Mutual Radio network.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Hal Kemp



Hal Kemp led the most popular and the most musical sweet band of the mid-1930s. With muted trumpets and full clarinet tones, its distinct sound earned it a large and dedicated following. Always the friendly, Southern gentleman, Kemp was well-liked by everyone and treated his musicians well. Bandmembers often referred to Kemp's orchestra as a ''fraternity.''

Kemp studied piano, trumpet, alto sax, and clarinet as a youth. He worked local movie theaters as a teen and formed his own orchestra in high school. In 1922 he entered the University of North Carolina, where he was highly involved in extracurricular activities, belonging to two fraternities, the drama club, the glee club, and the school band and orchestra. He also formed his own campus jazz group, the Carolina Club Orchestra. The band recorded for Okeh Records and toured Europe during summers. He also formed a smaller seven-man combo which featured future stars John Scott Trotter, Saxie Dowell, and Skinnay Ennis.

In 1927 Kemp turned leadership of the Carolina Club Orchestra over to fellow UNC student Kay Kyser and formed a professional jazz orchestra of his own, which included Trotter, Dowell, and Ennis. The early orchestra also featured, at various times, trumpeters Bunny Berigan and Jack Purvis. Based in New York, the group often toured Europe. Though it never achieved commercial success it did include among its fans Fred Waring, who gave the band financial and spiritual support, and Prince George of England, who would later become King George VI.

In 1932 Kemp's orchestra settled at the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago for an extended stay. Kemp fiddled with the group's sound, and it eventually emerged as a sweet orchestra. The new sound proved popular with the crowds, and Kemp was ready to take the band back on the road in 1934. Owing to his contract, however, he first had to find a replacement orchestra for the Blackhawk. He knew former college friend Kay Kyser was struggling with an orchestra of his own and recommended Kyser for the job. Kyser happily accepted the offer, which included radio time, and Kemp was free to leave. Travelling back to New York the band captured the ears of audiences everywhere with its new sound. No other band of the day played as smoothly and as sensuously as did Kemp's, and unlike other sweet orchestras it also featured interesting musical arrangements.

One of the main reasons for the band's success was arranger John Scott Trotter. The orchestra did not feature any outstanding musicians, and no one, save Trotter and Kemp, could read music particularly well. Kemp and Trotter often hummed their parts to the musicians. Trotter was brilliant in working around this limitation. None of the trumpeters could sustain notes and play legitimate tones, so Trotter muted the trumpets and introduced staccato triplets into the charts. This gave the band a unique sound, which Johnny Mercer jokingly referred to as like a ''typewriter.'' In contrast to the trumpets the clarinets played simple, sustained notes, often through megaphones. The musicians would place their fingers through holes in the sides of the megaphones and play softly. Out would come a rich, round tone.

Kemp was fit for vocalists too. Ennis was the orchestra's most popular singer. Also the drummer, he would step away from his kit and take the mike, leaving no one to cover for him on drums while he sang. His singing style was shy and breathless, and he quickly became popular with female audiences. Other male vocalists of the mid-1930s included Dowell, who sang novelty songs, and Bob Allen, who was a better singer, stylistically, than Ennis. Female vocalists were Deane Janis, Judy Starr, and Maxine Gray, who later became Lawrence Welk's first ''champagne lady.'' The band recorded for RCA Victor.

The orchestra's heyday ended when Trotter left in 1936. New arrangers Hal Mooney and Lou Busch took the group in a different direction, creating a more fuller big band sound. Lead trumpeter Earl Geiger also left that year. His unique, delicate trumpet playing was never replaced. Ennis and Dowell left in 1938, further deteriorating the band's unique sound.

The Kemp band of the late 1930s couldn't seem to make up its mind on whether it was going to be a swing band or a sweet band, and its popularity began to slip. Allen remained as lead male vocalist. Nan Wynn and, later, future actress Janet Blair were the female vocalists. By late 1940, however, Blair and two key musicians had departed the band, and Kemp, realizing the need for a change, decided to revamp the group's sound. Kemp never realized his goal, however. On December 19, while driving from Los Angeles to a booking in San Francisco, his car hit another head on. Kemp suffered multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung. He developed pneumonia while in the hospital and two days later passed away.

Ennis and Trotter returned to the band after hearing the news. Allen took over leadership and tried to keep it going, but without Kemp the band was lost and soon broke up. Original saxophonist Porky Dankers reassembled some of the orchestra members a few months later, and under the leadership of Art Jarrett tried to revive the group, with Gale Robbins as female vocalist. It lasted only a few months, however, before it broke up, and the Hal Kemp Orchestra passed into the history books forever.

Source: http://www.parabrisas.com/d_kemph.php




Hal Kemp - Music Artist Band Bio


Born James Harold Kemp, 27 March 1904, Marion, Alabama, USA, d. 21 December 1940, near Madera, California, USA. One of the greatest bandleaders of his generation, Kemp's early death robbed the dance band world of one of its most innovative talents. Long after his demise the memory of his orchestra's distinctive, staccato rhythms would be kept alive by numerous artists, particularly Henry Jerome. Kemp formed his first orchestra, a quintet dubbed the Merrymakers, while still attending high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. He also played in various campus bands while a student at the University of North Carolina. By his senior year he had found the core musicians with which he would form his first professional version of the Hal Kemp Orchestra in the mid-20s. The nucleus of this band was John Scott Trotter (piano and arranger), Saxie Dowell (saxophone) and Skinnay Ennis (drums, and later the band's featured vocalist). Strong shows in the North Carolina region brought them to the attention of Paul Specht and through him Fred Waring. Waring brought the group to New York, but a dispute with the manager of the ballroom they had been booked to play left them unemployed and without any funds of their own. But with Waring backing them, they survived until he was able to find replacement bookings for them. They gradually found a foothold in New York first at the Strand Roof, then the Hotel Manger and New Yorker Hotel. Their biggest break, however, came when Otto Roth booked them at his Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago in 1932. A long engagement here ensured radio play over the WGN and Mutual Networks, quickly establishing them as a top drawer dance band attraction. They were only able to break their contract with the Blackhawk's management to cash in on this new found fame when Kemp discovered Kay Kyser, whose band replaced him. Engagements at premier venues followed, including the Waldorf-Astoria, Pennsylvania, the Drake and the Palmer House, while a series of sponsored radio spots, including the Chesterfield Program, The Quaker Oats Program, and The Gulf Gas Program, secured national exposure. Their records too, released on RCA-Victor at this time, were selling in large quantities. The Cocoanut Grove (Los Angeles) and the Mark Hopkins Hotel (San Francisco) were booked for the band as their Californian debut. While commuting between those two venues Kemp was involved in an automobile accident caused by a heavy morning fog. He died in hospital two days later on 21 December 1940. The band played the Mark Hopkins' engagement without him, with vocalist Bob Allen eventually taking over as the leader. He then turned over that responsibility to Art Jarrett. A memorial album was issued on Victor Records. Twenty years after Kemp's death old friend and colleague Skinnay Ennis recorded a tribute album for Philips, which included such Kemp standards as "How I'll Miss You When The Summer Is Gone".



This Is Hal Kemp (RCA Victor 50s)***, Hal Kemp & His Orchestra 1927-31 (RCA 50s)***, Great Dance Bands (RCA Victor 1960)****, Hal Kemp Volume 1 (Hindsight 1988)***, On The Air 1940 (Aircheck 1988)****, Hal Kemp Volume 2 (Hindsight 1989)***.



Radio City Revels (1938).


Music Albums

1936-39 Broadcasts Collectors' Choice 12/15/2004

The Best Of Hal Kemp & His Orchestra Collectors' Choice 12/15/2004

Got A Date With An Angel (Living Era) * Living Era 12/09/2003

Best Of The Big Bands Legacy Recordings 06/19/1990

Got A Date With An Angel (Pro-Arte) Pro-Arte Records n/a

Source: Encyclopedia of Popular Music

Source: http://www.music.us/biography/artist/29938/hal_kemp.html

More info: http://www.donaldclarkemusicbox.com/encyclopedia/detail.php?s=1987


Hal Kemp & His Orchestra 1934 & 1936Hal Kemp Gold, Hal KempHal Kemp & His Orchestra, Hal KempNPR Milestones of the Millennium: World War I, Arthur FieldsThe Best of Hal Kemp and His OrchestraThe Hot Sides: 1926-1931

Listen: http://itunes.apple.com/nz/artist/hal-kemp/id164080119

Listen: http://www.amazon.com/Hal-Kemp-His-Orchestra/e/B000AQ6LDO/ref=ntt_mus_dp_pel

Listen: http://www.amazon.com/Got-Date-Angel-Hal-Kemp/dp/B000008BGK







Subscribe to Newsletter

Rick Carter Radio - All Alabama Music

Accepting submissions and adding them daily. Artists can send their songs in MP3's to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. One song per email. Graphics and song and artist info should be included of course.

This space
for rent!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.