Casa Loma Orchestra

Picture of Casa Loma Orchestra

The Casa Loma Orchestra was one of the top Dance Bands in the early to mid 1930's.  The band was active from the late 1920's to 1947 and then re-emerged in 1957.  The Casa Loma Orchestra had a few leaders over the years but the most notable was saxophonist, Glen Gray.

The band originally assembled under the name The Orange Blossoms in Detroit, Michigan.  By the time of their first recordings in 1929, they had changed their name to The Casa Loma Orchestra.

The business model and structure of this band was much different than most others.  Almost all other bands at this time had a "leader" for whom everyone worked. Casa Loma operated as a collective group.  In 1930, the Casa Loma Orchestra was incorporated in New York with the members becoming owners, shareholders, and board members.  The band members were hired on the grounds of musical competence and would have to follow a strict code of conduct and financial rules.  Members who broke the rules could be summoned before the "board", have their contract bought out, and be ejected from the band.

The band was led by a person that was hand-picked by the band itself.  Casa Loma's first bandleader was violinist Hank Biagini.  In 1937, the band overwhelmingly voted in favor of Glen Grey leading the orchestra, and Gray finally accepted the job.

Watch: The Casa Loma Orchestra in 1942.  This short film also includes some
fine dancing from famed lindy hoppers Jewel McGowan and Dean Collins.

The Casa Loma Orchestra released A LOT of music during their run in the 1930's and 40's.  They scored a boatload of hits and enjoyed a long run on radio including extended stints on Camel Caravan.

After 1947, the Casa Loma band had ceased touring, and Glen Gray retired. The later recordings on Capitol Records, beginning with Casa Loma in Hi-Fi in 1956 and continuing through the Sounds of the Great Bands series, were done with Gray leading a group of studio musicians in Hollywood. Several of the Casa Loma alumni would occasionally be featured as well. In all, some 14 high-fidelity and stereo recordings were made for Capitol Records under the name of Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra before Gray's death in 1963.

... and speaking of Casa Loma alumni, a few of the names that passed through the band over the years included: Pee Wee Hunt, Sonny Dunham, Kenny Sargent and Horace Henderson.  Keep in mind, the band maintained a stable collection of personnel that didn't change much because of the member ownership structure they had in place.

Interesting Note: In 1943, Eugenie Baird became "the first girl vocalist ever featured" with the Casa Loma Orchestra.  

You can hear the many hits of The Casa Loma Orchestra right here on Swing City Radio.

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