Paul Specht and His Orchestra play “She Looks Like Helen Brown” on Columbia 997-D.
Paul Specht lived from March 24,1895, to April 11,1954. He was born in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.
Specht attended Combs Conservatory in Philadelphia, and led his first band in 1916, which toured the Western United States during World War I. He had learned to play violin from his father, Charles G. Specht.
He toured England a few times between 1922 and 1926, even setting up a “School for Jazz Musicians” there in 1924.
He started to make recordings for Columbia in 1922, leading large ensembles for dance numbers arranged in the manner of Paul Whiteman recordings of the early 1920s, but Specht also added his talents to the jazz-oriented Georgians, a small group originally led by Frank Guarente (a trumpet player of French-Italian descent who was born Francesco Saverio Guarente).
Specht, whose dance orchestra incorporated the Georgians, gives an account of the Georgians in February 1952 issue of The Record Changer, writing, “They opened at the Addison Hotel in Detroit, on December 19, 1921, where my ten-piece orchestra featured classical jazz, ragging the standard classical music favorites of the day. I featured Guarente’s jazz men in a jam session of one half hour, presented twice nightly. This jazz band session’s popularity grew rapidly, and I gave it billing as ‘the first band within a band.'”
Specht, a violinist, was responsible for many musical organizations, booking all sizes of ensembles for private and public engagements. In this he was like Paul Whiteman.
Specht nurtured the talents of many young musicians. Around November 1923 a young Ted Weems directed Paul Specht’s Trianon Orchestra at the Trianon Ballroom of Newark, which led to a Victor recording contract (Specht’s name was dropped).
According to page 50 of the February 1924 issue of Talking Machine World, Specht was “conductor of three Columbia recording orchestras, two Keith headline bands, the Alamac Hotel Orchestra, manager of twenty-five smaller orchestras, two WJZ radio broadcasting bands and three London musical combinations.”
The recording debut of the Georgians was on June 29, 1922. “Hot Lips” and “You Can Have Him, I Don’t Want Him Blues” were issued under the name of Specht’s Society Serenaders on Banner 1090, and variations of this name were used on related labels.
A few months later Specht was under exclusive contract to Columbia, as announced in the September 1922 issue of Talking Machine World, and the smaller jazz group no longer used Specht’s name.
Specht credits Columbia’s A & R executive Frank Walker for naming the group the Georgians. Walker evidently believed a Southern name was appropriate for a jazz group. The group used this name during its next session, which was for Columbia on November 29, 1922. “Chicago” and “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” were issued on Columbia A3775 in March 1923.
Page 144 of the April 1923 issue of Talking Machine World reports, “Paul Specht’s ‘Georgians,’ who are making ‘blue’ [sic] and ‘jazz’ records for the Columbia Graphophone Co., are having unusual success with their recordings, according to all reports.”
In early 1923 the Georgians had several sessions and then in the summer Specht took his orchestra, including the Georgians sub-group, to London, where the musicians doubled at theaters and hotels, under the direction of Lyon & Co. of London. Then they traveled to Paris for similar engagements.
Because of many job offers, the Georgians in Paris worked before audiences without being featured in Specht’s orchestra. Specht writes, “The following Fall , the Claridge Hotel in Paris was to present ‘Paul Specht’s Georgians under the direction of Frank Guarente.'” The musicians had returned to America by September 6, 1923, on that day recording “Land of Cotton Blues” and “Mamma Loves Papa.”
By late 1923 Specht’s larger orchestra was called Paul Specht and His Hotel Alamac Orchestra. As part of this orchestra but also as a separate unit, the Georgians played in the Congo Room in the Hotel Alamac at Broadway and 71st Street in Manhattan where Specht was a major attraction.
Specht died in 1954 at the age of 59 in New York City.