Horace Heidt

AMERICAN BANDLEADER: Horace Heidt (1901-1986)

Started First Band:  1923 – 1964

Where:  Oakland, California – his first engagement at the nearby Claremont Hotel.

Tag Lines:  “Horace Heidt and his Californians,” “Horace Heidt and his Brigadiers,” & “Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights”

Previous Band Affiliations:  None

Contemporaries: Bob Hope, Gene Autry, Fred Waring, Guy Lombardo

Theme Song:  “I’ll Love You in My Dreams”

Musical Signature:  Triple-Tonguing Trumpeteers

Inspiration: Ralph Waldo Emerson (Law of Compensation)

Book: “Horace Heidt Big Band Starmaker

Recording Affiliations:  RCA Victor, Brunswick, Columbia, Magnolia Records

Hit Records (#1&2)Gone with the Wind (1937), Once in a While (1937), Ti-Pi-Tin (1938), the Man with the Mandolin (1939), G’Bye Now (1941), I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire (1941), It’s in the Book (1952).

Arrangers:  Buzz Adlam, Bill Finegan, Frankie Carle, Frank DeVol, Benny Carter, Don Wilson, Harrison Carlisle.

Dancers: Don Sky (Choreographer), Heidt Steppers-Don Spruance, Eddie Grieg, Ken Berry, Russ Budd, Shirley Schmidt, Jeannine Meister, Jana Lund, Beverly Estabrook, Gloria Moore, Jeanne Harvey, Reita Green, Liz Lynch, Doreen Dolney, Charlene Lance, Lila Jackson, Betty Cole, Jackie Marcy, Kay Hess, Tanya Garside, Bobby Stein, Raine Winslow, Gloria Heaton, Janet Hoffman, Ginger Crowley, Cookie Gorman, Joyce Layton, Za Za Callahan, Diane Billough to name a few.

Entertainers:  Alvino ReyKing Sisters, Frankie Carle, Frank DeVol, Gordon MacRae, Mary Martin, Ronnie Kemper, Johnny Carson, Art Carney, Dean Jones, Mike Douglas (talk show host), Pat Boone, Foster Brooks, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Dick Contino, Ken Berry, Ollie O’TooleFred Lowery (whistle)Johnny Standley, Pepperettes, Doodles Weaver, Reita Green, Keith Thibodeaux, Allen Breneman, Ralph Sigwald.

Sidemen with Band Included:  Jerry Bowne, Art Thorsen, Warren Lewis, Harold Plummer, Paul Knox, Dave Phennig, Clarence Moore, Harold Moore, Lee Lykins, Charles Midgely, Charles Bradshaw, Lee Fleming, Leroy Shield, Norman Kingsley, Wayne Webb, Bob Riedel, Jimmy DeMeo, Jerry Kasper, George Dessinger, Frankie Carle, Alvino Rey, Eddie McKinney, Bernie Mattinson,  Ernie Passoja, Frank Strasek, Jerry Borshard, Jim Beiten, Beatrice Perron, Mary Drane, Virginia Drane, Bob Knight, Henry Russell (novachord), Glenn Miller, Tony Martin, Bobby Hackett, Jack Kovatch, Jimmy Skiles, Bob Knight, Buddy Saffer, Tex Beneke, Mel Torme, Irving Fazola, Warren Covington, “Shorty” Sherock, Thurman ‘Quig’ Guigley, Joe Rushton, Ronnie Kemper, Jess Stacey, Frankie Carlson, Ollie Mitchell, Red Nichols, Pete Candoli, Al Hirt, Lou Busch, Mel Henke, Conley Graves, Jimmy Sheldon, Pete Fountain, Abe Aaron, Ted Nash, Dick Contino, Vic Valenti, Jimmy Salko, Frank Wylie, Billie Usselton, Tex Satterwhite, Leo Nisbauer, Nino Tempo, Bill Richmond, Charlie Brosen, Harvey Levine, Lou Prohut, Dominic Frontiere, Bill Dolney & Tony Johnson to name a few.

Vocalists with Band Included:  Larry Cotton, Bob McCoy, the King Sisters (Luise, Maxine, Donna, Alyce, Yvonne, Anita, and Marilyn), Lysbeth Hughes, Kings Men, Four Jacks, Four Kings, Glee Club, Charioteers, Charles Goodwin, Charlie Goodman, Emily Stevenson, Red Farrington, Frank DeVol, the Heidt-Lights (Mary Walsh, Jane Bryant, Fay Vermillion, Tony Russell & Lou Hurst), Henry Russell, LeAhn Sisters (Virginia LeAhn, Miriam LeAhn), Art Carney, Ollie O’Toole, Ruth Davis, Trudy Williams, Ronnie Kemper, Horace Heidt, Jean Farney, Josette Romay, Donna and her Don Juans (Charlie Goodman, George Jackson & Gordon MacRae), Mimi Hatton, Bob Mathews, Lucky 7 Swingsters, Gloria Wood, Mary Martin, Gene Walsh, Dorothy Rae, Sweetswingsters, Bob Anthony, Barbara O’Brien, Harold Parr, Harmanotes, Robert Morton, Marilyn Tilton, Bob Hite, Wingmen, Pepperettes, Dave Hamilton, Joe Schirmer, Mellissa Smith, Mike Douglas, Polly Bergen, Jack Emil, Dick Kerr, Jimmy Kellner, Ralph Sigwald, Florence Henderson.

Businesses Owned and Operated: Hotels: The Biltmore Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, The Lone Palm Hotel, Palm Springs, CA.  Ballroom: Trianon, South Gate, CA. Restaurants: Heidt Time, Beverly Hills, CA, Java Time, Santa Monica, CA.  Apartments: Horace Heidt Estates and Haleakala Apartments, Sherman Oaks, CA. Horace Heidt Productions, Sherman Oaks, CA.

Charities: Horace Heidt Big Band Foundation

Sponsored Radio Shows:  1932, Blue Network, Ship of Joy (Shell Oil) and Answers by the Dancers.

Feb. 26, 1935-April 23, 1935, CBS. Captain Dobbsie’s Ship of Joy (Alemite Motor Oil).

1935-1939, NBC, Blue and Red. Horace Heidt for Alemite.

Sept. 26, 1939-June 5, 1941. Pot o’ Gold (Tums).

June 11, 1940-Jan. 11, 1944, NBC. Tums Treasure Chest (Tums).

1943-1944, Blue Network, Anniversary Night with Horace Heidt.

Jan. 24, 1944-Jan. 15, 1945, Blue Network. Welcome Home (Hires Root Beer).

Dec. 7, 1947-Aug. 28, 1949, NBC.  The Youth Opportunity Program (Philip Morris).

Jan. 1-Dec. 24, 1953 the American Way (Lucky Strike).

Television with Band:  “the Original Youth Opportunity Program” (1949-1950), “the Swift Family Show Wagon” (1954-1955) (Swift & Company), “Family Night with Horace Heidt” (1964).

Movies: Pot O’ Gold (1941) Starring Jimmy Stewart and Paulette Goddard

Horace Heidt was one of the most popular bandleaders of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

He literally experienced his motto: “‘Tis Better to Build Boys than to Mend Men” when he had to rebuild his body following a broken back injury from a college football game!

He gathered other college musicians and began in 1923 with Horace Heidt and his Californians.  The Californians became one of the most successful vaudeville acts in entertainment.  The band featured a trained dog, Lobo, who wowed American audiences nationwide.  In 1929 they broke all existing attendance records at the famed Palace Theatre on Broadway by being booked an unprecedented 16 weeks.  From there he developed other big bands, bringing his big band fame to the top with Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights.  Between 1937 to 1945, Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights recorded over fifty hit records!  Heidt founded two top-running radio and TV shows – Original Youth Opportunity Program and Pot o’ Gold.  Pot o’ Gold was made into a motion picture by the same name, starring James Stewart and Paulette Goddard.

Following World War II, and MCA bringing turmoil to the recording industry (circa 1947) Horace Heidt re-invented himself and put together the first traveling talent show, discovering and promoting such talents as Dick Contino, Frankie Carle, Frank DeVol, Bobby Hackett, Shorty Sherock, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Alvino Rey, and the King Sisters, Johnny Carson, Art Carney, Gordon MacRae, Dick Kerr.  (Note:  Elvis Presley came to try out but was turned down because he had no charts.)  Heidt became known as a BIG BAND STAR-MAKER (, who used his innovative abilities to provide the best entertainment and to discover more musical talent than any other bandleader.

(click on images below to enlarge)

He asked “people” what they liked to hear (what a unique concept), and they told him.  In addition Heidt, never orthodox in his methods, kept an ad running in Billboard magazine offering top pay to any qualified musician who was free to join his unit.

Heidt left his “mark” in 20th Century musical history with two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and one Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, and passed his legacy on to his son, Horace, Jr. to carry on the wonderful traditions and music of the legendary American Big Bands! (click on images below to enlarge)

Legacy:  Record engagement at the Palace Theatre in New York for 16 weeks, Pot O’Gold-1st Radio Broadcast giveaway money Game Show in America, Original Youth Opportunity Program-1st traveling, televised talent show.

Motto:  “‘Tis Better to Build Boys than to Mend Men”