Jan Savitt

Jan Savitt

The birth date of violinist, vocalist, arranger, and bandleader Jan Savitt is in dispute; although his birthday is officially listed as September 4, 1913, Savitt could have been born as early as 1908. Savitt's father played in Tsar Nicholas II's Imperial Regiment Band, and his family came to America in 1914. Savitt played violin as a child, and was invited to join the Philadelphia Orchestra at 15. He studied both in Europe and at the Curtis Institute, and in the '30s formed a string quartet that had a nationally broadcast show. He formed his Top Hatters band in 1937, and began touring in 1938. Savitt was a child prodigy and accomplished player, but his real fame was as a bandleader. His groups were throughly practiced and disciplined, with an ensemble sound considered among the finest of the era. Their signature song was "Quaker City Jazz," and they had a big hit with "720 in the Books." Savitt's band included vocalist George Tunnell, who used the name Bon Bon, and was one of the first black singers or instrumentalists to work with a white band. The group had a number of smash successes in the '40s, then made some low-budget films in 1946-1947. Savitt died suddenly while on a tour in 1948.

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