Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(James Anthony White, 1917-76) American dance-band musician who played all the reeds, but was best known for his alto saxophone. He made very few recordings, but a lot of people liked them. Jay White grew up in Boston, graduated from Commerce High School and the Bentley School of Accounting, but chose music as a career. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a musician, but was later commissioned as an infantry officer, becoming a company commander for the 82nd Airborne, and participating in the invasion of Normandy and Operation Market Garden in Holland. Back in the USA he often played with or fronted the Harry Marschard Society Orchestra, but was best known as leader of his own small groups, playing at various nightspots in the Boston area (such as Rosie O'Grady's in Back Bay) and in Florida. He was music director at the Statler-Hilton (now the Park Plaza) in Boston c.1968-70. He also sometimes led a bigger band, and allegedly opened for Louis Armstrong on occasion. In the 1970s he moved to San Francisco, where he played with Walt Tolleson's band, and was often featured on KNBR's Saturday night broadcast from the Fairmont Hotel.

The only reference to Jay White I found on the Internet was an archived announcement of a Christmas Formal planned for Baker House on the campus of MIT to be held on December 11, 1953, music for the dance to be provided by the orchestra of Jack Edwards, featuring Jay White and his saxophone. White recorded at least 16 tracks for Essex Records around 1954, and also later made an album on MGM.

The Essex tracks were recycled by the Miller International Company of Media, Pennsylvania onto at least six LPs (if we count identical releases on four different labels). Essex was founded in Philadelphia by David Miller in the early 1950s. The company leased recordings from Britain, and had a hit single with trumpeter Eddie Calvert and his instrumental recording of 'Oh, Mein Papa', backed by Norrie Paramor; the company also issued albums by British orchestra leaders Paramor and Ray Martin. The American conductor Monty Kelly had a top 20 hit on Essex with 'Tropicana', a nice instrumental composed by Bernie Wayne (and in excellent sound for the period); and Essex also discovered Bill Haley and his Comets, releasing Haley's first Billboard hit, 'Crazy Man Crazy'. All this singles success was in 1953, but mainly Miller was a genius at marketing budget albums, most famous for all those mood music albums by 101 Strings on the Somerset label that were found everywhere, selling for $1.98 at a time when a 12-inch pop LP cost $3.98. In its later years Miller's company released albums by jazz trumpeter Billy Butterfield and a few very good classical recordings conducted by Adrian Boult, but the output was mostly schlock. You can read about Miller's interesting career and his labels here.

For Essex, Jay White recorded 'Laura', 'On The Trail', 'Tosselli's Serenade', 'Claire de Lune', 'Deep Purple', 'Street Scene', 'Harlem Nocturne', 'Estrellita', 'Over The Rainbow', 'Paris In The Spring', 'Sleepy Lagoon', 'In A Persian Market', 'Autumn In Rome', 'A Night In Vienna', 'Down Memory Lane' and 'Because'. There is no information as to the backing on these tracks. Essex 10-inch LPs were famous in the business for mostly having come-hither cover photographs of women, often half-naked and usually blondes. There were three 10-inch LPs by Jay White: Jay White Plays Alto Moods (A Tribute To Freddy Gardner) and I Love, both in 1954, and The Alto Sax Of Jay White Takes Me To Faraway Places in 1955. (Freddy Gardner was a British reedman who died of a stroke in 1950 at age 39; that album was ESLP-101, and may have been the very first Essex LP.)

A 12-inch LP called Street Scene was issued with identical track listings on Essex, Somerset, Stereo Fidelity and Trans-World; the last two were supposed to be in stereo, but they must have been electronically rechannelled mono. Some or all of the editions of Street Scene had a photograph on the cover of a traffic accident, a visual pun which was a cut above the cheesecake. The album was a compilation of 12 tracks from the earlier 10-inchers; 'Laura' was a two-part arrangement said to have been issued on a single and arranged by Morty Craft. Craft had led dance bands and radio orchestras, then became an A&R man for MGM (where he made an album called Jazz in Black Tie), Mercury and ABC-Paramount, then was hired by the Canadian firm United Telefilm Records to run Warwick, a label that marketed to stereo-hifi buffs; he made a few albums there, but Warwick only lasted a few years. Some of the other tracks on Street Scene have a full orchestra; other tracks have a small group including an organ and a harp.

White also made an album on MGM, Reminisce In Rhythm with Jay White, released in 1958, which must have been the peak of White's recording career; the tracks, as listed by Bowling Green State University's website, included 'Wagon Wheels', 'By The Light Of The Silvery Moon', 'Harbor Lights', 'Honey', '(I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time', 'My Melancholy Baby', 'Moonlight Bay', 'Shine On Harvest Moon', 'Red Sails In The Sunset', '(Gang That Sang) Heart Of My Heart', 'For Me And My Gal', and 'Cuddle Up A Little Closer Lovey Mine'.

White was a good journeyman musician with a creamy tone and accurate intonation, and his time wasn't bad either as far as one can tell from Street Scene; on his recordings he seems to have played straight throughout without much jazz inflection. His fans are still around; this website had only been up a few weeks when we received queries about him. Similarly, some people are still curious about who wrote the arrangements on the 101 Strings albums, but whoever owns David Miller's life's work is sitting on it like a great spider.