George Edward Olsen, Sr. (March 18, 1893 - March 18, 1971) was an American bandleader.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Olsen played the drums and attended the University of Michigan, where he was drum major. There he formed his band, George Olsen and his Music, which continued in the Portland area. The group's debut hotel engagement came at the Multnowah Hotel in Portland. He then made the cross-county transition to Broadway, appearing in Kid Boots (1923), the Ziegfeld Follies of 1924, Ziegfeld Follies of 1925, and Good News (1927).
George Olsen and his Music were prolific Victor recording artists and their records are among the most numerous found by record collectors today, testifying to their original popularity. He and his orchestra were in Eddie Cantor's 1928 Broadway hit Whoopee!, and in the 1930 movie version. In the Follies George met a singer, Ethel Shutta, who sings and dances memorably in Whoopee!, and they married, appearing together in nightclubs and on radio. They had two children, George, Jr. and Charles; following a divorce, Olsen opened a restaurant in Paramus, New Jersey. Olsen and Shutta were heard on the Oldsmobile Program on CBS radio in 1933. He also was an orchestra leader for The Jack Benny Program on radio.
Olsen signed with Victor in 1924 and remained as one of Victor's most popular bands until 1933 when he signed with Columbia. He stayed with Columbia through January, 1934. He recorded a single session in 1938 for Decca, and one final date for the rare Varsity label in 1940.
Olsen's bands produced few stars. Singer-saxophonist Fred MacMurray passed through in 1930 on his way to eventual movie stardom, recording a vocal on I'm in the Market for You. Olsen's long-time alto saxist and singer, Fran Frey, with his distinctive, reedy bass-baritone, was perhaps the best known Olsenite until he left in 1933 for a career as a music director in radio.
In 1936, Olsen became leader of Orville Knapp's band after Knapp died in a plane crash. Olsen was chosen to lead the band by Knapp's widow. Morale problems plagued the group, and in 1938, after many musicians had already left, the group disbanded.
A resident of Paramus, New Jersey, Olsen ran a popular local restaurant there on Paramus Road for many years before he died there on March 18, 1971. According to John S. Wilson in The New York Times, reviewing a retrospective of Olsen's recording "George Olsen and His Music" on RCA-Victor, in 1968, Olsen had a restaurant in Paramus, NJ called "George Olsen's". Wilson noted that "Olsen is there every day greeting guests at lunch and dinner... In the background, the original George Olsen records of the Twenties play softly.
After his divorce from Shutta, Olsen married Claralee Pilcer.
Birth and Death Data: Born March 18, 1893 (Portland), Died March 18, 1971 (Paramus)
Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1924 - 1934
Roles Represented in DAHR: director, leader, composer, speaker, songwriter, traps, vocalist
= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.
Recordings (Results 1-25 of 245 records)
|Company||Matrix No.||Size||First Recording Date||Title||Primary Performer||Description||Role||Audio|
|Victor||B-30115||10-in.||5/16/1924||He's the hottest man in town||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30116||10-in.||5/16/1924||Sally Lou||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30165||10-in.||6/5/1924||A new kind of man||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30326||10-in.||6/26/1924||Beale Street blues||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30327||10-in.||6/26/1924||You'll never get to heaven with those eyes||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30621||10-in.||7/25/1924||Sax-o-phun||George Olsen and his Music ; Rudy Wiedoeft||Jazz/dance band, with saxophone solo||leader|
|Victor||B-30622||10-in.||7/25/1924||My papa doesn't two-time no time||George Olsen and his Music ; Billy Murray||Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo||leader|
|Victor||B-30660||10-in.||8/19/1924||Follow the swallow||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30661||10-in.||8/19/1924||Biminy||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band, with saxophone solo||leader|
|Victor||C-30882||12-in.||10/3/1924||Toodles||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-30883||10-in.||10/3/1924||Goin' home blues||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||composer, leader|
|Victor||B-31036||10-in.||10/22/1924||A sun-kist cottage||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||composer, leader|
|Victor||B-31037||10-in.||10/22/1924||The slave of love||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31091||10-in.||11/7/1924||Dixie dreams||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31098||10-in.||11/11/1924||Nancy||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo||leader|
|Victor||B-31099||10-in.||11/11/1924||My best girl||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31400||10-in.||11/11/1924||Ever lovin' bee||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31413||10-in.||11/14/1924||Put away a little ray of golden sunshine for a rainy day||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31787||10-in.||1/29/1925||Nobody knows what a red-head mamma can do||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31989||10-in.||2/20/1925||Those Panama mamas (Are ruining me)||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-31990||10-in.||2/20/1925||Why couldn't it be poor little me||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-32050||10-in.||3/4/1925||Everybody loves my baby (But my baby don't love nobody but me)||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||B-32248||10-in.||3/24/1925||Toddle along||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||leader|
|Victor||BVE-32739||10-in.||6/23/1925||Say Arabella (What's a fella to do?)||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo||director|
|Victor||BVE-32740||10-in.||6/23/1925||Save your sorrow for to-morrow||George Olsen and his Music||Jazz/dance band||director|
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Olsen, George," accessed December 4, 2022, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106120.
Olsen, George. (2022). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106120.
"Olsen, George." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2022. Web. 4 December 2022.
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