Collateral Works

Liner Notes

From "Sam Lanin and His Many Bands" (1923-1931)
Vintage Music Productions 0131 (CD)

Samuel C. Lanin was born in Russia, September 4, 1891. Soon afterward, his parents, Benjamin and Mary Lanin, moved the family to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where Sam grew up.

Clearly, Sam Lanin's family was a musical one. Sam was the third of ten children, which included a total of six future bandleaders. In addition to Sam, brothers Joe, Jimmy, Howard, Willie and Lester all led bands professionally.

As a child, Sam studied violin, but later began playing clarinet. It was as a clarinet player that Sam was employed with Victor Herbert's orchestra, for two years, beginning in 1911 or 1912. Many sources make no mention of his clarinet playing but, instead, state that he only played timpani, in Herbert's band. In fact, Lanin probably played both instruments. Victor Herbert and His Orchestra recorded during this period, so it is quite possible that Lanin can be heard on some of these sessions.

In 1917, after the U.S. entered World War I, Lanin joined the Navy, where he was assigned leadership of one of its state-side bands. When the war ended, in 1918, Lanin returned to Philadelphia, where he started his own band. While there, he apparently met Louis Brecker, who owned the original Roseland, in Philly. On New Year's Eve, 1919, Brecker opened the more renowned Roseland Ballroom, in New York. It is unclear whether Lanin's band played opening night, at the Roseland, but his band was definitely in residence, there, within the first months of 1919.

It was as a bandleader, at the Roseland (1919-1925), that Sam Lanin first gained prominence in the music industry. While there, Sam Lanin's band played opposite of some of the great bands of the jazz age, including those of A.J. Piron (1924) and the legendary Fletcher Henderson (1924-1925). It was also, while leading a band at the Roseland, that Lanin employed the young Dorsey brothers. The Dorseys were both playing in Lanin's band, when Tommy stomped all over Jimmy's new saxophone, and Jimmy responded by wrapping Tommy's trombone around his knee.

Just about a year after starting at the Roseland, Sam Lanin was at Columbia's New York studio to make his first recordings (April 28, 1920). These sides were released under the name of Lanin's Roseland Orchestra. Over the next 11 years, Lanin returned to the recording studio more than 500 times, to make over 1800 recordings. As Brian Rust points out, there was probably no one more prolific in recording history, with the possible exception of Ben Selvin.

Sam Lanin himself is rarely heard, on any of his recordings. During several sessions, he did play drums or provide cymbal crashes. He also supplied vocals, on at least two recordings, though both of these were for the same tune ("Shake It And Break It"). In one photo of Bailey's Lucky Seven (ca. 1922), which was one of his bands, Lanin poses with a clarinet. However, it is not clear that he actually played clarinet, on any of the band's recordings. In fact, it is doubtful. It is more likely that Lanin simply posed with the clarinet to provide a seventh musician for the photo, because Bailey's Lucky Seven frequently recorded with less than the "advertised" number.

Sam Lanin recorded under many different names. In Pseudonyms on American Records, Allan Sutton lists 172 names that Lanin used. If one adds Bailey's Lucky Seven, Ladd's Black Aces, Howard Lanin and His Benjamin Franklin Hotel Orchestra (which Rust attributes to Sam) and such variants as Lanin's Arcadians and Lanin's Red Heads, the list approaches 200. In addition to his own bands, Sam Lanin directly contributed to the start of many others, including those of Red Nichols and the Original Memphis Five.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Lanin's bands were frequently heard over the radio. In April 1925, Lanin made his first radio broadcast, as leader of the Ipana Troubadours. Throughout the first year, the band was heard over WEAF, in New York. From 1926 until Lanin's last Ipana broadcast, in 1931, his band made weekly broadcasts over the NBC networks. Soon after, in 1931, he became leader of the Pillsbury Orchestra, which aired Friday nights, on WABC's "Pillsbury Pageant." When the show was cancelled, in March 1932, he continued in radio, doing broadcast transcriptions for Associated. He made his final Associated transcription, in 1937, when he retired.

Sam Lanin died in Hollywood, Florida, on May 5, 1977. He was survived by his wife, Sadie (1896-1989).

~ Jeff Hopkins
January 2005

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