Effective period / Period of releases: 1923 - 1984
Members: Adrian Rollini, Tony Briglia, Jan Garber, Ukulele Bailey, Ernie Mathias, Doug Roe, Jo Jo Huffman, Lee Bennett (4), Muddy Berry, Fritz Heilbron (2), Freddie Large, Jack Barrow, Charlie Ford (4), George Fortier, Harry Wallace, Norman Donahue, Al Powers, Jerry Large, Memo Bernabei, Frank Bettencourt, Bill Kleeb, Roy CordellJan's greatest popularity surfaced in early 1933, shortly after he took over leadership of the 'Little Freddie Large Orchestra' from Canada. With Freddie's unique lead alto saxophone captivating radio listeners from Cincinnati to Catalina Island, the Garber Band - with a sound like Lombardo but lots peppier - became an overnight sensation at Chicago's famed Trianon Ballroom. A year later, it was solidly entrenched among the most popular dance groups in the entire country. Prominent in this emergence were the imaginative musical arrangements of pianist Doug Roe; the singing of Nebraska native Lee Bennett; and a series of comic skits, special shows and mini-concerts during each dance. During World War II, Garber switched styles completely and launched a swinging big band. The experiment proved a musical success but a financial disaster. Jan mercifully cut his losses, and ended the suffering of his countless 1930s followers, by returning to his familiar 'sweet' style of music in late 1945.
Freddie Large returned with him, bringing along Tony Briglia, a fellow Canadian and long-time drummer with the famed Casa Loma Orchestra. Also aiding the cause considerably were trumpeter Bill Kleeb and trombonist/arranger Frank Bettencourt. They had both joined Jan in late 1942, with Frank returning after military service to update and take charge of virtually all the band's musical library in addition to his trombone and part-time piano chores. Kleeb's classic trumpet work became a Garber trademark for the better part of a quarter-century.
Memo Bernabei and prewar sideman Al Powers, together with Jo Jo Huffman, rounded out the new reed-section quartet. Jack Barrow, who had also been on the band during the latter 1930s, returned with Bettencourt on trombone, with Ernie Mathias and Vince DiBari joining Kleeb in the expanded trumpet section. Frank McCauley on string bass and pianist Jack Motch, who both helped with arranging, rounded out Jan's new postwar group.
During these years, Jan Garber was to become increasingly well known as 'The Idol of The Air Lanes.' This was an informal title bestowed by announcer Pierre Andre during one of the band's countless broadcasts on Chicago's WGN Radio.
In addition to superior musicians, Jan was blessed with a series of excellent vocalists from the mid-1940s onward. Tommy Traynor and Tim Reardon were early names in the postwar Garber Band, together with Alan Copeland and his 'TwinTones' singing group. Also emerging from the late 1940s were Bob Grabeau; Roy Cordell (called "the best of them all" by Jan's widow, Dorothy); Larry Dean; Julio Maro; and Marv Nielsen. Prominent among Jan's postwar female vocalists were Thelma Gracen, Julie Vernon and Janis Garber (who was billed for a time as 'Kitty Thomas').