He also became a member of the original Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1918 with Nikolai Sokoloff as director.
Spitalny then moved to Boston, and for two years lead a 50-piece ensemble in a large motion picture house.
With that additional experience under his belt, he formed his own touring orchestra, which recorded for Victor from 1924 to 1926, and later made records for the Edison, Hit of the Week, and Perfect labels.
Around 1933, Spitalny decided to organize a new orchestra to play dance music, in which "there has been no compromise with cheapness-only good melodic airs have been arranged."
Having given careful consideration to "what sort of music we can offer the masses who love music without having studied it," he decided on "light music, melodic, rhythmic, well-played tunes which will satisfy the ear and the emotions without overtaxing an intellect which has not been trained so that it may grasp the beauties of the greater classics."
But what made his orchestra really different was that it was staffed by all females, ranging in age from 17 to 30.
given name Philip Spitalny
birth Nov. 7, 1890, Odessa, Russia
death Oct. 11, 1970, Miami Beach, FL, "congestive heart failure"
physical description 5'3" tall, with brown hair and brown eyes
father Jacob Spitalny
mother Rachel Spitalny
brother H. Leopold Spitalny, a musician
brother Maurice Spitalny, b.Jan. 13,1893?, d.Oct. 1986?
daughter Norma Rein
second wife Evelyn Kaye Klein, b.Oct. 19, 1911; m.1946?; d.Jul. 8, 1990, heart failure
memberships ASCAP, 1942- ; Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, New York City;
Local 4, American Federation of Musicians, Cleveland, OH; Local 10, American
Federation of Musicians, elected Sept. 26, 1930 / life member Mar. 21, 1957
recreations playing cards or enjoying the amusements on the Atlantic City boardwalk
residence Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago (1930); Park Sheraton Hotel, New York City
(1951); 3773 Pine Tree Dr., Miami Beach, FL (ca.1960- )
To assemble his "all-girl" orchestra, Spitalny was said to have scoured the country for six months, at a cost of $20,000, auditioning some 1,500 women musicians, before selecting 22 of them to be in his group.
Spitalny and the orchestra made their debut in New York City at the Capitol Theater, and began a network radio program, "The Hour of Charm," on January 3, 1935.
He said that he found the best players in small towns, reasoning that the women were able to devote more time to practicing their instruments and developing good technique. He instructed them to follow a strict and rigid routine, rehearsing for five or six hours a day, and, as part of their contract, the women pledged not to leave and get married without giving six months' notice..
It didn't take long for the novelty to become an attraction - and for years, their show was a fixture on Sundays, first over CBS (1935), then NBC (1936-46), and then back on CBS (1946-48).
They became so popular by 1940 that the orchestra had expanded to 34 members.
Spitalny's second spouse, Evelyn, was part of the group (she became its concertmaster) and was prominently featured as "Evelyn and Her Magic Violin."
For a total of more than 20 years, Spitalny gave his musicians the inspiration and opportunity for recognition.
Phil Spitalny - In His Own Words
"[ Music ] must give the listener an impression of sweetness, of charm. And where in the world
can you find a better exponent of charm than a charming young woman?"
"Give me women to work with every time . . . They're more cooperative and they don't waste their
emotions on much except their music."
Besides appearing on "The Hour of Charm" radio show, Spitalny and his orchestra toured the country, served as "window dressing" on movie screens (including "Here Come the Co-Eds" with Abbott and Costello in 1945), and performed at President Harry S. Truman's electoral ball in 1949.
They made a number of recordings for Columbia, including a four-disc 78-rpm set in 1941, "Hymns" (C-72), which was later reissued as a 10" LP (CL-6042). In 1946-47, Columbia gathered "Favorite Melodies From the Hour of Charm" (C-108), including The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Onward Christian Soldiers, and Love's Old Sweet Song, and Evelyn got a solo set, "Evelyn and Her Magic Violin" (Columbia C-114), which presented such oldies as Oh Promise Me, I Love You Truly, and Just a-Wearyin' for You.
As "Phil Spitalny's Music," he also made some sides for the Hit label (Swingin' in a Hammock; The Song Without a Name), then cut a few tunes for Vogue, including Rhapsody in Blue, which showcased Eleanor, the pianist in his all-girl orchestra; Blue Skies, with Francine on the vocal; and Alice Blue Gown, featuring Evelyn and her violin.
In 1948, on his own Charm Records imprint, Spitalny issued a three-disc album, "To My Mother," featuring, besides wife Evelyn, the vocalists Betty Kelly and Martha Keene. Another project on Charm was "Christmas Carols by the Hour of Charm All-Girls Orchestra and Choir"; after Spitalny began recording for RCA Victor in 1950, it was either reissued by them or re-done as a 10" LP (LPM-53).
Spitalny was still known, but around 1958 health reasons forced his retirement from music.
He suffered from pernicious anemia, had arterosclerotic heart disease for the last 10 years of his life, and bone cancer for one year.
He had undergone what was described only as "major surgery" about 10 months before his death at age 80.
Throughout it all, Spitalny and Evelyn remained a loving and devoted couple.
"Application Blank" for Philip Spitalny Local 10, American Federation of Musicians,
Sept. 26, 1930.
"Band Leader Dies," Chicago Tribune, Oct. 12, 1970, p.E14.
Daryl "Flea" Campbell, Don't Bury Me in a Tuxedo: Memoirs of a Trumpet Player
([s.l.]: Xlibris, 2008), p.47.
"Certificate of Death" for Phil Spitalny, Dade County (Miami, FL), Department of Public
Health, Oct. 11, 1970.
"Dues Payment Card" for Philip Spitalny, acct. no. A 9004, club no. 8998, Local 10,
American Federation of Musicians.
"Evelyn Klein Spitalny, Violinist, Is Dead at 79," New York Times, Jul. 13, 1990.
Roger D. Kinkle, "Spitalny, Phil," in The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz
1900-1950: Volume 3 Biographies L Through Z (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington
House Publishers, 1974), pp.1791-1795.
OCLC WorldCat database.
Brian Rust, "Philip Spitalny and His Orchestra," in The American Dance Band Discography
1917-1942: Volume 2 Arthur Lange to Bob Zurke (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House
Publishers, 1975), pp.1750-1753.
"Phil Spitalny, orchestra leader, dies," Chicago Daily News, Oct. 12, 1970.
"Spitalny, Phil," in ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, Fourth Edition (New York City: R.R.
Bowker Company, 1980), pp.479-480.
"Spitalny, Phil," in Current Biography 1940 (New York City: H.W. Wilson Co., 1940), pp.
"Spitalny, Phil," in Who Is Who In Music (Chicago: Who Is Who in Music, Ltd., 1951), p.389.
"Spitalny Thought of Chicago With Love," The Intermezzo, Nov. 1970.
Larry Wolters, "News of the Radio Stations," Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 15, 1934, p.22.
William H. Young and Nancy K. Young, American History through Music: Music of the World
War II Era (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007), p.66.
I would like to expand this tribute with, if possible, a new interview of someone who was important to Phil Spitalny's life or career. Are you an alumnus of his band, a member of his family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about his accomplishments? Please contact me via e-mail