born on 18/3/1899 in Valenciennes, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
died on 24/3/1962 in Santa Barbara, CA, United States
John Jean Goldkette (18 March 1893–March 24, 1962) was a jazz pianist and bandleader born in France. Goldkette spent his childhood in Greece and Russia, and emigrated to the United States in 1911.
He led many jazz and dance bands, of which the best known was his Victor Recording Orchestra of 1924-1929, which included, at various times, Bix Beiderbecke, Hoagy Carmichael, Chauncey Morehouse, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Bill Rank, Eddie Lang, Frankie Trumbauer, Pee Wee Russell, Steve Brown, Joe Venuti, and arranger Robert Ginzler among others. Vocalists included the Keller Sisters and Lynch. In his Jazz Masters of the Thirties, Rex Stewart, a member of Fletcher Henderson's band at the time, writes that the Goldkette band's innovative arrangements and strong rhythm made it the best dance band of its day and "the first original white swing band in jazz history".
Jean Goldkette was also the Music Director for the Detroit Athletic Club for over 20 years, and co-owned the legendary Graystone Ballroom with Charles Horvath, who also performed with the Goldkette Victor Band in its early years. He owned his own entertainment company, 'Jean Goldkette's Orchestras and Attractions, working out of the still-standing Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. He co-wrote the song "It's the Blues (No. 14 Blues)" which was recorded in Detroit, Michigan and released on Victor.
In 1927, Paul Whiteman, the controversially self-proclaimed "King of Jazz," hired away most of Goldkette's better players due to Goldkette not being able to meet the payroll for his top-notch musicians. Goldkette later helped organize McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Glen Gray's Orange Blossoms, which became famous as the Casa Loma Orchestra. In the 1930s he left jazz to work as a booking agent and classical pianist. In the mid-1930s, Jean filed for bankruptcy, showing over $200,000 in debts, and only $.40 in assets.
In 1939, he organized the American Symphony Orchestra which debuted at Carnegie Hall. He married Lee McQuillen, a native of New York City. Frankie Laine worked as Goldkette's librarian, and lived with the Goldkettes while in New York.
He moved to California in 1961, and the following year died in Santa Barbara, California, of a heart attack, aged 69. He took a taxi to the hospital by himself, and died that same day. He is buried in the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
- Ted Gioia: The History of Jazz, Oxford University Press 2011, p. 83
- Goldkette on The Red Hot Jazz Archive Retrieved 19 June 2013.