The most famous of the piano showman, Eddy Duchin (his first name sometimes spelled ''Eddie'') began his career in 1928 with Leo Reisman's orchestra at New York's Central Park Casino, the most elegant society nightspot in the city. Though part of a team with fellow pianist Nat Brandywynne, Duchin's flashy style and suave demeanor quickly made him the most popular member of the group, and in 1931 he took over Reisman's place as leader at the Casino. His ten-piece orchestra played seven nights a week to a packed house.
Duchin's trademark was crossing his hands and playing the lower register with only one finger. He was not well trained musically, a fact that often frustrated his musicians. His stage personality, though, more than made up for his lack of artistic discipline. He mesmerized his audience. One of his sideman commented, ''He was the only musician I've ever known who could play a thirty-two bar solo with thirty-two mistakes and get an ovation for it afterwards.'' (Incidentally, the relief band at the casino featured future piano star Carmen Cavallaro.)
Regular radio broadcasts from the Casino helped spread Duchin's popularity across the country. His orchestra began to tour and appeared on three radio programs, one with Ed Wynn, one with George Burns and Gracie Allen, and another a talent contest program called ''Going Places.'' Early vocalist was Lew Sherwood.
In the late 1930s Duchin modernized his sound. The new orchestra was well-received, appearing in top spots throughout North and South America. During WWII Duchin served in the Navy as a lieutenant, his military career a serious one and not involved in music. After the war he formed a new orchestra, considered by many critics to be his most musical. In the late 1940s, however, he was forced to cut back on activities as his leukemia began to worsen. He died in 1951. His son, Peter, became a pianist and society bandleader in his own regard.