• Jacksonville, FL

George Paxton

Composer and arranger George Paxton was a busy man during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Paxton grew up in New Jersey, where he learned to play the saxophone as a youth. He formed his first group, a six-man outfit, in 1933 while still in high school. The band included guitarist Tony Mottola and saxophonist Herbie Haymer. The three later moved to New York, where Paxton was hired to write arrangements for bandleader and Meadowbrook Inn owner Frank Dailey.

In the late 1930s Paxton joined George Hall at the Taft Hotel as an arranger and sax player. When Hall went on tour in 1940 Paxton remained in New York and found work arranging for Bunny Berigan and singer Bea Wain. He briefly moved to Cincinnati to join Charlie Spivak but soon returned to New York to arrange and play sax for Ina Ray Hutton, who had recently disbanded her all-female orchestra and formed a new all-male group. Hutton reportedly paid him fifty percent of her profits for his talent. He eventually came to play an important role in the band, becoming its music director and de facto leader. Paxton also arranged for Vaughan Monroe and Sammy Kaye.

In 1944 Paxton left Hutton to form his own orchestra. The band gained notoriety after a year-long run at the Roseland Ballroom and subsequently toured the country. Paxton revamped the group in 1945, dropping its string section and hiring better musicians, and the improved band soon became a fixture on the New York scene. Vocalists included Alan Dale, Liza Morrow, Dick Merrick, and Gene Williams. Standout musicians were trumpeter Guy Key and saxophonist Boomie Richman. The orchestra primary label was Majestic, however their songs were also released on the Guild, Hit, and MGM labels.

In 1949 Paxton took the position of house orchestra leader at New York's Capitol Theatre. He later went into the music publishing business and co-founded the Coed record label in 1958. Coed's biggest stars were Adam Wade, the Crests, the Duprees, and the Rivieras. The label went out of business in the early 1960s.