Eddy Howard, who was heard in big band remotes from Chicago's Aragon Ballroom.

A big band remote (a.k.a. dance band remote) was a remote broadcast, common on radio during the 1930s and 1940s, involving a coast-to-coast live transmission of a big band.


Broadcasts were usually transmitted by the major radio networks directly from hotels, ballrooms, restaurants and clubs. During World War II, the remote locations expanded to include military bases and defense plants. Band remotes mostly originated in major cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago.

The usual procedure involved the network sending a two-man team, announcer and engineer, with remote radio equipment to a designated location. The announcer would open with music behind an introduction:

For your dancing pleasure, Columbia brings you the music of Count Basie and his orchestra, coming to you from the Famous Door on Fifty-Second Street in New York City.[1]

Broadcast venues

The Chicago broadcasts featured bands headed by Count Basie, Frankie Carle, Duke Ellington, Jan Garber, Jerry Gray, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Eddy Howard (from the Aragon Ballroom), Dick Jurgens, Kay Kyser (from the Blackhawk Restaurant), Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra (from the Blackhawk), Ted Weems, Shep Fields (from the Palmer House - Empire Room)[2][3] and Griff Williams.

Artie Shaw's many remote broadcasts included the Rose Room of Boston's Ritz Carlton Hotel. The Blue Room of New York's Hotel Lincoln was the location of his only regular radio series as headliner. Sponsored by Old Gold cigarettes, Shaw broadcast on CBS from November 20, 1938 until November 14, 1939. Before he launched Sun Records, Sam Phillips ran regular big band remotes with the Chuck Foster orchestra and others from the Peabody Hotel Skyway Ballroom in Memphis, Tennessee.[4] The tradition continued into the 1950s with Ray Anthony doing band remotes on CBS in 1951-52. In the mid-1950s, NBC broadcast jazz club remotes on Monitor featuring Howard Rumsey, Al Hibbler and others.[5]

As early as 1923, listeners could tune in the Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra. The Oriole Orchestra (Dan Russo and Ted Fio Rito) was performing at Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel when they did their first radio remote broadcast on March 29, 1924, and two years later, they opened the famous Aragon Ballroom in July 1926, doing radio remotes nationally from both the Aragon and the Trianon Ballrooms. In 1929, after Rudy Vallée's Orchestra vacated Manhattan's Heigh-Ho Club to do a movie in Hollywood, Will Osborne's dance band found fame with a nationwide audience due to radio remotes from the Heigh-Ho. That same year, Phil Spitalny and his orchestra broadcast on NBC from the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York.

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image icon Photograph: New Year's Eve with Guy Lombardo for CBS Television in 1971
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Starting in 1929, Guy Lombardo begin a series of annual New Year's Eve remote broadcasts of his "sweet" big-band music from several venues in New York City. Featuring his Royal Canadians Orchestra, Lombardo's performances continued for nearly half a century. From 1929 to 1959, his earliest broadcasts originated live on both the CBS and NBC radio networks from the Roosevelt Grill at the Roosevelt Hotel and were subsequently followed by both live radio and television broadcasts on the CBS network from the Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel from 1959 until 1976.[6] Due to the widespread popularity of these broadcasts Lombardo earned the nickname "Mr. New Year's Eve".[7]

By 1930, Ben Bernie was heard in weekly remotes from Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel. On November 24, 1937, Glenn Miller did a remote on NBC from Boston's Raymor Ballroom on Huntington Avenue (one block from Symphony Hall). On the west coast, Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra could be heard in 1938 while broadcasting from the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel after filming The Big Broadcast of 1938 in Hollywood.[8] By 1945, Fields' live performances at the famed Copacabana nightclub in New York City were also broadcast on the WOR Radio Network.[9][10][11]

Glen Island Casino

The Glen Island casino was billed as "the mecca for music moderns" and fans from coast to coast knew that it was "just off Shore Road in New Rochelle, New York". Glen Island represented glamor and prestige, where only the best and most popular bands were featured. The casino was also considered the springboard to success for many big bands of 1930s, including those of Ozzie Nelson, Charlie Barnet, Claude Thornhill, Les Brown and the Dorsey Brothers.[12] In March 1939, Glenn Miller and his orchestra gained their big break when they were chosen to play a summer season at Glen Island.[13] Both NBC and Mutual broadcast Miller and his orchestra from the casino, an unusual dual-network remote with some 1,800 people present in the Casino ballroom. Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra played at Glen Island along the water's edge almost every night. In addition, Shep Fields introduced a reconfiguration of his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra with the vocalist Toni Arden at the Glen Island Casino in 1947.[14]

Bands heard on 1930s–40s radio remotes

See also



  1. ^ Orgill, Roxane. Dream Lucky: When FDR Was in the White House, Count Basie Was on the Radio, and Everyone Wore a Hat. Smithsonian Books/Collins, 2008.
  2. ^ "Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound", Hoffman, Fred, 2004 Palmer House & Shep Fields on Google Books
  3. ^ "America's Music Makers", Behrens, John, 2011, pg. 27 Palmer House and Shep Fields on Google Books
  4. ^ Harrison, Jennifer. Elvis As We Knew Him, iUniverse, 2003
  5. ^ Monitor
  6. ^ Crump, William D. Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide. McFarland & Co. Publishers. London. 2008 p. 101 Guy lombardo on Google Books ISBN 978-0-7864-3393-3
  7. ^ Auld Lang Syne: Guy Lombardo. CBC Radio December 31, 2015 Biography of Guy Lombardo on the Canadian Broadcasting Company CBC on cbc.ca
  8. ^ The Los Angeles Examiner, October 9, 1938, pg. 1 "Shep Fields Orchestra broadcasting from the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles"
  9. ^ The Billboard. Feb. 24, 1945 p. 34 "New Band for Kelly-Wood" - Shep Fields is set for the Copacabana on Google Books
  10. ^ What A Swell Party It Was: Rediscovering Food and Drink from the Golden Age of the American Nightclub. Turback,Michael. Skyhorse Publishing January 16, 2018 "Copacabana (New York, New York)" Shep Fields Copacabana on Google Books ISBN 9781210727793
  11. ^ The Copacabana. Baggelaar, Kristin. Arcadia Publishing. 2006 p. 61 Shep Fields - the Copa's first society band leader & WOR-Mutual Radio on Google Books ISBN 9780738549194
  12. ^ Glen Island Harbor Club - Casino History
  13. ^ NY Times - Pop/Jazz; Glenn Miller Sound of 1939 at Glen Island Casino
  14. ^ The Billboard. October 18, 1947 p. 35 "Shep Fields Reviewed at Glen island Casino" on Google Books
  15. ^ Music & Big Bands

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