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The Great Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra

Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra

This special programming from 4/26/12 not only presents lots of great Dick Jurgens music, but also illustrates how this band started out as one of the most danceable and popular sweet bands that also transformed itself into one of the best and fullest sounding dance bands ever.

Also featured on this program is not only Lisa Miriam Jurgens, Dick Jurgens daughter offering personal commentary, but also 100 year old Dick Jurgens vocalist Buddy Moreno, along with other special guests. Don't miss this special event!

Click the play button for this two hour presentation: 

Dick JurgensDick Jurgens

Big Band Orchestra leader, Dick Jurgens was a prominent figure in the sweet style of swing music, achieving his greatest popularity in the late '30s and early '40s. He was credited with co-writing quite a number of hit songs, among them "Careless," "Elmer's Tune," A Million Dreams Ago,  It's a Hundred to One I'm in Love, and "One Dozen Roses." The son of Dietrich Heinrich Jurgens and the former Clara Matilda Erath JurgensDick Jurgens showed an early interest in music, studying with Henry E. Marvin, Robert Fenton, and Harry Wills.

Dick Jurgens  Dick Jurgens  Dick Jurgens

He was dismissed from his high school orchestra for playing popular music and jazz, but that only encouraged him to organize his own dance orchestra, which he first did in 1928 while still in high school. In 1933, he attended the University of California at Berkeley, but due to work constraints, graduated from Sacramento Junior College and immediately turned to bandleading full-time, earning his first important engagement at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. He was signed to newly formed Decca Records and had his first recording session on October 22, 1934. Singer Eddy Howard, who would be an important part of Jurgens' band during his 1934-40 tenure with it, first recorded with him on the 1935 Decca single "The Martinique."

Dick JurgensDick Jurgens

From the mid-'30s to the early '40s, The Dick Jurgens Orchestra played extended residences at such venues as the Casino Ballroom on Catalina Island in southern California, the Elitch Gardens in Denver, and the Aragon and Trianon Ballrooms in Chicago, all bastions of sweet swing music. By 1938, Jurgens was recording for the Vocalion label, and in 1939 he began to make some impact as a record seller, first getting into the rankings on the Your Hit Parade radio show that October with "It's a Hundred to One You're in Love With Me" (co-written by Jurgens and band member Ronnie Kemper), which featured Eddy Howard on vocals.

Jurgens, Howard, and band arranger Lew Quadling collaborated on "Careless," which they submitted to the Irving Berlin publishing company. The story goes that Berlin didn't like the lyrics, but hesitated to offend a major bandleader, so he wrote new words without taking credit. The Jurgens band recorded the song with Howard on vocals, but their version was outpaced by a cover recorded by the vastly more popular Glenn Miller. Meanwhile, Dick Jurgens was scoring one of his biggest hits yet with, "In an Old Dutch Garden (By an Old Dutch Mill)," with another Eddy Howard vocal. And it spent 11 weeks on the Hit Parade starting in February 1940! 

Dick Jurgens Aragon Ballroom 1950

Eddy Howard then left the band to start his own outfit, but Dick Jurgens found a worthy replacement recommended by his friend, Perry Como, a vocalist named Harry Cool, who sang on the band's next Hit Parade entry, "A Million Dreams Ago" in October. Music and lyrics by Jurgens, Howard, and Quadling. The single also marked the band's switch to OKeh Records.

Dick Jurgens and Harry Cool on Okeh Label

Dick Jurgens on Okeh Label 78 with Harry Cool singing

The same month, Jurgens again got into the best-seller charts with an instrumental recording of another song he had co-written, "Elmer's Tune" (music also by Elmer Albrecht). Dick's friend, Glenn Miller,   requested lyrics from Dick for Elmer's Tune.  That afternoon, Lyricist Sammy Gallop met Dick on the elevated train platform near the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. Within 30 minutes, Sammy had written the great lyrics and not a word was changed. Glenn Miller took the vocal recording  of Elmer's Tune that featured Ray Eberle and the Modernaires all the way to number one that year.

Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra ad  dick Jurgens Kate Smith ad

Popular venues at The Claremont in Berkeley & The Arie Crown Theater in Chicago

He and Harry Cool were back in the hit parade in November with "The Bells of San Raquel," and the band scored another chart entry in April 1942 with "Happy in Love" (which marked a switch to Columbia Records). The Dick Jurgens Orchestra's  biggest song on Your Hit Parade came with "One Dozen Roses" (music by Jurgens and Walter Donovan, lyrics by Roger Lewis and Country Washburn), which was sung by Buddy Moreno. Premiering on the radio show in May 1942, it rose to number one in July and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks.

Dick Jurgens

Dick Jurgens Orchestra at another famous engagement at The Aragon Ballroom

Arguably, Jurgens was at the peak of his career in mid-1942, and won the U.S. Treasury Department's Band of the Year Award for their American Broadcasting Radio program's help in promoting the War Bond effort. Just then, the recording ban by the American Federation of Musicians prevented him from making further recordings, and at the same time, he disbanded and joined the U.S. Marine Corps to participate in World War II. He was asked by the State Department to serve as Musical Director for the Marine Shows. His brother, Will and wife, Betty - along with seven of their band musicians, enlisted with Dick and - while on active duty, the Jurgens Orchestra entertained the troops on  30 of the Pacific Islands. They remained with the service through the end of the war in 1945, and were invited to the White House to play a  Command Performance for the top Military Brass and President Truman and his Administration.

Jurgens  reorganized his band in 1946 and went back to work, albeit in a musical climate that was less conducive to his kind of musical approach. Nevertheless, he continued recording for Columbia through the early 1950s, later switching to Mercury. The Orchestra continued their radio broadcasts with a radio berth on CBS, for the Summer Spotlight Revue. In 1954, they were offered a weekly family television program slot which they declined, because Dick, Will and their band members were wanting to start families. The program later became known as The Lawrence Welk Show. 

Dick Jurgens  Lisa Jurgens

Dick Jurgens and his daughter Lisa Miriam Jurgens

Mr. Jurgens continued his astonishing music career creating one of the greatest and fullest sounding big bands of popular music the world has ever heard. Unfortunately, we lost Dick Jurgens at the age of 85 in 1995, but his amazing musical legacy continues.


You have now reached the Dick Jurgens Fan Email Page!

More Dick Jurgens material will be added to this page as you keep sending it in! It can be audio files, videos, pics... whatever. Just send them to Jurgens@WYYR.com and we will include them on this page and mention your name however you'd like to be mentioned... if at all!


5-12-12  Here's a 15 minute Johnson's Wax radio spot we were alerted to thanks to Johnny B from Long Island, NY. It's a weekly spot entitled The Songs That Made Them Famous!  Thank you Johnny!


5-15-12  Here's a medly from 1946 recorded live from the Claremont in CA sent in from Pearl Bails in Manhattan NY. Her reply email read, "I always loved Dick Jurgens especially on your show. I can't believe you will be putting this beautiful medly I sent you on his page. I sure hope his daughter Lisa hears it. She sounds so nice when I heard her on the special. Thanks so much, Pearl."

The medly is in this order; Miss You, Carolina In The Morning, I'm In The Mood For Love, Among My Souvenirs, Out Of Nowhere, and Show Me The Way To Go Home. Thank you Pearl!


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