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George Olsen

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George Olsen (18 March 1893 - 18 March 1971) was an American bandleader. Born in Portland, Oregon he attended the University of Michigan, where he formed his band, George Olsen and his Music. He made the transition to Broadway, appearing in Kid Boots, the Ziegfeld Follies of 1924, and Good News. George Olsen and his Music were prolific Victor recording artists and their records are among the most numerous found by record collectors today, testifying to their original popularity. He and his orchestra were in Eddie Cantor’s 1928 Broadway hit Whoopee!, and in the 1930 movie version. He met a singer, Ethel Shutta, who sings and dances memorably in Whoopee!, and they married, appearing together in nightclubs and on radio. They had two children; following a divorce, Olsen opened a restaurant in New Jersey.

Olsen signed with Victor in 1924 and remained as one of Victor’s most popular bands through 1933 when he signed with Columbia. He stayed with Columbia through 1934. He recorded a single session in 1938 for Decca.

In 1936, Olsen became leader of Orville Knapp’s band after Knapp died in a plane crash. Olsen was chosen to lead the band by Knapp’s widow. Morale problems plagued the group, and in 1938, after many musicians had already left, the group disbanded.

Olsen died in Paramus, New Jersey.

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