America’s Singing Master – Fred Waring   5 comments

Although his name might draw a blank with the younger generation, I think just about everyone else will be at least a little familiar with Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. Most will recall Waring as the leader of a musical ensemble that included a lot of choral pieces, but the man who was sometimes called ‘America’s Singing Master’ was much more than that.

During a career that began in the early days in jazz, he became a star in nearly every medium — even hosting a ground-breaking TV show — and was eventually honored with a Congressional Gold Medal. Along the way, he still found time to use his shrewd business sense to help market the first modern electric blender.

Fredrick Malcolm Waring was — as you might suspect — a Pennsylvanian, and by his teen years was already showing his musical side by playing in and leading a banjo band. He continued to do so even after enrolling at Penn State University to begin what would be a lifelong relationship, one that would eventually lead to the school establishing a foundation in his name.

However, Waring was way too eager for a musical career to stick around and graduate, and by the mid-1920s he’d turned his banjo band into a full-fledged jazz orchestra, one that he had named the Pennsylvanians (even though it was eventually based in Detroit). It was enormously popular on records and radio, and eventually even appeared in stage shows and movies.

Over the next several decades, Fred Waring’s musical extravaganza continued to prosper, while gradually evolving into a softer and more commercial style. The success of the group would even lead to a pioneering one-hour TV variety show in 1949. As for Waring himself, his sharp business sense (which had already led him to invest in — and give his name to — the Waring blender) allowed him to build an affiliated empire that included workshops, publishing, and real estate. By the time he died in 1984 he’d firmly established his legacy.

Fred Waring & Pennsylvanians – “I Really Don’t Want To Know”

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5 responses to “America’s Singing Master – Fred Waring

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  1. My fav by Fred is ‘Collegiate’ … Great Post & as usual, nice words.

  2. Thanks! Youtube had a video with “Collegiate” but I wanted to use the one with the scenes from the era.

    However, it’s worth listening to — so here it is.

  3. What a delightful video (Little White Lies). The Waring choral show was a favorite in our family; by the time I entered the picture I was only aware of him as a choral director. Learned of the previous jazz band much later but had never heard that music until now–thanks. And the blender connection came even later to me. When I first learned it, I thought, “how cool! The guy was a multi-talented genius!”

  4. I used to think the blender’s name was just a coincidence so I was surprised too. In all fairness, Fred didn’t invent it but he certainly was front and center in its success. It’s an interesting little story — here’s the wikipedia entry:

    In the 1930s, inventor Frederick Jacob Osius went to Waring for financial backing for an electric blender he had patented. The Osius patent (#2,109,501) was filed March 13, 1937 and awarded March 1, 1938. Some $25,000 later, the Waring-owned Miracle Mixer was introduced to the public at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago retailing for $29.75. In 1938, Fred Waring renamed his Miracle Mixer Corporation as the Waring Corporation, and the mixer’s name was changed to the Waring Blendor (the “o” in blendor giving it a slight distinction from “blender”).

    The Waring Blendor became an important tool in hospitals for the implementation of specific diets, as well as a vital scientific research device. Dr. Jonas Salk used it while developing his polio vaccine. In 1954, the millionth Waring Blendor was sold, and it is still popular today

  5. Ah…another of my favorites. I really went for the big bands. Actually played the saxaphone for a while in one. Great fun.

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