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Roger Wolfe Kahn

The artists in the Knott’s record collection include many luminous but now forgotten stars. Roger Wolfe Kahn’s star burned particularly brightly for a while.

As a child Kahn was a classically trained multi-instrumentalist. His wealthy parents were not happy when he dropped out of high school to become a jazz musician. In the best teen idol tradition, they were ignored. Soon he was managing eleven bands and owned several fashionable night clubs in New York City. He was on the cover of Time magazine before his twentieth birthday.

From 1926, here is his orchestra performing an Irving Berlin waltz:

If that’s a little too sweet, the flip side has a foxtrot which might appeal more to Jay Gatsby:

And here, this Roger Wolfe Kahn foxtrot has a Latin tinge and features castanets. Kahn arrived on the music scene just in time for electronic recording. The sound of castanets would have been hard to reproduce with gramophone technology.

The Discography of American Historical Recordings lists one hundred and twelve records by Kahn between 1926 and 1932. In addition to his musical entrepreneurship, Kahn dabbled in both theater and talking pictures. Before long his interests turned to aviation. Kahn gave up the entertainment business completely and spent the last thirty years of his life as a test pilot for Grumman Aircraft.


Roger Wolfe Kahn (1926)

A: “At Peace with the World”

B: “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain”

Roger Wolfe Kahn (1927)

A: “The Tap Tap”