Don Rayno’s history of Paul Whiteman: Big band, bigger books

WhitemanBook“Losering” is a short book that weighs in at a mere 202 pages, but writing it still felt like a big undertaking. So I can’t even imagine the quest that Don Rayno has been on for the past 30 years, a huge project that dwarfs my book in almost every way. Don, who lives in Cary, has spent the past three decades researching the life and career of the late great big-band leader Paul Whiteman — one of the biggest music stars of the roaring ’20s, even though he’s largely forgotten today. But Whiteman had an amazing career and was instrumental in launching the careers of musicians including Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer and George Gershwin; “Rhapsody in Blue” was a Whiteman commission, debuted by his orchestra in 1924.

Don has been studying Whiteman since 1983, and he has written a massive two-volume history that collectively adds up to 1,600 very dense pages. The very thought of it makes my puny little brain hurt, but his work has finally come to fruition with the publication of volume two. Go here to find a feature about that in Sunday’s paper (a link that also includes the story I did when part one was published way back in 2003).

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