Photograph of Paul Whiteman outside the Tom Brown Music Company, Chicago, 1922

from the Bruce Vermazen Research Papers on Tom Brown

Paul Whiteman, wearing a long coat and hat, standing in front of Tom Brown's shop.

This photograph of Paul Whiteman standing outside the Tom Brown Music Company was taken on December 27, 1922 for an article published on December 30 in The Music Trades about Chicago’s newest music store.  Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra were performing that week at Chicago’s new Trianon Ball Room.  The article’s headline was “Paul Whiteman’s Engagement at Trianon Ball Room Stimulated Instrument Sales for Chicago Dealers.” 

The Tom Brown Music Company served as a music instrument distributor for the Buescher, Selmer, Bundy, Leedy, Gibson, and Paramount companies, and opened originally as the Tom Brown Music Store in 1921 at 17 West Lake Street.  This store was immediately across the street from the State-Lake Theater that opened in 1919 and featured traveling vaudeville shows.  Ever the practical entrepreneur, Tom Brown established his new music store across from Chicago’s new vaudeville theater to attract a wide range of customers and local music celebrities. It is quite likely that Brown, who knew Paul Whiteman, arranged to have Whiteman visit his music shop to advertise its opening.  While Brown and his brothers continued touring, William and Howard Lyons managed the store’s operation.

In addition to selling music instruments, the music store provided lessons to students of all abilities.  Cab Calloway (1907-1994), who came to Chicago to attend Crane College but spent his nights performing at local nightclubs like the Sunset Café, took saxophone lessons with Tom Brown in 1927.  By this time, America’s taste in popular entertainment had shifted to the music of Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet and Kid Ory, and by 1928, the Brown Brothers’ touring ensemble discontinued.