Remembering Conrad Janis

February 11, 1928 – March 1, 2022


A tribute to the actor and Dixieland trombonist

Conrad Janis passed away on March 1, 2022 at the age of 94.

He was born in New York on Feb. 11, 1928; his mother Harriet Janis co-wrote the classic book They All Played Ragtime with Rudi Blesh.

Conrad Janis started working as an actor when he was 13, working with a road company for two years and appeared on Broadway in 1945 in Dark Of The Moon.

Discovered by a Hollywood talent scout, Janis appeared in such films as Snafu (1945), Margie (1946) and The Brasher Doubloon (1947).

He became a regular on television, gaining his greatest fame in the series Mork and Mindy.

At the same time, Janis was a fine trombonist who loved traditional jazz, recording as early as 1949 and utilizing such sidemen as pianists James P. Johnson, Bob Greene and Dick Wellstood, banjoist Danny Barker, and bassist Pops Foster on some of his recordings with his Tailgate Jazz Band in the early 1950s.

Acting kept him away from jazz for years but he recorded with clarinetist Tony Parenti in 1967.

In 1981 Janis formed the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, a part-time Los Angeles-based Dixieland group that played at jazz festivals, appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and made a few recordings; his sidemen included pianist Arnold Ross, tenor-saxophonist Plas Johnson and occasionally actor George Segal on banjo.

Surprisingly, film clips of the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band are rare but here is a hot version of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” by the band from one of their albums with trumpeter Mike Silverman, clarinetist Joe Ashworth, and Conrad Janis faring well on trombone.

-Scott Yanow

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