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Joe Moshay, 95; Bandleader at Society, Academy Award Events

March 05, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Joe Moshay, the Los Angeles music man chosen over six decades to direct dance tunes for hundreds of debutante and charity balls, birthday parties and weddings of the rich and famous, and nine Academy Awards Governors Ball events, has died. He was 95.

Moshay died Sunday at his Beverly Hills home of natural causes associated with aging.

The society orchestra leader provided music half a century ago for the landmark El Dorado Party at the Ambassador Hotel, which raised $400,000 to begin construction of the Music Center.

He led the band for the final docking of the Queen Mary in Long Beach and for the inaugural ball of Gov. Ronald Reagan in Sacramento. He was the bandleader for the California Club's 50th anniversary bash and the 70th birthday party of the late publishing magnate Walter Annenberg.

Born in Norfolk, Va., Moshay began studying violin as a small child, including four years at the Conservatory of Music in Mexico City, where his family lived at the time. After moving to Los Angeles in his teens, he studied privately with Calmon Luboviski, earning the $12 per lesson by delivering newspapers.

Moshay began playing with a six-piece orchestra in 1928 at Morey's Old Time and Modern Dance Hall at 15th and Main streets in Los Angeles. On New Year's Eve of 1929, he took over as leader of the band that remained Morey's mainstay until 1936 -- warily keeping his day job as a delivery truck driver for the Los Angeles Herald-Express newspaper.

A championship dancer when he wasn't directing the dance music, Moshay moved on in Hollywood's glamorous late 1930s to Mocambo and Ciro's nightclubs and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

When John Brown, creator of the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove, hired him to play intermissions for the orchestras of such luminaries as Eddie Duchin and Paul Whiteman, he suggested that the man born Joe Moshy (originally the Lebanese Meouchi) add an "a" for extra class.

Moshay, along with society gigs, spent 20 years as a studio musician for MGM, Columbia and Paramount. The versatile musician, who played banjo as well as violin, patented a nylon banjo pick and wrote songs, including "There's Something about Her" and "Josie."

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Josephine; three sons, Paul, Walter and Raymond; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial Mass is scheduled for 11 this morning at Our Lady of Mount Lebanon Cathedral, 333 S. San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be made to a charity of the donor's choice.

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