A pioneer of syncopated dance music in New York and London during the first two decades of the 20th century, pianist and bandleader Dan Kildare was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on January 13, 1879. The son of a constabulary paymaster, he finagled a passport and landed in the U.S., where by 1901 he was co-directing a road show billed as Gorman's Alabama Troubadours. Kildare joined forces with James Reese Europe in New York, and became vice president of Europe's Clef Club, a booking agency and social club for Afro-American musicians of which he was in turn elected president when Europe resigned in 1913. In December 1913 and February 1914, Jim Europe's Society Orchestra made several Victor recordings, which were released "under the personal supervision of" white exhibition dancers Vernon and Irene Castle. Kildare, meanwhile, found himself working for Joan Sawyer, another white dancer in competition with the Castles who hired him to play piano and lead seven other black musicians at a nightclub known as the Persian Garden.
Between May and November 1914 the Columbia record company brought out a series of records by Joan Sawyer's Persian Garden Orchestra "recorded under the personal supervision of Joan Sawyer." These were Kildare's very first recordings. In March of 1915 he assembled a small group of Clef Club musicians and sailed for England on the S.S. Megantic. They arrived in Liverpool on April 9th and made their way to London where they served as the house band at Ciro's Club, unfortunately billed as "Ciro's Club Coon Orchestra." Kildare briefly sailed for the U.S. in April 1916 and returned with additional players. In August and October 1916 the augmented ensemble cut a series of records for British Columbia, including several novelties and a handful of Hawaiian numbers.
After Ciro's Club was shut down in April 1917 for peddling unlicensed liquor, Kildare continued to gig and record with his little band until several of its members donned uniforms and headed for the trenches on the French battlefields in 1918. Kildare stayed in London, performed in duo with drummer Harvey White, published a few of his original compositions, and married a pub owner by the name of Mrs. Fink. Kildare recorded with small ensembles in 1918 and 1919, sometimes under the name of Dan & Harvey's Jazz Band. By the end of 1919, Ciro's Club was back in business and Kildare struggled to work there as pianist and leader of a now rather jazzy-sounding band. Alcoholism and drug addiction, however, undermined his mental health, and his marriage dissolved. On June 21, 1920, Kildare walked into his wife's pub, shot her and her sister dead, put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger. Most of Dan Kildare's recordings have been reissued in chronological order by the Document label.