Vienna-born Walter Jurmann's career as a composer and songwriter took him from Berlin, where he made his name in the 1920s and early '30s writing hits for Richard Tauber and others, to exile and still greater success in Paris, and finally to America by way of Hollywood beginning in early 1935. From 1932 until the end of the decade, he frequently collaborated with Bronislaw Kaper, and the two were signed to MGM at the same time. While under contract to the latter studio in the 1930s, he wrote such hits as "San Francisco" (sung by Jeanette MacDonald) for the movie of that name, and "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" (for A Day at the Races), both of which were very heavily recorded by the likes of Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, et al. Jurmann later wrote songs for Deanna Durbin, and in later years he saw considerable success with his "city songs," of which "San Francisco" had been the first; several, including that composition and one called "San Antonio," were adopted officially by the cities that inspired them.
Stylistically, Jurmann during his Austrian/German period bridged the gap between the Viennese operetta/light classical mode of Franz Lehár and Carl Zeller and the jauntiness and brashness of the Jazz Age. His songs were among the most popular written in Germany between the late '20s and the dawn of the Nazi era, which forced him and his writing partner Kaper to emigrate, first to Paris, where they enjoyed equal success utilizing French music influences, and then to America. He adapted well to American musical conventions and needs, and found his music sung by the likes of Ivie Anderson and Billy Eckstine, and in the repertoires of Bud Powell and other jazz greats. His one attempt at a stage musical, Windy City (to a book by Philip Yordan and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) was a failure before ever reaching Broadway, but not because of its score, which received high praise. In 1998, Capriccio Records released new orchestral recordings of a cross section of Jurmann's music from Germany, France, and America.