Joe Moshay


Joe Moshay, the renowned orchestra leader who entertained presidents, Hollywood celebrities and many of Southern California’s debutantes with his music, has died. He was 95. Though he spent his professional life entertaining others, his greatest joy was his wife of 70 years, Josephine, sons Paul (Donna), Walter (Susan) and Raymond, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Moshay was the last of five children born to Lebanese parents who came to America seeking a better life. He was only five when he tried playing a toy violin, an effort his father was quick to recognize as he replaced it with the real thing and encouraged him to pursue what would soon become his passion.

Only nine when his parents moved the family from Richmond, Virginia to Mexico City, his formal study of the instrument began at The Conservatory of Music on a violin his father purchased for one peso. After four years, the Moshay family returned to the States, settling in Los Angeles, and he expanded his education by studying under Calmon Luboviski.

After high school, he formed his own group and became the house band at Morey’s Dance Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The Joe Moshay Orchestra played nightly for eight years before moving on to play the Macombo, Ciro’s and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where singer Mary Martin would join the orchestra onstage.  It wasn’t long before he was playing intermissions at the Ambassador Hotel for the orchestras of Eddie Duchin, Paul Whiteman and Anson Weeks.  During the early 1950’s his band played the seasons at many of Palm Springs’ favorite watering holes, such as The Doll House and the Biltmore Hotel.

While his dedication earned him a stellar reputation around town, Hollywood notables and the studios were quick to notice, hiring Moshay to lend his skills to many motion pictures at MGM, RKO, Warner Bros., Columbia and Paramount. His orchestra played the Governor’s Ball following the Academy Awards for a record-breaking nine consecutive years.

Never one to solicit a society party, people would seek him out to play their engagements. There were several times that brides changed their wedding dates in an effort to secure his services. When the California Club celebrated its 50th anniversary, dates were juggled to suit his availability. Even Mrs. Walter Annenberg contacted the Los Angeles Country Club to request they find a replacement so that he could play her husband’s 70th birthday party on New Year’s Eve. In attendance: five former U.S. presidents and Hollywood’s A-list, including Frank Sinatra. 

His popularity made him the orchestra of choice for countless debutante balls throughout his career. He played more than 50 National Charity League Coronet debutante balls; 40 annual Las Patronas Auxiliary of Ventura County Assistance League debutante balls; 35 Las Companas of Orange County Symphony Association Benefit debutante balls; 28 Las Madrinas of Children’s Hospital benefit debutante balls; and numerous balls for Children’s Hospital, the National Charity League, Assistance League, La Jolla Debutante Ball and Valley Hunt Club.

Moshay’s list of annual engagements included The International Committee of the Philharmonic Orchestra benefits, the Music Center Opera Association benefits, Assistance League Storybook Ball and Ruby Ball, the Executive “One Hundred Club” dinner dances, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital shows and dances, more than 40 years of dances for the Pasadena Supper Club and 21 years of dances for the Los Angeles Supper Club.

Joe was respected and admired by all the fine musicians that worked in his band, most of whom were with him for over 30 years, and he often said that it was their qualities and excellent musicianship that made his success possible.

A lifetime member of Musicians Local 47 and a member of ASCAP after writing several songs, including “There’s Something About Her,” “Josie” (written for his wife and performed on “The Lawrence Welk Show”) and “There’s No Place Like Los Angeles,” the latter submitted when the city was seeking a theme song, Moshay was also a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and enjoyed frequent placement on the society pages of the Los Angeles Times and other area newspapers.

Always a creative man, his abilities ranged beyond music. He designed and built his Beverly Hills home; developed an auto side body protective molding long before auto manufacturers included it on vehicles; developed an improved adjustable saxophone strap; and, as a banjo player (his second instrument), invented and patented a superior pick handcrafted from pure nylon that continues to be used by notable musicians as it is distributed worldwide.

He was a humble and gentle man and was loved by everyone. He will be dearly missed.  Memorial mass to be held on March 6 at 11am at Our Lady of Mount Lebanon Cathedral, 333 S. San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. Committal to be private. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be sent to the charity of your choice.