His name at birth was Abraham Simon Lymon. He and his brother, Mike, changed their last name to Lyman because they both thought it sounded better. Abe learned to play the drums when he was young, and at the age of 14 he had a job as a drummer in a Chicago café. Around 1919, he was regularly playing music with two other notable future big band leaders, Henry Halstead and Gus Arnheim, in California.
In Los Angeles Mike Lyman opened the Sunset, a night club popular with such film stars as Mary Pickford, Norma Talmadge, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. When Abe's nine-piece band first played at the Sunset, it was a success, but the club closed after celebrities signed contracts stating they were not to be seen at clubs.
For an engagement at the Cocoanut Grove in The Ambassador Hotel on April 1, 1922, Abe added a violinist and saxophonist. Opening night drew a large crowd of 1500 guests in the Cocoanut Grove, plus another 500 more outside. Lyman appeared on radio as early as 1922. His orchestra was broadcast from The Ambassador Hotel by late March on KOG.
After the band cut their first record under the local label Nordskog Records, they moved a year later to Brunswick Records in summer of 1923. Abe Lyman quickly became one of their main attractions and recorded hundreds of titles for this company between 1923 and 1936, many of which also saw issue in Europe. On the strength of his Brunswick records reputation, he made a European tour in 1929, appearing at the Kit Cat Club and the Palladium in London, and at the Moulin Rouge and the Perroquet in Paris.
During the 1930s and 1940s Abe Lyman changed the style of his band; his orchestra became a so-called Sweetband. The Roaring Twenties, with the dance-craze and the hot dance music had become old fashioned music; popular music was romantic and sweet, like in the films.
Lyman and his orchestra were featured in a number of early talkies, including Hold Everything (1930), Paramount on Parade (1930), Good News (1930) and Madam Satan (1930). In 1931, Abe Lyman and his orchestra recorded a number of soundtracks for the Merrie Melodies cartoon series. Notable musicians in the Lyman Orchestra included Ray Lopez, Gussie Mueller, and Orlando "Slim" Martin.
During the 1930s, the Lyman Orchestra was heard regularly on such shows as Accordiana and Waltz Time every Friday evening and on NBC, Coast to Coast. Under the name "Rose Blane" Lyman's wife was vocalist with the band during this period. Lyman and his orchestra sat in for Phil Harris on the Jack Benny program in 1943 when Harris served in the Merchant Marines.
The orchestra returned to recording for Decca in 1937, and later for RCA Victor's Bluebird subsidiary in 1938, but by this time, it was clear that though the group managed to survive the depression, the heat was out of the band. Their recording career ended with a handful of records made for Eli Oberstein's Hit label in 1943 and a single CBS coupling in 1945; after the band appeared in a couple of notoriously cheap Teen Ager films for Monogram in 1946 and 1947, Lyman threw in the musical towel and got into the restaurant business. He was still working in it when he died in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 60.
(Info mainly compiled from Wikipedia)
Abe Lyman's Californians perform the "12th St. Rag" in an excerpt from the 1930 film "Pardon My Gun" directed by Robert De Lacey. Featured soloists in the group are Abe Lyman drums & leader, unidentified trumpet, 'Zip' Keyes clarinets, Frank Papile accordion, and Orlando 'Slim' Martin trombone.