Brunswick Phonograph Advertisement from the Red Deer News, November 28, 1923, Red Deer, Alberta
Tricky Sam Nanton
|Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton|
From the left: Tricky Sam Nanton, H. Carney, W. Jones. Hurricane Ballroom, April 1943.
(Nanton and Jones with a plunger mute).
|Birth name||Joseph Nanton|
|Born||February 1, 1904|
|Origin||New York City|
|Died||July 20, 1946 (aged 42)|
|Associated acts||Duke Ellington|
From 1923 to 1924, he worked with Frazier’s Harmony Five. A year later, he performed with banjoist Elmer Snowden. At age 22, Joe Nanton found his niche in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra when he reluctantly took the place of his friend Charlie Irvis. He remained a member of the orchestra until his early death in 1946. Nanton, along with Lawrence Brown, anchored one of the outstanding jazz trombone sections of the swing era, their different, complementary talents and personalities opening up a wide range of trombone sounds and solos in the early Ellington bands.
Nanton was one of the great pioneers of the plunger mute. Together with his musical soulmate Bubber Miley on trumpet, Nanton is largely responsible for creating the characteristic Wah-wah sounds copied by many later brass soloists in the swing era. Their highly expressive growl and plunger sounds were the main ingredient in the band’s famous “jungle” sound that evolved during the band’s late 1920s engagement at Harlem‘s “Cotton Club“. After Miley’s premature departure in 1929, Nanton taught Cootie Williams, Miley’s successor, some of the growl and plunger techniques that Miley had used. Williams became a plunger virtuoso in his own right and helped the band retain its distinctive sound.
Many people asked Nanton how he acquired and formulated his unique style and sounds. In 1921, Nanton heard Johnny Dunn playing the trumpet with a plunger, which Nanton realized could be used to similar effect on the trombone.
When Joe Nanton joined the Ellington band, he was eager to solo. Nanton had been playing with the band for several weeks before the jovial alto saxophonist Otto “Toby” Hardwickconvinced Ellington to let him play. According to Barney Bigard, “…he [Joe Nanton] grabbed his plunger. He could use that thing, too. It talked to you. I was sitting there, looking up at him, and every time he’d say ‘wa-wa,’ I was saying ‘wa-wa’ with my mouth, following him all the way through.”
Sensing Nanton’s impressive manual dexterity the fun-loving Hardwick, ever inclined to tag friends with fitting nicknames, dubbed Nanton “Tricky Sam”: “anything to save himself trouble—he was tricky that way.”
From his early days with the Ellington band, Tricky Sam was featured regularly. But he and Miley worked especially well in combination, often playing in harmony or “playing off each other” (embellishing and developing the musical theme of the preceding soloist into one’s own new musical idea). Nanton and Miley successfully incorporated plunger skills in their playing to evoke moods, people, or images. It was their work together as much as their individual talents that earned Tricky Sam Nanton and Bubber Miley their place as the first musicians widely recognized for their plunger sounds and styles.
The celebrated brass growl effect was vividly described by Duke Ellington’s son, Mercer Ellington:
There are three basic elements in the growl: the sound of the horn, a guttural gargling in the throat, and the actual note that is hummed. The mouth has to be shaped to make the different vowel sounds, and above the singing from the throat, manipulation of the plunger adds the wa-wa accents that give the horn a language. I should add that in the Ellington tradition a straight mute is used in the horn besides a plunger outside, and this results in more pressure. Some players use only the plunger, and then the sound is usually coarser, less piercing, and not as well articulated.
Nanton and Miley gave the Ellington Orchestra the reputation of being one of the “dirtiest” jazz groups. Many listeners were excited by the raunchy, earthy sounds of their growls and mutes. Among the best examples of their style are “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “The Blues I Love to Sing,” “Black and Tan Fantasy,” “Goin’ to Town,” and “Doin’ the Voom-Voom.”
While other brass players became adept at growl and plunger techniques, Nanton’s sound was all his own. He developed, in addition to other tricks in his bag, an astonishing “ya-ya” sound with the plunger mute. Like a chef zealously guarding the recipe of a sensational dish, Nanton kept the details of his technique a secret, even from his band mates, until his premature death.
Some ingredients in Nanton’s unique “ya-ya” sound, however, are apparent: inserting a nonpareil trumpet straight mute into the bell, using a large plumber’s plunger outside the bell, and “speaking” into the instrument while playing. This sort of speaking involved changing the cavity of the mouth while silently reproducing different vowel sounds without actually vibrating the vocal cords. By shaping the soft palate to change from “ee” to “ah,” Nanton was able to make his trombone sound like a voice singing “ya.” His palette of near-vocal sounds was radical for its time and helped produce the unique voicings in Ellington compositions, such as “The Mooche” and “Mood Indigo“.
Nanton died from a stroke in San Francisco, California on July 20, 1946, while on tour with the Ellington Orchestra. Nanton’s death, the first of an active Ellington musician, was an enormous loss for the Ellington Orchestra. While later trombonists, including Tyree Glenn, Nanton’s replacement, have tried to duplicate Tricky Sam’s plunger techniques, no one has been able to reproduce his legendary style. Nanton had a wide variety of expression, and his intricate techniques were not well documented.
Fortunately, Nanton left behind a legacy of many outstanding recordings (unlike Miley) and a lasting influence on the art of the jazz trombone.
Portrait of Alcide Nunez, 1918
|Birth name||Alcide Patrick Nunez|
|Born||March 17, 1884
St.Bernard Parish, Louisiana
|Origin||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Died||September 2, 1934 (aged 50)|
Alcide Patrick Nunez (March 17, 1884 – September 2, 1934), also known as Yellow Nunez and Al Nunez, was an early whiteAmerican jazz clarinetist. He was also one of the first musicians of New Orleans who made numerous audio recordings and he was announced by Pee Wee Russell as the greatest jazz clarinetist of the world.
Alcide Patrick Nunez was born in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. His parents were Victor Nunez and Elisa Nunez Chalaire and were ofIsleño and Louisiana French descent respectively. The family moved to New Orleans when he was a child.
He grew up amid the Marigny and Bywater districts of New Orleans. For a time, Nunez lived at 1340 Arts Street, in the St. Roch neighborhood of New Orleans. He initially played guitar, then switched to clarinet about 1902. He soon became one of the top hot clarinetists in the city. By 1905 he was a regular in Papa Jack Laine‘s band, in addition to playing with Tom Brown (trombonist) and sometimes leading bands of his own. Nunez could play several instruments, but mainly played the clarinet. In addition, he was able to improvise variations on the songs he heard. Before he was able to make music a full-time profession, Nunez worked for a while driving a mule drawn wagon with fellow musician “Chink” Martin Abraham.
In early 1916 he went north to Chicago with Stein’s Dixie Jass Band, which was to become famous as the Original Dixieland Jass Band, but Nunez left the band shortly before they made their first recordings. In 1917 the Dixieland Jass Band achieved great success with their recording of the instrumental “Livery Stable Blues” under the direction of Nick LaRocca; however, Nunez and Ray Lopez filed copyright for a sheet music version of the tune before LaRocca. Nick LaRocca and the band sued Nunez for $10,000. In the end the lawsuit was thrown out without decision; the judge denied that any “musicians” who could not read written music could be said to have written anything.
After some time playing with Tom Brown’s band in Chicago, he went to New York City with Bert Kelly‘s band. Pee Wee Russellannounced in Chicago and New York that Nunez was the greatest jazz clarinetist of the world. Nunez became Bert Kelly’s band leader. After playing with Kelly through 1918, at the start of 1919 Nunez helped form the band the Louisiana Five, led by drummerAnton Lada. They quickly became one of the most popular bands in New York at the time and recorded for several record labels. In early 1920 Nunez worked with the New York dance band of Harry Yerkes, but in the same year returned temporarily to the Louisiana Five, touring the United States.
In 1922, after Bert Kelly replaced him with Johnny Dodds, he returned to Chicago to lead the house band at Kelly’s Stables, one of the city’s top nightclubs and played with the band of Willard Robison. Soon thereafter Nuñez began to lose his teeth, impairing his ability to play clarinet professionally. He returned to his family in New Orleans, but after getting dentures found he was still able to play. He obtained a job with the police department, also playing with the police band, and remained in New Orleans until his death.
Nunez married three times, had one child with his second wife and three children with his third. For a time in 1921, he settled in Baltimore, where he bought a large house.
He died September 2, 1934, of a heart attack.
Henry Ragas (January 1, 1891 – February 18, 1919) was a jazz pianist who played with the Original Dixieland Jass Band on their earliest recording sessions. As such, he is the very first jazz pianist to be recorded (not counting piano rolls), although his contributions are barely audible due to the primitive recording equipment available. His role in the band was to fill out the chords and to provide a bass line. He did not play solos on the recordings.
Ragas gained experience as a solo pianist during the period from 1910 to 1913. He traveled with Johnny Stein‘s band to Chicago in 1916 and subsequently left the group in order to form the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB). The ODJB, the first jazz group to ever record, became a major hit in 1917. Ragas was on the band’s first 21 recordings including “Bluin’ The Blues”, which he composed.
He played on many Original Dixieland Jass Band classics and standards such as “Livery Stable Blues“, regarded as the first jazz recording, “Tiger Rag”, one of the most recorded songs in jazz history, “Clarinet Marmalade”, “Fidgety Feet”, “At the Jazz Band Ball”, “Sensation”, “Bluin’ the Blues”, and “Dixie Jass Band One-Step”. He died of Spanish Flu in 1919, his place in the group being taken by ragtime and jazz pianist and composer J. Russel Robinson.
Henry Ragas was a pioneering jazz pianist who was influential on later jazz bands that emerged in the 1930s and 1920s. “Tiger Rag” and “Clarinet Marmalade” were among the most important and most influential jazz recordings of all-time.
Compositions by Henry Ragas
Henry Ragas composed the jazz standards “Bluin’ the Blues”, “Lazy Daddy”, “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step”, “Clarinet Marmalade Blues”, and “Reisenweber Rag”.
Frank Joseph Christian was born in the Bywater neighborhood of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. In an interview for Tulane’sJazz Archives, he described his family ancestry as “cayudle”, a Creole French term for a mutt or mongrel. His brothers Charles (1886–1964) and Emile Christian also worked as professional musicians. Frank showed musical versatility at a young age, and was playing trumpet, clarinet, violin, and tuba professionally by his teens.
In 1916 Frank Christian was the first choice of Alcide Nunez, Eddie Edwards, and Johnny Stein to play in a band they had been hired to bring north to Chicago. Christian initially agreed and rehearsed with the band before it left for the north, but then backed down as he had a full schedular of job offers in New Orleans and thought this less risky than leaving town. Christian was replaced by Nick LaRocca, and thus Frank Christian missed his chance to be in the Original Dixieland Jass Band which made the first jazz recordings in 1917.
After hearing of the commercial success of the O.D.J.B. and other New Orleans musicians who went north, Christian went to play in Chicago with Fischer and Anton Lada. He then went to New York City in response to an offer to start a New Orleans style band to play at a Manhattan dance club called The Alamo. When Christian arrived in New York, Nick LaRocca of the Original Dixieland Jass Band was concerned about competition and offered Christian $200 and a return railway ticket to go back to New Orleans; Christian turned the offer down. He formed the Original New Orleans Jazz Band with whom he recorded oncornet in 1918 and 1919. He was originally the leader of the band, but later it was agreed to turn leadership over to the band’s extroverted pianist, Jimmie Durante.
He returned home to work his later years in New Orleans, where he died.
Joe Stephens, generally known as ‘“Ragbaby” or “Rag Baby Stephens”, (March 3, 1887 - c. 1927) was an early New Orleans dixielandand jazz drummer. (His family name has appeared in print both as “Stephens” and “Stevens“, although the family themselves spelled it with the “ph”). He was the 13th and last child of Philip Stephens (1841–1906) and his wife Catherine Kolb (1843–1913), both natives of Baden-Baden. A number of the Stephens family descendants were professional musicians or band members.
“Ragbaby” was of the best regarded hot drummers with Papa Jack Laine‘s Reliance band in New Orleans in the early years of the 20th century. He left town to get away from personal problems, and became one of the first New Orleans jazz musicians established in Chicago. His telegrams home were responsible for bringing Paul Mares and George Brunies up north. For some years he worked with banjoist/ bandleader Bert Kelly.
In 1918 Kelly brought his “Jass Band”, including Ragbaby, Alcide Nunez, and Tom Brown (trombonist) to New York City to fill in for theOriginal Dixieland Jass Band at Reisenweber’s Cafe. The Kelly band enjoyed success, and was hired to continue playing, alternating with the Original Dixieland, after that band’s return to New York. After the Kelly Jazz Band won greater approval from the crowds at a “Battle of the Bands” Ragbaby found his drum head’s slashed, and he took the next train back to Chicago and never again headed east.
Stephens was a regular on the Chicago jazz scene into the 1920s; early in the decade he was reunited with clarinetist Alcide Nunez playing in the house band at the noted jazz venue (and speakeasy) “Kelly’s Stables”.
Eddie Edwards recalled Rag Baby “was a magnificent drummer…He inspired you.”
His son Joseph Jr. (1909–1974) played jazz at Roma’s Cafe in New Orleans, and his grandson Joseph E. Stephens (1929–2004) was also a musician. Both are buried in New Orleans, Joe Jr. at St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery No. 2 and Joe E. at Jefferson Memorial Gardens.
A great little Vitaphone from 1928. This short preceded the road show print of “The Singing
Fool.” Vocals by the Biltmore Trio, Rex Maine. SONGS:
“What’ll You Do?” “The Song is Ended” “Tiger Rag”
A Columbia Grafonola Model X Advertisement, as it appeared on December 17th, 1921 in The Edmonton Bulletin, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra
Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra was the first Kansas City jazz band to achieve national recognition, which it acquired through national radio broadcasts. It was founded in 1919, as the Coon-Sanders Novelty Orchestra, by drummer Carleton Coon and pianist Joe Sanders.
Coon was born in Rochester, Minnesota in 1893 and his family moved to Lexington, Missouri shortly after his birth. Sanders was born in Kansas in 1896. Sanders was known as “The Old Left Hander” because of his skills at baseball. He gave the game up in the early 1920s to make dance music his career.
The orchestra began broadcasting in 1922 on clear channel station WDAF, which could be received throughout the United States. They were broadcast in performance at theMuehlebach Hotel in Kansas City. They took the name Nighthawks because they broadcast late at night (11:30pm to 1:00am). By 1924 their fan club had 37,000 members. Fans were encouraged to send in requests for songs by letter, telephone or telegram. That move became so popular that Western Union set up a ticker tape between Sanders’ piano and Coon’s drums so the telegrams could be acknowledged during the broadcasts. Their song “Nighthawk Blues” includes the lines: “Tune right in on the radio/Grab a telegram and say ‘Hello’.” In 1925, they recorded the Paul Whiteman and Fred Rose composition “Flamin’ Mamie“.
The group left Kansas City for the first time in 1924 for a three-month engagement in a roadhouse in Chicago. The orchestra moved to Chicago the same year, where Jules Stein used the profits from a tour he booked for them to establish the Music Corporation of America, with the orchestra as its first client. The orchestra moved into the Blackhawk in Chicago in 1926. The members of the orchestra at that time were Joe Richolson and Bob Pope, trumpets; Rex Downing, trombone; Harold Thiell, Joe Thiell and Floyd Estep, saxophones; Joe Sanders, piano; Russ Stout, banjo and guitar; “Pop” Estep, tuba; Carleton Coon, drums. In the following years, the Nighthawks performed at the Blackhawk every winter, doing remote broadcasts over radio station WGN. Their reputation spread coast-to-coast through these broadcasts and the many records they made for Victor. They undertook very successful road tours.
The orchestra later moved to New York City for an 11-month broadcast engagement at the Hotel New Yorker arranged by William S. Paley, who needed a star attraction to induce radio stations to join the Columbia Broadcasting System.
At their peak, each member of the Orchestra owned identical Cord Automobiles, each in a different color with the name of the Orchestra and the owner embossed on the rear. The Orchestra’s popularity showed no signs of abating and their contract with MCA had another 15 years to run in the spring of 1932 when Carleton Coon came down with a jaw infection and died, on May 4.
Joe Sanders attempted to keep the organization going; however, without Coon, the public did not support them. In 1935, he formed his own group and played until the early 1940s when he became a part time orchestra leader and studio musician. In his later years he suffered from failing eyesight and other health problems. He died in 1965 after suffering a stroke.
The Kansas City Public Library acquired the scrapbooks and other memorabilia collected and prepared by Joe Sanders and the information is available to researchers.
The Coon Sanders Nighthawks Fans’ Bash is held annually on the weekend following Mothers’ Day in Huntington, West Virginia to remember the great contributions to music made by all the members of the Coon Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra and to play and enjoy the great music of the era. This event has been held annually for 44 years. In 2011, the event featured the West End Jazz Band from Chicago, the Toll House Jazz Band from Columbus Ohio, the Sounds of Dixie from Raleigh North Carolina and the Backyard Dixie Jazz Stompers from Huntington West Virginia. Over the years, such musical notables as Curt Hitch, Bill Rank, Earl Roberts, Doc Ryker, Paul Oconnor, Mike Walbridge, Bob Neighbor, Frank Powers, Bob Lefever, Johnny Haynes, Jimmy and Carrie Mazzy, Moe Klippert, Clyde Austin, Nocky Parker, Fred Woodaman and Spiegle Willcox have attended the event.
Project to Record Modern Performances
Efforts were being made during the summer and fall of 2011 to organize and fund a project to record modern performances of the Coon-Sanders repertoire (as well as performing the music in a series of live concerts). The project was led by Doug Bowles, the Washington DC-based founder of a period big band, the SingCo Rhythm Orchestra.
Emil Christian, 1918
|Born||April 20, 1895|
|Origin||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
|Died||December 3, 1973 (aged 78)|
|Instruments||trombone, cornet, string bass|
Christian was born into a musical family in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, most prominently his older brother Frank Christian was a noted cornetist and bandleader. Emile Christian played both cornet and trombone with the Papa Jack Laine bands. He went to Chicago, Illinois in late 1917 to play trombone with the Bert Kelly Jass Band. In 1918 he went to New York City to replaceEddie Edwards in the Original Dixieland Jass Band; he toured England with the O.D.J.B., contributed his tune “Satanic Blues” to their repertory, and made his first recordings with this band. After a brief time in the Original Memphis Five, he returned to Europe where he played with various jazz bands in Berlin (where he made more recordings), Paris, Stockholm (where he recorded with Leon Abbey‘s band) and other European cities into the mid 1930s. He played in both Black and White bands in Europe and India before returning to the United States after the outbreak of World War II. He moved back to New Orleans in the 1950s where he played with the bands ofLeon Prima, Santo Pecora, and Sharkey Bonano and his own band. In 1957 he toured with the Louis Prima Band. He continued playing in New Orleans into 1969, in his later years mostly playing string bass.
Emile Christian also wrote a number of tunes, including “Meet Me At the Green Goose”, “Satanic Blues”, and “Mardi Gras Parade
Tom P. Brown was born in Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana. His younger brother Steve Brown also became a prominent professional musician. He played trombone with the bands of Papa Jack Laine and Frank Christian; by 1910 usually worked leading bands under his own name. The band played in a style then locally known as “hot ragtime” or “ratty music”. In early 1915, his band was heard by Vaudeville dancer Joe Frisco who then arranged a job for Brown’s band in Chicago, Illinois.
On May 15, 1915, Tom Brown’s Band from Dixieland opened up at Lamb’s Cafe at Clark & Randolph Streets in Chicago, with Ray Lopez, cornet and manager; Tom Brown, trombone and leader; Gussie Mueller clarinet, Arnold Loyacano piano and string bass; and Billy Lambert on drums. In Chicago Gussie Mueller was hired by bandleader Bert Kelly, and his place was taken by young New Orleans clarinetist Larry Shields.
This band seems to be the first to be popularly referred to as playing “Jazz”, or, as it was spelled early on, “Jass“. According to Brown, once his band started enjoying popularity the local Chicago musicians union began picketing his band of non-union out-of-towners. One picketer’s placards intended to link Brown’s band with the Storyville prostitution district of New Orleans and the implied disreputable low life status; the signs read “Don’t Patronize This Jass Music”. The term “jass” at that time had a sexual connotation. The signs had the opposite of the intended effect; more people came to hear the band out of curiosity as to what “Jass Music” might be and how it could be performed in public. Brown realized the publicity potential and started calling his group “Brown’s Jass Band”. Some recently rediscovered Chicago newspaper advertisements list it as “Brown’s Jab Band” or “Jad Band”, confirming the reminiscences of Ray Lopez that the bandmembers assumed that “Jass” was too rude a word to be printed in the newspapers so they looked in a dictionary for printable words close to it, like “jade”.
Years later, Brown would frequently brag that he led “the first white jazz band” to go up north. Brown’s careful wording implies that he was aware that the Original Creole Orchestra preceded him and that they played jazz.
Tom Brown’s Band enjoyed over four months of success in Chicago before moving to New York City, where it played for four months more before returning to New Orleans in February 1916. Upon arriving home Brown immediately started rounding up another band to go back to Chicago with him. The group again included Larry Shields; at the end of October, Brown agreed to switch clarinetists with the Original Dixieland Jass Band bringing Alcide Nunez into his band. Brown, Nunez and New Orleans drummer Ragbaby Stevens then went to work for Bert Kelly, who brought them to New York where they temporarily replaced the Original Dixieland Jass Band at Reisenweber’s in 1918. Brown started doing freelance recording work with New York dance and novelty bands, then joined the band of Harry Yerkes. At the start of 1920 he was joined in the Yerkes Band by Alcide Nunez.
Tom Brown also played on Vaudeville in the acts of Joe Frisco and Ed Wynn.
About late 1921 Brown returned to Chicago and joined Ray Miller’s Black & White Melody Boys, with whom he made more recordings. During this period he also co-lead a dance band with his brother Steve.
During the Great Depression he supplemented his income from music by repairing radios. He opened up a music shop and a junk shop on Magazine Street. He played string bass in local swing and dance bands. With the revival of interest in traditional jazz he played in various Dixieland bands in the 1950s, notably that of Johnny Wiggs. A local televisionstation thought it would be a good idea to invite Brown and Nick LaRocca to talk about how jazz first spread north from New Orleans, but the show had scaresly started before the two old men got into an argument that turned into a fist-fight.
Tom Brown made his last recording just weeks before his death, his trombone playing apparently not suffering from the fact that he had neither teeth nor dentures at the time. Brown died in New Orleans.
Life and career
Eddie Edwards was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, started playing violin at age 10, and took up trombone in addition at 15. He played both instruments professionally, including with the bands of Papa Jack Laine and Ernest Giardina. In addition to music Edwards played minor-league baseball and worked as an electrician.
In 1916 he was picked by Alcide Nunez to go to Chicago, Illinois to play trombone with Johnny Stein‘s Jazz Band. With a few changes of personnel this band became the famous Original Dixieland Jazz Band which made the first records of jazz music in 1917.
He left the band after being drafted into the United States Army. The O.D.J.B. replaced him with Emile Christian. Edwards served in the Army from July 1918 to March 1919. After discharge he led a band of his own and worked in the band of Jimmie Durante before returning to the O.D.J.B.
After the breakup the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Edwards again led his own band in New York City for most of the 1920s. In the early 1930s he retired from music and ran a newspaper stand and worked as a sports coach.
He returned to music when Nick LaRocca reformed the O.D.J.B. in 1936, playing with them until 1938. He played with other bands including O.D.J.B. alumni Larry Shields, Tony Sbarbaro, and J. Russell Robinson in New York into the 1940s. He continued playing professionally irregularly until shortly before his death in New York City in 1963.
Jazz musician Johnny Wiggs said that while he’d heard more sophisticated trombone players, he’d “never heard another trombonist who could give a band the rhythmic punch that Edwards could.”
In the early 1920s, Reser’s banjo performances on WEAF/New York were sometimes described by newspaper columnists as “sparkling,” and this prompted WEAF production manager George Podeyn to approach the Clicquot company about sponsoring Reser’s band. The policy of the U.S. Department of Commerce (which regulated radio broadcasting at that time), was that advertising on radio broadcasts was not allowed.
However, the Eskimo theme was carried through whenever possible. Band members wore Eskimo outfits when performing before a studio audience, and barking dogs were a component of Harry Reser’s opening theme tune, Clicquot. Sheet music illustrations depicted the band performing in frigid far North settings.
The radio program aired on WEAF from 1923 to 1926, graduating in 1926 to NBC, where it was heard as a half-hour show on Thursday at 10pm, then Thursday at 9pm (1927-28), Tuesday at 10pm (1928-30) and Fridays at 9pm (1930-33). A typical show opening went like this:
- Announcer: Look out for the falling snow, for it’s all mixed up with a lot of ginger, sparkle, and pep, barking dogs and jingling bells, and there we have a crew of smiling Eskimos, none other than the Clicquot Club Eskimos tripping along to the tune of their own march—“Clicquot.”
- Orchestra: (Plays “Clicquot,” the trademark overture.)
- Announcer (Continuing): After the long breath-taking trip down from the North Pole, the Eskimos stop in front of a filling station for a little liquid refreshment—and what else would it be, but Clicquot Club Ginger Ale—the ginger ale that’s aged six months. Klee-ko is spelled C-L-I-C-Q-U-O-T. You’ll know it by the Eskimo on the bottle. (Slight pause.) Up in Eskimo-land where the cold wind has a whistle all its own and a banjo is an instrument of music, the Eskimos spell melody with a capital “M,” and tell us that “It Goes Like This.”
- Orchestra: (Plays “It Goes Like This.”)
On January 23, 1933, it began on the Blue Network, Mondays at 8pm, continuing that year until July 24. After a two-year hiatus, the program resumed Saturdays at 8pm on CBS, where it was broadcast from December 21, 1935 until January 4, 1936, returning to NBC that year from January 12 to April 12, airing Sundays at 3pm.
Reser’s band used different pseudonyms on recordings made for many different labels. Tom Stacks was the featured vocalist. The tuba player was Maurice Black (1891-1938).
A River Runs Through It
Phil Baxter (September 5, 1896 – November 21, 1972) was an American songwriter, singer and band leader. Born on September 5, 1896 in Navarro County, Texas, he graduated from Daniel Baker College. He is perhaps best known for his novelty song, “Piccolo Pete”, a notable hit for Ted Weems and His Orchestra. Another song, “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas” was successfully recorded by many artists, including Sidney Bechet, Bennie Moten, Arthur Godfrey and Louis Armstrong.
Baxter led his own orchestra in the 1920s through the mid-1930s, leading two recording sessions, the first in October 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri, and the second in October 1929, in Dallas, Texas. In June 1927, “Phil Baxter and His Texas Tommies” performed at the just-opened El Torreon Ballroom in Kansas City, Missouri, becoming, as “Phil Baxter and His El Torreon Orchestra”, the ballroom’s houseband from 1927 to 1933. Baxter would open and close each night with the band’s theme song, “El Torreon”, and their nightly performances were frequently broadcast by KMBC. He ultimately suspended much of his musical activities due to difficulties stemming from arthritis. Baxter died on November 21, 1972.
- Piccolo Pete
- Going, Going, Gone
- The One Man Band
- ‘Leven Miles from Leavenworth
- Smile For Me
- A Faded Summer Love
- Five Piece Band
- Let’s Have a Party
- Harmonica Harry
- You’re the Sweetest Girl
- Have a Little Dream on Me
- I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas
Scott played as a teenager with his brother, drummer Lloyd Scott. They played together as co-leaders through the end of the 1920′s, holding residencies in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and in New York City at the Savoy Ballroom. Among the members of this ensemble were Dicky Wells, Frankie Newton, Bill Coleman, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Hodges, and Chu Berry. Cecil took full control over the group in 1929, though Lloyd continued to manage the group.
Scott was hurt badly in an accident in the early 1930′s, and his career was temporarily sidelined. After his recovery he played with Ellsworth Reynolds in 1932-33 and then with Teddy Hill (from 1936), Clarence Williams, and Teddy Wilson (1936-37); in the latter gig he accompanied Billie Holiday. In the early 1940s he played with Alberto Socarras, Red Allen, Willie “The Lion” Smith before assembling his own band in 1942, which at times included Hot Lips Page and Art Hodes. He also played with Slim Gaillard later in the 1940′s.
In 1950 he disbanded the group, and worked with Jimmy McPartland as a sideman. He occasionally led groups and continued to play as a sideman up until the time of his death in 1964. He is credited on some 75 albums.
Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Cobb was competent on tenor saxophone, clarinet, banjo, piano, violin, and drums. He played with Johnny Dunn as a teenager, and after moving toChicago he led his own ensemble in 1920-21 at the Club Alvadere. In the 1920s he played with King Oliver (1924-27) on banjo and with Jimmie Noone (1928-29). Following this Cobb put together another band of his own, and recorded with this ensemble for Vocalion and Victor. He played in Paris briefly in the early 1930s, then returned to lead groups in Chicago.
In 1946, he accompanied Annabelle Calhoun as a pianist, and played a number of extended engagements as a solo pianist. He went into semi-retirement in 1955, but played with Red Saunders in 1961 and Jasper Taylor in 1962.
In addition to his performing and band leading activities, Cobb also composed; among his tunes is “Once or Twice”, written in 1929. His brother, Jimmy, was a trumpeter who played on a number of Junie’s recordings.
|Birth name||Beulah Thomas|
|Born||November 1, 1898
Houston, Texas, United States
|Died||November 1, 1986 (aged 88)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
|Occupations||Singer, pianist, organist,songwriter|
|Years active||ca. 1918–1986|
|Labels||Okeh, Victor, Alligator, Storyville,Atlantic|
Sippie Wallace (born as Beulah Thomas, November 1, 1898 – November 1, 1986) was an American singer-songwriter. Her early career in local tent shows gained her the billing “The Texas Nightingale”. Between 1923 and 1927, she recorded over 40 songs for Okeh Records, many written by herself or her brothers, George and Hersal Thomas. Her accompanists included Louis Armstrong,Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver, and Clarence Williams. Among the top female blues vocalists of her era, Wallace ranked with Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, and Bessie Smith.
In the 1930s, she left show business to become a church organist, singer, and choir director in Detroit, and performed secular music only sporadically until the 1960′s, when she resumed her career. Wallace was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1982, and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
Wallace was born in Houston, Texas, one of 13 children. In her youth Wallace sang and played the piano in Shiloh Baptist Church, where her father was a deacon, but in the evenings the children took to sneaking out to tent shows. By her mid-teens, they were playing in those tent shows. By performing in the various Texas shows, she built a solid following as a spirited blues singer.
Wallace came from a musical family: her brother George W. Thomas became a notable pianist, bandleader, composer, and music publisher; her other brother Hersal Thomas was apianist and composer; and her niece (George’s daughter) Hociel Thomas was a pianist and composer.
In 1915 Wallace moved to New Orleans, Louisiana with brother Hersal; two years later she married Matt Wallace, and changed her name.
After following her brothers to Chicago in 1923, Wallace worked her way into the city’s bustling jazz scene. Her reputation led to a recording contract with Okeh Records in 1923. Wallace’s first recorded songs, “Shorty George” and “Up the Country Blues”, the former written with her brother George, sold well enough to make Wallace a blues star in the early 1920s. Other successful recordings followed, including “Special Delivery Blues” (with Louis Armstrong), “Bedroom Blues” (written by George and Hersal Thomas), and “I’m a Mighty Tight Woman”. Her younger brother Hersal died of food poisoning in 1926 at age 16.
Wallace moved to Detroit in 1929. Her husband Matt and brother George both died in 1936. Wallace for some 40 years was a singer and organ player at the Leland Baptist Church in Detroit. Mercury Records reissued “Bedroom Blues” in 1945. Aside from an occasional performance or recording date, Wallace did little in the blues until she launched a comeback in 1966 after her longtime friend Victoria Spivey coaxed her out of retirement and on the folk and blues festival circuit.
In 1966 Wallace recorded an album on Halloween night, Copenhagen, Denmark, Women Be Wise, with Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery sharing the piano stool. Another 1966 album Sings the Blues, on the latter song, Wallace accompanied herself on piano; otherwise she is backed by either Roosevelt Sykes or Little Brother Montgomery on piano. Includes Wallace’s signature song, “Women Be Wise”, “Don’t Advertise Your Man”. The album helped inspire blues-pop singer Bonnie Raitt to take up the blues in the late 1960. In 1971 Raitt recorded a rendition of Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise” on her self-titled album Bonnie Raitt. Wallace toured and recorded with Raitt in the 1970s and 1980s, while continuing to perform on her own. The bond between Wallace and Raitt helped bridge the gap between two generations of blues queens.
Wallace recorded on Louis Armstrong album, Louis Armstrong and the Blues Singers (1966), singing “A Jealous Woman Like Me”, “Special Delivery Blues”, “Jack O’Diamond Blues”, “The Mail Train Blues” and “I Feel Good”. Wallace also recorded an album of old blues standards with her friend Victoria Spivey, called Sippie Wallace and Victoria Spivey, which came out in 1970 on Spivey’s own self-named label. In 1981, Wallace recorded an album Sippie for Atlantic Records, which earned a her a 1983 Grammy nomination, and also won the 1982 W. C. Handy Award for Best Blues Album of the Year. Wallace’s backup group on were pianist Jim Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band, consisting of cornetist Paul Klinger, trombonist Bob Smith and Russ Whitman and Peter Ferran on reeds.
In 1966 and 1967 she appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, e.g. Copenhagen, Denmark in 1966, the Chicago Blues Festival, 1967, the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, 1972, and appeared at Lincoln Center in New York, 1977. She played herself in the documentary Jammin’ with the Blues Greats (1982).
On July 22, 1982 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Sippie shared the stage with the King of the Blues, B.B. King, which was filmed and later broadcast.
Then in Ann Arbor, Michigan she got together with German boogie woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger, with whom she recorded a studio album in 1983. Wallace included many of her own groundbreaking compositions as well as other classic blues songs, on his album, And the Friends of Boogie, Vol. 1: Sippie Wallace, released in 1984. In 1984 she traveled to Germany to tour with Zwingenberger, where they also recorded the only complete live album she ever did: An Evening With Sippie Wallace for Vagabond Records.
In March 1986, following a concert in Germany at Burghausen Jazz Festival, she suffered a severe stroke, was hospitalized, returned to the US, and died on her 88th birthday at Sinai Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. She is buried at Trinity Cemetery, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.
In 1986, Rhapsody Films and producer Roberta Grossman released Sippie Wallace: Blues Singer and Song Writer, a documentary about Sippie Wallace, who is represented in this film portrait by means of concert footage, interviews, historic rare recordings and photographs.
Thelma Terry, née Thelma Combes (September 30, 1901 – May 30, 1966) was an American bandleader and bassist during the 1920s and 1930s. She fronted Thelma Terry and Her Playboys and was the first American woman to lead a notable jazz orchestra as an instrumentalist.
Terry was born in Bangor, Michigan in 1901. Her parents divorced when she was very young and she moved with her mother to Chicago, where the latter was employed as a servant for the wealthy Runner family. When the young woman was given the opportunity to receive musical training with the instrument of her choice, she chose to study the string bass. Her early years were spent on the road performing in Chautauqua assemblies. After graduating from Austin Union High School, she earned first chair in the Chicago Women’s Symphony Orchestra. As this did not provide her with a living, she eventually turned to jazz.
In the early 1920s, Chicago had undergone a fateful transition. On one hand, the nation’s second largest city at that time was noted for gangster violence as “Big Jim” Colosimo, Al Capone, and Bugs Moran fought for control of the city’s illegal liquor trade. On the other hand, Chicago had also become a mecca for many of the finest artists of jazz, who migrated north from New Orleans. Through her contacts at Austin Union, Combes had found her way into Chicago night life. After playing in and around Chicago for some years, sometimes with her “all-girl” band (“Thelma Combes and her Volcanic Orchestra”), sometimes in a stringed quartet, she found her way into the house band of Colosimo’s Restaurant (owned by Capone) in 1925. She played bass and sang at Colosimo’s, sometimes on live radio.
In 1926 Combes was hired to play at the Vanity Fair Cafe, where she met jazz guitarist Eddie Condon. Condon later said that he and Combes frequently went out on the town together during the winter months of 1926 and 1927. He added that he was impressed by her beauty, her musicianship, and the fact that no matter where they went, even in the roughest parts of town, Combes could find her own way home. Thelma’s sister Helen disputed Condon’s allegation that he and Combes dated, but the family insists that his words capture Thelma’s strength of character.
A stint at a local Chicago theater in the spring of 1927 and an article in Variety brought national attention to Thelma Combes. The newly formed Music Corporation of America took notice. They renamed her Thelma Terry and in April 1927 organized for her an all-male band (including a very young Gene Krupa) called Thelma Terry and Her Playboys. Some sources state that the band’s home was The Golden Pumpkin nightclub located at 3800 West Madison in Chicago, and that the Playboys may have been the house band. MCA billed Terry as “The Beautiful Blonde Siren of Syncopation”, “The Jazz Princess”, and “The Female Paul Whiteman”. At least one musician, Bud Freeman, was so enthused by the quality of the band that he paid another musician to fill his seat in the Spike Hamilton Band so he could join the Playboys. The band was soon sent by MCA on a national tour that took them down the Eastern Seaboard and as far west as Kansas City.
Terry found the day-to-day work of acting as a bandleader difficult. Bill Otto, a pianist who recorded with her in Chicago, recalled that she was a beautiful woman (in his words, “even voluptuous”), and that he got along with her because (unlike other band members) he did not make unwelcome advances to her. She also found that the male musicians were unwilling to follow her directions, and that the work itself, and especially the travel, was lonely and difficult to endure.
In 1929, MCA decided that Terry and her band would begin an international tour beginning in Berlin, Germany. However, by that time she had met Willie Haar, the owner of aSavannah, Georgia winter resort at which the band played during their 1929 tour. Terry disbanded the Playboys and quit MCA to marry Haar and settle down in Savannah.
Terry married Haar in 1929 and had a daughter, Patti, in 1931. She divorced Haar in 1936 and tried to make a comeback in Chicago. Disappointed with her lack of success, Terry sold her string bass, turned her back on the music profession, and took a job as a knitting instructor. In the 1950s she moved to Michigan, where she met with Gene Krupa, the drummer for the Playboys. Krupa told her that he was sorry she was not mentioned in his 1959 biographical movie The Gene Krupa Story. She spent her last years with Patti and her family in Michigan.
Terry died at the age of 64 on May 30, 1966 of throat cancer.
Like many jazz orchestras active in the 1920s, Thelma Terry and Her Playboys did not leave many recordings. Terry is known to have made six recordings, four in Chicago and two in New York City, between 1929 and 1931.
Born Edith Goodall in Louisville, Kentucky, Wilson’s first professional experience came in 1919 in Louisville’s Park Theater. Lena Wilson and her brother, Danny, performed in Louisville; Edith married Danny and joined their act as a trio. Danny, a pianist who had trained at a conservatory in Charleston, South Carolina, encouraged Lena and Edith to sing not just blues but other song forms as well. Together the trio performed on the East Coast in 1920-21, and when they were in New York City Wilson was picked up byColumbia, who recorded her in 1921 with Johnny Dunn‘s Jazz Hounds. She signed with Columbia in 1921 recorded 17 tunes with Dunn in 1921-22. In 1924 she worked with Fletcher Henderson in New York, where she was slated to sing with Coleman Hawkins, but Hawkins refused to perform because he wanted additional compensation for the performance. She remained a popular Columbia artist through 1925.
Wilson recorded far less than other female blues stars of the 1920s like Bessie Smith (after she left Columbia in 1925, she recorded one record for Brunswick in 1929 and a handful of sides for Victor in 1930); she remained a nightclub and theater singer, working for years on the New York entertainment scene. She sang with Florence Mills in the Lew Leslie Plantation Review in Harlem, and made several trips to England, where she was well received. She sang with The Hot Chocolates revue, performing alongside Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, and made appearances with Bill Robinson, Duke Ellington, Alberta Hunter, Cab Calloway, and Noble Sissle.
Wilson also did extensive work as an actress, appearing on radio with Amos and Andy and on film in To Have and Have Not. Shortly after World War II Wilson became the face of Aunt Jemima pancake mix. She retired from active performance in 1963, becoming executive secretary for the Negro Actors Guild, but made a comeback in 1973 to play with Eubie Blake, Little Brother Montgomery, and Terry Waldo. Her last live show was given at the 1980 Newport Jazz Festival.
Wilson died in Chicago in March 1981.
|Birth name||Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese|
|Also known as||“The Crooning Troubadour”, “The Grandfather of the Jazz Guitar”|
|Born||August 22, 1897
Newark, New Jersey United States
|Died||July 28, 1982 (aged 84)
Colorado Springs, ColoradoUnited States
|Instruments||Upright bass, trombone, tuba,violin, guitar|
|Labels||Brunswick, Pathe Records,Durium Records, Cavalier Records,|
|Associated acts||Duke Ellington, Jimmie Noone,Wilber Sweatman, Spirits of Rhythm|
|“Nick Lucas Special”|
Nick Lucas (August 22, 1897, Newark, New Jersey – July 28, 1982, Colorado Springs, Colorado) born Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese was an American singer and pioneer jazz guitarist, remembered as “the grandfather of the jazz guitar“, whose peak of popularity lasted from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s.
In 1922, at the age of 25, he gained renown with his hit renditions of “Picking the Guitar” and “Teasing the Frets” for Pathe Records. In 1923, the Gibson Guitars proposed to build him a concert guitar with an extra deep body. Known as the “Nick Lucas Special,” it has been a popular model with guitarists since. In the same year, he began a successful career in recording phonograph records forBrunswick and remained one of their exclusive artists until 1932.
By the late 1920s, Lucas had become well known as “The Crooning Troubadour” due to the success of the recordings he made for Brunswick Records. In 1929, he co-starred in the Warner Brothers Technicolor musical, Gold Diggers of Broadway, in which he introduced the two hit songs “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine” and “Tiptoe Through the Tulips“. The latter became Lucas’ official theme song. The same year, Lucas was also featured in the studio’s all-star revue, The Show of Shows. Lucas turned down Warner Bros.‘ seven-year contract offer, which went instead to fellow crooner Dick Powell.
In April 1930, Warner Bros. bought Brunswick Records. Due to their appreciation of Nick Lucas, Warner Bros. provided him with his own orchestra which was billed on his records as “The Crooning Troubadours”. This arrangement lasted until December 1931, when Warner Bros. licensed Brunswick to the American Record Corporation. The new owners were not as extravagant as Warner Bros. had previously been and Lucas lost his orchestra and eventually left Brunswick in 1932 to go freelance. He made two recordings for Durium Records in 1932 for their Hit of the Week series. These would prove to be his last major recordings.
Nick Lucas spent the rest of his career performing on radio as well as in night clubs and dance halls. He made a number of recordings for various small or independent labels, including Cavalier Records, where he was billed as the “Cavalier Troubadour.” In 1944 he reprised some of his old hits in Soundies movie musicals, and filmed another group of songs for Snader Telescriptions in 1951. In 1974, his renditions of the songs, “I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston”, “When You and I Were Seventeen” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” were featured on the soundtrack ofParamount Pictures‘ The Great Gatsby (1974) with Robert Redford.
An inspiration to Tiny Tim, who made Lucas’ “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” (written November 1929) his own theme song, Lucas became friends with the performer, and on December 17, 1969, when Tiny Tim married Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Lucas was there to sing their trademark song.
Adolphe Paul Barbarin (May 5, 1899 – February 17, 1969) was a New Orleans jazz drummer, usually regarded (along with Baby Dodds) as one of the very best of the pre-Big Band era jazz drummers. He studied under the famed drummer, Louis Cottrell, Sr.
Paul Barbarin’s year of birth is often given as 1901, but his brother Louis Barbarin (born 1902) said he was quite sure that Paul was several years older than he was, and Paul Barbarin simply refused to answer the year of his birth in an interview at Tulane’s Jazz Archives.
From the late 1910s on, Barbarin divided his time between Chicago, New York City and New Orleans, and touring with such bands as those of Joe “King” Oliver, Luis Russell, Louis Armstrong, and Henry Red Allen. From the 1950s on he usually led his own band. He, along with Louis Cottrell, Jr. founded and led the second incarnation of the Onward Brass Bandfrom 1960 to 1969.
Barbarin was an accomplished and knowledgeable musician, a member of ASCAP, and the composer of a number of pop tunes and Dixieland standards, including “Come Back Sweet Papa”, “Don’t Forget to Mess Around (When You’re Doing the Charleston)”, “Bourbon Street Parade”, and “(Paul Barbarin’s) Second Line”.
Paul Barbarin died on February 17, 1969 while playing a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade.
Vic Berton (May 7, 1896 – December 26, 1951), was an American jazz drummer.
Berton was born, Victor Cohen, in Chicago. His father was a violinist and began his son on string instruments around age five. He was hired as a percussionist at the Alhambra Theaterin Milwaukee in 1903 when he was only seven years old. By age 16 he was playing with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While serving inWorld War I he played drums for John Philip Sousa‘s Navy band.
Early in the 1920s Berton played in various Chicago bands, including those of Art Kahn, Paul Beise, and Arnold Johnson. He led his own ensemble as well, which played at the Merry Gardens club. In 1924 he became the manager of The Wolverines, and occasionally played alongside Bix Beiderbecke in the ensemble. Later in the 1920s he played with Roger Wolfe Kahn, Don Voorhees, and Red Nichols, and worked extensively as a session musician. In 1927 he played with Paul Whiteman, and then moved to Los Angeles later that year.
In Los Angeles Berton played with Abe Lyman and played in the studios for film soundtracks. He served as director of Paramount Films‘s music division for a time, and worked in theLos Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. In the 1940s he worked as a percussionist in the studios for 20th Century Fox. He died in Hollywood from lung cancer.
Berton’s brother Ralph Berton also became a jazz drummer, in addition to his writings on jazz.
Born in Newaygo, Michigan, he grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where he was exposed to the music of pianists Johnny Walters and Luckey Roberts. In 1919 he began working with Charley Straight at the Imperial Piano Roll Company in Chicago, performing, arranging, and composing. He was the leader, pianist and arranger of the Benson Orchestra of Chicago from 1920 to 1922 (when he was replaced by Don Bestor), and later worked with the orchestras of Isham Jones and of Paul Whiteman and recorded piano solos for Victor Records.
From 1943 until his retirement he was music director for Jimmy Durante.
Roy Bargy died in Vista, California at the age of 79.
- Ditto (1920)
- Omeomy (1920)
- Railroad Blues (with Luckey Roberts, 1920)
- Slipova (1920)
- A Blue Streak (1921)
- Knice and Knifty (with Charley Straight, 1921)
- Rufenreddy (with Charley Straight, 1921)
- Behave Yourself (1922)
- Jim Jams, No. 7 from Piano Syncopations (1922)
- Justin-Tyme (1922)
- Pianoflage (1922)
- Sunshine Capers (1922)
- Sweet And Tender (1923)
- Feeding The Kitty (1924)
- Get Lucky (1924)
- Trouble In Thirds (1925)
Kress began his career with Paul Whiteman in 1926, and thereafter launched a successful career as a studio guitarist. He played in the late 1920s and 1930s with Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Eddie Lang, Miff Mole, Frankie Trumbauer, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, andAdrian Rollini. He played repeatedly with Dick McDonough as a duo in the 1930s. He later worked with Muggsy Spanier (1944), Pee Wee Russell, Bobby Hackett, and Pearl Bailey. He was also, for a time, a member of the Gordon Jenkins Orchestra alongside Louis Armstrong. His last years were spent playing with George Barnes as a duo. He was also a record producer for Capitol Records in the 1940s, producing among others, the original 1946 version of “The Christmas Song” by The King Cole Trio.
At one point in his career he was a co-owner of the Onyx Club on 52nd Street in New York City. Kress was married to Helen Carroll, a vocalist with The Satisfiers. The group was part of The Chesterfield Supper Club radio show and also appeared on recordings with bothPerry Como and Jo Stafford. Kress had his own orchestra in the 1940s. The band was featured on the Chesterfield Supper Clubbroadcasts with Jo Stafford. He died of a heart attack while on tour in 1965.
Hot Lips Page
|Hot Lips Page|
Hot Lips Page, ca. June 1946.
Photo: William P. Gottlieb.
|Birth name||Oran Thaddeus Page|
|Also known as||Hot Lips Page, Lips Page|
|Born||January 27, 1908
Dallas, Texas, United States
|Died||November 5, 1954 (aged 46)
New York, United States
|Associated acts||Bennie Moten, Walter Page|
Oran Thaddeus Page (January 27, 1908 – November 5, 1954) was an American jazz trumpeter, singer, and bandleader born inDallas, Texas, United States. He was better known as Hot Lips Page by the public, and Lips Page by his fellow musicians. He was known as a scorching soloist and powerful vocalist.
Life and career
In his early years, Page, who moved to Corsicana, Texas in his early teens, traveled across the Southwestern United States and toured as far east as Atlanta and as far north as New York City. He played in circuses and minstrel shows and backing such bluessingers as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox. Page’s main trumpet influence was Louis Armstrong, though throughout his career he cited other local trumpeters, including Harry Smith (Kansas City) and Benno Kennedy (San Antonio) as being early influences.
In the mid-1920s, while still a teenager, he is believed to have appeared with Troy Floyd and His Orchestra in San Antonio, Texas and with Eddie and Sugar Lou, a dance band headquartered in Tyler, Texas, though no documentation has been unearthed to support his presence in either band. He also claimed to have appeared around 1925 with a band in Shreveport, Louisiana known as Goog and His Jazz Babies and with a band in New Orleans known as French’s Jazz Orchestra, though no documentation has been discovered.
In 1926, he caught the eye of the bassist Walter Page (no relation) who had recently assumed leadership of the Oklahoma City Blue Devils. It is believed that Oran Page joined the Blue Devils circa 1927, though no known documentation exists to support his presence with the band until the fall of 1928. He played and toured with the Blue Devils until the spring of 1931, when he joined the Bennie Moten Orchestra, the leading dance band out of Kansas City.
Though not a regular member of the band, Page appeared as a vocalist, emcee and hot trumpet soloist with Count Basie‘s Reno Club orchestra after the Moten band finally disbanded upon that leader’s sudden death in April, 1935. Page embarked upon a solo career during this period, playing with small pick up bands out of Kansas City, where he had moved in the spring of 1931.
The Reno Club, in downtown Kansas City, had a floor show, which included Page and vocalist Jimmy Rushing. Basie’s band was just starting to build their reputation, but in the summer of 1936 – on the eve of Basie’s national success – and at the beckoning of Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser, Page decided to pursue a solo career. He moved to New York City in December 1936.
Page’s career as a bandleader got off to an auspicious start, with sold-out appearances and an extended run at Harlem’s Small’s Paradise in the summer of 1937, but by 1939 he was struggling to maintain a regular working band. Nonetheless, he remained a popular and successful performer, leading several bands and combos of his own, particularly on New York’s 52nd Street, where he appeared from 1938 or 1939 through the 1950s, and in many venues in Harlem. Page toured extensively throughout the southern United States, and throughout the northeast and Canada at the head of as many as 13 different big bands during the 1930s and 1940s. He appeared briefly with Bud Freeman‘s Orchestra in 1938, and was a featured vocalist and hot soloist with Artie Shaw‘s Symphonic Swing Orchestra in 1941 and 1942, with whom he recorded over 40 sides.
From 1929, he made over 200 recordings, most as a leader, for Bluebird, Vocalion, Decca and Harmony Records, among others. His band backed the singer Wynonie Harris on the session that produced the hit “Good Rocking Tonight” though Page was never credited as the leader. He was the leader of the house band at the Apollo Theater during the early 1940s, and he recorded duets with Pearl Bailey on “The Hucklebuck” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 1949. He traveled to Europe in 1949 and appeared at Salle Pleyel in the first international jazz festival there, and returned to Europe at least twice for extended tours in the early 1950s.
Page was known as “Mr. After Hours” to his many friends for his ability to take on all comers in late night jam sessions, and he was recorded at Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse in 1941 playing a kind of proto-bebop style then in vogue.
He was one of the most flexible of trumpeters, demonstrating a broad tone and a wide range on the instrument. He has been largely neglected by historians since his death due to mysterious circumstances, but is considered by many to be one of the giants of the Swing Era and one of the founders of what came to be known as rhythm and blues. EPILOG: According to Jet magazine, date: november 25th 1954, indicates Oran Page, died of a heart attack, on november 5th.
Page died in New York in November 1954, aged 46.
Alex Hill (April 22, 1906 – February 1937) was an American jazz pianist.
Hill was a child prodigy on piano, which he learned from his mother. While studying at Shorter College he met Alphonse Trent, and began arranging material for him. He graduated in 1922 and played in various territory bands, including Terrence Holder‘s. From 1924 to 1926 he led his own ensemble; later in 1926 he played with Speed Webb, and in 1927 he spent time with Mutt Carey‘s Jeffersonians and Paul Howard‘s Quality Serenaders.
Late in 1927 he relocated to Chicago and held a job as an arranger for the Melrose Music Publishing Company, while simultaneously arranging for the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra. He played with Jimmy Wade in 1928, Jimmie Noone in 1929, and Sammy Stewart in 1930.
While on tour with Stewart he moved to New York City. There he arranged for Paul Whiteman, Benny Carter, Claude Hopkins, Andy Kirk, Ina Ray Hutton, the Mills Blue Rhythm Orchestra, and Duke Ellington. He also did charts for Fats Waller, Eddie Condon, and Willie Bryant. Additionally, he became staff arranger for the Mills Music Company. He and Fats Waller did a show together in New York called Hello 1931, and accompanied Adelaide Hall.
Hill again put together his own group in 1935, but after playing at the Savoy Ballroom, he disbanded the ensemble due to his tuberculosis. He moved back to Little Rock, Arkansas, and died in 1937 at age 30.
Most of his recordings can be found on Alex Hill 1928-34, released on CD by Timeless Records in 1998. It includes recordings he made with Albert Wynn, Jimmy Wade, Jimmie Noone, Junie Cobb, Eddie Condon, and The Hokum Trio, in addition to 11 tunes he did as bandleader.
Claude Jones (right) and Wilbur De Paris at the Aquarium in New York in 1946
|Born||February 11, 1901
Boley, Oklahoma, United States
|Died||January 17, 1962 (aged 60)
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Years active||1922 – 1962|
|Associated acts||McKinney’s Cotton Pickers,Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Alex Hill, Chick Webb,Cab Calloway, Jelly Roll Morton,Louis Armstrong/Sidney Bechet,Coleman Hawkins, Zutty Singleton, Joe Sullivan, Benny Carter, Duke Ellington|
Born in Boley, Oklahoma, Jones began on trombone at age 13, and studied at Wilberforce College before dropping out in 1922 to join the Synco Jazz Band. This group eventually evolved into McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, where he would play intermittently until 1929. From there, Jones played in a variety of noted swing jazz ensembles, including those of Fletcher Henderson (1929–31, 1933–34, 1941–42, 1950), Don Redman (1931–33, 1943), Alex Hill, Chick Webb, and Cab Calloway (1934–40, 1943). He recorded with Jelly Roll Morton in 1939 and Louis Armstrong/Sidney Bechet in 1940. In the 1940s, he also played with Coleman Hawkins, Zutty Singleton, Joe Sullivan, Benny Carter, and Duke Ellington (1944–48, 1951).
|Birth name||Donald Matthew Redman|
|Born||July 29, 1900|
|Origin||Piedmont, West Virginia, U.S.|
|Died||November 30, 1964 (aged 64)
New York City, U.S.
|Occupations||Composer, musician, arranger|
Redman was announced as a member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame on May 6, 2009.
Redman was born in Piedmont, West Virginia. His father was a music teacher, his mother was a singer. Don began playing the trumpet at the age of 3, joined his first band at 6 and by age 12 he was proficient on all wind instruments ranging from trumpet to oboe as well as piano. He studied at Storer’s College in Harper’s Ferry and at the Boston Conservatory, then joined Billy Page‘s Broadway Syncopaters in New York City. (He was the uncle of saxophonist Dewey Redman, and thus great-uncle of saxophonist Joshua Redman and trumpeter Carlos Redman.)
In 1923 Don Redman joined the Fletcher Henderson orchestra, mostly playing clarinet and saxophones. He soon began writing arrangements, and Redman did much to formulate the sound that was to become big band Swing. (It is significant to note that with a few exceptions, Henderson did not start arranging until the mid-1930s. Redman did the bulk of arrangements (through 1927) and after he left, Benny Carter took over arranging for the Henderson band.)
His importance in the formulation of arranged hot jazz can not be overstated; a chief trademark of Redman’s arrangements was that he harmonized melody lines and pseudo-solos within separate sections; for example, clarinet, sax, or brass trios. He played these sections off each other, having one section punctuate the figures of another, or moving the melody around different orchestral sections and soloists. His use of this technique was sophisticated, highly innovative, and formed the basis of much big band jazz writing in the following decades.
In 1927 Jean Goldkette convinced Redman to join the Detroit, Michigan-based band McKinney’s Cotton Pickers as their musical director and leader. He was responsible for their great success and arranged over half of their music (splitting the arranging duties with John Nesbitt through 1931). Redman was occasionally featured as their vocalist, displaying a charming, humorous vocal style.
Don Redman and his Orchestra
Redman then formed his own band in 1931 (featuring, for a time, Fletcher Henderson’s younger brother Horace on piano), which got a residency at the famous Manhattan jazz club Connie’s Inn. Redman signed with Brunswick Records and also did a series of radio broadcasts. Redman and his orchestra also provided music for the animated short I Heard, part of the Betty Boop series produced by Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount. Redman composed original music for the short, which was released on September 1, 1933.
The Brunswick records Redman made between 1931-1934 were some of the most complex pre-swing hot jazz arrangements of popular tunes. Redman’s band didn’t rely on just a driving rhythm or great soloists, but it had an overall level of arranging sophistication that was unlike anyone else of the period.
Notable musicians in Redman’s band included Sidney De Paris, trumpet, Edward Inge, clarinet, and popular singer Harlan Lattimore, who was known as “The Colored Bing Crosby”. On the side Redman also did arrangements for other band leaders and musicians, including Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones, and Bing Crosby.
Redman recorded for Brunswick through 1934. He then did a number of sides for ARC in 1936 (issued on their Vocalion, Perfect, Melotone, etc.) and in 1937, he pioneered a series of swing re-arrangements of old classic pop tunes for the Variety label. His use of a swinging vocal group (called “The Swing Choir”) was very modern and even today, quite usual, with Redman’s sophisticated counter-point melodies. He signed with Bluebird in 1938 and recorded with them until 1940, when he disbanded.
When Redman disbanded his orchestra, he concentrated on freelance work writing arrangements. Some of his arrangements became hits for Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, andHarry James. He appeared on Uptown Jubilee on the CBS Television network for the 1949 season. In the 1950s he was music director for singer Pearl Bailey.
Don Redman died in New York City on November 30, 1964.
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Victor Arden and Phil Ohman
|Born||October 7, 1896
New Britain, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||August 8, 1954 (aged 57)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Genres||Ragtime, Film scores|
Ohman was born Fillmore Wellington Ohman in New Britain, Connecticut in 1896. He is remembered as being one half of one of the pre-eminent piano duos in the 1922-1932, paired with Victor Arden. They were the pit pianists in many of George Gershwin‘s musicals, and recorded hundreds of piano rolls and records. Starting in mid 1927, just as they signed to Victor Records, they developed a large studio orchestra specializing in Broadway show songs that became quite popular. These particular records employed a rather large, brassy powerful sound (it is not known who they used as arranger), always with a space for a twin piano duet section.
Ohman died in Santa Monica, California on August 8, 1954.
Schutt learned piano from his father, and accompanied silent films as a teenager in the 1910s. He was playing in a movie palace in 1918 when Paul Specht hired him to play in a band; he worked for Specht until 1924, including during a tour of Europe in 1923. He held positions with Roger Wolfe Kahn and Don Voorhees, and became a prolific studio pianist, recording with Fred Rich, Nat Shilkret, Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, and the Charleston Chasers. From 1926-29 and again in 1931 he played with Red Nichols; he also recorded with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey‘s orchestra (1928–31), and Benny Goodman. He recorded under his own name in 1929-30 as a bandleader.
Schutt composed a jazz tune “Delirium” in 1927, which was widely recorded and enjoyed a fair amount of popularity. In 1934, Schutt co-wrote “Georgia Jubilee” with Benny Goodman which, while a hit, was also recorded by Isham Jones‘s band. Schutt also composed the ragtime “piano novelty” piece “Bluin’ the Black Keys“, considered one of the most difficult traditional, period rags ever written.
Thomas A. Dorsey
|Thomas Andrew Dorsey|
|Birth name||Thomas Andrew Dorsey|
|Also known as||Georgia Tom, Barrelhouse Tom, Texas Tommy|
|Born||July 1, 1899
Villa Rica, Georgia, United States
|Origin||Tampa, Florida, United States|
|Died||January 23, 1993 (aged 93)
Chicago, United States
Thomas Andrew Dorsey (July 1, 1899 – January 23, 1993) was known as “the father of black gospel music” and was at one time so closely associated with the field that songs written in the new style were sometimes known as “dorseys.” Earlier in his life he was a leading blues pianist known as Georgia Tom.
As formulated by Dorsey, gospel music combines Christian praise with the rhythms of jazz and the blues. His conception also deviates from what had been, to that time, standard hymnal practice by referring explicitly to the self, and the self’s relation to faith and God, rather than the individual subsumed into the group via belief.
Dorsey, who was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, was the music director at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago from 1932 until the late 1970s. His best known composition, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord“, was performed by Mahalia Jackson and was a favorite of the Rev.Martin Luther King Jr.. Another composition, “Peace in the Valley“, was a hit for Red Foley in 1951 and has been performed by dozens of other artists, including Queen of Gospel Albertina Walker, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Dorsey died in Chicago, aged 93.
In 2002, the Library of Congress honored his album Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey (1973), by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry.
Life and career
Dorsey’s father was a minister and his mother a piano teacher. He learned to play blues piano as a young man. After studying music formally in Chicago, he became an agent for Paramount Records. He put together a band for Ma Rainey called the “Wild Cats Jazz Band” in 1924.
He started out playing at rent parties with the names Barrelhouse Tom and Texas Tommy, but he was most famous as Georgia Tom. As Georgia Tom, he teamed up with Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker) with whom he recorded the raunchy 1928 hit record “Tight Like That”, a sensation, eventually selling seven million copies. In all, he is credited with more than 400 blues and jazz songs.
Dorsey began recording gospel music alongside blues in the mid-1920s. This led to his performing at the National Baptist Convention in 1930, and becoming the bandleader of two churches in the early 1930s.
His first wife, Nettie, who had been Rainey’s wardrobe mistress, died in childbirth in 1932. Two days later the child, a son, also died. In his grief, he wrote his most famous song, one of the most famous of all gospel songs, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”.
Unhappy with the treatment received at the hands of established publishers, Dorsey opened the first black gospel music publishing company, Dorsey House of Music. He also founded his own gospel choir and was a founder and first president of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.
His influence was not limited to African American music, as white musicians also followed his lead. “Precious Lord” has been recorded by Albertina Walker, Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Clara Ward, Dorothy Norwood, Jim Reeves, Roy Rogers, and Tennessee Ernie Ford, among hundreds of others. It was a favorite gospel song of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and was sung at the rally the night before his assassination, and, per his request, at his funeral by Mahalia Jackson. It was also a favorite of PresidentLyndon B. Johnson, who requested it to be sung at his funeral. Dorsey was also a great influence on other Chicago-based gospel artists such as Albertina Walker and The Caravans and Little Joey McClork.
Dorsey wrote “Peace in the Valley” for Mahalia Jackson in 1937, which also became a gospel standard. He was the first African American elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and also the first in the Gospel Music Association‘s Living Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was inducted as a charter member of the Gennett Records Walk of Fame inRichmond, Indiana. His papers are preserved at Fisk University, along with those of W.C. Handy, George Gershwin, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
Dorsey’s works have proliferated beyond performance, into the hymnals of virtually all American churches and of English-speaking churches worldwide.
Thomas was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
He died in Chicago, Illinois, and was interred there in the Oak Woods Cemetery.
Sara Martin (June 18, 1884 – May 24, 1955) was an American blues singer, in her time one of the most popular of the classic blues singers. She was billed as “The Famous Moanin’ Mama” and “The Colored Sophie Tucker”. Martin made many recordings, including a few under the names Margaret Johnson and Sally Roberts.
Martin was born in Louisville, Kentucky, United States and was singing on the African-American vaudeville circuit by 1915. She began a very successful recording career when she was signed by the Okeh label in 1922. Through the 1920s she toured and recorded with such performers as Fats Waller, Clarence Williams, King Oliver, and Sylvester Weaver. She was among the most-recorded of the classic blues singers.
She was possibly the first to record the famous blues song “T’aint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” with Waller on piano in 1922.
On stage she was noted for an especially dramatic performing style and for her lavish costumes, which she changed two or three times per show. In his book, Ma Rainey and the Classic Blues Singers, Derrick Stewart-Baxter says of her:
…she was never a really great blues singer. The records she made varied considerably, on many she sounded stilted and very unrelaxed. … Occasionally, she did hit a groove and when this happened, she could be quite pleasing, as on her very original “Brother Ben”. … The sides she did with King Oliver can be recommended, particularly “Death Sting Me Blues”.
According to blues historian Daphne Duval Harrison, “Martin tended to use more swinging, danceable rhythms than some of her peers … when she sang a traditional blues her voice and styling had richer, deeper qualities that matched the content in sensitivity and mood: “Mean Tight Mama” and “Death Sting Me” approach an apex of blues singing”.
Martin’s stage work in the late 1920s took her to New York, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, and to Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. She made one film appearance, in Hello Bill with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in 1929. Her last major stage appearance was in Darktown Scandals Review in 1930. She performed with Thomas A. Dorsey as a gospel singer in 1932, after which she worked outside the music industry, running a nursing home in Louisville. Sara Martin died in Louisville of a stroke in May 1955.
Perry Bradford grew up in Atlanta, where his family moved when he was six, and in 1906 started working with minstrelshows. He played in Chicago as a solo pianist as early as 1909 and visited New York City the following year.
Through extensive experience with traveling minstrel shows and theatre companies, Bradford obtained huge exposure and experience to African American folksongs. A huge feat of Bradford’s was severing the walls of racial prejudice that kept African-American singers from recording. He is, too often, unrecognized for this accomplishment. Prior to Bradford’s influence, African-American artists recorded in a style that was closely similar to those of white dance orchestras. There was little to no trace of African-American musical characteristics present in their recordings. Bradford persevered in getting the recording industry to value recordings of African-American artists recording in the style of their own subculture.
As a pianist, singer, dancer and composer, Bradford worked in theatre circuits throughout the South and into the North for the next decade (1908–1919) in a song and dance act billed as “Bradford and Jeanette”., While in New York City, Bradford convinced Fred Hager, of Okeh Records, to record Mamie Smith and became her musical director. Smith starred in Bradford’s show Made in Harlem (1918). Bradford was also responsible for Smith being the first African-American blues singer to appear on record (singing his “Crazy Blues”) in 1920. Bradford claimed that his revue, Made in Harlem, was the first stage production that offered blues matter to the large, northern audience in Harlem. Bradford was able to organize the first recording session, “That Thing Called Love,” that highlighted an African-American artist, accompanied by a white studio band, performing material specific to the African-American culture.
He had offices in the Gaiety Theatre office building in Times Square. Bradford toured and recorded with Smith, worked with Alberta Hunter and also headed seven recording sessions of his own during 1923–1927. Among Bradford’s sidemen were Johnny Dunn, Bubber Miley, Garvin Bushell, Louis Armstrong (on two numbers in 1925), Buster Bailey, and James P. Johnson.
Bradford continued to promote blues and jazz recordings by publishing and managing. Bradford’s influence in the recording industry was negatively affected by the crash of the stock market, as well as by changes in the character of jazz and African-American songs. He was an irregular participant after the 1940s. With the rise of the Great Depression, Bradford slipped away into obscurity. In later years, he appeared to exaggerate his role in early blues, possibly a reaction to his being nearly forgotten. In 1957, Little Richard had a hit with Bradford’s “Keep A-Knockin’“. In 1965, Bradford’s autobiography Born With the Blues was published (New York: Oak Publications) with a foreword by Noble Sissle. Bradford’s best-known songs were “Crazy Blues“, “That Thing Called Love“, and “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down“.
After playing in Atlantic City, Jackson moved to New York City in 1923, where he played with Lionel Howard‘s Musical Aces in 1924 and recorded with Bob Fuller and Elmer Snowden. He led his own ensemble, the Krazy Kats, for recordings in 1930, and following this group’s dissolution he played extensively as a solo pianist in nightclubs in New York. During this time he also accompanied singers such as Viola McCoy, Lena Wilson, Sara Martin, and Clara Smith. He recorded with Sidney Bechet in 1940-41 and recorded as a soloist or leader in 1944-45, 1961, and 1969. As house pianist at Cafe Society from 1943-51 he was a great success; he also toured with Eddie Condon in 1946. He also played with Garvin Bushell (1950), J.C. Higginbotham (1960), and Joe Thomas (1962).
As shown by many of his 1944-1945 solo piano recordings, such as “Limehouse Blues“, Cliff Jackson was certainly one of the most powerful stride piano masters. His style was also marked by a very interesting contrapuntal-like bass work. His many left hand techniques are found explained in detail in Riccardo Scivales’s method Jazz Piano: The Left Hand (Bedford Hills, New York: Ekay Music, 2005).
Red McKenzie (William McKenzie) (Oct. 14, 1899, St. Louis, Missouri - Feb. 7, 1948, New York City) was an American jazz musician. He was the best-known, and one of the only, comb players in jazz history.
McKenzie played the comb by placing tissue paper over the tines and blowing on it, which produced a sound similar to a kazoo. McKenzie also played the kazoo proper, and occasionally sang. He was a co-founder, with Jack Bland, of the Mound City Blue Blowers, who released a number of titles between 1924 and 1925 and were, for a time, a sensation. At the same time, McKenzie also recorded solo as Red McKenzie & the Candy Kids. In 1928, he fronted a group called McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans for a few sides onOkeh Records. He returned to the Mound City name again in 1929, 1931, and 1935-36.
Beginning in 1931 (no doubt due to the popularity of crooners like Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo), he started recording as a singer, processing a very warm crooner style as a solo for Columbia and with Paul Whiteman in 1932. He sang again with the Spirits of Rhythmin 1934 and the Farley-Riley group in 1935. He made two swinging vocal records for Variety in 1937. Between 1939 and 1943 he went into retirement, moving back to his birthplace of St. Louis and working in a brewery, but appeared with Eddie Condon between 1944 to 1947 as a vocalist. Known as heavy drinker, he died of liver cirrhosis in 1948.
|Birth name||Emmett Louis Hardy|
|Born||June 12, 1903|
|Origin||Gretna, Louisiana, USA|
|Died||June 16, 1925 (aged 22)|
|Associated acts||New Orleans Rhythm Kings|
Emmett Louis Hardy was born in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, Louisiana, lived much of his life in the Algiers neighborhood of the west bank of New Orleans. Hardy was a child prodigy, described as already playing marvelously in his early teens. Some New Orleans musicians remembered as a musical highlight of their lives a 1919 cutting contest where after long and intense struggle Hardy succeeded in outplaying Louis Armstrong. (It is likely that Armstrong, although 2 years older than Hardy, had not yet hit his full stride at that time.)
Emmett Hardy was in the original incarnation of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (or NORK) under the direction of Bee Palmer. For a time during its Friar’s Inn residency the NORK used a two cornet format; Paul Mares leader and first cornet; Emmett Hardy second.(Note that as with other New Orleans jazz bands of that time, such as King Oliver‘s Creole Jazz Band and The Original Tuxedo Orchestra, the more creative player played the second part, the first cornet staying closer to the lead line.) Hardy did not appear on any of the Rhythm Kings recording sessions, never making any commercial recordings before his early death.
Back in New Orleans Hardy lead his own band and played in the band of Norman Brownlee.
Hardy’s playing is described as being more lyrical than many of his New Orleans contemporaries but with a driving rhythm. His tone was much admired. Hardy was an important influence on Bix Beiderbecke; Monk Hazel said that Bix on the Wolverines records sounds very much like Hardy.
Hardy also did metal work, and made his own mouthpieces for his horn, and modified his cornet to add an additional spit-valve.
A relative remembered Hardy as being somewhat shy and unassuming, with a good dry sense of humor; that he was easily frightened by sudden loud noises, and superstitious about passing by graveyards.
Hardy and some of his musician friends made some home recordings on wax phonograph cylinders for their own amusement. As Hardy’s tuberculosis worsened and his death seemed inevitable, the friends decided to preserve the cylinders as a memento of Hardy’s playing. At least one cylinder survived to the start of the 1950s; the relative who heard it then said Hardy’s playing reminded him of Sharkey Bonano. When Tulane University‘s Jazz Archive was established in the late 1950s, however, a diligent search failed to turn up any of these recordings, which are, alas, presumed lost forever.
Hardy died in New Orleans shortly after his 22nd birthday and was buried in Gretna.
Palmer first attracted significant attention as one of the first exponents of the “shimmy” dance in the late 1910s. She was sometimes credited as the creator of the “shimmy” (although there were other claimants at the time as well).
She first appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1918.
She toured with an early jazz band, which included such notables as Emmett Hardy, Leon Ropollo and Santo Pecora in addition to pianist/songwriterAl Siegel (whom Palmer married). The band was called “Bee Palmer’s New Orleans Rhythm Kings“. With some personnel changes, the Rhythm Kings went on to even greater fame after parting ways with Palmer.
In 1921, an alleged affair with boxing champ Jack Dempsey created a scandal and a lawsuit.
She is credited as co-composer of the pop song standard “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone“.
She made a few recordings which were not issued at the time (including a session with Frankie Trumbauer). Thanks to surviving test pressings/masters, the recordings were finally issued in the 1990s and 2000s.
|Born||Albert Allick Bowlly
7 January 1898
Lourenço Marques, Mozambique
|Died||17 April 1941 (aged 43)
London, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Singer, guitarist, songwriter,composer, and band leader|
Albert Allick Bowlly (7 January 1898 – 17 April 1941) was a Southern-African singer, songwriter, composer and band leader, who became a popular jazz crooner during the British dance band era of the 1930s and later worked in the United States. He recorded more than 1,000 records between 1927 and 1941. His most popular songs include “Midnight, the Stars and You”, “Goodnight, Sweetheart“, “The Very Thought of You“, “Guilty”, and “Love Is the Sweetest Thing”.
Born in Lourenço Marques in the then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique, Bowlly gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa, Rhodesia, India and Indonesia during the mid-1920s. He was then employed by Jimmy Liquime to perform in India, Calcutta, Singapore and the Raffles Hotel. In 1928, he arrived in England and briefly took part in a jazz band before being made redundant due to the 1930s depression. In 1930, he was spotted and signed to accompany both Roy Fox‘s and Ray Noble‘s orchestras that November. The signing with Noble led a to a successful association between the two which resulted in over 500 records being produced over a four-year period.
In 1933, Bowlly began to collaborate with Lew Stone and had further success producing some of the most popular jazz records of the 1930s. A year later, Bowlly travelled abroad to New York which resulted in further success, and an introduction into the American charts. During the mid-1930s, Bowlly recorded “Blue Moon“, “Easy to Love“, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin“, and “My Melancholy Baby” which were all sizable successes.
By 1938, Bowlly began to suffer problems with his throat and was forced to return to London. His absence from the UK had damaged his popularity with British audiences and he toured regional theatres and continued his recording career, performing with different orchestras in order to make a living. In 1940, he formed a double act with Jimmy Messene and took part in Radio Stars with Two Guitars, performing in theatres across London. His last recorded song was a duet with Messene of Irving Berlin’s satirical song onHitler, entitled “When That Man Is Dead and Gone”. It was his last venture before his death in an air raid in April 1941.
Early life and career
Bowlly was born in Lourenço Marques in the then Portuguese colony of Mozambique, to Greek and Lebanese parents who met en route to Australia and moved to South Africa. He was brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa. After a series of odd jobs across South Africa in his youth, namely as a barber and jockey, he gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa, Rhodesia, India and Indonesia during the mid-1920s. However, he fell out with Adeler, throwing a cushion at his head as he played piano on stage and was fired whilst the band was in Surabaya, Indonesia.
After a spell with a Filipino band in Surabayo he was then employed by Jimmy Liquime in India (Calcutta) and Singapore (Raffles Hotel). Bowlly had to work his passage back home, through busking. Just one year after his 1927 debut recording date in Berlin, where he recorded Irving Berlin‘s “Blue Skies” with Edgar Adeler, Bowlly arrived in London for the first time as part of Fred Elizalde‘s orchestra, though he nearly didn’t make it after foolishly frittering away the fare which was sent to him by Elizalde. That year, “If I Had You” became one of the first popular songs by an English jazz band to become well known in America as well, and Bowlly had gone out on his own by the beginning of the 1930s. First, however, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 resulted in Bowlly being made redundant and returning to several months of busking to survive.
In the 1930s, he signed two contracts—one in May 1931 with Roy Fox, singing in his live band for the Monseigneur Restaurant in London, the other a record contract with Ray Noble‘s orchestra in November 1930.
During the next four years, he recorded over 500 songs. By 1933 Lew Stone had ousted Fox as bandleader, and Bowlly was singing Stone’s arrangements with Stone’s band. After much radio exposure and a successful UK tour with Stone, Bowlly was inundated with demands for personal appearances and gigs—including undertaking a subsequent solo UK tour—but continued to make the bulk of his recordings with Noble. There was considerable competition between Noble and Stone for Bowlly’s time as, for much of the year, Bowlly would spend all day in the recording studio with Noble’s band, rehearsing and recording, only then to spend the evening playing live at the Monseigneur with Stone’s band. (Many of these Noble sides were issued in the US by Victor, which meant that by the time Noble and Bowlly came to America, their reputation had preceded them.)
Move to the United States and return to Britain
A visit to New York in 1934 with Noble resulted in more success, and their recordings first achieved popularity in the USA; he appeared at the head of an orchestra hand-picked for him and Noble by Glenn Miller (the band included Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, and Bud Freeman, among others).
During the mid-1930s, such songs as “Blue Moon“, “Easy to Love“, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin“, and “My Melancholy Baby” were sizable American successes—so much so that Bowlly gained his own radio series on NBC and traveled to Hollywood to co-star in 1936 with Bing Crosby, one of his biggest competitors, in The Big Broadcast.
He had appeared with his own band, the Radio City Rhythm Makers, but they had split by late 1937 when his vocal problems were traced to a wart in his throat, which briefly caused him to lose his voice. With him and Marjie separated and his band dissolved, that year he was once again down on his luck. He was forced to borrow money from friends for a trip to New York for the surgery of which he was so in need. In 1938, he finally returned to the USA to undergo successful major throat surgery for the removal of his vocal wart, but still had difficulties later in his career.
His absence from the UK when he moved to the States in 1934 damaged his popularity with British audiences. His career also began to suffer as a result of problems with his voice from around 1936, which affected the frequency of his recordings. He played a few small parts in films around this time, yet never professed to be an actor. The parts he did play were often cut, and scenes that were shown were brief. Noble was offered a role in Hollywood although the offer did not, unfortunately, include Bowlly, as a singer had already been instated. Consequently, Bowlly moved back to London with his wife Marjie in January 1937, but never really explained why he had returned, with contemporaries and fans being treated to a variety of stories ranging from the fact that he missed London to claims that he got mixed up with a gangster’s moll, so had been run out of America.
With his diminished success in Britain, he toured regional theatres and recorded as often as possible to make a living, moving from orchestra to orchestra, including those of Sydney Lipton, Geraldo, and Ken Johnson. He underwent a revival from 1940, as part of a double act with Jimmy Messene (whose career had also suffered a recent downturn), with an act called Radio Stars with Two Guitars, performing on the London stage. It was his last venture before his death in April 1941. The partnership was an uneasy one, as Messene suffered from a serious drinking problem by this stage, and was known to turn up incapable on stage, or to not turn up at all, much to Bowlly’s consternation. His last recorded song, made two weeks before his death, was a duet with Messene of Irving Berlin’s satirical song on Hitler, “When That Man is Dead and Gone”.
Personal life and death
In December 1931, Bowlly married Constance Freda Roberts in St Martins District, London, but Bowlly discovered his new wife in bed with another man on their wedding night. The couple separated after two weeks, and sought a rapid divorce. He remarried in December 1934, this time to Marjie Fairless, the marriage lasting until his death. (Freda remarried in 1965, dying in Richmond-upon-Thames in 1967.)
On 17 April 1941, Bowlly and Messene had just given a performance at the Rex Cinema in Oxford Street, High Wycombe, now demolished. Both were offered the opportunity of an overnight stay in the town, but Bowlly opted to take the last train home to his flat at 32 Duke Street, Dukes Court, St James, London. His decision proved to be fatal, as he was killed by a Luftwaffe parachute mine that detonated outside his flat later that evening. His body appeared unmarked: although the massive explosion had not disfigured him, it had blown his bedroom door off its hinges and the impact against his head proved fatal. He was buried with other bombing victims in a mass grave at the Hanwell Cemetery (originally City of Westminster Cemetery), Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, London, where his name is spelled Albert Alex Bowlly.
Al Bowlly is invariably credited with inventing crooning, or “The Modern Singing Style”, releasing a book of the same name. Bowlly experimented with new methods of amplification, not least with his Melody Maker advert, showing him endorsing a portable vocal megaphone. With the advent of the microphone in 1931, Al adapted his singing style, moving away from the Jazz singing style of the 20s, into the softer, more expressive crooning singing style used in popular music of the 30s and 40s. It was Al’s technique, sincerity, diction and his personality that distinguish him from many other singers of the 30s era.
Al is also credited with being the first “pop star”. Prior to the advent of Bowlly, the bandleaders were the stars and the main attractions, with the records being sold as “Ray Noble and his orchestra (with vocal refrain)”, a phenomenon that can be seen on 78s of the period. Most singers were all but anonymous; however, Al’s popularity changed this, with him being the first singer to be given a solo spot on BBC radio due to popular demand, and records appearing featuring his own name. Bowlly’s personality, good looks, charisma, and above all his voice, earned him the nickname “The Big Swoon”, with Al finding himself being mobbed by female fans for autographs and photos after his performances.
As well as singing, Bowlly played both the guitar and the ukulele, with Joyce Stone, Lew Stone’s wife, saying: “You only had to play anything once to Al and he’d got it.” Bowlly remains one of the most highly regarded singers of his era because of his extraordinary range, his command of pitch and rhythm, and, above all, the sincerity with which he could deliver a lyric. Ray Noble is often quoted as saying that Al often stepped away from the microphone with tears in his eyes; “never mind him making you cry, he could make himself cry!”
Ted Fio Rito
Theodore Salvatore Fiorito (December 20, 1900 – July 22, 1971), known professionally as Ted Fio Rito, was an American composer, orchestra leader and keyboardist (on both the piano and the Hammond organ) who was popular on national radio broadcasts in the 1920s and 30s. His name is sometimes given as Ted Fiorito or Ted FioRito.
He was born Teodorico Salvatore Fiorito in Newark, New Jersey to an Italian immigrant couple, tailor Louis (Luigi) Fiorito and Eugenia Cantalupo Fiorito, when they were both 21 years old; and he was delivered by a midwife at their 293 15th Avenue residence. Ted Fiorito attended Barringer High School in Newark.
He was still in his teens when he landed a job in 1919 as a pianist at Columbia’s New York City recording studio, working with the Harry Yerkes bands—the Yerkes Novelty Five, Yerkes’ Jazarimba Orchestra and the Happy Six. His earliest compositions were recorded by the Yerkes groups and Art Highman’s band. Fio Rito had numerous hit recordings, notably his two number one hits, “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii” (1934) and “I’ll String Along with You” (1934). He composed more than 100 songs, collaborating with such lyricists as Ernie Erdman, Gus Kahn, Sam Lewis, Cecil Mack, Albert Von Tilzer and Joe Young.
He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1921 to join Dan Russo’s band, and the following year he was the co-leader of Russo and Fio Rito’s Oriole Orchestra. When Russo and Fio Rito opened at Detroit, Michigan’s Oriole Terrace, their band was renamed the Oriole Terrace Orchestra. Their first recordings (May 1922) included Fio Rito’s “Soothing.” He did “Sleep” and other tunes for the AMPICO Reproducing Piano.
The band returned to Chicago for a booking at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, where they did their first radio remote broadcast on March 29, 1924. In August 1925, the Russo-Fio Rito orchestra opened Chicago’s new Uptown Theatre. They opened the famous Aragon Ballroom in July 1926, doing radio remotes nationally from both the Aragon and the Trianon ballrooms. Dan Russo left the band in 1928, and Fio Rito took over as leader, touring the midwest with engagements in St. Louis, Kansas City and Cincinnati.
In August 1929, the band’s first recording without Russo featured Ted Lewis on clarinet and vocal. Billed as Ted Fio Rito and His Edgewater Beach Hotel Orchestra, they headed for San Francisco to fill in for the Anson Weeks orchestra at the Mark Hopkins Hotel.
Radio in the 1930s
Fio Rito reached a national audience through syndicated and network radio programs. In Chicago, the band was heard on the Brunswick Brevities program, and they were the featured orchestra on NBC’s Skelly Gasoline Show in New York. They broadcast on many 1930s radio programs, including The Old Gold Hour, Hollywood Hotel, The Al Jolson Show, Frigidaire Frolics and Clara, Lu, and Em.
The Fio Rito Orchestra’s vocalists included Jimmy Baxter, Candy Candido, the Debutantes, Betty Grable, June Haver, the Mahoney Sisters,Muzzy Marcellino, Joy Lane (1947–1951), Billy Murray (the Denver Nightingale), Maureen O’Connor, Patti Palmer (birth name Esther Calonico), Kay and Ward Swingle.
During the 1940s, the band’s popularity diminished, but Fio Rito continued to perform in Chicago and Arizona. He played in Las Vegas during the 1960s. In his last years, he led a small combo at venues throughout California and Nevada until his death in Scottsdale, Arizona from a heart attack. He is buried in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in the Mission Hills community of northern Los Angeles.
Fio Rito made his first records for Columbia in 1929, then recorded for Victor from late 1929 through 1930. In late 1930, his did a session for Hit of the Week Records. He then signed with Brunswick in late 1932, remaining there until 1935. He signed with Decca in early 1936 and remained through at least 1942. He also did a single session for Bluebird in 1940.
Most of his recording sessions were in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although his band recorded in Chicago.
References in popular culture
Fio Rito is mentioned in The Honeymooners episode, “Young at Heart,” that aired February 11, 1956. Reminiscing about bands from their youth, Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) and Ed Norton (Art Carney) recall Fio Rito, Isham Jones, Basil Fomeen, Jack Little and Johnny Messner and his toy piano.
Songs and recordings
- “Toot, Toot Tootsie!”
- “Charley, My Boy“
- “Alone at Last”
- “No, No Nora”
- “When Lights Are Low”
- “I Never Knew”
- “Drifting Apart”
- “Laugh, Clown, Laugh”
- “King for a Day”
- “Then You’ve Never Been Blue”
- “Now That You’re Gone”
- “Three on a Match”
- “Kalua Lullaby”
- “I Want Somebody to Cheer Me Up”
- “I’m Sorry Sally”
- “Nothing on My Mind”
- “When the Moon Hangs High”
- “Roll Along, Prairie Moon”
- “Alone at a Table for Two”
- “Yours Truly”
Long before I was interested in collecting 78 rpm records, a very young collector was at it, looking for Canadian Compo pressings. This advertisement appeared in The Stouffville Sun-.Tribune. January 18, 1968. Joe Showler was known as the authority on Jack Teagarden, having devoted his life to researching the trombonist. Note the misspelling of the Microphone Label.
From The Wainwright Star, July 27, 1927, Wainwright, Alberta
|Born||October 9, 1900|
|Died||May 14, 1973 (aged 72)
Elmer Snowden (October 9, 1900 – May 14, 1973) was a banjo player of the jazz age. He also played guitar and, in the early stages of his career, all the reed instruments. He contributed greatly to jazz in its early days as both a player and a bandleader, and is responsible for launching the careers of many top musicians. However, Snowden himself has been largely overlooked in jazz history.
Born in Baltimore, Snowden is remembered today mainly as the original leader of the Washingtonians, a group he brought to New York City from the capital in 1923. Unable to get a booking, Snowden sent for Duke Ellington, who was with the group when it recorded three test sides for Victor that remain unissued and are, presumably, lost. Ellington eventually took over leadership of the band, which contained the nucleus of what later became his famous orchestra. Snowden was a renowned band leader – Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Bubber Miley, “Tricky Sam” Nanton,Frankie Newton, Benny Carter, Rex Stewart, Roy Eldridge and Chick Webb are among the musicians who worked in his various bands.
Very active in the 1920s as an agent and musician, Snowden at one time had five bands playing under his name in New York, one of which was led by pianist Cliff Jackson. Unfortunately, most of his bands were not recorded, but a Snowden band that included Eldridge, Al Sears, Dicky Wells and Sid Catlett appeared in a 1932 film, Smash Your Baggage. Snowden also made numerous appearances as a sideman on almost every New York label from 1923 on. Unfortunately, he rarely received credit, except for two sides with Bessie Smith in 1925, and six sides with the Sepia Serenaders in 1934.
Though Snowden continued to be musically active throughout his life, after the mid 1930s he lived in relative obscurity in New York. He continued to play throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s, but was far from the limelight. After a dispute with the musicians union in New York, he moved to Philadelphia where he taught music, counting among his pupils pianistRay Bryant, his brother, bassist Tommy Bryant, and saxophonist Sahib Shihab (Edmond Gregory).
Snowden was working as a parking lot attendant in 1959 when Chris Albertson, then a Philadelphia disc jockey, came across him. In 1960, Albertson brought Snowden and singer-guitarist Lonnie Johnson together for two Prestige albums, assembled a quartet that included Cliff Jackson for a Riverside session, Harlem Banjo, and, in 1961, a sextet session with Roy Eldridge, Bud Freeman, Jo Jones, and Ray and Tommy Bryant—it was released on the Fontana and Black Lion labels.
In 1963, his career boosted, Snowden appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. He toured Europe in 1967 with the Newport Guitar Workshop. He moved to California to teach at theUniversity of California, Berkeley, and played with Turk Murphy.
In 1969, Snowden moved back to Philadelphia, where he died on May 14, 1973.
|Birth name||Charles Theodore Straight|
|Born||January 16, 1891
|Died||September 21, 1940
|Occupations||Composer, arranger, orchestra leader|
Charles Theodore Straight (January 16, 1891 – September 22, 1940), better known as Charley Straight, was an American pianist,bandleader and composer. He started his career in 1909 accompanying singer Gene Greene in Vaudeville. In 1916 he began working at the Imperial Piano Roll Company in Chicago were he recorded dozens of piano rolls. He became a popular bandleader in Chicagoduring the 1920s. His band the Charley Straight Orchestra had a long term engagement at the Rendezvous Café from 1922 to 1925 and recorded for Paramount Records and Brunswick Records in the 1920s.
It was during the 1920s that Straight worked with Roy Bargy on the latter’s eight Piano Syncopations. In describing “Rufenreddy”, the fifth in the series, ragtime historian “Perfessor” Bill Edwards has stated:
- The actual parentage of this piece will likely remain obscured to some degree, since Bargy’s collaborator, Charley Straight, more or less may have let Bargy take credit when the piano rolls of the Eight Piano Syncopations were transcribed into sheet music form. It is likely that Straight wrote the bulk of the composition in 1918, and Bargy added many of his individual touches to it in the performance, the end result being that there is some of each of them within.
Straight died in Chicago on the evening of September 22, 1940 after being struck by a car. At the time, Straight was working as a sanitary inspector for the city of Chicago, and was emerging from a manhole in the street.
- “Rufenreddy” (with Roy Bargy, 1921)
- “Knice and Knifty” (with Roy Bargy, 1922)
- “Blue Grass Rag” (1918)
- “Let’s Go” (1915)
- “Humpty Dumpty” (1914)
- “Hot Hands” (1916)
- “Sweet Pickin’s” (1918)
- “Wild And Wooly”
- “Nifty Nonsense” (1918)
- “Black Jack Rag” (1917)
- “Rag-A-Bit” (1918)
- “Fastep” (1918)
- “Dippy Ditty” (1918)
- “Lazy Bones”
- “Out Steppin’” (1917)
- “My Baby’s Rag”
- “Universal Rag”
- “Mow ‘Em Down” (1918)
- “Try Me”
- “Red Raven Rag” (1915)
- “Mocking Bird Rag”
- “King Of The Bungaloos”
South was a classical violin prodigy who switched to jazz because of limited opportunities for African-American musicians, and started his career playing in vaudeville and jazz orchestras with Freddie Keppard, Jimmy Wade, Charles Elgar, and Erskine Tate in Chicago. He studied at the Chicago College of Music alongside violinist Petrowitsch Bissing.
He was influenced by Hungarian folk music and Roma music starting with a visit to Europe in the 1920s, and adapted the music to jazz. In 1927 he started his own group, Eddie South and his Alabamians, named after the Alabam club where they played in Chicago, and, along with pianist and composer Henry Crowder, toured with them in Europe from 1928 to 1930.
On subsequent visits to Europe in the 1930s, he performed and recorded with guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinists Stéphane Grappelli. He also played in the big bands of Earl Hines from 1947 to 1949. and Michel Warlop. He also led bands that included pianistBilly Taylor and bassist Milt Hinton.
A 1951 recording for Chess Records, Eddy [sic] South and his Orchestra, credited Johnny Pate on bass and arrangements and was also the first of a series of Chess recordings on which Pate collaborated with saxophonist Eddie Johnson.
Jimmy Dorsey playing alto saxophone in The Fabulous Dorseys (1947).
|Birth name||James Dorsey|
|Born||February 29, 1904
Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||June 12, 1957 (aged 53)
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Genres||Big Band, Swing, Dixieland|
|Occupations||Bandleader, musician, composer|
|Instruments||Saxophone, Clarinet, Trumpet|
|Associated acts||Tommy Dorsey, California Ramblers, The Dorsey Brothers,The Charleston Chasers,Dorsey’s Novelty Six, Andrew LaPrise|
James “Jimmy” Dorsey (February 29, 1904 – June 12, 1957) was a prominent American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter, composer, and big band leader. He was known as “JD”. He composed the jazz and pop standards “I’m Glad There Is You (In This World of Ordinary People)” and “It’s The Dreamer In Me“.
Jimmy Dorsey was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the son of a coal miner turned music educator, and older brother to Tommy Dorsey who also became a prominent musician. He played trumpet in his youth, appearing on stage with J. Carson McGee’s King Trumpeters in 1913. He switched to alto saxophone in 1915, and then learned to double on clarinet. Jimmy Dorsey played on a clarinet outfitted with the Albert system of fingering, as opposed to the more common Boehm system used by most of his contemporaries including Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
With his brother Tommy playing trombone, he formed Dorsey’s Novelty Six, one of the first jazz bands to broadcast. In 1924 he joined the California Ramblers (who were based in New York City). He did much free lance radio and recording work throughout the 1920s. The brothers also appeared as session musicians on many jazz recordings. He joined Ted Lewis‘s band in 1930, with whom he touredEurope.
After returning to the United States, he worked briefly with Rudy Vallee and several other bandleaders, in addition to the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra with Tommy. He appeared on at least seventy-five radio broadcasts (many with his brother), as a member ofNathaniel Shilkret‘s orchestra on programs such as the 1932 program, “The Music That Satisfies,” also known as the Chesterfield Quarter Hour. Tommy broke off to form his own band in 1935 after a musical dispute with Jimmy. The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra became the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and included musicians such as Bobby Byrne, Ray McKinley, and Skeets Herfurt along with vocalists Bob Eberly and Kay Weber.
In 1939 Jimmy hired Helen O’Connell as his female singer. She and Eberly possessed a “boy and girl next door” charm and their pairing produced several of the band’s biggest hits. Many of the Eberly-O’Connell recordings were arranged in an unusual 3-section “a-b-c” format. The three-part format was reportedly developed at the insistence of a record producer who wanted to feature both singers and the full band in a single 3-minute 78 rpm recording. Eberly sang the first minute, usually as a slow romantic ballad, the next minute featured the full band backing Jimmy’s saxophone, and the last minute was sung by O’Connell in a more up-tempo style, sometimes with lyrics in Spanish. Kitty Kallen sang with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra following Helen O’Connell’s departure in 1942. Jerry Lewis‘ first wife Patti Palmer (birth name Esther Calonico) was a singer with his orchestra for less than a year, starting about 1944.
Jimmy continued leading his own band until the early 1950s. In 1953 he joined Tommy’s Orchestra, renamed “Tommy Dorsey and his Orch. featuring Jimmy Dorsey”. On December 26, 1953, the brothers and their orchestra appeared on Jackie Gleason‘s CBS television program. The success of that television appearance led Gleason to produce a weekly variety program, Stage Show, hosted by the brothers on CBS from 1954 to 1956. Elvis Presley appeared on several of the telecasts. These were Presley’s first appearances on national TV.
Jimmy took over leadership of the orchestra after Tommy’s death. Jimmy survived his brother by only a few months and died of throat cancer, aged 53, in New York City. Broadcasts of Jimmy Dorsey and The Fabulous Dorsey Orchestra on NBC Bandstand survive from December 25, and December 31, 1956. At least two other extant broadcasts from the month of December 1956 are available as well. Recordings of the band from their winter 1957 tour have not surfaced. These recordings would provide the last aural evidence of Jimmy Dorsey’s work. It is thought that Dorsey’s last appearance was in Joplin, Missouri, on March 12, 1957.
Shortly before his death, he was awarded a gold record for “So Rare” which was recorded on November 11, 1956. There is a controversy over who played the alto solo on the recording of “So Rare”, Dick Stabile or Jimmy Dorsey. It reached the number-two spot on the Billboard charts, becoming the highest charting song by a big band during the first decade of the rock-and-roll era.
Jimmy Dorsey is considered one of the most important and influential alto saxophone players of the Big Band and Swing era, and also after that era. Jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker mentioned him as a personal favorite.
During his early days as a musician, Jimmy Dorsey performed with various other ensembles and artists including the Scranton Sirens, The California Ramblers, Red Nichols, Jean Goldkette, Ben Pollack, and Paul Whiteman. He and his younger brother Tommy formed several bands known as “The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra” during the late 1920s and early 1930s which suddenly ended in May, 1935, when Tommy stormed off the bandstand after an onstage argument. For several months, Jimmy continued leading the band, keeping the Dorsey Brothers name, hoping that his younger brother would return, but he did not. In September, 1935, the Dorsey Brothers band legally became the “Jim Dorsey Orchestra”, after Jimmy found out that Tommy Dorsey now had his own band, and had signed a recording contract with RCA Victor. Jimmy Dorsey remained with Decca Records as the two brothers were now competing with each other musically.
Jimmy Dorsey’s first hit record was “You Let Me Down” in 1935. His early band was considered to be more jazz-oriented than his brother’s, and recordings of some instrumental swing classics soon followed: Dorsey Stomp, Tap Dancer’s Nightmare, Parade of the Milk Bottle Caps, John Silver, and Dusk in Upper Sandusky. The band was featured on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall radio show, and did quite well commercially, although being overshadowed by Benny Goodman, (also a clarinetist), whose big band had grabbed center stage in the mid thirties. Dorsey’s main vocalist was Bob Eberly, considered to be the best in the music business, and in 1939, Helen O’Connell joined the band, and the idea to have them do duets together proved to be highly successful. Almost every record released during 1939-1943 were hits, but especially records made with a Latin American flavor like “Amapola”, “Maria Elena”, and “Green Eyes”, which topped the charts in 1941. Certainly vocalists Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly, were two very important factors in Jimmy Dorsey’s rise in popularity. They continued singing with his band for future records and motion picture appearances. Despite personnel changes, Jimmy remained one of the top big band leaders after World War II and into the 1950s, always updating the sound of his band, but the big band business was beginning to decline.
Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey reunited on March 15, 1945 to record a V-Disc at Liederkranz Hall in New York City. Released in June, 1945, V-Disc 451 featured “More Than You Know” backed with “Brotherly Jump”. The songs featured the combined orchestras of Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey.
In 1953, he and his brother reunited to form a (new) “Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.” Tommy was the leader of the group, making Jimmy the co-leader and featured soloist. In 1954, Jackie Gleason chose their band to star in a weekly television show that centered on their band. The show, called “Stage Show,” was a huge hit, and gave other big band leaders hope in a business that was steadily declining.
Tommy’s death in 1956 and Jimmy’s own health problems resulted in the end of his television and musical career in 1957.
Jimmy Dorsey appeared in a number of Hollywood motion pictures, including That Girl From Paris, Shall We Dance, The Fleet’s In, Lost in a Harem with Abbot and Costello, I Dood It, and the bio-pic with his brother Tommy, The Fabulous Dorseys in 1947.
In 1938, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra also appeared in a movie short performing many of his hits including “It’s the Dreamer in Me”, “I Love You in Technicolor”, and “Parade of the Milk Bottle Caps”.
Compositions by Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey composed “Mood Hollywood”, “Shim Sham Shimmy”, “So Many Times“, which reached no. 20 in 1939 on Billboard, staying on the charts for one week, also recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and Jack Teagarden and his Orchestra, “Beebe”, “Oodles of Noodles”, “John Silver” with Ray Krise, which reached no. 13 on Billboard in 1938, staying on the charts for 2 weeks, “Parade of the Milk Bottle Caps”, “Dusk in Upper Sandusky” with Larry Clinton, “Shoot the Meatballs to Me Dominick Boy” with Toots Camarata, “A Man and his Drums”, “Mutiny in the Brass Section”, “Praying the Blues”, “Contrasts”, his theme song, “Major and Minor Stomp”, “Hep-Tee Hootie (Juke Box Jive)” with Fud Livingston and Jack Palmer, “I Bought A Wooden Whistle”, “Tailspin” with Frankie Trumbauer, the classic jazz standard “I’m Glad There Is You (In This World of Ordinary People)”, “Clarinet Polka”, “I Love You in Technicolor”, “All The Things You Ain’t” with Babe Russin, “JD’s Boogie Woogie”, “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat”, “I’ll Do Anything For You”, “Dorsey Stomp”, “Grand Central Getaway” with Dizzy Gillespie, “Sunset Strip” and “The Champ” with Sonny Burke, “Town Hall Tonight”, “Outer Drive” with Herb Ellis, the jazz standard “It’s the Dreamer in Me” with Jimmy Van Heusen, recorded by Duke Ellington and others.
Jimmy Dorsey co-wrote the jazz and pop standard “I’m Glad There Is You (In This World of Ordinary People)” with Paul Madeira, who is also known as Paul Madeira Mertz, in 1941. Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira Mertz collaborated on the lyrics and the music. Mertz had been a pianist in the Bix Beiderbecke band in the 1920s and had worked in Hollywood on film music in the 1930s. Jimmy Dorsey originally released the song as a 78 on Decca as 4197B in 1942 with Bob Eberly on vocals. Jimmy Dorsey also released the song as Decca 18799A with Dee Parker on vocals in 1946.
Jimmy Dorsey had eleven number one hits with his orchestra in the 1930s and the 1940s: “Is It True What They Say About Dixie?”, “Change Partners”, “The Breeze and I”, “Amapola”, “My Sister and I”, “Maria Elena”, “Green Eyes”, “Blue Champagne”, “Tangerine”, “Besame Mucho”, and “Pennies from Heaven” with Bing Crosby. In 1935, he had two more number ones as part of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra: “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Chasing Shadows”. His biggest hit was “Amapola“, which was number one for ten weeks in 1941 on the Billboard pop singles chart. On August 17, 1936, Bing Crosby recorded “Pennies from Heaven” with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, a recording that went number one for ten weeks and became one of the top records of 1936. And finally, there was a late hit in 1957, “So Rare“, which went to the No. 2 position, and was on the record charts for 26 weeks.
In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey commemorative postage stamp.
In 2008, the Recording Academy added the 1942 recording of “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)”, Decca 18460B, by Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra with Bob Eberle and Helen O’Connell on vocals to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 1983, Jimmy Dorsey was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the American Jazz Hall of Fame.
- Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra (1938 short)
- The Fleet’s In (1942)
- I Dood It (1943)
- Four Jills in a Jeep (1944)
- Lost in a Harem (1944)
- The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)
- Julia, No. 117A, 1944
- Contrast, No. 117A, 1944
- John Silver, No. 117B, 1944
- That Wonderful, Worrisome Feeling, No. 157A, March, 1944
- Star Eyes, No. 174A, April, 1944
- The Champ, No. 195A, May, 1944
- I’ll Do Anything For You, No. 195A, May, 1944
- The Breeze and I, No. 217B, June, 1944
- You, You Darlin’, No. 217B, June, 1944
- The Great Lie, No. 283A, No. 63 (Navy), October, 1944
- Contrasts, No. 314A, November, 1944
- Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, No. 314A, November, 1944
- Sunset Strip, No. 326A, December, 1944
- Grand Central Getaway, No. 391B, March, 1945
- All the Things You Ain’t, No. 391B, March, 1945
- Long John Silver, No. 409B, April, 1945
- More Than You Know, No. 451A, June, 1945, with Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra
- Brotherly Jump, No. 451B, June, 1945, with Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra
- Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, No. 470B, July, 1945; No. 250B (Marines), July, 1945
- Together, No. 514A, September, 1945
- King Porter Stomp, No. 514A, September, 1945
- Hello Forget It, Goodbye, No. 713, December, 1946
Athos C. (Ace) Brigode (January 5, 1893 – February 3, 1960) was a United States dance band leader who enjoyed his greatest popularity in the 1920s.
Ace Brigode was born in Illinois. His band began playing professionally in early 1921 as “Ace Brigode & His 10 Virginians”; a bit later they were renamed “Ace Brigode & His 14 Virginians”; this name stuck although the band varied between having 9 to 19 members over the years. The band played in the moderately jazz-influenced peppy dance band style called “Collegiate Hot” that to many people exemplifies the music of the “Roaring Twenties”. The most noted musician who played with Brigode was trombonist Abe Lincoln.
Brigode hosted the “White Rose Gasoline Show” on radio, featuring his band. The band also made gramophone records for variousrecord labels, including OKeh, Edison, Cameo and Pathé Records; their biggest hit was a 1925 version of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” forColumbia Records. The band’s theme song was “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny“. Dwight Eisenhower was among the band’s fans.
Brigode himself played violin and clarinet, but mostly acted as master of ceremonies. The band toured widely around the United States. Brigode kept the band current with newer style arrangements in to the early swing music era, before disbanding the group in 1945.
|Birth name||Charles Joseph Bolden|
|Also known as||King Bolden|
|Born||September 6, 1877|
|Origin||New Orleans, Louisiana, USA|
|Died||November 4, 1931 (aged 54)|
Charles Joseph “Buddy” Bolden (September 6, 1877 – November 4, 1931) was an African-American cornetist and is regarded by contemporaries as a key figure in the development of a New Orleans style of rag-time music, which later came to be known as jazz.
He was known as King Bolden (see Jazz royalty), and his band was a top draw in New Orleans (the city of his birth) from about 1900 until 1907, when he was incapacitated by schizophrenia (then called dementia praecox). He left no known surviving recordings, but he was known for his very loud sound and constant improvisation.
While there is substantial first-hand oral history about Buddy Bolden, facts about his life continue to be lost amidst colorful myth. Stories about his being a barber by trade or that he published a scandal sheet called The Cricket have been repeated in print despite being debunked decades earlier. Reputedly, his father was a teamster.
Bolden suffered an episode of acute alcoholic psychosis in 1907 at the age of 30. With the full diagnosis of dementia praecox, he was admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson, a mental institution, where he spent the rest of his life.
Many early jazz musicians credited Bolden and the members of his band with being the originators of what came to be known as “jazz”, though the term was not in common musical use until after the era of Bolden’s prominence. At least one writer has labeled him the father of jazz. He is credited with creating a looser, more improvised version of ragtime and adding blues to it; Bolden’s band was said to be the first to have brass instruments play the blues. He was also said to have taken ideas from gospel music heard in uptown African-American Baptist churches.
Instead of imitating other cornetists, Bolden played music he heard “by ear” and adapted it to his horn. In doing so, he created an exciting and novel fusion of ragtime, black sacred music, marching-band music, and rural blues. He rearranged the typical New Orleans dance band of the time to better accommodate the blues; string instruments became the rhythm section, and the front-line instruments were clarinets, trombones, and Bolden’s cornet. Bolden was known for his powerful, loud, “wide open” playing style. Joe “King” Oliver, Freddie Keppard, Bunk Johnson, and other early New Orleans jazz musicians were directly inspired by his playing.
No known recordings of Bolden have survived. His trombonist Willy Cornish asserted that Bolden’s band had made at least one phonograph cylinder in the late 1890s. Three other old-time New Orleans musicians, George Baquet, Alphonse Picouand Bob Lyons also remembered a recording session (“Turkey in the Straw”, according to Baquet) in the early 1900s. The researcher Tim Brooks believes that these cylinders, if they existed, may have been privately recorded for local music dealers and were never distributed in bulk.
Some of the songs first associated with his band, such as the traditional song “Careless Love” and “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It”, are still standards. Bolden often closed his shows with the original number “Get Out of Here and Go Home”, although for more “polite” gigs, the last number would be “Home! Sweet Home!“.
Wraggette’s Drug Store in Georgetown, Ontario put this ad in The Georgetown Herald on January 9, 1929 for Victor and Apex records.