Archive for Hal Kemp

Jack Purvis

Posted in Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Jack Purvis

From Wikipedia

Jack Purvis (December 11, 1906 – March 30, 1962) was an American jazz musician.

Purvis was best known as a trumpet player and the composer of Dismal Dan and Down Georgia Way.  He was one of the earliest trumpeters to incorporate the innovations pioneered by Louis Armstrong in the late 1920s.  He also played trombone and on occasion a number of other instruments professionally (including harp).

Early years

John “Jack” Purvis was born in KokomoIndiana on December 11, 1906 to Sanford B. Purvis, a real estate agent and his wife Nettie (Jackson) Purvis.  Jack’s behavior became uncontrollable after his mother’s death in 1912, and, as a result of many acts of petty larceny, he was sent to a reform school. While there, he discovered that he had an uncanny musical ability, and soon became proficient enough to play both the trombone and trumpet professionally. This also enabled him to leave the reformatory and continue his high school education, while he was playing paying gigs on the side. One of the earliest jobs he had as a musician was with a band led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not long afterward, he worked with the dance band of Hal Denman.

After high school he worked in his home state for a time then went to Lexington, Kentucky where he played with the Original Kentucky Night Hawks. Around this time he learned to fly planes. In 1926 he was with Bud Rice and toured New England. He then worked the remainder of 1926 and the beginning of 1927 with Whitey Kaufman’s Original Pennsylvanians. Purvis married in Pittsburgh, in 1927, and soon became a father. His daughter, Betty Lou, was, for a time, a disc jockey in Pittsburgh in the late 1940s, and a correspondent for Down Beat magazine. This was Purvis’ only verified marriage, and rumors persist that he committed bigamy on several occasions. For a short time he played trumpet with Arnold Johnson‘s orchestra, and by July 1928 he traveled to France with George Carhart‘s band. It is reported that he had an early brush with the law when he cheated a tourist out of his travelers checks and was forced to leave the band and flee France.  Ship’s passenger list information reports “Jacques F. Purvis” returning to New York, from Le Havre, France, on November 19. 1928.

In 1929 he joined Hal Kemp‘s band. From 1929 to 1930 Purvis recorded with Kemp, Smith BallewTed Wallace (a pseudonym for agent Ed Kirkeby), Rube Bloom, the California Ramblers, and Roy Wilson’s Georgia Crackers. On December 17, 1929 Purvis led his own recording groups using Hal Kemp’s rhythm section to produce Copyin’ Louis, and Mental Strain at Dawn.

The 1930s

In 1930, Purvis led a couple of racially mixed recording sessions including the likes of J.C. Higginbotham, and Adrian Rollini.  One of these sessions was organized by Adrian Rollini and OKeh A & R man, Bob Stephens.

After leaving Hal Kemp in 1930, allegedly because legal issues precluded his going with the band to Florida, Purvis found work with the California Ramblers. He also worked with theDorsey Brothers and played fourth trumpet with Fletcher Henderson, although only in a rehearsal capacity.

Purvis’ mental stability was always in question, and he attempted suicide on several occasions. Although he was a brilliant musician, capable of either a hot jazz solo or a difficult passage through the hardest of arrangements, he could not be counted on to arrive anywhere on time. This lack of accountability plagued him throughout his life, and can be traced to his earliest years. In many instances, once Jack Purvis showed up to play an extended engagement, not so coincidentally, there was a spike in petty thefts and burgalaries for the vicinity of that gig.

From 1931 to 1932 he played with a few radio orchestras and worked with Fred Waring. In 1933 he toured the South with Charlie Barnet. He even talked his way into a job with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra playing The Carnival of Venice. During this time he also worked in Texas as a pilot perhaps smuggling illegal goods out of Mexico.

He moved to California and was successful with radio broadcasting work.  In Los Angeles, Purvis worked for the George Stoll Orchestra as a writer and even worked for Warner Bros. Studios arranging. He composed Legends of Haiti for a one hundred and ten piece orchestra. Afterwards he found work in San Francisco as a chef.

At the end of 1935 he joined Frank Froeba‘s Swing Band in New York.  These 1935 recordings with Froeba were the end of Purvis’ recording career.  He played a couple of weeks with Joe Haymes‘ orchestra and then disappeared for a couple of years. There was a confirmed sighting of him working in a diner in the midwest around this time. It is also speculated that he worked as a ship’s cook on a freighter at the time.

He was arrested in Texas in June 1937, while working as a cook, for his involvement in a robbery in El Paso, Texas. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to jail time inHuntsville Prison.  While in prison he directed the Rhythmic Swingsters, the prison band and also played piano with them. The band regularly broadcast on radio station WBAP in 1938.

Later life

In August 1940, Purvis was conditionally pardoned from prison, but he quickly broke his parole and was sent back to prison for six more years.  Some sources claim he did this deliberately because he missed the prison band.

On September 30, 1946 Purvis was released from prison one last time.  He had a wild reputation and is said to have set hotel rooms on fire.  He seldom stuck with one band for very long and was known to hit the streets as a busker. From this time onward he worked at non-musical careers which included working as a chef, an aviator in Florida, acarpenter, an radio repair-man in San Francisco.  At sometime in his checkered life he was also a mercenary in South America.

According to researcher Paul Larsen, Purvis gassed himself to death in San Francisco, California on March 30, 1962.  Yet Purvis’ death certificate indicates the cause of death to be “fatty degeneration of the liver” rather than death by gas poisoning. Stories persist that a man who looked like (and introduced himself as) Jack Purvis showed up at a band date by cornetist Jim Goodwin and the two men had a long talk about his life on two occasions in 1968.

Bunny Berigan

Posted in Recording Artist's of the 1920's and 1930's with tags , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Bunny Berigan

From Wikipedia
Bunny Berigan
Birth name Roland Bernard Berigan
Born November 2, 1908
Hilbert, Wisconsin, United States
Died June 2, 1942 (aged 33)
New York City, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations Trumpetersinger
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1930-1942

Roland Bernard “Bunny” Berigan (November 2, 1908 – June 2, 1942) was an American jazz trumpeter who rose to fame during theswing era, but whose career and influence were shortened by a losing battle with alcoholism that ended with his early death at age 33 from cirrhosis. Although he composed some jazz instrumentals like “Chicken and Waffles” and “Blues”, Berigan was best known for his virtuoso jazz trumpeting. His 1937 classic recording “I Can’t Get Started” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.

Early life and career

Berigan was born in Hilbert, Wisconsin,  the son of William Patrick  Berigan and Mary Catherine (Mayme) Schlitzberg, and raised inFox Lake, Wisconsin. A musical child prodigy, having learned the violin and trumpet at an early age, Berigan played in local orchestrasby his mid-teens before joining the successful Hal Kemp orchestra in 1930. Berigan’s first recorded trumpet solos came with the Kemp orchestra, and he was with the unit when they toured England and a few other European countries later in 1930.

Shortly after the Kemp unit returned to the U.S. in late 1930, Berigan, like fellow trumpeter Manny Klein, the Dorsey Brothers and Artie Shaw, became a sought-after studio musician in New York. Fred RichFreddy Martin and Ben Selvin were just some conductors who sought his services for record dates. He joined the staff of CBS radio network musicians in early 1931. Berigan recorded his first vocal, “At Your Command,” with Rich that year. From late 1932 through late 1933, Berigan was a member of Paul Whiteman’sorchestra, before playing with Abe Lyman’s band briefly in 1934.

He returned to freelancing in the New York recording studios and working on staff at CBS radio in 1934. He recorded as a sideman on hundreds of commercial records, most notably with the Dorsey Brothers and on Glenn Miller’s earliest recording date as a leader in 1935, playing on “Solo Hop“. At the same time, however, Berigan made an association that began his ascent to fame in his own right: he joined Benny Goodman’s jazz oriented dance band. Legendary jazz talent scout and producer John Hammond, who also became Goodman’s brother-in-law in due course, later wrote that he helped persuade Gene Krupa to re-join Goodman, with whom he’d had an earlier falling-out, by mentioning that Berigan, whom Krupa admired, was already committed to the new ensemble. With Berigan and Krupa both on-board, the Goodman band made the legendary, often disheartening tour that ended with their unexpectedly headline-making stand at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, the stand often credited with the “formal” launch of the swing era.  Berigan recorded a number of classic solos while with Goodman, including on “King Porter Stomp,” “Sometimes I’m Happy,” and “Blue Skies.”


Berigan left Goodman to return again to freelancing as a recording and radio musician in Manhattan. During this time (late 1935 and throughout 1936), he began to record regularly under his own name, and continued to back singers such as Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, and Billie Holiday. He spend some time with Tommy Dorsey‘s orchestra in late 1936 and early 1937, working as a jazz soloist on Dorsey’s radio program and on several records. His solo on the Dorsey hit recording “Marie” became considered one of his signature performances. In 1937, Berigan assembled a band to record and tour under his name, picking the then-little known Ira Gershwin/Vernon Duke composition, “I Can’t Get Started” as his theme song. Berigan’s bravura trumpet work and curiously attractive vocal made his recorded performance of it for Victor the biggest hit of his career. Berigan modeled his trumpet style in part on Louis Armstrong’s style, and often acknowledged Armstrong as his own idol, but he was no Armstrong clone. He had a trumpet sound that was unique, and very individual jazz ideas. Armstrong, for his part, recognized Berigan’s talents, and praised them both before and after Berigan’s death.


Berigan got the itch to lead his own band full-time and did so from early 1937 until June 1942, with one six-month hiatus in 1940, when he became a sideman in Tommy Dorsey’s band. Some of the records he made with his own bands were equal in quality to the sides he cut with Goodman and Dorsey. But a series of misfortunes as well as Berigan’s alcoholism worked against his financial success as a bandleader. Bunny also began a torrid affair with singer Lee Wiley in 1936, which lasted into 1940. The various stresses of bandleading drove Berigan to drink even more heavily. Nevertheless, musicians considered him an excellent bandleader. Among the notable players who worked in the Berigan band were: drummersBuddy RichDave ToughGeorge Wettling, Johnny Blowers, and Jack Sperling; alto saxophonists/clarinetistsGus Bivona, Joe Dixon, and Andy Fitzgerald; vocalistsDanny RichardsRuth Bradley and Kathleen Lane; pianistJoe Bushkin, trombonist/arrangerRay Conniff, trombonist Sonny Lee; bassists Hank Wayland, and Morty Stulmaker, trumpeters Carl“Bama” WarwickSteve Lipkins, and Les Elgart; tenor saxophonists Georgie Auld,and Don Lodice; and pianist/arrangerJoe Lippman.

Berigan was regularly featured on CBS Radio‘s Saturday Night Swing Club broadcasts from 1936 into 1937. This network radio show helped further popularize jazz as the swing era reached its apogee. For the balance of the 1930s, he sometimes appeared on this program as a guest.

Final years and Death

Berigan’s business troubles drove him to declare bankruptcy in 1939, and shortly after to join Tommy Dorsey as a featured jazz soloist. By September 1940, Berigan briefly led a new small group, but soon reorganized a touring big band. Berigan led moderately successful big bands from the fall of 1940 into early 1942, and was on the comeback trail when his health declined alarmingly. In April 1942, Berigan was hospitalized with pneumonia in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But his doctors discovered worse news: that cirrhosis had severely damaged his liver. He was advised to stop drinking and stop playing the trumpet for an undetermined length of time. Berigan couldn’t do either. He returned to his band on tour, and played for a few weeks before he returned to New York City and suffered a massive hemorrhage on May 31, 1942. He died two days later in Polyclinic Hospital at age 33. He was survived by his wife, Donna, and his two young daughters, Patricia, 10, and Joyce, 6.

He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery south of Fox Lake.


His 1937 recording of “I Can’t Get Started” was used in the film Save the Tiger (1973), the Roman Polanski film Chinatown (1974), and a Martin Scorsese short film,The Big Shave(1967). Woody Allen has used Berigan’s music occasionally in his films. In 2010, his Victor recording of “Heigh-Ho” was used on a Gap clothing TV commercial. Berigan’s name was used frequently in the comic strip “Crankshaft.” Fox Lake, Wisconsin has kept his memory and influence alive with an annual Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee since the early 1970s. Most of Berigan’s recordings are currently available, and two full-length biographies of him have been published.

Compositions by Bunny Berigan

Bunny Berigan’s compositions (really informally created jam tunes) include “Chicken and Waffles”, released as Decca 18117 in 1935 as by Bunny’s Blue Boys, and “Blues”, released in 1935 as Decca 18116, also with the Blue Boys.


In 1975, Bunny Berigan’s 1937 recording “I Can’t Get Started” on Victor as VICTOR 25728-A was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

He was inducted in the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame in 2008. [6]

Hal Kemp

Posted in Recording Artists Who Appeared in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by the78rpmrecordspins

Hal Kemp

From Wikipedia
Hal Kemp
Birth name James Hal Kemp
Born March 27, 1904
Marion, Alabama, U.S.
Died December 21, 1940 (aged 36)
Madera, California, U.S.
Genres Jazz, swing music, big band
Occupations Bandleader, musician, arranger, composer
Instruments Alto saxophone, clarinet
Years active 1924–1940

James Hal Kemp (March 27, 1904 – December 21, 1940) was a jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. He was born in Marion, Alabama, and died in Madera, California, following an auto accident. His major recordings were “There’s a Small Hotel“, “Where or When“, “This Year’s Kisses”, “When I’m With You”, “Got a Date With an Angel” and “Three Little Fishies“.



At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he formed his own campus jazz group, the Carolina Club Orchestra. The band recorded for English Columbia and Perfect/Pathé Records in 1924-5. This first group toured Europe in the summer of 1924 under the sponsorship of popular bandleader Paul Specht. Kemp returned to UNC in 1925 and put together a new edition of the Carolina Club Orchestra, featuring classmates and future stars John Scott Trotter, Saxie Dowell, and Skinnay Ennis. In 1926, he was a member of the charter class of the Alpha Rho chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity, installed on the Carolina campus in February of that year. In 1927 Kemp turned leadership of the Carolina Club Orchestra over to fellow UNC student Kay Kyser and turned professional. The band was based in New York City, and included Trotter, Dowell, and Ennis, and a few years later trumpeters Bunny Berigan and Jack Purvis joined the group. The sound was 1920s collegiate jazz. Kemp once again toured Europe in the summer of 1930. This band recorded regularly for Brunswick, English Duophone, Okeh and Melotone Records.

In 1932, during the height of the Depression, Kemp decided to lead the band in a new direction, changing the orchestra’s style to a that of a dance band (often mistakenly referred to as “sweet”), using muted triple-tonguing trumpets, clarinets playing low sustained notes in unison through large megaphones (an early version of the echo chamber effect), and a double-octave piano.

One of the main reasons for the band’s success was arranger John Scott Trotter. Singer Skinnay Ennis had difficulty sustaining notes, so Trotter came up with the idea of filling in these gaps with muted trumpets playing staccato triplets. This gave the band a unique sound, which Johnny Mercer jokingly referred to as sounding like a “typewriter”. The saxes often played very complex extremely difficult passages, which won them the praise of fellow musicians. Vocalists with the band at this time included Ennis, Dowell, Bob Allen, Deane Janis, Maxine Gray, Judy Starr, Nan Wynn, and Janet Blair. During the 1930s, Kemp recorded for Brunswick, Vocalion and RCA Victor Records. Kemp, Kay Kyser and Tal Henry were often having a Carolinian reunion in New York. All three were great musicians from North Carolina and enjoyed the olde’ time get-together, according to the newspaper from Chapel Hill, NC, where Hal and Kay were in school.

On December 19, 1940, while driving from Los Angeles to a booking in San Francisco, his car collided head-on with another. Kemp broke a leg and several ribs and suffered a punctured lung. He developed pneumonia while in the hospital and died two days later.

Kemp’s band introduced or promoted numerous popular songs, including “Got a Date With an Angel”, “Lamplight”, “Heart of Stone”, “There’s a Small Hotel” and “Three Little Fishies” (written by the band’s saxophonist, Saxie Dowell). Art Jarrett took on leadership of Kemp’s orchestra in 1941.

Number one hits

In 1936, Hal Kemp was number one for two weeks with “There’s a Small Hotel” and two weeks with “When I’m With You”. In 1937, his number one hits were “This Year’s Kisses”, which was number one for four weeks, and “Where or When”, which was number one for one week.


Hal Kemp’s compositions included “Blue Rhythm”, “In Dutch with the Duchess”, “Five Steps to Love”, “Off the Beat”, and “Workout”. His brother T. D. Kemp, Jr., and sister Marie Kemp-Dunaway, in collaboration with bandleader Whitey Kaufman, wrote “Hurry Back, Old Sweetheart of Mine”, which was an early Kemp recording. Contrary to popular belief, Kemp did not compose his theme song “(How I’ll Miss You) When the Summer is Gone”, but purchased the rights to the song in 1937. Also, there is no evidence that he composed “The Same Time, the Same Place”.


In 1992, Hal Kemp was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

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