Alexander Maloof was a second-generation Syrian immigrant who carved a niche for himself in the 1920s with the Maloof and Music of the Orient labels. Although known primarily for championing Middle Eastern music, Maloof was also a capable pop composer. He was a survivor as well — when times got tough in the early 1930s, he kept himself afloat by recording pipe-organ solos for skating rinks and funeral homes.
Maloof’s exact birth date remains questionable. His Social Security death record states that he was born on August 10, 1886. However, his tombstone states 1887; the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census files state 1885, while the 1940 Census goes far afield with “about 1895″; and a copyright filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark office lists 1884. Although various publications in the 1920s stated that Maloof was Turkish or Egyptian, his passport application and Social Security records state that he was born in Syria. The family, headed by Chames Maloof, apparently arrived in the U.S. in or around 1894, based on a 1925 report. On October 29 of that year, Maloof filed a declaration of intent to apply for naturalized citizenship.
By the early 1910s, Maloof was becoming well-known on the New York musical scene. In 1913 he recorded two of his original piano compositions — “Al-Ja-Za-Yer” (made as a test on July 24, and subsequently accepted for release) and “A Trip to Syria” (on September 16) — for the Victor Talking Machine Company. In a unusual move, the titles were assigned to both the ethnic and standard catalogs, as Victor 65830 and Victor 17443, respectively. Apparently, neither release sold well enough to earn Maloof a second Victor session.
The E. T. Paull Music Company published two of Maloof’s dance numbers, “Ticklish Sensation” and “The Egyptian Glide,” in 1914. The latter was available in two arrangements — Maloof’s own tango version, and a one-step-step/two-step/trot arrangement credited to Paull himself. By the late ’teens, Maloof was operating his own music studio in New York and was attracting notice for concert appearances at which he featured his original compositions.
The tango version of Maloof’s “Egyptian Glide” (1914). E. T. Paull also provided a “One-Step,Two-Step, Trot” arrangement.
The Maloof Phonograph Company was launched in 1920 to specialize in traditional Middle Eastern fare. Its earliest labels show either no copyright date, or a 1920 copyright, which does not appear to have been formally registered. The earliest pressings are from masters in a three-digit M-prefixed series of unknown origin, some of which show master-broker Earle W. Jones’ characteristic handwritten “J” in the wax. Physical characteristics suggest that they were pressed by the Siemon Hard Rubber Company, with which Jones was affiliated.
By late 1922 production of the Maloof label had shifted to the Starr Piano Company (Gennett), corresponding to a new (and also apparently unregistered) 1922 label copyright date. Maloof would become one of Gennett’s most active clients, rivaling that other highly prolific customer — Homer Rodeheaver — for the amount of time booked in Gennett’s studios.
A second Maloof line, Music of the Orient (credited to the likely fictitious “Orient Company”) appeared in or around 1923, also produced by Gennett, and using some of the same masters as the Maloof label. Although Maloof’s masters were numbered in the standard Gennett series, most were recorded for his exclusive use.
The Maloof and Music of the Orient labels seem to have disappeared by late 1925, but Maloof and his associates continued to record in Gennett’s New York studios into the summer of 1931, covering everything from Egyptian and Syrian folk music to old warhorses like “Home Sweet Home” and assorted Christian hymns. Gennett picked up the occasional title for its own use, but most were pressed as Personal records, at Maloof’s own expense. In-between, there was a visit to Victor’s New York studio on February 15, 1926, with his Oriental Orchestra. The session yielded four ethnic-catalog releases, one of which (“Egyptiana”) was also issued in the Mexican series, where it was retitled “Somali.”
Maloof held the dubious honor of having recorded the last masters ever made in Gennett’s legendary Long Island City studio, in late June 1931. (June 30, shown on the ledger sheet, is the date on which masters were received in Richmond, not the recording date. The ledger sheet for the final Long Island session is headed “1932” in error; master numbers are contiguous with the May–June 1931 sessions listed on the previous sheets.) Maloof’s final Gennett sessions included organ solos intended for use in the company’s Chapel series, which was marketed to funeral parlors.
From the Gennett ledgers — Top: The final session in the Long Island City studio, in late June 1931. Bottom: One of several earlier 1931 Maloof sessions. Note that the recordings were dubbed to new N-series masters; several dubbings from these sessions were released commercially on Champion and Superior in the early 1930s, and even on Decca’s revived version of the Champion label in the mid-1930s.
Chames Maloff died in1930, and Alexander moved to Los Angeles in 1931. He was living there by September 2 of that year, when his application for citizenship was finally accepted. However, he seems to have returned East on occasion, launching his new Orient label (credited to the Maloof Music Company of Englewood, New Jersey, and using newly recorded material) at some point in the 1940s. He died in Los Angeles on May 1, 1968.
The Maloof family plot in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles. George Maloof made a few recordings for his brother’s label in 1920. (Courtesy of Irv Lightner)
We heard very quickly from several of the Old Guard concerning our statement, in the previous post, that some Paramount masters numbers might have been assigned out of chronological sequence. Understandably, some old-timers very much dislike having their discographical cages rattled, and rattle we did. None, however, has so offered any evidence that the New York Recording Laboratories always assigned Paramount master numbers in perfect, strict chronological order.
Our question to them, then, is: Why would NYRL not have occasionally scrambled its master numbers? Assigning master numbers weeks or even months after the sessions at which the recordings were made was not an uncommon occurrence in the recording industry during this period, even among far better-organized companies than the notoriously slipshod NYRL.
Consider the following examples, plucked at random from the Victor files. All of these recordings sat around for one to six months after the sessions at which they were made, before finally being assigned master numbers — which by that time had advanced well beyond the numbers that would have been assigned at the time of recording. If one were to go simply by the normal chronological sequence of Victor master numbers, the approximate recording dates would appear to be those shown in Column 2. And they would be very wrong, as seen from the actual recording dates shown in Column 3:
Many similar examples can be found in the Victor, Columbia, and Brunswick-Vocalion files throughout the 1920s — but you get the general idea.
A final note for now in what will be a long, ongoing investigation: There’s an especially telling case (which we’ll leave to its discoverer to reveal in detail in due time) in which NYRL numbers are demonstrably out-of-whack. This one involves a Paramount session to which the old-timers assigned a speculative recording date that’s literally an impossibility, apparently based upon their belief that NYRL numbers always marched along in strict chronological order — In this case, the artist is documented as having been out of the country at that time!
JACK STILLMAN’S ORIOLE ORCHESTRA: I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston
New York: c. October–November 1925?*
Paramount 20423 (mx. 2333 – 1)
*Evidence is mounting that Paramount’s New York studio did not always assign final master numbers at the time of recording — particularly some discrepancies between the date ranges given in traditional discographies (like the questionable one shown here), and confirmed date ranges extrapolated from talent-broker Ed Kirkeby’s session files. Could this be one of those instances, given that companies for which original files exist recorded this title during the mid-summer of 1925? A large amount of research remains to be done in this regard, but we’re on it — stay tuned!
COON-SANDERS ORIGINAL NIGHT HAWKS ORCHESTRA (Carleton Coon & Joe Sanders, vocal): I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston
Camden, NJ: July 13, 1925 (Released August 21, 1925; Deleted 1927)
Victor 19727 (mx. BVE 32768 – 4)
CALIFORNIA RAMBLERS: I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston
New York: July 9, 1925
Columbia 419-D (mx. W 140674 – 1) Rust’s Jazz & Ragtime Records 1897–1942 and derivative works, including American Dance Bands on Records and Film, give the date as June 9, in error. July 9 is confirmed in the Kirkeby logbook and Columbia files.
FRED VAN EPS: The Junk Man Rag (C. Luckyeth Roberts) — Medley
New York: December 15, 1913
Edison Blue Amberol 2225 Includes: The Junk Man Rag (Roberts); Harmony Joe (J.A.G. Schiller); That Teasin’ Rag (Joe Jordan). The latter was plagiarized by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band on their 1917 “Original Dixieland Jass Band One-Step,” the first jazz release.
FRED VAN EPS (John F. Burckhardt, piano): The Ragtime Oriole (James Scott)
New York: February 6, 1924
Edison 51324 (mx. 9365-C)
FRED VAN EPS (John F. Burckhardt, piano): Grace and Beauty (James Scott)
New York: February 6, 1924
Edison 51324 (mx. 9366-C)
SHIRLEY SPAULDING (John F. Burckhardt, piano): Somewhere in Dixie (George Lansing)
New York: September 15, 1922
Edison 50152 (mx. 8593-A)
Announcing the final Mainspring Press publication:
Vintage Phonograph Advertising presents some of the most interesting phono-related ads of the acoustic era, covering products from the commonly encountered to the impossibly rare.
You’ll find the famous makes here — the Berliners, Edisons, Columbias, Victors, Zonophones, and the like — but also a fascinating array of long-forgotten (and now highly collectible) products, in more than 280 professionally restored black-and-white ads with informative text.
Chapters include: Phonographs for the Home • Phonograph–Music Box and Phonograph–Player Piano Combinations • Import and Export Phonographs • Coin-Operated and Other Automatic Phonographs • Special-Use Machines • Phonograph Horns, Gadgets, and Attachments • Phonograph and Record Cabinets • Cylinder and Disc Records
Our Rocky lost his fight with cancer yesterday, at just seven years old. His sheer joy and boundless energy were infectious. He was a seasoned traveler, trekking all over Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, and Nebraska, always at home wherever he found himself. He was also my constant office companion. He found Mozart a crashing bore but adored Memphis Minnie — truly a dog after my own heart. He lived large, right up to the end.
The second passing I have to note is Mainspring’s publishing program. The phono-ads book that will be going on sale later this week is our last. Sadly, we’re relinquishing two superb books that made their way into the pipeline too late to complete — Alex van der Tuuk’s Paramount biographies, and Richard Raichelson’s Marsh Labs bio-discography. My own Encyclopedia of American Record Companies and Producers, 1888–1950, which is nearing completion, now looks like it will be going to another publisher.
The Mainspring Press website will remain online, and book sales and record auctions will continue as usual, through February 2017. What happens beyond that will depend on many factors. But for now, I’ve done what I set out to do with Mainspring — with the help of the some of finest folks anyone could ever hope to work with — and after seventeen years, I’m looking forward to moving on.
We’ve just posted a fresh batch of book specials to eBay, with savings of $4 – $30, and free U.S. shipping. These are new first-quality copies in original shrink-wrap, with our usual satisfaction guarantee. To see what’s on sale, log on to your eBay account and search for seller mspBooks.
Sales pricing is available exclusively on eBay. Because quantities are limited at these special promotional prices, we’re shipping them only to U.S. addresses.
These are convenient “Buy It Now” listings — No need to wait for the closing date (although it’s amazing how many eBay customers do, for some reason), just click-and-buy anytime.
Some favorite sides featuring what early jazz writers termed “The Chicagoans,” a loosely affiliated group of young, white, mostly Midwestern jazz musicians who congregated in the city during the 1920s.
CHICAGO RHYTHM KINGS (as “Jungle Kings”; Red McKenzie, uncredited vocal): Friars Point Shuffle
Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. Late March – Early April 1928
UHCA 3 (dub of Paramount 12654 [NYRL mx. 20563-2])
Given the scrambled accounts of this session in Eddie Condon’s autobiographical We Called It Music, and later in Brian Rust’s Jazz & Ragtime Records (6th Ed.), the date remains open to question. Rust erroneously stated that Condon said this session was held “on the day after the Chicago Rhythm Kings session for Brunswick.” But what Condon actually said was “The next day, he [Red McKenzie] went to Paramount and sold Lyons a date for us.” Compounding the problem is Condon himself, who got his two Brunswick-studio sessions out-of-order in his autobiography, confusing the first (on March 27, which produced only unissued masters allocated to Vocalion, including “Friars Point Shuffle”) with the second (on April 6). Although Condon stated that the Paramount date followed the session that produced “I’ve Found a New Baby,” his confusion over the Brunswick-studio sessions raises the question of which date the Paramount session actually followed.
CHICAGO RHYTHM KINGS: I’ve Found a New Baby
Chicago: April 6, 1928
Brunswick 4001 (mx. C 1886 – A)
RAY MILLER & HIS ORCHESTRA: That’s a Plenty
Chicago: January 3, 1929
Brunswick 4225 (mx. C 2743 – ) Three takes were recorded; the selected take is not indicated in the Brunswick files or on inspected pressings.
ELMER SCHOEBEL & HIS FRIAR’S SOCIETY ORCHESTRA: Prince of Wails
Chicago: October 18, 1929
Brunswick 4653 (mx. C 4560 – A)
EDDIE [CONDON]’S HOT SHOTS (Jack Teagarden, vocal): That a Serious Thing
New York: February 8, 1929 (released May 17, 1929)
Victor V-38046 (mx. BVE 48346 – 2)
“Eddie Condon and his Orchestra” entered in Victor ledger, with “Eddie’s Hot Shots” assigned. This was a mixed-race session, with Leonard Davis (trumpet), Happy Caldwell (reeds), and George Stafford (percussion) present, which apparently was enough to land it in Victor’s predominantly black “Hot Dance” series.
Be sure to check out Dick Spottswood’s excellent new Columbia “E” Series Discography, available as a free download courtesy of the author and Mainspring Press.
ABE SCHWARTZ’S ORCHESTRA: Sher — Part 2 [Jewish]
New York: c. October 1920
Columbia E4905 (mx. 86691 – 2)
STEFAN RADIN (accordion): Malo Kolo [Serbian]
New York: c. June 1917
Columbia E3638 (mx. 58373 – 1)
TAMBURASKO DRUSTVO: Ah, haj, Boze doj [Serbian]
New York: c. March 1918
Columbia E4190 (mx. 84187 – 1)
VINDENSKA SALON KAPELA: Tance detektivu — Americká Melodie [Czech]
Unknown location and date (U.S. release 1913)
Columbia E1532 (mx. 66953 – 1)
CHINESE NOVELTY ORCHESTRA: Chinese One-Step — Part 1 [Chinese]
Unknown location and date (U.S. release 1920)
Columbia E4506 (mx. 85544 – 1)
ARISTIDE SIGISMONDI: ’E guaie ’e Nicola [Italian]
New York: c. March 1917
Columbia E3436 (mx. 58149 – 1)
BAND with VOCAL CHORUS: Schorsch’l, kauf mir ein Automobil [German (British composition)]
Berlin: c. September 1908
Columbia E654 (mx. 41669 – 1) A retitling of “The Perman’s Brooklyn Cake Walk” (a.k.a. “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend”), with added lyrics that have nothing to do with either title.
BILLY WILLIAMS: I’ve Found Kelly [English (Australian artist)]
We’re pleased to offer Dick Spottswood’s newly updated, 300-page Columbia “E” Series Discography as a free download for your personal use, courtesy of the author.
To download, click the “Free Online Discographies” link in the menu to your left. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader (Versions 5.0 and later) to view the file. This file is offered for personal, non-commercial use only; please review the use notice before downloading.
Dick is one of the great pioneers in discographical research on vernacular music of all sorts, as well as a long-time author, record producer, and radio host.
During the 1950s, Dick began canvassing for forgotten sound recordings containing a broad range of music — originally, jazz, blues, and country, later tackling the largely unexplored field of early ethnic records. In the 1960s he began sharing his finds on countless reissues, including those on his own Melodeon and Piedmont labels, and co-founded Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. He later produced and annotated the important fifteen-LP series, Folk Music in America, for the Library of Congress.
Dick’s masterworks are his multi-volume Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (University of Indiana Press, 1990); and Country Music Sources, with Meade & Meade (John Edwards Memorial Forum and University of North Carolina Press, 2002) — both winners of ARSC Awards for Excellence, and works that we use constantly — and Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer’s First Hundred Years, with Stephen Wade (University of Mississippi Press, 2010).