Pseudonym Update: Blanche Klaise Is Really Blanche Klaise [Klaiss]

MSP_klaise-variety-1930Blanche Klaiss & Ed Pressler listing from a 1930 Keith-Orpheum-RKO ad. The name was  spelled both “Klaise” (which appears on the Cameo labels, as well as in various trade-paper and newspaper reports) and “Klaiss” (which appears as early as 1920 and appears to be the more common spelling from the mid-1920s onward).

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Another great finding among Bill Bryant’s biographical clippings: We now know beyond any reasonable doubt that Cameo “blues singer” Blanche Klaise was really Blanche Klaise (or Klaiss — both spellings appear in the clippings), not the famous Harlem cabaret and stage star Edith Wilson. Chatter about Klaise and Wilson being one-and-the-same is all over the web lately, even though the newest edition of Pseudonyms on American Records (2013) has this to say:

“[Klaise] has been suggested as a pseudonym for Edith Wilson (Cameo), but Cameo’s original documentation does not exist, and the aural evidence is unconvincing. Not cited as a Wilson pseudonym in BGR [Blues and Gospel Records] or other reliable works.”

The Bryant files include numerous original and photocopied clippings mentioning Klaise/Klaiss, from Variety and other trade papers and newspapers of the day, which we’re in the process of conserving and scanning. From early 1920 through at least 1930, Klaise toured widely in vaudeville, on the B.F. Keith (later, the Keith-Orpheum-RKO) circuits, usually teamed with pianist-comedian Ed Pressler. The clippings show them performing in Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. A 1928 review describes their act as “hot jazz vocals with novelty piano.”

Klaise and Pressler toured on all-white circuits, so presumably were white themselves (Wilson, of course, was black), although Klaise found her way into a recent derivative discography — compiled from secondary sources of widely varying degrees of reliability — of recordings by African-American artists. More than one online auction dealer has misrepresented Klaise’s very common Cameo release of “Daddy, Change Your Mind” as “really” being by Wilson.

For a similar bit of discographical confusion that’s finally been laid to rest, see our posting on Flo Bert vs. Florence Cole-Talbert.

 

“Princess Watahwaso” Obituary (1969)

“Princess Watahwaso” in real life was Lucy Nicola Poolaw, a Penobscot Indian from Maine. For many years she toured on the concert and Chautauqua circuits, often accompanied by pianist-composer Thurlow Lieurance of “By the Waters of Minnetonka” fame. She did a great deal to spread awareness of Native American music, even if her material was sometimes Europeanized nearly beyond recognition, as in the example posted here.

This obituary is from the Evening Express, Portland, Maine, March 20, 1969 (Bill Bryant papers). Poolaw was, of course, far from being “among the first” to record vocal music for Victor. Her Victor records were issued in the late ‘teens, in the “Educational” series.

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PRINCESS WATAHWASO (LUCY POOLAW), with THURLOW LIEURANCE (piano) and HERBERT SMALL (flute): Aooah / Her Blanket

Camden, NJ: October 30, 1917 — Released May 1918 (Educational Catalog)
Victor 18418  (mx. B 21015 – 1)

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Uncle Josh Asks for Thomas Edison’s Autograph

An undated letter to Edison studio head Walter Miller from Cal Stewart, requesting an autographed photo of Thomas Edison. The Scott Printing Company in Stewart’s hometown of Muncie, Indiana, was one of several Midwestern printing companies with which he had connections. You can read about Stewart’s publishing activities in “Uncle Josh’s Punkin Centre Stories: Cal Stewart as Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur,” on the Mainspring Press website. (Photocopy from unknown source, Bill Bryant papers)
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The Playlist • More Hit of the Week Favorites (1931–1932)

MSP_durium-covers_compositeYou can find a detailed history of Hit of the Week and Durium Products in Recording
the ‘Thirties, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

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RUDY VALLEE & HIS CONNECTICUT YANKEES (vocal: Rudy Vallee)
Was That the Human Thing to Do?

New York: c. February 1932 (released March 1932)
Hit of the Week C-1-2 (mx. 1198 – B)

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ERNO RAPEE & HIS ORCHESTRA (vocal: Helen Rowland)
River, Stay ’Way from My Door / Some of these Days

New York: c. December 1931 (released December 1931)
Hit of the Week M-5-A-1 (mx. 1185-C)

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PHIL SPITALNY’ S MUSIC (vocal: Helen Rowland / Ensemble)
When It’s Sleepy Time Down South / Sailing

New York: c. December 1931 (released January 1932)
Hit of the Week A-1-2 (mx. 1186 – B)
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Note: This selection includes a racially derogatory term that is symptomatic of the era and does not reflect the views of Mainspring Press.