MR. O’CONNELL (as BILLY REYNOLDS): I Got It (The Fidg-e-ty Fidge)
New York (master shipment date): March 17, 1923
Gennett 5111 (mx. 8282 – A) With uncredited orchestra
A mystery artist — We’re going out on a limb here by lumping whoever this is in with the vaudevillians, but his style certainly suggests some stage experience. The Gennett log sheet attributes this only to a “Mr. O’Connell” (not M. J. O’Connell, based on the aural evidence), and the record was issued under the equally obscure name of “Billy Reynolds.” Anyone know anything about him?
EDDIE NELSON: I’ve Got the Joys
New York — Released October 1921 Emerson 10426 (mx. 41919 – 3) With studio orchestra probably directed by Arthur Bergh
Eddie Nelson (1894–1940; not to be confused with song-writer Ed G. Nelson) was a California native who toured in vaudeville with a succession of partners. His first major role in a musical comedy was in the 1921 production of “Sun-Kist” (Globe Theater, New York), from which he took his nickname. Nelson was a hit in London in 1927, where a reviewer opined, “He is starring at a very big salary…and evidently jusitifies it.” He made one Vitaphone short in 1928, and additional single-reelers in the 1930s as “Sun-Kist Nelson.”
JANE GREEN: Somebody Like You
New York: January 30, 1925 — Released April 24, 1925; Deleted 1926
Victor 19604 (mx. B 31451 – 6) With studio orchestra directed by Nathaniel Shilkret
Another California native, Jane Green got her start as a child actress in Los Angeles, toured in vaudeville as a teenager, then headlined at the major New York houses from 1918 into the late 1920s. Her Broadway credits include “The Century Revue” and “The Midnight Rounders” (1920), “Nifites of 1923,” and various editions of the “Grenwich Village Follies.” She began broadcasting over station WOR (Newark, NJ) in 1925.
Robert A. “Bob” Roberts came from theatrical stock (his father was Nicholas “Nick” Roberts, one of the crustier characters in nineteenth-century popular theater). He was a well-traveled headliner, and as the early 1900s progressed he spent an increasing amount of time touring, including long stays on the West Coast. As a result, his recorded output diminished markedly after 1909. Roberts’ family background, and his recording and performing careers (which began in vaudeville and ended three decades later on radio), are covered in “American Recording Pioneers: Bob Roberts” on the Mainspring Press website.
As was symptomatic of the period in which they were written, some of these songs contain racial stereotypes and demeaning language, which does not represent the views or attitude of Mainspring Press.
BOB ROBERTS: Good Bye, Eliza Jane
Philadelphia: May 23, 1904 — Released August 1904
Monarch Record 2832 (mx. B 1412 – )
Orchestra probably directed by Arthur Pryor *
Roberts also recorded this song with piano accompaniment on the same date (mxs. A and B 1341, in 7″ and 10″ form, respectively). The orchestra-accompanied versions apparently were made as unnumbered tests, but then were assigned mxs. A and B 1412 in early June, having been selected for issue instead of the piano-accompanied versions. The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings’ entries for these recordings are scrambled, erroneously showing the orchestra-accompanied version as having been issued only in 7″ form and 10″ Monarch 2832 as being piano-accompanied only (although it is obviously orchestral, as heard here, and as correctly listed in Victor’s August 1904 supplement).
* Arthur Pryor’s likely presence is based upon recording engineer Harry Sooy’s recollection that Victor hired Pryor as its house conductor in late 1903, when the company began regular experiments with orchestral accompaniments. There was not yet a resident Victor studio orchestra when this recording was made; free-lance musicians were hired on an as-needed basis, according to Sooy. Pryor eventually found the job “too confining,” and around September 1904 the position was given to Walter B. Rogers, who built Victor’s own in-house orchestra.
BOB ROBERTS: ’Tain’t No Disgrace to Run If You’re Skeered