The Playlist • Pipe-Organ Jazz (1926–1927)

MSP_vic-20492-bSome of the best of Thomas “Fats” Waller’s innovative pipe-organ recordings. Although these recordings were classified as “Race” releases in the Victor files, some were also listed in the standard catalog. All were made in the former Camden Trinity Church (114 N. Fifth Street), which Victor purchased and converted to a studio in early 1918. The Church studio was originally intended for recording full symphony orchestras, but it saw some more interesting uses over the years, and beginning in early 1928 it was employed in the production of movie sound-tracks for Vitaphone, Pathé News, and others. Pious reporters clucked from time to time over such secular use of “the old organ to which hymns were once sung,” but they needn’t have bothered — Victor replaced the original church organ with a more robust instrument long before these recordings were made.

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THOMAS WALLER: Sloppy Water — Blues

Camden NJ (Church studio): January 14, 1927
Released: May 13, 1927 — Deleted: 1929
Victor 20492 (mx. BVE 37358 – 3)

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THOMAS WALLER: Lenox Avenue Blues

Camden NJ (Church studio): November 17, 1926
Released: November 26, 1926 [sic?] — Deleted: 1932
Victor 20357 (mx. BVE 36774 – 4)
Entered as “The Church Organ Blues” in the Victor ledger. All of the November 1926 “Race” release dates (Waller’s and others) given in the Victor documentation are suspect — some are the same day of the recording session, others just a few days away. Normal turnaround time during this period was two to three months or more, except in the case of an anticipated major pop hit (which these records assuredly were not).

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THOMAS WALLER: Soothin’ Syrup — Stomp

Camden NJ (Church studio): January 14, 1927
Released: April 8, 1927 — Deleted: 1929
Victor 20470 (mx. BVE 37357 – 2)

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THOMAS WALLER: Messin’ Around with the Blues

Camden NJ (Church studio): January 14, 1927
Released: August 12, 1927 — Deleted: 1929
Victor 20655 (mx. BVE 37361 – 3)

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THOMAS MORRIS & HIS HOT BABIES: Red Hot Dan

Camden NJ (Church studio): December 1, 1927
Released: February 17, 1928 — Deleted: 1930
Victor 21127 (mx. BVE 40096 – 2)
Other than Morris and Waller, no personnel are given for this session in the Victor files. Personnel shown in various discographies are speculative, although not always disclosed as such.

 

Original file data for Fats Waller’s many other pipe-organ recordings can be found in John Bolig’s Victor Black Label Discography series and Bluebird Discography, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

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