The Playlist • Black Swan at the Beginning — Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, Katie Crippen (1921)


A first-state pressing of Waters’ “Down Home Blues.” The record stayed in Black Swan’s
catalog until the end, and was reissued by Paramount. It was frequently re-pressed,
with examples from at least three different plants — NYRL, Fletcher-Olympic,
and BD&M — all confirmed,
so it appears with many variations in label
design and pressing characteristics.

Folks are often disappointed when they hear early Black Swans for the first time and discover just how un-jazzy and un-bluesy they are. This, however, was Harlem in early 1921 — still dominated by cabaret- and vaudeville-blues singers and the ghost of Jim Europe, and definitely not a jazz haven just yet.

Be that as it may, the records are loaded with historical interest, and they have a certain charm if you can get past the plodding house-band accompaniments, directed in the early days by a very young and inexperienced Fletcher Henderson; so here are a few  of the best early offerings from the world’s second black-owned record company (hats off to George W. Broome, who founded the first one):


KATIE CRIPPEN: Blind Man Blues

New York: c. March 1921 (Released May 1921)
Black Swan 2003 (mx. P 103 – 2)


Down Home Blues

New York: c. April 1921 (Released July 1921)
Black Swan 2010 (mx. P 115 – 1)


How Long, Sweet Daddy, How Long

New York: c. May 1921 (Released July 1921)
Black Swan 2008 (mx. P 121 – 2)


Three ARSC 2015 Awards for Mainspring Press Books: Eli Oberstein, Victor Special Labels, Ajax Records

We’re honored to announce that three Mainspring Press titles have received 2015 awards from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Details and secure online ordering are available on the Mainspring Press website.

The ARSC Award for Excellence—Best Label Discography went to Eli Oberstein’s United States Record Corporation: A History and Discography, 1939–1940:


2015 Certificates of Merit were awarded to The Victor Discography: Special Labels, 1928–1941; and Ajax Records: A History and Discography:


ORDER SOON if you’re interested in Oberstein or Victor Special Labels. Both titles have been on the market for a while, so supplies are running low (and in addition, there’s recently been a big library run on USRC). We won’t be reprinting either title once our current supplies are gone.

Sorry, Ajax has already sold out (it was a 2013 title — the wheels sometimes turn very slowly at ARSC), although we might consider reprinting this one if there’s sufficient interest — Let us know.

The Playlist • Okeh Jazz Odds-and-Ends (1923–1926)


CHARLES CREATH’S JAZZ-O-MANAICS (Floyd Campbell, vocal):
I Woke Up Cold in Hand

St. Louis: March 1925
Okeh 8217 (mx. 9018 – A)



New York: May 1924
Okeh 8150 (mx. S 72524 – B)


GUYON’S PARADISE ORCHESTRA (Jules R. Herbuveaux, director):
Henpecked Blues

New York: May 1923
Okeh 4862 (mx. S 71514 – B)



New York: March 1926
Okeh 8342 (mx. 74059 – A)


The Playlist • Kansas City Blues: Lottie Kimbrough Beaman (1924 and 1928)


LOTTIE BEAMAN (Acc. by Milas & Miles Pruitt): Honey Blues

Chicago: c. March 1924
Paramount 12201  (mx. 1695 – 1)


LOTTIE BEAMAN (Acc. by Jimmy Blythe, piano; unknown, banjo): Mama Can’t Lose

Chicago: October 1924
Paramount  12235  (mx. 1904 – 1)


LOTTIE BEAMAN, as LOTTIE EVERSON (possibly acc. by Miles Pruitt, guitar):
Rolling Log Blues

Richmond, IN:  August 21, 1928
Champion 15636  (mx. 14162)


LOTTIE BEAMAN, as LOTTIE EVERSON (possibly acc. by Miles Pruitt, guitar):
Going Away Blues

Richmond, IN:  August 21, 1928
Champion 15591  (mx. 14163-A)
The accompanist for this session is not listed in the Gennett ledger. Pruitt is listed as “probable” in Dixon, Godrich & Rye’s Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943.

Discographical Update • Correct Date and Personnel for the First Meritt Record (1924)

MSP-NAUCK_meritt-2201 (Label scan courtesy of Kurt Nauck. MP3 conversion from
a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart.)



City of the Dead

Kansas City: Late 1924
Meritt 2201 (mx. X-22)


Winston Holmes’ Meritt label is one of the rarest race-record brands of the 1920s, and although anecdotes concerning it abound, reliable documentation has been hard to come by.

Traditionally, works like Dixon, Godrich & Rye’s Blues and Gospel Records, 1890–1943 have cited mid-1926 as the date of Meritt’s first release. However, we now know otherwise, thanks to a blurb on p. 8 of the National Edition of The Chicago Defender for January 10, 1925. Clearly, Meritt 2201 had already been recorded by that time; based on the article, the correct recording date would be late 1924, approximately eighteen months earlier than has been assumed by discographers:


There are also some discrepancies in the personnel listing, although here we are not certain which account to trust — the Defender wasn’t particularly reliable when it came to  fine details, but on the other hand, BGR doesn’t cite its sources. Clifford Banks is shown as a clarinetist in the Defender article, but as an alto saxophonist in BGR; Simon Hoe is shown as a one-string violinist in the Defender, but as a clarinetist in BGR. Personally, we don’t hear either a saxophone or a violin on either side, although admittedly the few copies we’ve heard have been so worn, and that questionable third instrument is so faintly recorded, that we wouldn’t want to bet on what it was. (By the way, these are acoustic recordings, not electrical as one might expect had they actually been made in mid-1926.)

Lena Kimbrough was one of several names used by Kansas City blues-belter Lottie Kimbrough Beaman; this is the first mention we’ve seen of her having studied in Europe. The revised recording date could explain why Holmes used a pseudonym for her — perhaps he did so to avoid a conflict with Paramount, for whom she was still recording in the fall of 1924?


Back in the late 1960s, Doug Jydstrup located Lottie’s sister Estella, who had two versions of a photo that Winston Holmes used to promote Meritt 2201. Turns out, Lottie was sick on the day of the shoot according to the far slimmer Estella, who filled in for her sister in the photo. Just to add to the deception, Simon Hoe also failed to show up, so Winston Holmes himself filled in, posing with a clarinet (which, by the way, he could not play), and Clifford Banks was posed with a saxophone — in other words, a rather fanciful re-creation all around. You can find the details and both photos in 78 Quarterly (Volume 1-2) — The  entire run can be downloaded free at 78 Quarterly Download (on the late, lamented Dinosaur Discs blog, which sadly is no longer active but is still online as of this writing).