George E. Lee’s Singing Novelty Orchestra, with Julia Lee (piano)
and George E. Lee (saxophone)
Another update to the Meritt label data: Rust’s Jazz Records and derivative works date George E. Lee’s very rare Meritt 2206 as “c. 1927,” which puts them in the right general vicinity — But with help from one of Dave Peyton’s weekly columns in The Chicago Defender (“The Musical Bunch,” April 30, 1927, p. 6), we can narrow that down a bit:
Based on our ongoing study of the Defender’s own record-release reports vs. confirmed company-reported release dates on other labels, we know that the Defender new-release reports during this period generally lagged the actual release dates by 3–4 weeks, making early April 1927 the most likely release date for Meritt 2206. Subtract the usual 4–6 weeks for master processing, pressing, and shipping, and we have a likely recording date of late February or early March 1927.
According to Winston Holmes’ widow, in her interview with John Randolph, the recordings were made in Holmes’ own Kansas City studio. The exact address is uncertain; Mrs. Holmes recalled that the store moved from 1636 E. 18th Street to 1704 E. 18th Street at some point in 1927, but she did not give a specific date. (In the same interview, Mrs. Holmes also reported that some unissued George E. Lee masters had been stolen from her several years earlier — In case anyone’s seen these…)
Which brings us to the dreaded “Who Says?” Department. The late Brian Rust, up to and including the latest edition of Jazz Records, credited Jesse Stone as pianist and arranger on these sides, with no source cited (nor master numbers, for some reason). However, after a thorough search of the Defender and other period publications, we’ve found no mention of Stone (who had his own band at this time) working with Lee in the spring of 1927; as far as we’ve been able to establish with any degree of certainty, Stone did not join the Lee band until 1929. Then there are the primitive “arrangements” (if they can even be called that), which certainly don’t suggest the work that Stone was doing with his own band.
The current consensus is that Julia Lee, not Stone, is the likely pianist on this session. If anyone out there has credible, primary-source documentation that proves otherwise, please be sure send us the evidence (anyone citing Lords, Wikipedia, and the like will be awarded a digital dunce-cap).
GEORGE E. LEE & HIS NOVELTY SINGING ORCHESTRA (George E. Lee
& Julia Lee, vocals): Down Home Syncopated Blues
Winston Holmes Music Co., Kansas City: c. Late February — Early March 1927
Meritt 2206 (mx. 578)
GEORGE E. LEE & HIS NOVELTY SINGING ORCHESTRA: Meritt Stomp
Winston Holmes Music Co.: Kansas City: c. Late February — Early March 1927
Meritt 2206 (mx. 579)