Playlist and Discographical Update • A Little Coon-Sanders Deception (1928–1929)

MSP_bwy-1227b

Broadway pressing from NYRL mx. 20924 (with Joe Sanders’ last name
misspelled),
originally issued on Paramount 20668

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A bit of “hide the band” activity, while we’re on the subject of the Coon-Sanders Orchestra. In November 1928, they recorded four titles for Paramount at the Marsh Laboratories, obviously on the sly since they were exclusive to Victor at the time. Two sides were released under the suspicious-sounding “Manhattan Entertainers” name. The other two were credited to the “Castle Farms Serenaders,” which had at least a grain of truth, since the band  played on occasion at Cincinnati’s Castle Farms .

Three were titles that the band never recorded for Victor, but Joe Sander’s own “Tennessee Lazy” was an exception. Three months later (by which time the Paramount version probably had already been released), the band would record the tune for Victor under its  own name. Aside from the addition of Joe Sander’s vocal, and the obvious differences in tempo (due partly to slightly different recording speeds) and recorded-sound quality, the performances are virtually identical. No “cover” band could have produced such a perfect sound-alike, especially since the Victor version had not yet been recorded and thus could not have been copied.

Brian Rust somehow missed the correlation in Jazz Records 6th Edition, listing the “Castle Farms Serenaders” on this session as an entirely unknown band, although he did credit the vocal on the reverse (a straightforward reading of “High Up on a Hilltop”) to “Franks Wells,” which was actually just a pseudonym used to cover several different singers on Broadway over the years. The attribution doesn’t appear on our copy of Broadway 1227, although we’ve heard it does appear on others.  American Dance Bands on Record and Film erroneously credits the record to a Bill Haid group, with no reason given (banjoist Haid had been in and out of the Coon-Sanders Orchestra several times, but by this time he had his own band, a so-so outfit that was not up to Coon-Sanders’ level on any recordings we’ve heard so far). Earlier Paramount issues under the “Castle Farms” name still bear further investigation; the undocumented personnel listed by Rust for those sessions, although not disclosed as such, appear to be purely speculative.

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COON-SANDERS ORCHESTRA (as Castle Farms Serenaders): Tennessee Lazy

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): November 1928
Broadway 1227 (mx. 20924 – 2)
Paramount release: c. January 1929
Broadway release: Spring 1929 Montgomery Ward list

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COON-SANDERS ORCHESTRA (Joe Sanders, director and vocal): Tennessee Lazy

Chicago (Victor Lab, 925 N. Michigan Ave.): February 12, 1929
Victor 21939 (mx. BVE 48880 – 2)
Released: May 17, 1929 — Deleted: 1931

The Playlist • Coon-Sanders Original Night Hawks Orchestra (1925–1929)

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COON-SANDERS ORIGINAL NIGHT HAWKS ORCHESTRA (Carleton A. Coon and Joe Sanders, vocal):
I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston

Camden, NJ: July 13, 1925
Victor 19727 (mx. BVE 32768 – 4)
Released: August 21, 1926 — Deleted: 1927

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COON-SANDERS ORIGINAL NIGHT HAWKS ORCHESTRA: Brainstorm

Chicago (Webster Hotel): December 8, 1926
Victor 20390 (mx. BVE 37216 – 2)
Released: January 28, 1927 — Deleted: 1928

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COON-SANDERS ORIGINAL NIGHT HAWKS ORCHESTRA (Leroy Shield, director):
Roodles

Chicago (Victor Lab, 952 N. Michigan Ave.): June 25, 1927
Victor 20785 (mx. BVE 39065 – 3)
Released: August 19, 1927 — Deleted: 1934

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COON-SANDERS ORCHESTRA (Carleton A. Coon, vocal): Bless You! Sister

Chicago (Victor Lab, 952 N. Michigan Ave.): December 12, 1928
Victor 21895 (mx. BVE 48726 – 2)
Regional Release: May 1929 — Deleted: 1931

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COON-SANDERS NIGHTHAWKS: The Maytag Frolic, Parts 5 & 6
..Bless You! Sister (Carleton A. Coon, vocal)
..Kansas City Kity (Joe Sanders, vocal)
..What a Girl! What a Night! (Joe Sanders, vocal)

Chicago (623–633 S. Wabash Avenue, 6th Floor): February 28, 1929
Brunswick unnumbered specials (mxs. XC 3024-A / XC 3025-A)

Rust’s Jazz Records shows a recording date of January 17, 1929, in error (the correct date, shown above, is from the Brunswick ledgers). This program was produced by Brunswick’s transcription division for its National Radio Advertising Company affiliate. In late 1928 or early 1929, Brunswick installed dual cutting lathes that allowed uninterrupted recording across sides, with “Kansas City Kitty” being a good example. It was split between two 12″ masters, but the break is noticeable only as a faint change in the level of surface noise. The dual lathes were also used in commercial record production, providing duplicate wax masters that could be destructively sampled on the spot, while sparing the originals. (Dubbing courtesy of the late Jacob Brown.)

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Victor data are from John Bolig’s inspection of the original Victor documentation in the Sony Archive, New York. The Shield attribution on “Roodles” is missing from Jazz Records, American Dance Bands, and derivative works, but is confirmed in the Victor files (Shield was a Victor house conductor).

The Playlist • Armand J. Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra / Ida G. Brown (1923–1925)

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ARMAND J. PIRON’S NEW ORLEANS ORCHESTRA (Armand J. Piron and Charles Bocage, vocal):
Kiss Me Sweet

New York: December 1923
Okeh 40021 (mx. S 72133 – D)

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ARMAND J. PIRON’S NEW ORLEANS ORCHESTRA:
Mama’s Gone, Goodbye

New York: December 11, 1923
Victor 19233 (mx. B 29122 – 2)

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ARMAND J. PIRON’S NEW ORLEANS ORCHESTRA:
Sud Bustin’ Blues

New York: December 21, 1923
Columbia 14007-D (mx. 81435 – 3)

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ARMAND J. PIRON’S NEW ORLEANS ORCHESTRA:
Ghost of the Blues

New York: February 15, 1924
Columbia 99-D (mx. 81569-3)

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ARMAND J. PIRON’S NEW ORLEANS ORCHESTRA:
Red Man Blues

New Orleans: March 25, 1925
Victor 19646 (mx. B 32121 – 3)

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IDA G. BROWN & HER BOYS: Kiss Me Sweet

New York (Independent Recording Laboratories): February 1924
Banner 1343 (mx. 5430 – 2)
The accompanists are believed to have been members of Piron’s Orchestra, based on aural and circumstantial evidence; the original Plaza-IRL documentation for this period no longer exists.

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Tales from the Columbia Vaults: The Unauthorized Vinyl “Test” Pressings (1960)

(This article was originally posted on September 17, 2012. We are reposting it, with some minor revisions, in response to many requests.)

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victor_re-pressing

A c. 1960s custom vinyl pressing of Duke Ellington’s 1931 “Creole Rhapsody” (Victor). Obsolete labels were sometimes flipped over and used as blanks on these pressings; this example uses an old Yorkville label from the late 1930s.

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We often see modern, blank-labeled vinyl “test” pressings of very old recordings on auction lists. They’re original-stamper pressings, usually of unissued or extremely rare material, and the surface quality is generally superb. Collectors have long been curious about the origin and legality of these pressings. We recently discovered the answer among the late Bill Bryant’s papers (at least, as far as the Columbia-related pressings are concerned) which includes copies of the late William Moran’s voluminous correspondence with various collectors and dealers.

The “inside job” we detail below was not unique. Someone within Decca, for instance, made large numbers of unauthorized vinyl pressings of rare 1920s jazz material from Gennett and Brunswick-Vocalion masters at around the same time the CBS insiders were pulling unauthorized “test” pressings from old masters by the score. The same happened at RCA, although that company (unlike CBS) allowed such pressings to be ordered legitimately through its Custom Products department, for a rather stiff fee. In addition, during the 1950s and 1960s many new pressings from previously unissued material were pulled at RCA in connection with its “X” and “Vintage” reissue programs. Although supposedly intended for internal use by those involved in the projects, a substantial number seem to have been pressed, based on how many have since made their way into auction lists and collectors’ hands.

This, however, is the first time that such detailed information on unauthorized pressings has surfaced from a company insider. Illegal? Certainly — But whether anyone involved was a villain (other than perhaps the record companies) depends on your point of view. Our take is that those involved performed a valuable service in preserving important historic material that was subsequently trashed and written off by irresponsible corporate owners.

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In October 1960, a disgruntled CBS employee (who we’ll call “X”) contacted Bill Moran to alert him that the Columbia Records division was house-cleaning its Bridgeport, Connecticut plant and was planning to scrap many of its masters, including its holdings of Fonotipia and other imported recordings, the E- series foreign and ethnic material, and all of the early 16” radio transcriptions.

X’s letters to Moran provide a rare insider’s look at exactly what remained in Bridgeport in 1960. He reported that some “ancient stuff” (including cylinders, cylinder-phonograph parts, and display-model phonographs) still existed but had recently been “removed to some other part of the plant.” The earliest recording files had not survived, and there had been no effort to copy or microfilm what remained; in addition, the files had recently been placed off-limits to outsiders and employees, other than company librarian Helene Chmura, and photocopying was forbidden. The master-scrapping was already under way by the time X wrote to Moran — He reported that the metal parts were being hauled out in bucket loaders, ground up, and sold to a scrap dealer by the ton.

X’s formal recommendation that some of this material be preserved was ignored by management, so in late October he sent a list of endangered masters to Moran, with the suggestion that Moran ask Stanford University to intervene, and hinting that in the meantime he could supply Moran with unauthorized vinyl pressings of virtually anything in the vaults — He claimed he was already doing just that for some Columbia employees. The process is documented in an exchange of letters between X and Moran that began on October 31, 1960. On November 11 he wrote to Moran,

I have been securing test pressings without authority for the past two months. I had to “thread my way” until I could enlist help. Luckily he [the test pressman] is cooperative… I have been limiting my operation to twice a week and taking out parcels only every other week. One week I took out 16 [parcels], last week 19… I have managed to get a few humans in the plant (there are a few) to break regulations for me… I will attempt, over a period of time, to secure for you the materials you desire. These, if I get them, will be gratis.

The process was a complicated one, and it involved many Columbia employees at a time when (according to X) worker morale was at a low ebb. To make the early stampers compatible with a modern press, the metal and composition backings had to be removed and replaced, and new holes had  to be drilled in the stampers, which were then forwarded to the polishing department, from which they were sent to the test pressman. While all of this was going on under management’s nose, X was assuring Moran that he could even have new metal stampers plated for him, if desired.

Moran’s want-list initially included only early operatics, but was soon expanded to include political speeches from Nation’s Forum, rare personal recordings by the likes of Irving Berlin and Booker T. Washington, and even one of the 1908 vertical-cut disc tests (an idea that Columbia ended up not pursuing commercially).

X soon upped the frequency and pressing quantities of his clandestine runs. Many copies were handed out as favors to Columbia employees who were in on the activity, including Helene Chmura, the archive’s highly esteemed librarian. Chmura knew of X’s activities and had warned him to be careful, but reportedly she was happy to accept a group of custom Lotte Lehmann pressings. In November, X told Moran he was looking into ways of supplying him with copies of the restricted files that were in Chmura’s charge.

On November 16, X wrote to Moran, “Last Friday I took out 18 tests, including duplicates, in an open parcel… On Monday Bill [the chief of security] suggested that I not take out so many so often.” He went on to boast,

I have the run of the plant and have taken full advantage of it — women in duplicating will make photostats, Helene will make photocopies; the polisher will prepare masters for pressings… The Chief of Security Police allows me to make off with the records; the librarian’s files are at my disposal.

X promised Moran even larger shipments of the unauthorized pressings in a letter dated November 23:

I’ll send you a ton of pressings if I can discover how this can be arranged… One of the chaps in the Methods & Procedures Office this afternoon told me that he can smuggle pressings out for me if I cannot continue my present methods. These boys have briefcases which never are examined by the bulldogs. I have been furnishing two of these M&P men with records made to order.

A day later, X wrote to Moran to update him on his secret copying of the recording files, reporting that he was “lifting it right out from under [Helene Chmura’s] nose.” And that’s the final letter in our “X” file.

© 2016 Mainspring Press LLC.

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The Playlist • The Best of Blind Blake (1927–1929)

MSP_blake-ba_composite1

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BLIND BLAKE: One Time Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. April 1927
Paramount 12479 (mx. 4363 – 2; ctl. 577)

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BLIND BLAKE: Bad Feeling Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. April 1927
Paramount 12497 (mx. 4443 – 1; ctl. 697)

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BLIND BLAKE (with uncredited bones player):
That Will Never Happen No More

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. April 1927
Paramount 12497 (mx. 4468 – 2; ctl. 698)

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BLIND BLAKE:
Panther Squall Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. May 1928
Paramount 12723 (mx. 20582 – )
From a tape dubbing provided by the late Mike Stewart.

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BLIND BLAKE (guitar and talking) with
CHARLIE SPAND (piano): Hastings Street

Richmond, IN (Gennett studio): August 17, 1929
Columbia 37336 (dubbing of Gennett mx. 15457)
Recorded for Paramount by Gennett, and originally issued on Paramount 12863. The Columbia dubbed reissue used for this transfer was part of a 1940s album set.

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“Red Label” Gramophone Records — Highlights from the February 1904 G&T Catalog

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Many of the records in Gramophone & Typewriter’s February 1904 catalog were also issued in the U.S. as Victor Imported Red Seal Records. Details of those issues (many of which are now quite rare, and correspondingly expensive) can be found in John Bolig’s Victor Red Seal Discography, Vol. I .

Victor soon adopted a policy of replacing imported recordings like these with their own domestically recorded versions whenever possible, as happened with many of the Caruso and Plancon offerings.

You can find more on the early history of the Red Seal in A Phonograph in Every Home: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1909-1919, also available from Mainspring Press.

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The Playlist • Vladimir Kastorsky (St. Petersburg, 1908)

MSP_kastorsky-v_composite1

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VLADIMIR KASTORKSY: Sadko (Rimsky-Korsakov) — Song of the Viking Guest 

St. Petersburg, Russia: 1908
Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-3-22817  (mx. 7770 l)

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VLADIMIR KASTORSKY: Prince Igor (Borodin) —
Nor Sleep, Nor Rest

St. Petersburg, Russia: 1908
Ammour Gramophone Record 022126  (mx. 403m)

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VLADIMIR KASTORSKY: Ruslan and Ludmilla (Glinka) — Farlaf’s Rondo

St. Petersburg, Russia: 1908
Ammour Gramophone Record 022125  (mx. 401m)

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Early Gramophone Company recording speeds vary widely; these transfers have not been checked for correct pitch.

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The Playlist • The Best of Fess Williams & his Royal Flush Orchestra (1927)

MSP_williams-fess_composite

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA:
White Ghost Shivers

New York: February 3, 1927 (A.M. session, Brunswick Studio – Room #1)
Vocalion 1085
Three takes were made (E4503, E4504, E4505); the selected take is not shown on our pressing. The recording date is given in error as February 2 in Rust’s Jazz Records.

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA:
Variety Stomp

New York: March 28, 1927 (P.M. session, Room #1)
Brunswick 3532 (mx. 22361, renumbered from Vocalion mx. E4769)

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA:
Phantom Blues

New York: March 28, 1927 (P.M. session, Room #1)
Brunswick 3532 (mx. E22366, renumbered from Vocalion mx. E4774)

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA:
Alligator Crawl

New York: June 15, 1927 (P.M. session, Room #2)
Brunswick 3589 (mx. E23633)
Arrangement by Fess Williams, per Brunswick files

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA:
Ozark Blues

New York: June 15, 1927 (P.M. session, Room #2)
Brunswick 3589 (mx. E23638)
Arrangement by Fess Williams, per Brunswick files

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FESS WILLIAMS’ ROYAL FLUSH ORCHESTRA:
Number 10

New York: June 24, 1927 (P.M. session, Room #1)
Brunswick 3596 (mx. E23747)
Arrangement by Fess Williams, per Brunswick files