The Playlist • Okeh Race Record Favorites (1921 – 1928)

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Seven of our race-record favorites, from the company that broke the mold and started it all — Check out the full story in Race Records and the American Recording Industry, 1919–1945, available from Mainspring Press.

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MAMIE SMITH & HER JAZZ HOUNDS: Jazzbo Ball

New York: February 1921
Okeh 4295 (mx. S 7788 – B)
The February 21 recording date shown in some discographies is speculative and not from the Okeh recording files (which do not exist for this period).

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KING OLIVER’S JAZZ BAND: Dipper Mouth Blues

Chicago (Consolidated Talking Machine Co. offices): June 23, 1923
Okeh 4918 (mx. 8402 – A)

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BENNIE MOTEN’S KANSAS CITY ORCHESTRA: 18th Street Strut

Kansas City, MO: May 1925
Okeh 8242 (mx. 9123 – A)

The May 14 recording date shown in some discographies is speculative and not from the Okeh recording files (which do not exist for this Kansas City series).

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CLIFFORD [HAYES]’ LOUISVILLE JUG BAND: Struttin’ the Blues

Chicago: May 1925
Okeh 8238 (mx. 9143 – A)

The May 20 recording date shown in some discographies is speculative and not from the Okeh recording files (which do not exist for this session), but probably is fairly accurate, as the preceding session (consisting of Polish vocals) is dated May 19 in the Okeh files.

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WHISTLER [BRUFORD THRELKELD] & HIS JUG BAND: Pig Meat Blues

St. Louis: April 30, 1927
Okeh 8816 (mx. W 80799 – )
From a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart.

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NAP HAYES & MATTHEW PRATER: Nothin’ Doin’

Memphis: February 15, 1928
Okeh 45231 (mx. W 400243 – B)
Issued in the white country-music series, although Hayes and Prater were African American. Lonnie Johnson performed with them on the first four titles from this eight-title session.

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JESSE STONE & HIS BLUE SERENADERS: Starvation Blues

St. Louis: April 27, 1927
Okeh 8471 (mx. W 80761 – C)

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ARIZONA DRANES (vocal and piano): I Shall Wear a Crown

Chicago: July 3, 1928
Okeh 8600 (mx. W 400980 – )
From a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart. The accompanying vocalists and mandolin player are unidentified on the labels and in the Okeh files.

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Forgotten American Recording Pioneers • Joseph Moskowitz (Cymbalom Solos, 1916)

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Joseph Moskowitz
(b. Romania, 1879 – d. Washington DC, June 27, 1954)
From the November 1916 Victor supplement, courtesy of John Bolig

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JOSEPH MOSKOWITZ (Edward King, piano): Panama Pacific Drag

New York: February 4, 1916
Victor 17978 (mx. 17118 – 1)

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JOSEPH MOSKOWITZ (Max Yussim, piano): Chasen Senem (Turkish Medley, No. 2)

New York: July 19, 1916
Victor 67988 (mx. B 18204 – 2)

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JOSEPH MOSKOWITZ (Max Yussim, piano): Sadiguerer  Chusid — Hebrew Dance

New York: March 27, 1916
Victor 67827 (mx. B 17390 – 1)

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JOSEPH MOSKOWITZ (Max Yussim, piano): Hungarian Dance, No. 5 (Brahms)

 

New York: February 4, 1916
Victor 17973 (mx. B 17116 – 1)

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JOSEPH MOSKOWITZ (Max Yussim, piano): Argentine Dance (Tango Argentino)

New York: February 4, 1916
Victor 18155 (mx. B 17113 – 2)

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JOSEPH MOSKOWITZ (Edward King, piano): Operatic Rag

New York: February 4, 1916
Victor 17978 (mx. B 17117 – 2)

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Discographical data from Dick Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records
(University of Illinois Press)

Forgotten American Recording Pioneers • Alexander Maloof

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Alexander Maloof was a second-generation Syrian immigrant who carved a niche for himself in the 1920s with the Maloof and Music of the Orient labels. Although known primarily for championing Middle Eastern music, Maloof was also a capable pop composer. He was a survivor as well — when times got tough in the early 1930s, he kept himself afloat by recording pipe-organ solos for skating rinks and funeral homes.

Maloof’s exact birth date remains questionable. His Social Security death record states that he was born on August 10, 1886. However, his tombstone states 1887; the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census files state 1885, while the 1940 Census goes far afield with “about 1895″; and a copyright filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark office lists 1884. Although various publications in the 1920s stated that Maloof was Turkish or Egyptian, his passport application and Social Security records state that he was born in Syria. The family, headed by Chames Maloof, apparently arrived in the U.S. in or around 1894, based on a 1925 report. On October 29 of that year, Maloof filed a declaration of intent to apply for naturalized citizenship.

By the early 1910s, Maloof was becoming well-known on the New York musical scene. In 1913 he recorded two of his original piano compositions — “Al-Ja-Za-Yer” (made as a test on July 24, and subsequently accepted for release) and “A Trip to Syria” (on September 16) — for the Victor Talking Machine Company. In a unusual move, the titles were assigned to both the ethnic and standard catalogs, as Victor 65830 and Victor 17443, respectively. Apparently, neither release sold well enough to earn Maloof a second Victor session.

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ALEXANDER MALOOF (piano): A Trip to Syria

New York: September 16, 1913
Victor 17443 (mx. B 13808 – 2)

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The E. T. Paull Music Company published two of Maloof’s dance numbers, “Ticklish Sensation” and “The Egyptian Glide,” in 1914. The latter was available in two arrangements — Maloof’s own tango version, and a one-step-step/two-step/trot arrangement credited to Paull himself. By the late ’teens, Maloof was operating his own music studio in New York and was attracting notice for concert appearances at which he featured his original compositions.

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The tango version of Maloof’s “Egyptian Glide” (1914). E. T. Paull also provided a “One-Step,Two-Step, Trot” arrangement.

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The Maloof Phonograph Company was launched in 1920 to  specialize in traditional Middle Eastern fare. Its earliest labels show either no copyright date, or a 1920 copyright, which does not appear to have been formally registered. The earliest pressings are from masters in a three-digit M-prefixed series of unknown origin, some of which show master-broker Earle W. Jones’ characteristic handwritten “J” in the wax. Physical characteristics suggest that they were pressed by the Siemon Hard Rubber Company, with which Jones was affiliated.

By late 1922 production of the Maloof label had shifted to the Starr Piano Company (Gennett), corresponding to a new (and  also apparently unregistered) 1922 label copyright date. Maloof would become one of Gennett’s most active clients, rivaling that other highly prolific customer — Homer Rodeheaver — for the amount of time booked in Gennett’s studios.

A second Maloof line, Music of the Orient (credited to the likely fictitious “Orient Company”) appeared in or around 1923, also produced by Gennett, and using some of the same masters as the Maloof label. Although Maloof’s masters were numbered in the standard Gennett series, most were recorded for his exclusive use.

The Maloof and Music of the Orient labels seem to have disappeared by late 1925, but Maloof and his associates continued to record in Gennett’s New York studios into the summer of 1931, covering everything from Egyptian and Syrian folk music to old warhorses like “Home Sweet Home” and assorted Christian hymns. Gennett picked up the occasional title for its own use, but most were pressed as Personal records, at Maloof’s own expense. In-between, there was a visit to Victor’s New York studio on February 15, 1926, with his Oriental Orchestra. The session yielded four ethnic-catalog releases, one of which (“Egyptiana”) was also issued in the Mexican series, where it was retitled “Somali.”

Maloof held the dubious honor of having recorded the last masters ever made in Gennett’s legendary Long Island City studio, in late June 1931. (June 30, shown on the ledger sheet, is  the date on which masters were received in Richmond, not the recording date. The ledger sheet for the final Long Island session is headed “1932” in error; master numbers are contiguous with the May–June 1931 sessions listed on the previous sheets.) Maloof’s final Gennett sessions included organ solos intended for use in the company’s Chapel series, which was marketed to funeral parlors.

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From the Gennett ledgers — Top: The final session in the Long Island City studio, in late June 1931.  Bottom: One of several earlier 1931 Maloof sessions. Note that the recordings were dubbed to new N-series masters; several dubbings from these sessions were released commercially on Champion and Superior in the early 1930s, and even on Decca’s revived version of the Champion label in the mid-1930s.

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Chames Maloff died in1930, and Alexander moved to Los Angeles in 1931. He was living there by September 2 of that year, when his application for citizenship was finally accepted. However, he seems to have returned East on occasion, launching his new Orient label (credited to the Maloof Music Company of Englewood, New Jersey, and using newly recorded material) at some point in the 1940s. He died in Los Angeles on May 1, 1968.

 

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The Maloof family plot in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery,
Los Angeles. George Maloof made a few recordings for his brother’s label in 1920. (Courtesy of Irv Lightner)

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Discography 101 • Master Numbers Assigned Out of Chronological Order

We heard very quickly from several of the Old Guard concerning our statement, in the previous post, that some Paramount masters numbers might have been assigned out of chronological sequence. Understandably, some old-timers very much dislike having their discographical cages rattled, and rattle we did. None, however, has so offered any evidence that the New York Recording Laboratories  always assigned Paramount master numbers in perfect, strict chronological order.

Our question to them, then, is: Why would NYRL not have occasionally scrambled its master numbers? Assigning master numbers weeks or even months after the sessions at which the recordings were made was not an uncommon occurrence in the recording industry during this period, even among far better-organized companies than the notoriously slipshod NYRL.

Consider the following examples, plucked at random from the Victor files. All of these recordings sat around for one to six months after the sessions at which they were made, before finally being assigned master numbers — which by that time had advanced well beyond the numbers that would have been assigned at the time of recording. If one were to go simply by the normal chronological sequence of Victor master numbers, the approximate recording dates would appear to be those shown in Column 2. And they would be very wrong, as seen from the actual recording dates shown in Column 3:

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Many similar examples can be found in the Victor, Columbia, and Brunswick-Vocalion files throughout the 1920s — but you get the general idea.

A final note for now in what will be a long, ongoing investigation: There’s an especially telling case (which we’ll leave to its discoverer to reveal in detail in due time) in which NYRL numbers are demonstrably out-of-whack. This one involves a Paramount session to which the old-timers assigned a speculative recording date that’s literally an impossibility, apparently based upon their belief that NYRL numbers always marched along in strict chronological order — In this case, the artist is documented as having been out of the country at that time!

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The Playlist • “Charleston Back to Charleston,” Three Ways (1925)

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JACK STILLMAN’S ORIOLE ORCHESTRA:  I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston

New York: c. October–November 1925?*
Paramount 20423 (mx. 2333 – 1)
*Evidence is mounting that Paramount’s New York studio did not always assign final master numbers at the time of recording — particularly some discrepancies between the date ranges given in traditional discographies (like the questionable one shown here), and confirmed date ranges extrapolated from talent-broker Ed Kirkeby’s session files. Could this be one of those instances, given that companies for which original files exist recorded this title during the mid-summer of 1925? A large amount of research remains to be done in this regard, but we’re on it — stay tuned!

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

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

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CALIFORNIA RAMBLERS: I’m Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston

New York: July 9, 1925
Columbia 419-D (mx. W 140674 – 1)
Rust’s Jazz & Ragtime Records 1897–1942 and derivative works, including American Dance Bands on Records and Film, give the date as June 9, in error. July 9 is confirmed in the Kirkeby logbook and Columbia files.

The Playlist • Edison Ragtime Banjo Classics (Fred Van Eps, Shirley Spaulding)

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FRED VAN EPS: The Junk Man Rag (C. Luckyeth Roberts) — Medley

New York: December 15, 1913
Edison Blue Amberol 2225
Includes: The Junk Man Rag (Roberts); Harmony Joe (J.A.G. Schiller); That Teasin’ Rag (Joe Jordan). The latter was plagiarized by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band on their 1917 “Original Dixieland Jass Band One-Step,” the first jazz release.

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FRED VAN EPS (John F. Burckhardt, piano): The Ragtime Oriole (James Scott)

New York: February 6, 1924
Edison 51324 (mx. 9365-C)

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FRED VAN EPS (John F. Burckhardt, piano): Grace and Beauty  (James Scott)

New York: February 6, 1924
Edison 51324 (mx. 9366-C)

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SHIRLEY SPAULDING (John F. Burckhardt, piano): Somewhere in Dixie (George Lansing)

New York: September 15, 1922
Edison 50152 (mx. 8593-A)

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