The James A. Drake Interviews: Artie Shaw

The James A. Drake Interviews: Artie Shaw

 

ARTIE SHAW.

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James A. Drake, Interviewer
Westport, Connecticut (November 1974)

On a late-autumn afternoon in 1974, Gustave (Gus) Haenschen, a radio and recording pioneer for whom many of the leaders of the “Big Band Era” had played in the early years of their careers, drove from his home in Norwalk, Connecticut, where I joined him, to nearby Westport where Artie Shaw was renting a house. When Haenschen turned into the driveway, Shaw was standing at the edge of the sidewalk. As soon as Haenschen get out of his car, Shaw put his arms around Haenschen’s midsection and lifted him off the ground, repeating “Gus … Gus … Gus” until Haenschen said, “I love you too, Artie, but I’m 85 years old so put me down!”

 Having seen Shaw on talk shows, where his prickly personality was always on display, and knowing his reputation for correcting interviewers mid-sentence and citing logical flaws in their questions, I was taken by his open display of affection toward Haenschen, whom he hadn’t seen for almost 25 years. Although he knew that the purpose of the visit was for me to record an interview with him, Shaw promptly put me to the test. Probably because of Haenschen’s presence and my own research, I managed to pass his test and he responded in detail to my questions and gave candid, often blunt assessments of his and other bandleaders’ assets and liabilities.

 

Let me begin by thanking you, Mr. Shaw, for taking time to grant us this interview.

I’m doing this because Gus [Haenschen] asked me to do it. Gus is one of the great men in the music business. You, on the other hand, I don’t know at all. Who the hell are you and what the fuck do you want from me?

 

Well, I want to ask you questions about your career, and specifically about–

You’re a little late, sonny. I got out of the Artie Shaw business in 1954. So you’re exactly twenty years late.

 

I realize that you’re not actively performing, but your career is very significant in American popular music and popular culture. But you certainly don’t need for me to tell you that. 

As I just told you, I quit being Artie Shaw twenty years ago. I’m through talking about my “career,” as you called it. 

 

Well, then, what would you like to talk about?

Target shooting. Which you don’t know shit about. Have you ever heard of skeet shooting?

 

Yes, I have.

Do you know what a five-round drill at 100 yards is?

 

Yes, it’s an event that’s usually timed, and each shooter must put five rounds as close to the center as possible using open sights. Those with the tightest group are the winners.

Do you see that rifle [pointing to a rack on a wall]? What is it?

 

I can’t tell what the caliber is, but the rifle itself looks like an Anschutz or maybe a Weatherby with a full Mannlicher-style stock.

You’re doing all right so far. And by the way, it’s a .22 Hornet. What’s the best shotgun for skeet shooting?

 

Well, I know that the shotguns most skeet shooters prefer are made in the U.K. They’re James Purdy double-barreled side-by-side 12-gauge shotguns, which are hand-crafted to fit each buyer.

Well, I’ll be goddamned—you proved me wrong. You want to see some Purdys? Follow me to my gun room.

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[After an interval of approximately twenty minutes, the interview resumed.]


Okay, go ahead and ask me anything you want, with one exception: I don’t want to talk about my ex-wives. So let’s stick to music. 

 

What role did Charles E. Rochester play in your career?

You’ve done some homework. Charlie Rochester was the president and general manager of the Lexington Hotel in New York. When I was playing there, we had a clash that made me despise him until I realized that he was telling me was right. I didn’t understand it at the time.

 

What did you and he clash about?

I had signed with an agent after I put my first band together, and the agent got me a gig at the Lexington. We played there for about a week, but the ballroom we played in was practically empty. I didn’t really pay much attention to it because I was focused on the band and our arrangements. Well, at the end of the first week of our engagement, my agent told me that Rochester was displeased with my band because we weren’t drawing enough customers. So I asked my agent to arrange for me to meet with [Rochester].

When I went to his office, he said to me, “Your band isn’t pulling its weight, and if this keeps up, I’m going to have to let you go.” I said, “What do you mean we’re not pulling our weight? This is one hell of a band, and we’re playing our hearts out night after night.” He interrupted me and said that the band wasn’t pulling in customers, to which I said that pulling in customers was not my job. My job was to lead a quality band, irrespective of how many customers are on the dance floor, or at the bar, or having dinner at the tables in the room.

He said to me, “You’ve got it all wrong, kid. I’m not running a concert hall here. This is a hotel dining room, and it’s been practically empty every night this week. Your job is to provide the kind of entertainment that will fill this room. If you want to take off your pants every night and shit on the stage, and if it draws enough customers to fill this room, I’ll pay you to shit on the stage every night. You’re in show business, kid, and you’d better understand the ‘business’ part if you want to have a career.”

That was tough to hear, but he did me a favor by explaining show business to me because he smashed the picture that I had in my mind. I had thought that musical perfection, which was what I was always striving for, would always draw an audience. But it doesn’t because audiences in hotels and movie theaters and what-not aren’t educated about music. They want a show—and that’s why it’s called show business. I was mad as hell at him until I realized that he had just done me a favor. I was in a business. And that’s what I hated—the “business” of show business. That’s why I quit so many times until I finally quit for good.

 

Your fame as a bandleader is as a clarinetist, but did you study the clarinet formally? Was it your first instrument?

No, I was a sax player, alto and tenor. I’m an auto-didact, and I learned the sax on my own. I came to the clarinet after I had been playing sax in studio orchestras. I was in a lot of this man’s [Haenschen’s] sax sessions, especially during those World Broadcasting recording sessions. That’s why I keep saying to you, Gus, that you kept food on our tables.

There wasn’t enough work after the stock market crash, but those World Broadcasting sessions that you and Ben Selvin and Frank Black and Lenny Joy and the other directors you had working with you were our salvation. We could do three of those if we were free and had the stamina, and those smorgasbords you had for us were just the best—and you let us take food home. Believe me, the guys I’m still in touch with talk about those sessions the way I do.

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Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw (circled at left) in the saxophone section at a World Broadcasting session conducted by Leonard Joy. James Melton is circled at the right.

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Since we’re in the presence of Mr. Haenschen, what do you recall about playing under his direction?

Well, first of all, Gus is probably the only guy in the music business who has no enemies. No one in the business is more beloved by the guys who played under him than Gus Haenschen. And I’m not just saying that because he’s sitting here.

 

What do you recall of the sessions with other directors, in particular Ben Selvin and Frank Black?

I don’t think Ben did as many as most of the others—certainly not as many as you did, Gus, and that Frank Black did. I didn’t like Frank Black—he was prissy, no sense of humor, and always gave me the impression that he wanted to be at Carnegie Hall conducting Beethoven instead of directing arrangements for radio. I don’t know how the others felt about him, but I didn’t think much of him.

The difference with Gus was, and any of the guys who played under both of them will tell you this, was that he treated every one of us with respect. He ran a tight organization but never an oppressive organization, yet he never hesitated to call out any player who made mistakes or wasn’t giving a hundred percent.

I don’t know if he’ll remember this, but he nailed [Benny] Goodman when he and I were in the sax section of one of [Haenschen’s] radio bands. Goodman was a good clarinetist—a damned good clarinetist, to give him his due—but he was a horrible saxophonist. Any high-school beginner would have a better tone than Goodman had on a sax.

There was a fairly complicated passage in one arrangement that we were rehearsing, and I played it well. It was tricky, but not really hard. Gus wanted it played one more time, so Goodman leaned over to me and said, “Let me play it this time.” It didn’t matter to me, so I let him play it.

Well, about five or six notes into it, Gus waved at the orchestra from the podium to stop our playing. “Who just played that sax phrase?” he said. You remember this, Gus? [Haenschen nods yes.] Well, Goodman jumped up and said he had played it. Gus said to him, “Sit down, Benny, and give that passage back to Artie!” To this day, I’m sure that sticks in Goodman’s craw.

 

Were you and Benny Goodman actually rivals?

In Goodman’s mind, such as it is, apparently so. Years later I met his daughter, who told me that her father referred to me as “the competition.” “The competition”? All I was trying to do was to make music as perfectly as I could. It wasn’t about competition, ever. But addled little Benny told his daughter that I was “the competition.” Go figure. 

 

One legendary story that I’ve heard is that Mr. Goodman felt that he had bested you when Toscanini chose him to be the soloist for the NBC Symphony broadcast of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” but that you jinxed him. Is any of that true?

Yeah. I ran into him on Seventh Avenue one afternoon, and he made a point of trotting over to me to tell me that Toscanini had picked him for the “Rhapsody” broadcast. I don’t know what he expected me to say, but what I did say was, “Really? Well, you’ll be so nervous that you’ll fuck up the opening solo, and millions of people will hear you squeak when you fuck it up.”

Which is exactly what he did—and that cracked note, that out-of-tune squeak, is there for posterity. On any other day, he could play that solo part easily. But I got inside his head, and he fucked it up on the air. He’ll never live that down.

 

Another legend about Benny Goodman is the “death ray,” the stare that he gives any band member who makes any mistake, even in a first rehearsal. Was he that way when you were playing together in those early days?

That “death ray” is total horse shit! As a man, Goodman is a mouse, and mentally he’s what psychologists call an “idiot savant.” Now, when you copy this tape, or you transcribe it or whatever you’re going to do with it, I don’t want to come off saying that Goodman is an idiot. So let me say it again: idiot savant.

If it weren’t for the fact that he married John Hammond’s sister, I doubt that he would have had anything like the career he’s had. Hammond is a Vanderbilt descendant, so he comes from money, and he knows a hell of a lot about the music business because he’s been in it since the late-1920s. He’s the one who shaped Goodman’s career.

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Benny Goodman with Artie Shaw (left) and producer John Hammond (right). “If it weren’t for the fact that [Goodman] married John Hammond’s sister, I doubt that he would have had anything like the career he’s had.”

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All Goodman knows and cares about is a goddamned clarinet. He has no interest, no knowledge, and no curiosity about anything other than a clarinet. Which is about as shallow as a human being can get. Several years ago, and this was when I was still playing, I was asked to help put together a benefit to sell war bonds. So I called Goodman and asked him to meet me for lunch at the ‘21.’ Well, I spent about ten or fifteen minutes explaining this benefit, when all of a sudden he says to me, “What mouthpiece do you use?”

I just looked at him and said, “What the hell does that have to do with what I was talking to you about?” He said, “Well, the clarinet is our instrument, isn’t it?” I said yes, of course it’s our “instrument,” but it’s just an instrument—just a tool, just one among many different instruments that make up an orchestra. But, you see, that’s the only thing he could talk about: a clarinet, a goddamned tube of wood with holes and keys.

 

We’d like to talk about your childhood a bit. Where did you grow up, and what occupations did your father and mother have?

I was born on the Lower East Side in New York. My birth certificate says May 23, 1910, and I assume it’s accurate. My mother, whose name was Sarah, worked in the garment industry as a young girl. My father, whose Anglicized name was Harold, was a garment worker too. He was a dressmaker. And he had a photography business on the side. His darkroom was in a closet in the flat we were living in.

He had to have a steady supply of water to rinse off the chemicals from his negatives and prints, so one of my jobs was to keep refilling a big wash pan that he used for that purpose. He and my mother moved around a lot until he was able to get steady work in New Haven. So that’s really where I grew up.

 

How did your parents influence your involvement in music?

They didn’t. In fact, my father was contemptuous of music. Whenever he heard me practice the clarinet, he would refer to it as a blosser, which is a Yiddish word for a noise-maker that you blow through, like the ones you see people blowing into on New Year’s Eve. No, my father had nothing but contempt for music and musicians. Well, except maybe for the violin and the famous violinists of those days—Mischa Elman, Efrem Zimbalist, and so on—because the violin is a “Jewish” instrument and almost all of those great violinists were Jews.

 

Were you raised in the Jewish faith?

I had a bar mitzvah, but that’s about it. We didn’t go to the synagogue very often, and anyway I wasn’t interested in “Jewish” anything. I didn’t go out of my way to hide it, but I don’t look Jewish—not like Goodman, who definitely looks Jewish—and the name “Shaw,” although it’s not my real name, is British. I’d bet that if you took a survey of people who claim to be fans of mine, and you asked them whether I was a Jew or a Gentile, they’d say I was a Gentile, a goy.

 

Just for the record, what is your birth name?

Arthur Arshawsky. Arthur Jacob Arshawsky. That’s the spelling our family used, although I’ve seen other variations like “Arshavski.”

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Artie Shaw (née Arshawsky) in the early 1930s

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When did you begin studying music?

I was a bookworm as a kid, and wasn’t interested in stickball and the other stuff that boys my age were interested in. But my mother insisted that I learn an instrument, so I picked the saxophone because it was the popular instrument at that time. I had a couple lessons, but I mostly taught myself the sax. In those days, the C-melody sax was very popular because of Rudy Wiedoeft. He was the most famous saxophonist of his time. He’s the guy Rudy Vallée named himself after, if you don’t know that.

[Wiedoeft] wrote and played a lot of what I’d call “novelty tunes” like “Saxophobia” that seemed impossible to play and that every sax student wanted to be able to play. But he was also a virtuoso and wrote classical compositions for the sax. Like everybody else did when I started out, I learned the C-melody [sax] and then went on to the tenor and alto saxes.

 

Did you teach yourself the clarinet as well?

I did because in those days the real demand in studio work was for “doublers,” guys who could play clarinet and sax. I learned the [clarinet] fingering system from a book, and for me it wasn’t that hard even though the fingering is different than the sax, which has the same fingering in the upper and lower registers.

The upper register of the clarinet has totally different fingering, and [the clarinet] has several open holes. Sax keys all have pads. Another big difference is what reed players call the “embouchure,” or the way that your lips and your tongue interact when you’re playing the instrument properly. The clarinet requires a different embouchure.

 

There are two clarinet “systems,” the Boehm and the Albert. Which system were you taught?

There are four systems, depending on how you want to count them. There’s not only Boehm and Albert, but also the Öhler and the relatively new one, the Mazzeo system. Like most kids of my generation, my first clarinet was an Albert, but I switched to the Boehm [system] pretty early.

 

Every clarinetist who has heard your recordings wonders how you were able to play ultra-high notes so easily. One rumor has it that you used a synthetic reed and a specially designed mouthpiece to be able to play above the high-C in the upper register. Is any of that true?

Oh, hell no! For some reason, the upper register just came easily to me. Which is just the opposite for most clarinetists. Take this guy who did “Stranger on the Shore” a few years ago. I can’t remember his name right now, but do you know who I mean?

 

I believe it’s Acker Bilk you’re thinking of.

He plays mainly in the lower register. His tone is raw and there’s too much vibrato in it, but there’s something appealing about his low-register playing. He sold a hell of a lot of records of “Stranger on the Shore.” When he goes into the upper register, his tone changes and I can tell he’s not comfortable in that register. With me, it was just the opposite. I could play beautifully in the lower register, if I may say so myself—and anybody can listen to [my] records and judge it for themselves.

As much as I detest hearing [my] “Begin the Beguine” recording—and I detest it because I was asked to play “Begin the Beguine” so goddamned many times, everywhere I played—you can hear my lower register because I recorded it in [the key of] C, and the first bars are from low G to a middle E. I’ll also put my recording of “Star Dust” against anybody else’s. I’m not modest about that [studio] recording because that was as close to perfection as I could get.

 

Are there other recordings you’re especially proud of?

If you’re talking about a single, there’s a Decca I made of “These Foolish Things” that’s not easy to find. It’s with the full band, and I play a cadenza that I don’t think can ever be bettered. That and “Star Dust,” with Billy Butterfield on the trumpet, are my best work on recordings.

My ease in alt, the very high notes in the upper register, had nothing to do with mouthpieces. I used a standard hard-rubber mouthpiece for almost all of my work. In fact, most of us “doublers” would carry just the [clarinet] mouthpiece with the reed and ligature and the cap on it and borrow a clarinet from somebody else during a session.

 

Did you use one brand of clarinet during your whole career?

I had three. Two of them were Selmers. A Selmer has what I’d call a “shout” to it—a lot of volume, which is what you need in a big band. I did almost all of my playing with one of those two Selmers. You always have two because clarinets are delicate in a way—a pad can come loose, or a spring can come off the key, or maybe a spring will break, and you’re out of luck if you don’t have a back-up. So I had two identical Selmers, and a little later I used a Buffet [clarinet], which has a softer, more intimate sound than a Selmer.

This register thing, while I’m on the subject, isn’t something that a professional clarinetist gives any thought to when he’s performing. Registers and fingering and those kinds of things are for students and teachers. A professional gives no more thought to fingering and registers than he would his left or right arm. Your arms have distinct parts—joints in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers, not to mention veins, arteries, tendons and nerves. But when you’re using your arms, you don’t think about those individual parts. Your arms move naturally, as a whole.

A “pro” plays the clarinet that same way. You play the instrument as a whole. You don’t give a damn about fingering and registers because you mastered them long, long ago. You don’t care what key you’re playing in, or how many high notes the arrangement calls for because you can play anything in any key.

Let me go back to mouthpieces, which you asked about. I never had anything special done to the mouthpieces I used. The same with reeds: I used a #3 or sometimes a #4 cane reed, and I would wet-sand the reeds until they sounded just right to me. I did try a couple synthetic reeds toward the end of my career, but they weren’t any good. Today, they’re probably a lot better, I don’t know. It wouldn’t matter anyway because I haven’t touched a clarinet since I quit the business.

 

Is it true that you didn’t read music when you began playing professionally?

Yes—I played by ear at first. I was playing sax then. In those days, the sax is what the electric guitar is today. Everybody wanted to be a sax player, and although I was basically self-taught, I had a very good tone and I had no trouble getting work in and around New Haven. One day, I got an audition for a pit band at one of the Poli vaudeville theaters in Connecticut. When I got there, the leader handed me the sheet music of the arrangement and told me to play it for my audition. I told him I didn’t read music, so of course he told me I couldn’t get the gig.

I asked him if he would give me an audition again a month later. He said he would give me another shot at it, if I learned to read music. One month later, with the help of a piano teacher I knew, I was able to sight-read quite well, and from then on I was never out of work. When I played in two Midwest bands—the Austin Wylie band in Cleveland, and the Joe Cantor band in Cincinnati—I wasn’t just their lead clarinet and sax player, but I also wrote most of the arrangements for those bands.

 

You have had a second career, and a very successful one, as a writer. There is a story that your writing is what got you to California the first time you went there.

Before I quit school, which was when I was sixteen, I wrote an essay that won first prize, which was an all-expenses-paid trip to Hollywood. That was the start of my writing career. I’ve written several books, and The Trouble with Cinderella in particular sold very well. I’ve been writing all my life, and I’m still writing today. I’m working on a book that will probably be the death of me. The manuscript is over 1,000 pages so far, and I’m nowhere near the end. At the rate I’m going, even though I work on it nearly every day, that book will probably become my “unfinished symphony.”

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Artie Shaw, author

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When you went to Hollywood, it is said that you got to sit in with one of the top bands of that era.

 I was sixteen and playing sax by then, and I was able to play with an outfit that was a sort of “first,” a band that was led by a drummer. [Gus Haenschen interjects, “Abe Lyman’s orchestra. I went there to sign and record him for Brunswick.”] He was the first drummer I know of who led a band. He had his complete set [of drums] on the stage with him. He was a nice guy for a big band leader—at least he was to me. He asked me to play for him, and he let me sit in a few times. And he paid me too.

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Abe Lyman (at the drums) and his orchestra in “Paramount on Parade.” Lyman was “was a nice guy for a big band leader,” Shaw recalled, “at least he was to me.”

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Two other drummers who became bandleaders, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, played with your orchestras at different times, if I’m correct.

Not Krupa, no. Buddy Rich, yes.

 

I’m sure you heard Gene Krupa in his prime, so how did he compare with Buddy Rich in your estimation?

No contest—Rich is the best damned drummer, period. He’s a feisty son of a bitch and off the bandstand when the band was playing at the Lincoln Hotel, we got into shouting matches because he thought his way was the right way for any arrangement. I had to threaten to fire him more times than I could count. But let me tell you, on the bandstand he could do it all.

He’s a perfectionist, which is something I’m familiar with, and he has a reputation for berating players, which is also something I’m familiar with. Now, Krupa was a competent drummer and he led a band that was okay but nothing more—and in a carving contest, Buddy Rich would have eaten him alive.

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Artie Shaw, with Cab Calloway looking over his shoulder. Standing behind them are Tony Pastor, Helen Foster, and Buddy Rich.

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Did you hear Krupa when he was with Red Nichols and the Five Pennies?

I heard the records but didn’t hear the band “live.” Gus, didn’t you record him at Brunswick? [Haenschen replies that he did, but that most of Nichols’ Brunswick recordings were done after Haenschen left Brunswick.] Most of us who were around then had no respect for Nichols because he copied Bix Beiderbecke. It was the same with Charlie Barnet, who copied Duke Ellington note for note. It was the same with Nichols. He copied Bix and got away with it because Bix destroyed himself.

 

You knew Bix Beiderbecke personally, am I correct?

 I knew Bix very well—we were roommates for a time. Other than Satchmo, who’s in a class of his own, Beiderbecke was the greatest cornet player I ever heard. He was a genius in his own way—he wrote intricate, elegant music and even recorded some of it on the piano. As a cornetist he was different from Satchmo, very different, but he had the purest tone I ever heard. But Bix—it’s such a sad story because you couldn’t get him off alcohol. He got so bad that he couldn’t play.

 

On the subject of brass “legends,” I’d like to ask you about several beginning with Tommy Dorsey. He and Jimmy Dorsey, together or separately, are now considered big-band and jazz legends. You knew both of them, so how would you assess them as players?

Tommy Dorsey had the purest tone of any trombonist I have ever heard, and his phrasing was first-rate, but he was definitely not a “jazzman.” He was what I call a “melodist,” someone who can play a melodic line with such a pure tone, but that was all. If you want to talk about jazz trombonists, you talk about Jack Teagarden, not Tommy Dorsey. Jimmy Dorsey, on the other hand, was one of the best “doublers” in the business. He was an equally fine clarinetist, and unlike Tommy he could play jazz, he could really improvise.

 

Where would you place Glenn Miller?

A few inches from the bottom of the barrel. The bottom belongs to ones like Shep Fields, who blew into a glass of water with a straw for his “rippling rhythm.” Who the hell would want a band to be identified by that? That’s like [Lawrence] Welk with that goddamned champagne cork popping.

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Shaw rated Glenn Miller (left) “the Lawrence Welk of the big band era.” Shep Fields (right) “blew into a glass of water with a straw…who the hell would want a band to be identified by that?”

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Glenn Miller was said to be a fine arranger and worked to get a sound that would give his band definition.

A lot of that came from that movie [“The Glenn Miller Story”]. That and the fact that [Miller] was lost at sea during the war. That was too bad, but almost all of us were overseas and played for the troops in war zones. I was in the Navy and I was playing to GIs at Guadalcanal. So were lots of other bandleaders. Miller’s sound was about as distinctive as Welk’s, now that I think of it. Miller was the Lawrence Welk of the big-band era. Welk can’t play his own instrument worth a shit, and neither could Miller. He’d say that himself—he even said it to a few of his players. He said he didn’t want to take his trombone out of the case if Tommy Dorsey was around, let alone Teagarden.

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Shaw and his orchestra entertain the fleet during World War II.

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Have there been other bandleaders whom to your knowledge were inept, for want of a better word, as players?

Guy Lombardo would be at the top of that list. The reason he leads the band is because he’s the only one of the Lombardo brothers who couldn’t play an instrument. He used to have a violin on the bandstand to give the impression that he played it, but he didn’t and couldn’t. But what the hell, he found a niche, never changed anything, and is still playing the same stuff his band was playing forty years ago. There’s no challenge to that.

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The Lombardos (Guy holding the baton): “Playing the same stuff his band was playing forty years ago. There’s no challenge to that.”

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Now, Fred Waring can’t read music but he conducts choral music now—which he learned from [Robert] Shaw, if you don’t know that. I know he couldn’t play anything but a banjo-uke by ear. He had a brother who wrote a couple of good songs and he played piano by ear, and they had a dance bad in the 1920s but Fred got more interested in choral music. I give him credit for what he’s done because he’s a stickler for phrasing and he’s been at it for what, forty years or so?

 

There are three others I’d like to ask you about. The first is Sammy Kaye. Was he a good player himself?

He was a “doubler,” and he was equally bad on sax as he was on clarinet. Totally unoriginal. He had some good players but he couldn’t keep the best ones because they couldn’t stand the derivative crap he was playing.

 

The two others I have in mind are Will Osborne and Ozzie Nelson.

Both of them were singers—if you can call what they did “singing”—who formed their own bands. Both of them were nothing but Rudy Vallée imitators as “crooners.” That’s how they got their start. Osborne came up with a gimmick for his “sound.” He had his trombones play glissandos and [he] called it “slide rhythm.” The only good thing about his band was that he stopped singing.

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.Ozzie Nelson (left) and Will Osborne (right): “Both of them were singers—if you can call what they did “singing”…the only thing Nelson could do was wave a baton.”

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Nelson was on television so long that most people don’t remember that he ever had a band. Which is good because the only thing he could do was wave a baton. One of his sons—the older one, not the one with the rock-and-roll hits—said to some interviewer that he was amazed his father had any career in music because he couldn’t read music, could barely play a sax, and couldn’t sing either. His wife—they weren’t married at the time—was the singer. He had the good sense to hire good arrangers and have others rehearse the band because he couldn’t do it himself. 2

 

I assume Rudy Vallée is on your “bottom of the barrel list.”

No, he isn’t—not at all. He was stuck with that “crooner” label, but if you put aside his singing and the megaphone and all that, he was a good clarinetist and a good sax player. He learned a lot from Rudy Wiedoeft—that’s where he got his first name, as I think I said before—and he got a lot out of his players. Where he was a real innovator was on radio with his variety shows. He invented the network variety show. He did on radio what Ed Sullivan does on television except that Vallée himself introduced each performer and did all the segues himself.

 

Continuing with players who led bands, and this time I’m asking about trumpeters who led bands, where would you place Harry James?

 A very good horn player, and a very good bandleader. Not top-tier, but very good. Of course, he gave Sinatra his start, and then [Tommy] Dorsey hired Sinatra.

 

There’s a story that Frank Sinatra asked you instead of Tommy Dorsey to hire him as your vocalist. Is that true?

Yes, and his pitch to me was that I was using women singers instead of him. I had different women singers at different times—Peg LaCentra, Helen Forrest, Billie Holliday—and as I told Frank, I don’t like “boy singers.” He said to me that I did have a boy singer, Tony Pastor, my lead sax man. Frank said, “You call that a singer?” I said yes, Tony does vocals on certain songs we play, and I like him. Frank has never forgiven me for turning him down, but it was the right decision from my standpoint. I wasn’t about to subject myself or the band to a bunch of screaming bobbysoxers.

 

Later, you had Mel Torme as a vocalist.

Yes, later, and he was fine for certain songs. He’s also easy to work with and sees himself as part of an ensemble and not just “the singer.”

 

Back to trumpeters, where would you place Dizzy Gillespie and Be-bop?

On the underside of the barrel. Be-bop is pure shit, and it died like it should have. To hear [Gillespie] tell it, and the writers who bought into his berets and his horn with a hard-on and the image he tried to make for himself, thought that be-bop was a new “idiom,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. He also ridiculed Satchmo—he said that Satchmo and the whole New Orleans style was outmoded.

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Harry James (left): “Not top-tier, but very good.” Dizzy Gillespie (right): “On the underside of the barrel. Be-bop is pure shit, and it died like it should have.”

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Do you remember the first time you heard Louis Armstrong?

Not only do I remember it, but if there was a moment in my life where I could say that something changed me, it was going to Chicago to hear him “live” at the Savoy Ballroom. I was lucky enough to get close enough to the bandstand—it was just a carpeted riser—to hear him play “West End Blues.” The cadenza that he opened “West End Blues” with blew me away. I had never heard anything like it, and every note of it is still fresh in my mind.

Something you have to understand to appreciate him is the difference between valve instruments then and now. Today, a trumpet player can play like lightning because the valves are machined to a degree of precision that wasn’t done in Satchmo’s day. And the springs are different too, which makes a high-end trumpet today easier to play than a trumpet or cornet or valve trombone forty or fifty years ago.

The instruments of today can make a great player even greater. Take the trumpeter who’s with Johnny Carson, Doc Severinsen, who’s a damned good player. If you handed him a horn that Satchmo played in 1920 and had him put his mouthpiece in it and try to play it, he wouldn’t sound so great. None of the ones today would.

 

All the big bands had theme songs, but yours was unlike any other that I can think of. Why did you make “Nightmare” your theme song?

Because I was told I had to have a theme song for a radio broadcast I was doing that night. I wrote it in about an hour and played it on the air that night. I wrote several arrangements of it to fit different time slots. I could stretch it out or keep it short, depending on how much airtime I was given.

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(Left) “Art” Shaw with his New Music on Brunswick, May 1937. (Right) The first commercial recording of “Nightmare,” Shaw’s hastily written new theme song. It was initially issued on Brunswick; the Vocalion was a later release using an alternate take from the same session.

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What would have been the typical instrumentation in most of your bands?

Mostly four saxes, two or three trumpets, two trombones, a string bass, a guitar, and drums, either trap drums or whatever was best for a particular arrangement. In the early 1950s I added a string section, which was not done in swing bands, although [Paul] Whiteman had done it long before I did. My string section had ten violins, three violas, two cellos, and a string bass.

 

Speaking of Paul Whiteman, you were on the bill of his Carnegie Hall concert on Christmas day 1938. You played “St. Louis Blues,” and I’m wondering if the arrangements was your own.

No, It was done by Irving Szathmary, who worked for Whiteman. That was quite a concert because Satchmo was on the program. I did play “St. Louis Blues” but on the printed program the title was “A Mess of Blues” in case I wanted to play more than just the “St. Louis Blues,” but I decided to stick with that as a framework for improvising. I began it at a blues tempo, then switched to a jazz tempo, and at the end I gave a nod to Whiteman, or Whiteman and Gershwin, by playing the glissando from the opening of “Rhapsody in Blue.” I have to say, I did some of my best playing in that concert. 1

 

What prompted you to name songs that you wrote after streets and airlines?

 Songs have to have titles or they don’t get published, so I just used whatever came to my mind at the time. “Summit Ridge Drive” came from the street I was living on at the time. “Nonstop Flight” came from the nonstop flights I had to take so many times.

 

Your song “Shoot the Liquor to Me, Johnny” wasn’t named after a street or a subway stop. Where did you get that title?

Do both of us a favor and get the title right: it’s “Shoot the Liquor to Me, John Boy.” That’s the working title, but the real title is “Sanfronia B.” Calvin Boze wrote it, and the lyrics were too raunchy at the time to sing on radio or records. Just like “Nightmare,” I had different arrangements of different length so I could fit it into any time slot. I chose it as a showpiece for each section of the band, for Buddy Rich, and for me.

What I had in mind when I arranged it was a “call and response” where I would improvise on the clarinet and each section of the band would have to play what I had just played. It was all carefully rehearsed, including the part near the end where one of the players would shout “Higher!” I would go from the top G to A-flat and then A, then do a descending credenza.

 

Even the name of the Gramercy Five, if I’m correct, came from your telephone number at that time.

Again, why not? I need a title for the group, and my phone number started with “Gramercy 5” back when telephone exchanges had both letters and numbers.

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The Gramercy Five on a seven-inch Bell 78 in 1952. Bell’s roster included some well-known big-band era names, like Artie Shaw and Cab Calloway, who were past their primes from a commercial standpoint but attracting audiences.

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Your Gramercy Five recordings have been re-released in LP form, and surely will be re-released in formats that we can’t even envision yet. I know that the players you chose for those sessions varied, but whom did you choose and why?

I had Billy Butterfield on trumpet, and after Billy I had Roy Eldridge. Irv Kluger was on drums, Joe Roland on vibes, Tal Farlowe on guitar, Ray Conniff on trombone, and if I used a piano in the session I wanted Hank Jones. I was listening to a lot of classical instrumental music at the time, and I was intrigued by how a harpsichord would sound so I had Johnny Guarnieri on harpsichord. I chose all of them because they were “explorers” who could follow me wherever I was going in those sessions.

 

There was a time in the 1940s when you shaved your head. There are photos of you with what looks like the kind of haircut that a Marine boot camp is known for. Why prompted you to do that?

As I said, I was listening to a lot of classical instrumental music. Stravinsky was my first foray into classical, and then came Debussy, and from there it was Bartok. Naturally, what they were doing, especially Stravinsky, got into some of my arrangements and I got criticized for it. Some of the magazines said I was becoming a “long-hair,” which was a euphemism for a classical musician.

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Artie Shaw at NBC, and with his “retaliatory” shaved head

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My way of retaliating was that if they were going to call me a “long-hair,” how about I cut off all my hair? What are they going to call me then? Unfortunately, I was starting to lose my hair and ended up being as bald as a billiard ball. But shaving my hair down to the scalp made a point at the time. At least I thought it did.

 

Do you consider your Gramercy Five records to be jazz?

No. There isn’t really a name for what we did in those sessions. I was exploring, and they were exploring with me. Sometimes it took a dozen or more “takes” before I felt I had gotten what I wanted. Now, doing ten or twelve or fifteen “takes” would drive most players nuts. But not those guys—they were “explorers” and we were exploring together on those recordings. And as I said, I used my Buffet clarinet in those sessions because its tone was intimate. I played so close to the microphone that at times you can hear the keys clicking as I’m playing.

 

You played classical clarinet compositions. How different was it to play, say, the Mozart Clarinet Concerto or the Brahms Quintet from the type of popular music you were known for?

You have to use less vibrato and less volume when you play classical clarinet. My tone was the same, just softer and with less vibrato. There too I used the Buffet, which is what most classical clarinetists play, or did at that time. 3

 

This is a difficult question for me to ask because I can’t find the right words for it, but film footage of your playing tends to show that you were self-taught because of the positions of your fingers.

I don’t know what you mean by that. Are you talking about alternative fingerings in the upper register?

 

No, I’m referring to how high you lift each finger, no matter how fast you’re playing. Clarinet teachers always stress the importance of keeping the fingers close to the keys so that fast passages can be played more easily. But you raised your fingers very high, no matter at what tempo you were playing.

Like I said, I’m an auto-didact and I learned where to put the fingers and thumbs from charts in a book. It didn’t say anything about keeping the fingers close to the keys. Now, I did make sure that the keys themselves, the ones with holes and the ones with pads, were close to the holes in the body of the instrument. But I never gave any thought to how high I raised my fingers.

 

Have you ever been tempted to take one of your clarinets out of its case and play it again?

I swore I never would, but several years ago I decided to try out my favorite Selmer. I took it all apart, cleaned all the holes, oiled the keys, changed all the pads, re-corked the different sections, took out a couple of the reeds that still looked good, and tried to see what I could do.

I asked my wife to leave the house—I didn’t want anyone around because I knew my fingering would be off and my embouchure would be too weak. I worked at it for about two hours, but I couldn’t even get a decent tone in the lower register. So I put it away for good.

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Artie Shaw lecturing at age eighty

 

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Notes

1  Although the title of Shaw’s part in the program was titled “The Blues” rather than “A Mess of Blues,” he received some of the finest reviews of his career from the major critics of that period. From The New York Times, December 26, 1938: “As if to appease the in-the-groovers, Artie Shaw’s clarinet soloing of his own composition, ‘The Blues,’ was a distinguished 16-minute performance with the full Whiteman band. Irving Szathmary scored it and Shaw got things out of his clarinet that were amazing in sheer virtuosity. His blends of the immortal ‘St. Louis Blues’ were but incidental to the major Magyar mood of the ‘Blues.'” From Variety, review by Abel Green: “The audience loosed its enthusiasm on the appearance of Artie Shaw, variously described in the program as ‘The greatest clarinet player in New York,’ ‘The greatest clarinet player in the United States’ and ‘The greatest clarinet player in the world.’ Playing ‘The Blues,’ a composition of his own, arranged by Irving Szathmary, Mr. Shaw’s wild improvisation evoked from Mr. [narrator Deems] Taylor the remark that ‘you just can’t do things like that with a clarinet.'”

 

2  Rudy Vallee and Ozzie Nelson appeared in the 1946 Paramount musical comedy “People Are Funny.” In their only scene together, Vallee notices a small megaphone on the piano and says to Nelson, “Hmm … a megaphone. How well I remember them. I used to have one myself—at Yale, you know—as a bit of a singer. I had a rather unusual quality. This enhanced it.”

 

3  Shaw used a Buffet A-clarinet and a Buffet E-flat clarinet for performances of classical instrumental music.

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Text © 2022 by James A. Drake. All rights are reserved. No portion of this interview may be reproduced, distributed, or used for commercial purposes, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright owner.

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Happy Holidays! • Coming Attractions for Early 2022

Happy Holidays….

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… and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2022!
Here a few things we’ll be bringing you in the new year, as part of the free Mainspring Press Online Reference Library:

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THE OLYMPIC DISCOGRAPHY (1921 – 1924)

The first deeply detailed discography of John Fletcher’s ill-fated label — including all the derivative Black Swan, BD&M, and client-label issues; pseudonym unmaskings; release dates; and even some exact recording dates from the files of Ed Kirkeby (who in his pre–California Ramblers days booked Olympic sessions for artists ranging from Nevada van der Veer to Fred Van Eps).

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HERBERT BERLINER AND THE COMPO COMPANY IN NEW YORK: The Compo-Series Masters (1926–1927)

For two years, Herbert Berliner’s New York studio produced electrically recorded masters for Pathé and Gennett while those companies lagged in converting to the new technology. You’ll find all the details here, compiled from the original Compo Company documentation.

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THE EMERSON DISCOGRAPHY (1915 – 1928)
Second Edition

A thoroughly revised and greatly expanded edition of Mainspring’s 2013 best-seller, in a free new downloadable edition that now includes the small-diameter pressings, client labels, and special issues not included in the original print version.

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See Victor Emerson at work and play, in personal photos from the Emerson family collection

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Hide the Band: The Coon-Sanders “Castle Farms Serenaders” Paramounts (1928)

Hide the Band: The Coon-Sanders “Castle Farms Serenaders” Paramounts (1928)

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MSP_bwy-1227b

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

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Here’s a bit of “hide the band” activity that escaped Brian Rust and those who have copied his work —  In November 1928, the Coon-Sanders Orchestra recorded Joe Sanders’ “Tennessee Lazy” for Paramount at Chicago’s Marsh Laboratories — on the sly, since they were under exclusive contract to Victor at the time — as the “Castle Farms Serenaders.” The alias had at least a bit of basis in fact, since the Coon-Sanders band  occasionally played at Cincinnati’s Castle Farms (the name was used to cover other bands as well).

Three other titles on adjacent master numbers (preceded by a Big Bill & Thomps session, and followed by Richard Jones’ Jazz Wizards), were variously issued as the “Castle Farms Serenaders” and “Manhattan Entertainers.” Unfortunately, there are no Victor versions of these three titles for comparison.

Chronologically, there is no possibility that the Paramount was copied from the Victor by some cover band (not that any cover band could have produced such a perfect sound-alike anyway). Aside from the addition of Joe Sanders’ vocal, and the slightly slower tempo, the arrangement and solos are identical.

Brian Rust somehow missed the correlation in Jazz Records 6th Edition, listing the “Castle Farms Serenaders” on this session as an entirely unknown band. American Dance Bands on Record and Film erroneously credits the record to a Bill Haid group, with no source cited (banjoist Haid had been in and out of the Coon-Sanders Orchestra over the years, but by this time he had his own band, a so-so outfit). Earlier Paramount issues under the “Castle Farms” name still bear further investigation; the undocumented personnel listed by Rust and others for those sessions, although not disclosed as such, appear to be purely speculative.

Here are both versions of “Tennessee Lazy” for side-by-side comparison:

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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

“Bandleader to Storekeeper”: Isham Jones in Colorado

“Bandleader to Storekeeper”:
Isham Jones in Colorado

By Allan Sutton

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Paul Whiteman wasn’t the only 1920s bandleader with Colorado connections. Isham Jones — one of Whiteman’s closest rivals at the time — liked what he saw while playing at Denver’s Elitch Gardens in the mid-1930s. He began purchasing land around Shaffers Crossing, where he eventually built a modern lodge. Lying in the foothills thirty-five miles southwest of Denver, the Crossing was (and, thankfully, still largely is) little more than a spot on the map.

In the early 1940s, with his popularity on the wane, Jones disbanded his orchestra and moved to his lodge at Shaffers Crossing, where he settled into the life of a rural shopkeeper and part-time treasure-hunter:

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Isham Jones tending the store at Shaffers Crossing (1945)

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Jones never found the hidden gold (supposedly stashed in the area in 1864 by members of the notorious Reynolds Gang, fleeing a posse from Leadville), although folks continue to hunt for it to this day. In the late 1940s, he sold his land, which is now a rural subdivision outside the small town of Pine Junction. There’s still a Jones Road, a Jones Creek, and a deteriorating octagonal structure that locals say he used as an impromptu dance hall, but that’s about all that remains to commemorate his stay.

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Locals say that Jones used this large octagonal structure near Shaffers Crossing as an impromptu dance hall. A rectangular extension at the rear of the building is said to have served as the bandstand.

 

Shaffers Crossing is located along present-day Highway 285, which in part follows an old stagecoach route connecting Denver and South Park. Part of Jones’ former holdings now abut Staunton State Park, home to some of the best hiking in the foothills.

 

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Ed Kirkeby’s 1931 – 1932 American Record Corporation Sessions: The “Missing” Personnel, from Kirkeby’s Payroll Books

Ed Kirkeby’s 1931 – 1932 American Record Corporation Sessions: The “Missing” Personnel
From the payroll books of Ed Kirkeby

 

Although the compilers of The American Dance Band Discography and American Dance Bands on Records and Film claimed they consulted Ed Kirkeby’s recording files, that clearly was not the case for most of Kirkeby’s later sessions. They lumped sessions from the late 1920s onward under a massive “collective personnel” listing — a way of saying “If we throw enough crap at the wall, something’s bound to stick.”

In addition, the compilers sometimes list prominent musicians on sessions at which they were not present, without ever citing a credible source — because there are none, in these cases. See May 8, 1931, for one such instance (Rust and Johnson & Shirley seem particularly fond of claiming the Dorsey brothers were present for sessions on which the Kirkeby files confirm they don’t play).

The personnel for the American Record Corporation sessions listed below are transcribed from Ed Kirkeby’s own payroll books, and therefore negate all the guesswork in ADBD, ADBRF, and derivative discographies.

For the purposes of this post, only master numbers and titles are shown. Where spellings of names differ from those in modern works, we have used Kirkeby’s spelling. Unlisted vocalists were either Kirkeby himself or were singers employed by the studio, and thus do not appear in the payroll books. Vocalists listed here as “paid” were hired by Kirkeby on a per-session basis, and their names appear in the payroll books.

All vocalists, and other details (including take numbers, labels, catalog numbers, and label credits) will appear in a fully revised Plaza-ARC discography that’s being developed for the University of California–Santa Barbara’s Discography of American Historical Recordings project.

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American Record Corporation studio (1776 Broadway, New York)

 

February 9, 1931

10383             Headin’ for Better Times (take 4 and above) *

10405              Tie a Little String Around Your Finger

10406              Hello, Beautiful

Frank Cush, Ed Farley (trumpets); Al Philburn (trombone); Bobby Davis, Elmer Feldkamp, Tommy Bohn (reeds); Sam Hoffman, Sid Harris (violins); Lew Cobey (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); unlisted (vocals). Kirkeby present.

*Earlier takes are by Joe Morgan’s Palais d’Or Orchestra. Inspected pressings from mx. 10383 use labels for the Morgan recording, in error.

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March 18, 1931  (“Cameo” session [sic])

10416              I’ve Got Five Dollars (take 10) *

10417              Sweet and Hot  (take 10) *

10507              Teardrops and Kisses

Jack Purvis, Fred Van Eps Jr. (trumpets); Al Philburn (trombone); Bobby Davis, _ Lodovar (reeds); M.  Dickson, Sid Harris, Sam Hoffman (violins); Lew Cobey (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); _ Klein (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); unlisted (vocals). Kirkeby present.

*Earlier takes are by Ben Pollack’s Orchestra. Inspected pressings from mxs. 10416 and 10417 use labels for the Pollack recordings, in error.

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April 28, 1931

10578              Can’t You Read Between the Lines?

10579              Since an Angel Like Mary Loves a Devil Like Me

10580              If You Haven’t Got Love

Jack Purvis, Fred Van Eps Jr. (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Tommy Bohn, Ad Coster (reeds); Sid Harris, Sam Hoffman (violins); Lew Cobey (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion). Jack Parker (paid vocalist). Kirkeby present.

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May 8, 1931

10614              Mickey Mouse (We All Love You So)

10615             Popeye (The Sailor Man)

10616              I Wanna Sing About You

Jack Purvis, Fred Van Eps Jr. (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Tommy Bohn, Paul Mason (reeds); Lew Cobey (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); Billy Murray (paid vocalist). Kirkeby present.

Jimmy Dorsey (reeds) is not present, as is erroneously claimed in American Dance Bands on Record and Film.

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May 22, 1931 – Accompanying vocals by Billy Murray & Walter Scanlan

10670              Skippy

10671              Let a Little Pleasure Interfere with Business

Jack Purvis (trumpet); Bobby Davis, Adrian Rollini (reeds); Lew Cobey (piano); Jack Powers (percussion).

This session is missing from American Dance Records on Records and Film.

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September 3, 1931  (“9:30, went on to 2 o’clock”)

10791              I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do)

10795              There’s Nothing Too Good For My Baby

10796              Guilty

10797              Blue Kentucky Moon

Jack Purvis, Earle Isom (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Elmer Feldkamp, Nye Mayhew (reeds); Harold Bagg (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); unlisted (vocals).

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November 13, 1931

11000              Concentratin’

11001              When I Wore My Daddy’s Brown Derby

11002              I Promise You

11003              Save the Last Dance for Me

Jack Purvis, Tony Giannelli, Earle Isom (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Elmer Feldkamp, Paul Mason (reeds); Harold Bagg (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); _ Smith (bass?); Jack Powers (percussion).

Erroneously attributed to “ARC Studio Band” (personnel unlisted) in American Dance Bands on Records and Film.

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February 24, 1932

11343              What a Life! (American Record Corp. labels)

B-11344          What a Life! (Brunswick Record Corp. labels)

11345              My Mom

11346              (In the Gloaming) By the Fireside

11347              Too Many Tears

Bunny Berigan, Ted Sandow (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Elmer Feldkamp, Paul Mason (reeds); Ray Gold (piano); Noel Kilgen (guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); unlisted (vocals).

Erroneously attributed to “ARC Studio Band” (personnel unlisted, other than Berigan) in American Dance Bands on Records and Film.

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April 21, 1932

B-11726          That’s What Heaven Means to Me (Brunswick Record Corp. labels)

11727              That’s What Heaven Means to Me (American Record Corp. labels)

B-11728          Happy-Go-Lucky You (Brunswick Record Corp. labels)

11729              Happy-Go-Lucky You (American Record Corp. labels)

B-11730          In My Little Hideaway (Brunswick Record Corp. labels)

11731              In My Little Hideaway (American Record Corp. labels)

Bunny Berigan, Ted Sandow (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Elmer Feldkamp, Paul Mason (reeds); Lew Cobey (piano); Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); unlisted (vocals).

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July 13, 1932

12065              Waiting

12066              No One But You

12067              I Love You More and More

12068              Every Hour

Sylvester Ahola, Ted Sandow (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone);  Ed Sexton (banjo/guitar); Adrian Rollini (bass saxophone); George Hnida (bass); Herb Weil (percussion). Johnny Rude (reeds) was scheduled for this session but was not present.

Session missing from American Dance Records on Records and Film. Entered in the ARC files under the following false credits: Art Kahn’s Orchestra (12065, 12068), Owen Fallon’s Orchestra (12066), and Sleepy Hall & his Collegians (12067).

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Related postings (correcting errors and omissions in The American Dance Band Discography and American Dance Bands on Records and Film):

Correct Personnel for Cameo’s Late 1927–Early 1928 California Ramblers Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Files

Correct Personnel for Gennett’s 1926–1927 “Vagabonds” Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Files

Correct Personnel for Grey Gull’s 1929–1930 California Ramblers Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Files

Correct Personnel for Okeh’s 1927 “Goofus Five” Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Files

Correct Personnel for Okeh’s 1927 “Ted Wallace” Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Files

“Lloyd Dayton & his Music” Finally Identified, from the Ed Kirkeby Files

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From the “Gennett Record Gazette” – Joie Lichter, Bob Tamm, and the Questionable “Gene Bailey” (1924)

The Gennett Record Gazette was a nifty promo publication filled with photos, release lists, facts, and “alternative facts.” Here are a couple of excepts from Vol. I, No. 4 (April 1924) — one correcting a likely error in Johnson & Shirley’s American Dance Bands on Records and Film, and the other opening a discographical can of worms.

Joie Lichter’s and Bob Tamm’s Milwaukee orchestras visited Gennett’s Richmond, Indiana, studio on March 4, 1924 — Lichter recording five sides, with Tamm squeezing in a single title midway through the session, according to the Gennett ledgers. (“Tamm” or “Tamms”? It appears both ways in press reports and ads of the period, but “Tamm” is favored by a good margin.)

For god-only-knows what reason (since its compilers give none), ADBRF lists the Tamm side as a pseudonymous Lichter recording, even though the ledger, and the detailed information reported below, make that seem unlikely. For what it’s worth, Brian Rust credited the Tamm side to Tamm in his earlier  American Dance Band Discography, from which ADBRF was largely taken. If anyone can offer any credible reason for the change in ADBRF (credible excluding things like “so-and-so is sure he hears such-and-such” or “Joe Blow remembers that somebody said…”), please let us know, and of course be sure to cite the source. If it checks out, we’ll be happy to post it.

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Our next excerpt involves the ubiquitous Bailey’s Lucky Seven. For years it’s been taken for granted that this was a Sam Lanin group, and aural evidence does strongly suggest that was the case on many sides. Many others, however, are more generic-sounding. Unfortunately, the Gennett ledgers offer no clues in either case. (Note that the Bailey’s personnel listings in the various Rust and Johnson & Shirley discographies are all conjectural, even if the authors don’t make that clear. None of it is from file data or other primary-source documentation.)

But here we have one “Gene Bailey, of Bailey’s Lucky Seven” running a question-and-answer column in the Gennett Record Gazette. Not surprisingly, “Bailey” gave no answer whatsoever to the fan’s question concerning the Lucky Seven’s personnel, or where the band was performing, other than a vague reference later in the column to one “Saxophone Joe.”

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So, was there a real Gene Bailey involved with these recordings, and if so, in what capacity? Or was this just yet another case of the Gennett folks having fun with pseudonyms? We favor the latter, since we’ve found no trace of a Gene Bailey having been  active on the New York-area musical scene, either as a musician or a manager, at the time. (These were all New York recordings.  The cartoon above, by the way, is based on a well-known 1923 photo taken in the New York studio, which was configured differently than the Indiana facility).

There’s an old anecdote about Gennett borrowing the names of employees or other locals for its artist pseudonyms. And a Gene Bailey does turns up in the social notices of several eastern Indiana newspapers at the time, although with no mention of any musical connection. But just to muck things up a bit, Gennett once issued a record credited to “Jene Bailey’s Orchestra,” claiming (in the ledger as well as in their ads) that Mr. Bailey personally conducted the side:

.

.

Of course, much of Gennett’s promotional material should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. This was, after all, a  company whose “Colored Records” catalog included a photo of an unknown black band that was captioned “Ladd’s Black Aces” — a confirmed pseudonym on Gennett for the all-white Original Memphis Five.

_____

While we’re on subject, here’s a terrific book that all Gennett fans should own, by Charlie Dahan and Linda Gennett Irmscher (Arcadia Publishing). It’s available on Amazon.com, and a real  bargain at just $21.99 — crammed with rare photos and little-known facts, and covering a much broader scope than the earlier Kennedy tome. Highly recommended!
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(That’s Art Landry’s Call of the North Orchestra on the cover. At the top, you can see the heavy drapes that contributed to the Indiana studio’s notoriously muddy acoustics.)

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Gennett Odd-and-Ends • How to Pronounce “Gennett” (1920) / H. Ross Franklin Orchestra Personnel (1922)

We’ve heard “Gennett” pronounced every which-way over the years, and apparently so had the Gennett family, who finally placed an ad in 1920 to set the record straight. Here you have it, from the folks who knew best:

.

Muncie [IN] Evening Post, January 16, 1920

_____________

For anyone owning the H. Ross Franklin Orchestra’s Gennett personal record — all two of you, perhaps? — here are the rather obscure personnel (not listed in the American Dance Band Discography and derivative works) who were present at that session on March 6, 1922. This list is transcribed verbatim from The Fort Wayne [IN] Journal-Gazette for April 2, 1922, and probably contains some misspellings:

H. Ross Franklin [piano] directing: Vern C. McDermitt (trumpet); Benjamin West (trombone); Glendon C. Davis (clarinet); Harold D. Smith (alto saxophone); Lawrence G. Pape (oboe); Steward C. Loranze (violin); Edward Melching (banjo); Paul E. Dickerson (brass bass); John Kehne (percussion).

.

.

.

The Journal-Gazette reported that this session entailed “eight hours of strenuous effort.” A third title, “You Know,” was also recorded, but so far we’ve not found any reliable evidence that it was issued. Let us know if you have a copy, and be sure to include a photo or scan for confirmation. Franklin’s orchestras cut two additional sides for Gennett in October 1928, but both were rejected.

For more on Franklin and several of his musicians, see Duncan Schiedt’s superb The Jazz State of Indiana (Indiana Historical Society, 1999).

.

Some Corrections to Johnson & Shirley’s “American Dance Bands,” from Vic D’Ippolito’s Date Books

Horn-man Vic D’Ippolito’s 1920s date book is the sort of primary-source documentation (like Ed Kirkeby’s files) that causes discographers to salivate. The late Woody Backensto transcribed D’Ippolito’s original data in the late 1950s, a portion of which was published in a special (and now quite rare) October 1958 supplement to Record Research magazine. It’s since been largely overlooked — not least of all by Brian Rust and followers Johnson & Shirley, none of whose dance bands discographies include this information. So to set the records straight, here are a few nuggets we’ve uncovered in just our initial skim:

BLACK SWAN 2106
Brashear’s California Orchestra: Crinoline Days / Lady of the Evening

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Nathan Glantz’s Orchestra (c. late 10/ 1922)

IDENTITY AND ACTUAL DATE IN D’IPPOLITO LOG:
“Sam Lascabza” [sic? Mike LoScalzo?]  (11/28/1922)

A bit of a mystery here. Backensto interpreted  D’Ippolito’s entry to read “Lascabza,” which could easily be a misreading on his part, or a misspelling on D’Ippolito’s part, for LoScalszo. We’ve not found a Lascabza or a Sam LoScalzo making records at this time, but Mike LoScalzo’s band was recording for Olympic (masters from which were frequently issued on Black Swan under pseudonyms); thus, he seems the most likely suspect. At any rate, there’s nothing in D’Ippolito’s entry to suggest Glantz.

_______

BLACK SWAN 2110
Laurel Dance Orchestra: Burning Sands / You Remind Me of My Mother

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Listed as an actual orchestra (c. 12/ 1922)

IDENTITY AND ACTUAL DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
“Sam Lascabza” [sic? Mike Loscalzo?] (11/28/1922)

Same comments as above. The “Laurel Dance Orchestra” pseudonym also appears on other Black Swan issues confirmed as LoScalzo’s.

_______

CAMEO 289
Blue Bird Dance Orchestra: Whistling
CAMEO 290
Blue Bird Dance Orch: Teddy Bear Blues

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Possibly Arthur Lange (c. late 10/1922)

ACTUAL IDENTITY AND DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
Al Burt’s Orchestra (12/14/1922)

“Blue Bird Dance Orchestra” isn’t so much a pseudonym as an incomplete artist credit, probably used because Al Burt was an Edison artist at the time. Burt’s band was appearing at the Bluebird Dancing Palace, as confirmed by a check made out to Burt that was endorsed by the dance-hall, which survives at the Edison National Historic Site.

“Teddy Bear” is an under-appreciated little item (as one might expect of a record condemned to Arthur Lange Hell by the supposed experts), with D’Ippolito front-and-center:

____________

CAMEO 724
Mike Speciale’s Orchestra: Something’s Wrong

CAMEO 727
Mike Speciale’s Orchestra: Cross Words

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Orchestra identity is correct, but Vic D’Ippolito not shown in the undocumented personnel listing  (c. 4/20/1925)

ACTUAL IDENTITY AND DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
Vic D’Ippolito is present (4/21/1925)

 

______

VOCALION 14475
Broadway Syncopators: Without You

ADB UNDOCUMENTED IDENTITY AND DATE:
Ben Selvin’s Orchestra (c. 12/6/1922)

ACTUAL IDENTITY AND DATE PER D’IPPOLITO LOG:
Emil Coleman’s Montmartre Orchestra (12/4/1922)

__________

ACTUAL RECORDING DATES FROM THE D’IPPOLITO BOOK (ADB BAND IDENTITIES ARE CORRECT):

Cameo 256: 9/13/1922 (Apparently for the remake session [takes D-F], based on the master-number gap between these sides and those on the other two sides [takes A-C] from this session) (ADB: c. 7/1922)
Cameo 265 (both sides): 9/13/1922 (ABD: c. 8/20/1922)
Cameo 273 (both sides): 10/13/1922 (ADB: c. 9/20/1922)
Cameo 274 (both sides): 9/25/1922 (ADB: c. 9/19/1922)
Cameo 713 (both sides): 4/7/1925 (ADB: c. 4/6/1925)
Cameo 727 (both sides): 4/21/1925 (ADB: c. 4/20/1924)
Federal 5244 (both sides): 1/5/1923 (ADB: c. 1/1923)
Federal 5245 (Starlight Bay): 1/5/1923 (ADB: c. 1/1923)
To be continued….

 

More Discographic Updates: Correct Personnel for Okeh’s 1927 “Ted Wallace” Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Payroll Books

MSP_kirkeby-ed_3
Ed Kirkeby

Some more corrections to the undocumented personnel listings for Ed Kirkeby groups that appear in Johnson & Shirley’s American Dance Bands on Films and Records — this time for the 1927 Okeh sessions by Kirkeby’s conventional dance orchestra that were issued under the name of “Ted Wallace,” along with  various other pseudonyms.

The correct personnel shown here are from Ed Kirkeby’s payroll books; see the previous posts for details on the Kirkeby archival materials. Names in boldface are correct entries from the payroll books (an underline indicates a name that does not appear in the ADBFR listing); struck-out names are incorrect guesses in ADBFR. In some cases, musicians the ADBFR compilers state are “definitely present” definitely are not.

ADBFR’s listings for the 1928–1929 Okeh and Columbia “Wallace” sessions show only the compiler’s “collective personnel,” consisting of about 45 names (read: “Throw enough crap at the wall, and something’s bound to stick”). Actually, Kirkeby’s payroll books contain very specific personnel for all of those sessions (including some names not found among the “collective”), which we’ll consider posting if there’s sufficient interest in the current posts.

 

___________________________________

New York: February 14, 1927

“Oh! Lizzie” (mx. 80418, as “Okay Kate” in EK log); “The Cat” (mx. 80419); “My Regular Gal” (mx. 80420, remade March 17)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey, Roy Johnston, Bill Moore

Tbn: Tommy Dorsey, Abe Lincoln “definitely present”  [?; one of the unidentified below?]

Reeds: Arnold Brillhart “definitely present,” Sam Ruby, Adrian Rollini  Pete Pumiglio, Spencer Clark

Vln: Hal White, Joe LaFaro

Pno: Jack Russin  Lennie Hayton

Bjo: Tommy Felline  Carl Kress

Percussion: Herb Weil  [?; one of the unidentified below?]

Unidentified instrument(s): R. Busch, R. Rossan

Note: Kirkeby originally entered a $50 payment to himself, which he crossed-out.

____________________

New York: March 17, 1927

“My Regular Gal” (remake, take D); “Nesting Time” (mx. 80639); “For Mary and Me” (mx. 80640)

 

Tpt: Sylvester Ahola, Chelsea Quealy

Tbn: Ivan Johnston  Edward Lapp

Reeds: Arnold Brillhart “definitely present,” Bobby Davis, Sam Ruby, Adrian Rollini

Vln: Al Duffy or Hal White  [none listed]

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Unidentified instrument(s): An unidentified artist was paid $15 for this session

Note: Kirkeby originally entered a $50 payment to himself, which he crossed-out.

____________________

New York: June 27, 1927

“Bless Her Little Heart” (mx. 81110) / “Who-oo? You-oo, That’s Who” (mx. 81111) / Pleading (mx. 81112) / Love and Kisses (mx. 81113)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey, Frank Cush?

Tbn: Abe Lincoln  Tommy Dorsey

Reeds: Johnny Rude or Arnold Brillhart or Sam Ruby  Bob Fallon, Bobby Davis, Adrian Rollini

Vln: [None listed]

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Unidentified instrument(s): [?] Black

____________________

New York: September 9, 1927

“Cornfed” (mx. 81429) / “Buffalo Rhythm” (mx. 81430) / “Zulu Wail” (mx. 81431)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey, Frank Cush

Tbn: Tommy Dorsey or Abe Lincoln  Joe Vargas

Reeds: Bobby Davis or Johnny Rude or Arnold Brillhart, Adrian Rollini, Sam Ruby, Bob Fallon, Pete Pumiglio, Spencer Clark

Vln: [None listed]

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

____________________

New York: November 23, 1927

“Mary” (mx. 81858) / “Changes” (mx. 81859)

 

Tpt: Henry Levine  Chelsea Quealey

Tbn: Al Philburn

Reeds: Harold Marcus, Sam Ruby  Pete Pumiglio, Bob Fallon

Vln: Al Duffy

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Bass: Jack Hansen  [None listed]

Percussion: Herb Weil

Unidentified instrument(s): [?] Black, [?] Hart, [?] Lloyd

____________________

New York: December 7, 1927

“For My Baby” (mx. 81924) / “There’s Something Spanish in Your Eyes” (mx. 81925) / “Cobblestones” (mx. 81926)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey, Henry Levine

Tbn: Al Philburn

Reeds: Harold Marcus  Sam Ruby, Pete Pumiglio

Vln: Al Duffy   Joe LaFaro

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Bass: Jack Hansen

Percussion: Herb Weil

.

 

Discographic Update: Corrected Personnel for the 1927 Okeh “Goofus Five” Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Payroll Book

We continue with our corrections to the undocumented (and thus, often very incorrect) personnel listings in Johnson & Shirley’s American Dance Bands on Films and Records, successor to Brian Rust’s American Dance Band Discography.

The following listings, taken from Ed Kirkeby’s payroll books,  correct ADBFR’s speculative personnel for the 1927 “Goofus Five” sessions at Okeh’s New York studio. Names in boldface are correct personnel, from the payroll books. Struck-out names are incorrect guesses that appear in ADBFR. See the previous posting for more information on the Kirkeby archival materials.

____________________________________________

New York: February 8, 1927

“Farewell Blues” (mx. 80402) / “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” (mx. 80403) / “Some of These Days” (mx. 80404)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey  Roy Johnston

Tbn: Abe Lincoln  Ivan Johnston

Reeds: Sam Ruby, Bobby Davis, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Irving Brodsky  Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

____________________

 

New York: April 14, 1927

“Muddy Water” (mx. 80730) / “The Wang Wang Blues” (mx. 80731) / “The Whisper Song” (mx. 80732) / “Arkansas Blues” (mx. 80733)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey

Tbn: Abe Lincoln  [none listed]

Reeds: Sam Ruby, Bobby Davis, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Irving Brodsky  Jack Russin

Bjo / Gtr: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

____________________


New York: June 15, 1927

“Lazy Weather” (mx. 81015) / “Vo-Do-Do-De-O Blues” (mx. 81016) / “Ain’t That a Grand and Glorious Feeling?” (mx. 81017)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey

Tbn: Al Philburn  Tommy Dorsey

Reeds: Bobby Davis, Sam Ruby, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Vocal: Ed Kirkeby

____________________

 

New York: August 10 and 12, 1927

August 10: “Clementine” (mx. 81207) / “Nothin’ Does It Like It Used to Do-Do-Do” (mx. 81208)

August 12: “I Left My Sugar Standing in the Rain” (mx. 81219; originally scheduled for August 10 session)

 

Tpt: Chelsea Quealey

Tbn: Al Philburn  [none listed]

Reeds: Bobby Davis, Sam Ruby, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Note: The vocalist (Beth Challis) was not on Kirkeby’s payroll.

____________________

New York: November 3, 1927

“Blue Baby, Why Are You Blue?” (mx. 81772) / “Make My Cot Where the Cot-Cot-Cotton Grows” (mx. 81773) / “Is She My Girl Friend?” (mx. 81774)

 

Tpt: Henry Levine, Chelsea Quealey

Tbn: Al Philburn

Reeds: Bob Fallon, Pete Pumiglio, Spencer Clark

Pno: Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Note: The vocalist (Les Reis) was not on Kirkeby’s payroll.

Discographic Update: Corrected Personnel for Gennett 1926–1927 “Vagabonds” (California Ramblers) Sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s Payroll Books

We continue with our corrections to the undocumented (and thus, often very incorrect) personnel listings in Johnson & Shirley’s American Dance Bands on Films and Records, successor to Rust’s American Dance Band Discography.

The following listings, taken from Ed Kirkeby’s payroll books,  correct ADBFR’s speculative personnel for the California Ramblers’ 1926–1927 “Vagabonds” sessions at the Starr Piano Company’s Gennett studio in New York. Names in boldface are confirmed in the payroll books. Struck-out names are incorrect guesses that appear in ADBFR. Perhaps the most important correction to note is the absence of Tommy Dorsey on all of these records.

In addition to Ed Kirkeby’s “diaries” and payroll books (two separate sets of documents, which when merged provide a very complete picture of each session), we are using Perry Armagnac’s unpublished annotations, which were made with Mr. Kirkeby’s personal assistance in the early 1950s. At that time, Kirkeby was able to clear up some of the ambiguities in his files, which included providing full names for some of his lesser-known part-time musicians (generally, only last names were entered), and the instruments they played. In other cases, he was unable to recall full details; rather than guess (although in some cases the answers seem fairly obvious), we’ve listed those personnel as [?],  to avoid muddling the original data.

 

___________________________________________

New York: March 19, 1926

“Gimme a Little Kiss” (mxs. X-43) / “Could I? I Certainly Could (mx. X-44) / “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” (mx. X-45)

 

Tpts: Chelsea Quealy, Frank Cush  Leo McConville, Roy Johnston

Tbn: Abe Lincoln  George Troup

Reeds: Sam Ruby, Bobby Davis, Arnold Brillhart, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Irving Brodsky  F. Fabian Storey

Bjo: Tommy Felline  [?]

Percussion: Stan King  Herb Weil

Unknown instrument(s): [?] Deacon, [?] Frink

Note: The vocalist (Arthur Fields) was not on EK’s payroll.

____________________

New York: August 19, 1926

“Looking at the World Thru’ Rose Colored Glasses” (mx. X-227) / “On the Riviera” (mx. X-228) / “The Birth of the Blues” (mx. X-229 — Rejected per Gennett ledger; remade by Willie Creager’s Orchestra on X-259*)

 

Tpts: Frank Cush  Chelsea Quealy, Roy Johnston

Tbn: Tommy Dorsey  George Troup

Reeds: Arnold Brillhart, Bobby Davis, Sam Ruby, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Irving Brodsky  Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Unknown instrument(s): [?] Stark

* Musicians’ pay was reduced proportionally (to two titles from three) because X-229 was rejected. ADBFR’s claim that X-229 appeared on Champion 15079 is unconfirmed. If you have the Ramblers’ version of this record and can supply confirming photo and audio evidence, please let us know.

Kirkeby paid himself $26.65 for unspecified services on this session.

____________________

 

New York: “Seeley — Starr,” January 14, 1927

“College Girls” (—) / “Sam, the Old Accordion Man” (—)

It is not certain that this was a California Ramblers session. It is listed only in Kirkeby’s logbook; no corresponding entry has been found in his payroll book or the Gennett ledgers. Although it’s tempting to speculate this refers to Blossom Seeley, we’ve so far found no evidence to support that.

 

_____________________

New York: May 2, 1927

“I’m Back in Love Again” (mx. GEX-635) / “Yes She Do — No She Don’t” (mx. GEX-636) / “Sluefoot” (mx. GEX-637)

 

Tpts: Frank CushChelsea Quealy

Tbn: Tommy Dorsey  Edward Lapp

Reeds: Arnold Brillhart, Bobby Davis, Bob Fallon, Sam Ruby, Adrian Rollini

Pno: Irving Brodsky  Jack Russin

Bjo: Tommy Felline

Percussion: Herb Weil

Unknown instrument(s): [?] Black

Discography Update • Correct Personnel for Ted Wallace’s Campus Boys (1930 Columbia Sessions)

We continue with corrections to the Ed Kirkeby personnel listings found in Jazz Records (Rust) and American Dance Bands (Johnson & Shirley). The corrected data below, for the 1930 “Ted Wallace” dates at Columbia, are all from Kirkeby’s Payroll Book #4.

(For those not familiar with Kirkeby’s papers, there are two main components of discographical interest — the “dairies” (which we refer to in these postings as “session logs”) and the payroll books. “Diary” entries often made were before the actual sessions took place, and as such, they are not always reliable. The payroll books show which musicians were paid after each date, and thus can be taken as authoritative. Brian Rust (JR) apparently did have access to some of the “diaries” as claimed (and that information was recycled in ADB), but obviously neither he nor the Johnson-Shirley group consulted some of the payroll books.)

For comparison’s sake, we’ve also shown the JR and ADB personnel listings, with the erroneous guesses crossed-out. ADB gives very specific (albeit often incorrect) personnel, with no sources cited, although obviously not from the Kirkeby files. On the other hand, JR shows only a “collective personnel,” consisting of forty-one names comprising anyone even marginally connected with Kirkeby at the time (while managing to miss a number of musicians who actually were present) — proof of the axiom that if you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it’s bound to stick.

Here are our previous postings correcting the bad JR-ADB data using Kirkeby’s session logs and payroll books:

Correct Personnel and Dates for the California Ramblers’ 1929–1930 Grey Gull Sessions
Correct Personnel and Dates for the California Ramblers’ 1927–1928 Cameo Sessions
Correct Personnel for Grey Gull’s July 1926 “Little Pilgrims” Session (California Ramblers)
Correct Personnel for Gennett’s 1926 “Vagabonds” Sessions (California Ramblers)
Correct Personnel and Date for Crown’s 1930 “Lloyd Newton Varsity Eleven” Session
The Missing May 1931 Ed Kirkeby – Billy Murray Sessions (American Record Corp.)


TED WALLACE & HIS CAMPUS BOYS: Columbia, 1930 — Part 1

 New York: January 18, 1930

When You’re Smiling (mx. W 149782)
What Do I Care? (mx. W 149783)

Fred Van Eps, Jr. (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Purvis]

Frank Cush (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Chelsea Quealy]

Carl Loeffler (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ted Raph]

Pete Pumiglio (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Pete Pumiglio]

Paul Mason (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Paul Mason]

Carl Orrick [Orech] (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Harold Marcus]

Chauncey Gray (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Chauncey Gray]

Tommy Felline (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Tommy Felline]

Ward Lay (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ward Lay]

Stan King (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Stan King]


 

 New York: February 19, 1930

Get Happy  (mxs. W 149999 [Columbia], W 195080 [export], W 100366 [budget   labels], W 495022 [American Odeon-Parlophone])
Sweetheart Trail  (mx. W 150000 [Columbia], W 195083 [export], W 100363 [budget labels], W 405023 [American Odeon-Parlophone])

Don McCarter (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Jack Purvis]

(?) Condon (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Chelsea Quealy]

Herb Winfield (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Al Philburn]

Paul Mason (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Paul Mason]

Tommy Bohn (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Sam Ruby]

(?) Herbert (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Pete Pumiglio]

Tony Zangh (crossed out, with Zonchi substituted) (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Chauncey Gray]

Mike Poveromo (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Tommy Felline]

Tex Hurst (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ward Lay]

Herb Weil (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Stan King]

One of the Feldkamps was also paid $25 for this session (which Feldkamp, and in what capacity, are not noted)


 

New York: March 14, 1930

The Stein Song (mx. W 150088)
Telling It to the Daisies (mx. W 150089)

Don McCarter (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Leo McConville]

Tony Giannelli (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Fuzzy Farrar or Tommy Gott]

Carl Loeffler (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Tommy Dorsey]

Pete Pumiglio (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Pete Pumiglio]

Paul Mason (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: no second reed man listed]

Tommy Bohn (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: No third reed man listed]

Irving Brodsky (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Chauncey Gray]

Tommy Felline (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Tommy Felline]

Tex Hurst (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Joe Tarto]

Herb Weil (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Stan King]


 

New York: July 10, 1930

Hittin’ the Bottle (mx. W 150643)
Little White Lies (mx. W 150644)

Fred Van Eps, Jr. (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Jack Purvis]

Tony Giannelli (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: no second trumpet listed]

Carl Loeffler (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Carl Loeffler]

Joe Gillespie (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Pete Pumiglio]

Ed Blanchard (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Tommy Bohn]

Elmer Feldkamp (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Elmer Feldkamp]

Lew Cobey (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Lew Cobey]

Ed Sexton (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ed Sexton]

Ward Lay (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ward Lay]

Jack Powers (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Powers]


New York: August 12, 1930

Tomorrow Is Another Day (mx. W 150701)
Don’t Tell Her (What’s Happened to Me) (mx. W 150702, also dubbed to W 91937 and W 91938 as part of two radio-program transcriptions)

Jack Purvis (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Purvis]

(?) Osborne (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: no second trumpet listed]

Carl Loeffler (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Carl Loeffler]

Bobby Davis (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Pete Pumiglio]

Paul Mason (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Tommy Bohn]

Elmer Feldkamp (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Elmer Feldkamp]

Lew Cobey (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Lew Cobey]

Ed Sexton (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ed Sexton]

Ward Lay (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ward Lay]

Jack Powers (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Powers]


 

New York: September 23, 1930

My Baby Just Cares for Me (mx. W 150837)
Sweet Jennie Lee (mx. W 150838)

Jack Purvis (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Purvis]

Don McCarter (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: no second trumpet listed]

Carl Loeffler (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Carl Loeffler]

Bobby Davis (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Bobby Davis]

Tommy Bohn (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Tommy Bohn]

Pete Pumiglio (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Pete Pumiglio]

Lew Cobey (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Lew Cobey]

Ed Sexton (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ed Sexton]

Ward Lay (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ward Lay]

Jack Powers (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Powers]

The payroll book also lists “D. Dixon” without further identification.


New York: October 21, 1930 [no session log; date listed in payroll book only]

Fraternity Blues (mx. W 150894)
Football Medley (My Collegiate Man) (mx. W 150895)

Jack Purvis (trumpet)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Purvis]

— (second trumpet: none in payroll list)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Fred Van Eps, Jr.]

Carl Loeffler (trombone)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Carl Loeffler]

Bobby Davis (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Dick Dixon*]

Joe Gillespie (reeds)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: Joe Gillespie]

M. Dickson (violin)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Sam Hoffman and Sidney Harris]

Lew Cobey (piano)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Lew Cobey]

Ed Sexton (guitar)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ed Sexton]

Ward Lay (bass)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Ward Lay]

Jack Powers (drums)
[JR: “Collective” / ADB: probably Jack Powers]

*The last line of the payroll book entry, where singers usually were listed when used, shows “Dixon” (no first name), which normally was a pseudonym for vocalist Dick Robertson.


To be continued…

 

DISCOGRAPHY UPDATE • Personnel for Grey Gull’s July 1926 “Little Pilgrims” Session (California Ramblers)

This morning we add another “lost” session to the California Ramblers’ confirmed output, thanks to further foraging in Ed Kirkeby’s payroll books. This information does not appear in Jazz Records or the new edition of American Dance Bands — Kirkeby’s session log for this date seems to be missing (it’s absent from our copy, anyway), and the compilers of JR and ADB  apparently didn’t access the corresponding payroll book.

Oh, the dangers of “aural identification” — Jazz Records cites no instrumental personnel other than trumpeter Red Nichols who, as it turns out, was not present. Kirkeby paid his featured soloists extra, so at least based upon the pay rates shown below, it appears likely that Roy Johnston plays the trumpet solos  on these sides.


New York: Friday, July 23, 1926 — Grey Gull *

The Girl Friend (mx. 2023)
Hi Diddle Diddle (mx. 2025)
When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along (mx. 2024)
(Titles are shown above in the order listed by EK, not in mx-number order)

Personnel and payments, per Ed Kirkeby’s payroll book:

Ed Kirkeby — $44
Roy Johnston (trumpet) — $22
Frank Cush (trumpet) — $15
George Troup (trombone) — $15
Freddy Cusick (saxophone) — $15
Bobby Davis (saxophone) — $22
Sam Ruby (saxophone) — $15
Jimmy Pugliese (bass saxophone) — $15
Tommy Felline (banjo) — $20
Jack Russin (piano) — $15
Herb Weil (percussion) — $15

*Grey Gull was finally recording in its own studio by this time, after several years with Emerson.


 

Discography Update • Correct Identification and Personnel for “Lloyd Newton & his Varsity Eleven” (Crown, 1930)

Another long-standing mystery solved, thanks to band contractor Ed Kirkeby’s files. The guesswork personnel listings for “Lloyd Newton & his Varsity Eleven”  in Jazz Records and the new edition of American Dance Bands — the latter being basically just a re-run of the undocumented JR listing — should be disregarded. The group is actually Ed Kirkeby’s Orchestra; here are the correct personnel, studio location, and recording date (JR’s and ADB’s guesses are off by a month), from Mr. Kirkeby’s session and payroll files:

New York: November 17, 1930
Crown — Sol Kronberg — 122 5 [Fifth] Ave. — Date O.K.”

Mx. 1066 (St. Louis Blues)
Mx. 1067 (Sweet Jennie Lee)
Mx. 1068 (I Got Rhythm)

Personnel per Ed Kirkeby’s files: Jack Purvis, Fred Van Eps Jr. (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Bobby Davis, Joe Gillespie (reeds); (M.?) Dickson, Sidney Harris, Sam Hoffman (violins); Ed Sexton (guitar); Lew Cobey (piano); Ward Lay (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); Dick Dixon (usually a pseudonym for Dick Robertson), unidentified trio (vocals).

(Kirkeby listed this as a “Banner” session in his payroll book, perhaps from force of habit. Sol Kronberg, who is credited in the session log as shown above, was co-owner of the Plaza Music Company, which marketed Banner records until it was left out of the American Record Corporation merger in 1929. ARC kept the Banner brand, however, and Kronberg went on to launch Crown with several other Plaza executives.)


 

Correct Personnel for the California Ramblers’ Late 1927—Early 1928 Cameo Sessions (from Ed Kirkeby’s Files)

Some more corrections to American Dance Bands on Records and Film California Ramblers personnel listings, this time for the December 1927 and February 1928 Varsity Eight sessions for Cameo. The compilers somehow missed this material in California Ramblers manager W. T. “Ed” Kirkeby’s logbook and payroll records.

This also offers an object lesson on the dangers of “collective personnel” — a euphemism for “If you throw enough names at the wall, maybe a few might stick.” Here’s ADBFR’s “collective personnel” for these sessions. The names in boldface turned out to be correct guesses. We’ve crossed out the bad guesses (most notably, Tommy Dorsey), which make up the majority (64%) of the listing:

 .

Angie Rattiner, Al King, Mickey Bloom, Fred Van Eps Jr., Frank Cush (trumpets); Ted Raph, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Ferretti, Chuck Campbell (trombones); Pete Pumigilo, Carl Orech, Harold Marcus (clarinets, alto saxes); Sam Ruby (tenor sax); Spencer Clark (bass sax); Chauncey Gray or Jack Russin (piano); Tommy Felline (banjo, guitar); Herb Weil or Chick Condon (drums).

 .

And now, the actual personnel who were hired for these sessions, from Ed Kirkeby’s files. As usual, Kirkeby did not enter first names or instruments; we’ve inserted the first names [in brackets] and usual instruments (in parentheses) of musicians who appear in his payroll records for this period. Musicians missing from ADBFR’s “collective personnel” are in underlined red type:

 .

December 1, 1927 (Cameo mxs. 2715 – 2717) — [Chelsea] Quealy, [Henry] Levine (trumpets); [Al] Philburn (trombone); [Pete] Pumiglio, [Bob] Fallon (reeds); Jack Russin (piano); [/?] Mahoney (banjo); [Hank] Stern (bass); [Herb] Weil (percussion)
.

February 3, 1928 (Cameo mxs. 2857 – 2859) — [Henry] Levine, [Fred] Van Eps [Jr.] (trumpets); [Al] Philburn (trombone); Bob Montgomery [first name listed in this case], [Sam] Ruby (saxophones); [Chauncey] Grey (piano); Joe La Faro (violin); [Tommy] Felline (banjo, guitar); [Hank] Stern (bass); [Herb] Weil (percussion)

More to come…