Red Nichols’ Early Years: A Clipping Archive (1911 – 1926)

Red Nichols’ Early Years: A Clipping Archive
(1911 – 1926)


Ogden, Utah, March 1911


Ogden, Utah, December 1920


Ogden, Utah, September 1921


Brigham City, Utah, February 1922


Brigham City, Utah, September 1922. Nichols’ 1922 stay with Paul Whiteman is virtually undocumented, and there is no evidence that he made any recordings with the band at that time. He rejoined Whiteman in 1927 but left after approximately five weeks.


Fort Wayne, Indiana, January 1923. The Syncopating Five made several Gennett specials in Richmond, Indiana, in November 1922 (private recordings paid for by the performers and not listed in the Gennett catalog). “Dore” is Clyde Doerr, whose orchestra made some unremarkable Victor records in 1922.


Indianapolis, May 1924. The personnel listed here differ somewhat from the listing in Brian Rust’s Jazz Records and derivative works, which don’t cite their sources.


Scranton, Pennsylvania, January 1925 (with Lanin’s name  misspelled). Among the members of the Scranton Sirens was clarinetist Jimmy Dorsey, whom Nichols tapped for his Five Pennies in 1926.


Nichols with the Earl Carroll’s Vanities orchestra (Pittsburgh, September 1925). This was the band’s initial line-up; personnel changed considerably over the course of the show’s run.


Hartford, Connecticut, July 1926. There had been frequent personnel changes in the Vanities band by this time, including the substitution of Don Voorhees for Ross Gorman as director. Nichols’ first Five Pennies line-up was drawn largely from this group (note the misspelling of Miff Mole as “Miff Molso”).



Some Early Red Nichols Favorites



New York: May 13, 1925
Cameo 741 (mx. 1448 – C)



New York: October 13, 1926
Edison 51854 (mx. 11246 – C)



New York: December 8, 1926
Brunswick 3407 (mx. E 20995)


The Playlist • Dick Justice (1929)



DICK JUSTICE: Brown Skin Blues

Chicago: May 20, 1929
Brunswick 336 (mx. C 3515 – )



Chicago: May 21, 1929
Brunswick 367 (mx. C 3521 – )



Chicago: May 20, 1929
Brunswick 395 (mx. C 3516 – )

Selected takes are not noted in the Brunswick ledger nor visible in the pressings. “Cocaine” is a word-for-word cover of the Luke Jordan song, which Jordan recorded two years earlier for Victor. Whether Justice (a white performer from West Virginia) was in some way associated with Jordan (a black performer from central Virginia), or simply copied it from the record, remains a tantalizing mystery.


The Playlist • Bill Brown & his Brownies: Complete Recordings (1927, 1929)

MSP_brown-b_composite(Top) Chicago Defender ad for the Vocalion version of “Bill Brown’s Blues” (sic; the possessive form doesn’t  appear on the labels or in the Brunswick files). The Vocalion uses the same master as the Brunswick release (renumbered as E 6444, assigned on September 9, 1927), but has a different coupling.

(Bottom) The very rare alternate take of “Hot Lips” (mx. E 21990), showing the telltale “90” at the three-o’clock position.




New York: March 17, 1927
Brunswick 7003 (mx. E 21986)




New York: March 17, 1927
Brunswick 7003 (mx. E 21989)



New York: March 17, 1927
Brunswick 7003 (mx. E 21990)
This very rare take is shown in error as unissued in Laird’s Brunswick Records Discography (Greenwood Press), although listed correctly in Rust’s Jazz Records. We found this copy a few years ago in an Englewood, Colorado, thrift store.


BILL BROWN & HIS BROWNIES (Ovie Alston, vocal): Zonky

New York: December 26, 1929
Brunswick 7142 (mx. 31743 – A or –B*)


BILL BROWN & HIS BROWNIES: What Kind of Rhythm Is That?

New York: December 26, 1929
Brunswick 7142 (mx. 31744 – A or –B*)

*The selected takes are not shown in the surviving Brunswick files or on inspected pressings.


Branding 78’s: The Impresad (1922)

If you’ve ever wondered how those circular dealer ads ended up on the inner rims of 78s, here’s the answer (from The Talking Machine World for November 1922) — the Impresad. In our admittedly very informal survey, these stamps seem to turn up most often on Brunswick, which also had its main office on South Wabash, just three blocks away from W. H. Wade. The the device was handled in Canada by the Musical Merchandise Sales Co., Brunswick’s Canadian distributor, and there’s even an uncanny resemblance between the two company’s logos.


The Hoxie Pallophotophone (1922) — Roots of the Brunswick “Light-Ray” System

This article from the December 1922 Wireless Age is one of the earliest explanations of Charles Hoxie’s Pallophotophone electrical recording system. At this early stage it was being used to make optical sound recordings on film, but Hoxie noted that the system could easily be adapted to conventional disc recording.

The Victor Talking Machine Company experimented with the device beginning on December 8, 1922, under the supervision of in-house engineer Albertis Hewitt. After two weeks of testing, Victor management rejected it. The breakthrough for Hoxie came in 1925, when the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company — faced with Columbia’s and Victor’s strangle-hold on the new Western Electric system — turned to the Pallophotophone (which it promptly renamed the “Light-Ray” system) out of sheer desperation. Badly flawed, it was replaced with a more conventional system in 1927, but in the meantime the Pallophotophone allowed Brunswick to compete with the new Columbia and Victor electrical recordings.

Recording the ‘Twenties (available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries) includes four chapters detailing the conversion to electrical recording.


Cleveland’s Bessie Brown Signs with Brunswick (1928)

There were three Bessie Browns on records in the 1920s, two of them apparently New York–area singers. The last of the three to record worked in Cleveland and signed with Brunswick in 1928. This announcement appeared in the March 1928 Talking Machine World:

bessiebrown-bwk“Chloe” was a  straightforward rendition with conventional orchestral accompaniment. The reverse is also a commercial pop tune, by Irving Berlin, but is interesting for its piano accompanist, who unfortunately wasn’t named on the labels or in the Brunswick files:″

BESSIE BROWN (with unknown pianist): Someone Else May Be There While I’m Gone

Chicago: January 24, 1928
Brunswick 3817  (mx. C 1673)