Clarence Williams: Newspaper Highlights (1922 – 1965)

Clarence Williams: Newspaper Highlights (1922 – 1965)

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Advertisement for Clarence Williams’ first record, on the C&S label (1922). The C&S Phonograph Record Company was a short-lived venture of Thomas Chappelle and Juanita Stinnette Chappelle, who encouraged Williams to marry singer Eva Taylor.

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With Sara Martin, one of Okeh’s early race-series stars
(June 1923)

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With wife Eva Taylor (July 1923)

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“Papa De-Da-Da” was among the Blue Five sides featuring
Louis Armstrong. (July 1925)

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A vocal release by Williams and Clarence Todd, here misspelled “Dood.” Todd, along with Eva Taylor, was a member of the Clarence Williams Trio, which broadcast regularly for several years. (July 1925)

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Williams was Okeh’s New York studio workhorse in the mid-1920s. Here, his Blue Five accompany a young Sippie Wallace. (August 1925)

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New York (June 1926)

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Williams’ ill-fated Bottomland opened on June 27, 1927, and closed after only nineteen performances.

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New York Age (January 3, 1953). Member of the Clarence Williams Trio pictured above are (left to right) are Williams, Eva Taylor, and Clarence Todd.

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Working the New York clubs (1951 and 1955)

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.     New York (November 9, 1965)

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And a sampling from Williams’ tremendous recorded output:

 

CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ ORCHESTRA: Jingles

New York: October 1927
Paramount 12587 (mx. 2882 – 2)
Featuring Coleman Hawkins, on loan from Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra

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CLARENCE WILLIAMS & HIS BOTTOMLAND ORCHESTRA:
Slow River (export version)

New York: June 7, 1927
Brunswick (German) A-457 (mx. E 23502)
The standard version (mx. E 23500) includes vocal chorus by Evelyn Thompson (Preer).

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CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ WASHBOARD FIVE (Williams, vocal):
Walk That Broad

New York: September 26, 1928
Okeh 8629 (mx. W 40115 – A)

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CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ JAZZ KINGS: The Keyboard Express

New York: August 1, 1928
Columbia 14348-D (mx. W 146825 – 3)

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CLARENCE WILLIAMS & HIS ORCHESTRA (as Memphis Jazzers): Close Fit Blues

New York: March 1929
Van Dyke 7801 (Grey Gull mx. 3394 – B)

The Phonograph – Lamp Combinations (1920s)

The Phonolamp was one of the early hybrids. The Electric Phonograph Corporation (New York) filed its trademark application on June 28, 1918, claiming use of the Phonolamp since “approximately” April 1, 1917. Several models were produced, including one mounted on a pole. Phonolamp also briefly marketed its own record label in 1921, mainly using masters from Grey Gull. The example above  was originally issued on Grey Gull L-1045 (mx. 11117).

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Modernola was another early combo producer. It filed its first trademark application on November 8, 1918, claiming use of the brand since August 5, 1918 (a later filing claimed July 1918 for first use). Unlike most hybrids, which used electric motors, this model used the traditional spring motor.

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One of the gaudiest phono-lamp combinations, Lampagraph advertised heavily during 1920–1921, but information on its manufacturer is lacking.

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Another obscure combination, the Fairy Phonograph Lamp also advertised during 1920–1921.

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If you enjoyed these ads, be sure to check out Vintage Phonograph Advertisements 1895–1925, available exclusively from Mainspring Press while supplies last:

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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.


 

The Playlist • Harlem Bands on Grey Gull (1929–1930)

More hot black groups from the notoriously cheap Grey Gull label. Actual identities of these pseudonymous groups and their members remain unknown; some personnel listed in Jazz Records and derivative or similar works (including the tin-eared notion that several of GG’s usual white studio hacks are present) have been pretty well debunked in recent years. However, it does seem likely that J.C. Johnson, Porter Grainger, and Claude Austin were at least peripherally involved with the August 1929, November 1929, and January 1930 recordings, respectively, as they composed all titles recorded at those sessions.

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MSP_GG-1767-1803-comp.

MOONLIGHT REVELERS: Memphis Stomp

New York: c. August 1929
Grey Gull 1786  (mx. 3607– A)

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MOONLIGHT REVELERS: Baby Knows How

New York: c. August 1929
Grey Gull 1767 (mx. 3608 – B)

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JAZZOPATORS: Don’t Know and Don’t Care

New York: c. November 1929
Grey Gull 1803  (mx. 3741-A)

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MEMPHIS JAZZERS: Ev’rybody Dance

New York: c. November 1929
Grey Gull 1816 (mx. 3742 – B)

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MEMPHIS JAZZERS: Miss Golden Brown

New York: c. November 1929
Grey Gull 1805 (mx. 3743 – B)

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MEMPHIS JAZZERS: In Harlem’s Araby

New York: c. November 1929
Grey Gull 1804 (mx. 3744 – B)

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LEVEE SYNCOPATORS: The Rackett

New York: c. January 1930
Grey Gull 1843 (mx. 3843 – B)

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NEW ORLEANS PEPSTERS: The Harlem Stomp Down

New York: c. January 1930
Van Dyke 81836 [ = Grey Gull 1836]  (mx. 3844 – A)

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Grey Gull Discovery: GG Masters in the Columbia Vaults (1953)

MSP_GG-logoWhere did the Grey Gull masters go? It’s been a tantalizing question for decades, and some pretty far-fetched theories have been put forth. But as it turns out, an obscure unpublished Columbia vault listing, recently discovered among the Bill Bryant papers, has held the answer all this time.

The listing was compiled in 1953, after Columbia employee Harry Flynn discovered a large cache of masters in the Bridgeport vault that had come from the Scranton Record (née Button) Company — a major independent pressing plant, which had gobbled up many failed record companies in the 1920s and early 1930s. For nearly two decades Scranton was the manufacturing arm of the Plaza / American Record Corporation group, the latter having been officially acquired by CBS on January 1, 1939.

Flynn allowed another CBS employee to make a partial listing of the non-Columbia masters, apparently without the knowledge or blessings of Columbia archivist Helene Chmura. In October 1955, the now-former Columbia employee (whom we won’t name, as he may still be alive) forwarded the list to researcher Walter C. Allen, with a request that it not be made public, “for it was ‘lifted’ while I was an employee!” Allen honored the request, and as a result, the final disposition of Grey Gull’s masters has remained a guessing-game, until now.

The list includes masters from Arto, Emerson, Federal, and Plaza — all of whose assets were acquired by Scranton — as well as the early “LL-” prefixed National Music Lovers masters and even some early-1920s Paramount masters with Bridgeport Die & Machine (Puritan) markings. (Scranton also held 50 late Paramount masters by some outstanding blues artists for a time, but that’s another story, which you’ll find in Paramount’s Rise and Fall.)

How masters from all of these companies came to reside with Scranton is easily explainable, given the in-depth knowledge we now have of the 1920s recording industry. But there was one totally unexpected surprise — A large number of electrically recorded Grey Gull masters, beginning with # 2728 and ending at # 3643. (The list was a random sampling, so the actual range could have been wider.) There had been a Grey Gull – Emerson – Scranton link until early 1926, when GG opened its own studio and pressing plant — But the masters in the Columbia vault dated from late 1927 through approximately September 1929, long after that link had been severed; and none of those listed had been leased to Emerson, which remained a Scranton customer but occasionally issued Grey Gull recordings in the later 1920s. Material on the list ranges from pop vocals and the usual studio bands to country and jazz. Complete sets of takes (some running as high as -D and -E) were preserved.

From this, it appears certain that Scranton ended up with a least a goodly portion of the electrical Grey Gull masters, if not all of them. Have any of these masters survived in the Columbia archives (now owned by Sony)? Pretty doubtful, given the material’s lack of commercial value, and CBS’s merciless master-scrappings at Bridgeport in the early 1960s; but hope springs eternal. We’re currently in contact with Sony staff to see if anything, including any original file documentation that might have come along with the masters, has survived. Stay tuned….

 

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

Sorry to report that the personnel listings for the California Ramblers’ 1929–1930 Grey Gull sessions in American Dance Bands on Record and Film (the $600 successor to Brian Rust’s American Dance Band Discography) are seriously in error.

The compilers don’t say where their information came from, but it certainly wasn’t from the one unimpeachable source in this case: Ramblers manager Ed Kirkeby himself, who maintained meticulous logbooks detailing all recording sessions with which he was involved. So, to set the record straight, here are the actual correct personnel — which in some cases bear only a slight resemblance to those undocumented listings in ADB — directly from Mr. Kirkeby’s files:

 

July 30, 1929 — Grey Gull mxs. 3559–3561

ADB misattributes this session to a “Grey Gull studio orchestra,” “with a sound not unlike the California Ramblers.” All recordings were issued pseudonymously. The titles, as confirmed in Ed Kirkeby’s files, are:

Maybe! Who Knows? (mx. 3559 — Grey Gull 1746, et al.)
Sweetness (mx. 3560 — Grey Gull 1752, et al.)
Little Pal (mx. 3561 — Grey Gull 1756, et al.)

Personnel for this session, from Kirkeby’s files, are:

Chelsea Quealey, Fred Van Eps, Jr. (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); “Pete” [presumably Pumiglio], Harold Marcus (saxophones); Chauncey Gray (piano); Al Duffy (violin); Tommy Felline (banjo/guitar); Ward Lay (bass); Stan King (percussion); Smith Ballew (vocal, with unnamed others). Kirkeby paid Dick Morgan $20 for this session, for reasons unstated.

 

December 27, 1929 — Grey Gull mxs. 3804– 3807

ADB personnel listing is “collective” (i.e., all likely names were tossed into the pot, in the hope that at least some might apply), with no source cited. The exact session personnel, from Kirkeby’s files, are:

Fred Van Eps, Jr. (first trumpet); Frank Cush (second trumpet); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Paul Mason (tenor saxophone) “Pete” [presumably Pumiglio] (first alto saxophone); “Carl” [presumably Orech] (second alto saxophone); Sid Harris (violin); “Gross” [Gray?] (piano); Tommy Felline (banjo, guitar); Ward Lay (string bass); Stan King (percussion); Smith Ballew (vocal with two unnamed others, presumably band members)

 

January 24, 1930 — Grey Gull mxs. 3855– 3857

ADB personnel list is “collective,” with no source cited. The exact session personnel, from Kirkeby’s files, are:

Fred Van Eps, Jr., Tony Gianelli (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Carl Orech] (saxophone); Paul Mason (tenor saxophone); Harold Marcus (alto saxophone); Sid Harris (violin); illegible, possibly [Chauncey] Gray (piano); Tommy Felline (banjo, guitar); Ward Lay (string bass); [?] Dale (percussion); Smith Ballew (vocal). The accordionist is not listed in Kirkeby’s log, suggesting that he was supplied by the studio.

 

February 24, 1930 — Grey Gull mxs. 3913–3915

ADB personnel list (source not cited) is largely incorrect. The correct session personnel, from Kirkeby’s files, are:

Angie Rattiner (first trumpet); Tony Giannelli (second trumpet); Pete Pumiglio, Paul Mason, Tommy Bohn (“first,” “second,” and “third” saxophones, in that order); Lloyd Turner (trombone); Irving Brodsky (piano); Joe La Faro (violin); Tommy Felline (banjo/guitar); Tex Hurst (bass); Herb Weil (percussion). The vocalist is not listed in Kirkeby’s log, suggesting that he was supplied by the studio.

 

May 12, 1930 — Grey Gull mxs. 4059, 4060

ADB personnel list (source not cited) is largely incorrect. The correct session personnel, from Ed Kirkeby’s files, are:

Jack Purvis (trumpet); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Pete Pumiglio, Paul Mason, Tommy Bohn (saxophones); Irving Brodsky (piano); Scoop Thompson (Tomson in file) (guitar); Tex Hurst (bass); Jack Powers (percussion); “Moore” (no further details); Scrappy Lambert (vocal)

 

June 12, 1930 — Grey Gull mxs. 4095– 4098

ADB personnel list (source not cited) is almost entirely incorrect. The correct session personnel, from Ed Kirkeby’s files, are:

Fred Van Eps, Jr., Tony Giannelli (trumpets); Carl Loeffler (trombone); Ed Blanchard, Joe Gillespie, Nye Mayhew (saxophones); Lew Cobey (piano); Ed Sexton, guitar; Ward Lay (string bass); Joe Powers (percussion); Elmer Feldkamp (vocal, with unnamed others, presumably band members)

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