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sets of documents, which when merged provide a very complete picture of each session), we are using Perry Armagnac’s unpublished annotations, which were made with Mr.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

Three ARSC 2015 Awards for Mainspring Press Books: Eli Oberstein, Victor Special Labels, Ajax Records

We’re honored to announce that three Mainspring Press titles have received 2015 awards from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Details and secure online ordering are available on the Mainspring Press website.

The ARSC Award for Excellence—Best Label Discography went to Eli Oberstein’s United States Record Corporation: A History and Discography, 1939–1940:

cover-USRC

2015 Certificates of Merit were awarded to The Victor Discography: Special Labels, 1928–1941; and Ajax Records: A History and Discography:

COVER_victor-specialsAJAX-COVER-x252

ORDER SOON if you’re interested in Oberstein or Victor Special Labels. Both titles have been on the market for a while, so supplies are running low (and in addition, there’s recently been a big library run on USRC). We won’t be reprinting either title once our current supplies are gone.

Sorry, Ajax has already sold out (it was a 2013 title — the wheels sometimes turn very slowly at ARSC), although we might consider reprinting this one if there’s sufficient interest — Let us know.

The Playlist • Kansas City Blues: Lottie Kimbrough Beaman (1924 and 1928)

CHAMP_15636-beaman.

LOTTIE BEAMAN (Acc. by Milas & Miles Pruitt): Honey Blues

Chicago: c. March 1924
Paramount 12201  (mx. 1695 – 1)

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LOTTIE BEAMAN (Acc. by Jimmy Blythe, piano; unknown, banjo): Mama Can’t Lose

Chicago: October 1924
Paramount  12235  (mx. 1904 – 1)

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LOTTIE BEAMAN, as LOTTIE EVERSON (possibly acc. by Miles Pruitt, guitar):
Rolling Log Blues

Richmond, IN:  August 21, 1928
Champion 15636  (mx. 14162)

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LOTTIE BEAMAN, as LOTTIE EVERSON (possibly acc. by Miles Pruitt, guitar):
Going Away Blues

Richmond, IN:  August 21, 1928
Champion 15591  (mx. 14163-A)
The accompanist for this session is not listed in the Gennett ledger. Pruitt is listed as “probable” in Dixon, Godrich & Rye’s Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943.

Discographical Update • Re-Dating the Kid Ory “Sunshine” Recordings (1922)

MSP_sunshine-3003-B

KID ORY’S CREOLE JAZZ BAND (as Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra): Society Blues

Santa Monica, CA: c. Late May, 1922
Sunshine 3003 (label pasted over Nordskog 3009)

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Kid Ory’s Nordskog / Sunshine title are important as the first issued recordings by a black New Orleans band. For decades, they have been listed in the standard discographies as the product of a single June 1922 session (others list 1921, which will be ruled out below). However, evidence in The Chicago Defender suggests that there were actually two dates involved: One session, c. early April 1922, for singers Ruth Lee and Roberta Dudley, accompanied by Ory’s band; and a second session, c. late May 1922, for the two Ory band sides.

There have been many conflicting anecdotal accounts of the business arrangement between the Spikes brothers and Nordskog. What is known for certain is that the records were pressed a continent away, at the Arto Company plant on Orange, New Jersey. A portion of the pressing run was allocated to the Nordskog label; the balance (5,000 copies, according to Reb Spikes’ recollections) were to have Sunshine labels pasted over the Nordskog originals, for sale by the Spikes Brothers’ music shop in Los Angeles. All three Sunshine releases also appeared in the Nordskog catalog, using Nordskog’s own catalog numbers and artist credits (Ory’s band became “Spikes Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra” on Nordskog)  — rebutting the assertion in at least one classic-jazz history that all of the Nordskog specimens are simply Sunshine issues from which the Sunshine label have fallen off. (The Sunshine labels often do peel away to varying degrees, particularly at the edges, but not very cleanly.)

Several published accounts have claimed that Andrae Nordskog  made the Ory recordings during a single session in his living room in 1921 — a colorful tale, but nothing more. The 1921 date has long-since been debunked, with 1922 now well-established, and Nordskog’s storefront Santa Monica studio was operating by that time. Reb Spikes recalled in a 1951 interview that the Ory recordings were made in that studio.

Local cabaret-blues singers Ruth Lee and Roberta Dudley appeared on the first Sunshine releases, backed by members of Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band from the Creole Cafe in Oakland, California. The Chicago Defender for May 22, 1922, confirmed that Lee and Dudley had already recorded “Maybe Someday” and “Krooked Blues,” respectively, which the paper reported were expected to release on or about June 1. [1] We know from comparing confirmed Arto recording dates (listed in Ed Kirkeby’s logs) to those records’ release dates that the Arto pressing plant’s usual production cycle was six to eight weeks from receipt of masters to release (about average for the period). Add another five or six days for master shipment by rail from LA to New Jersey, and five or six more days for return of the finished pressings, and early April 1922 becomes the most likely recording date.

The projected June 1 release turned out to have been an accurate prediction. The Defender reported that on June 2, the Spikes Brothers hosted a gala event at the Gaumet Auditorium in Los Angeles to celebrate the first two Sunshine releases. After a lengthy program, the Sunshine artists finally took the stage. Ragtime Billy Tucker, the Defender’s California correspondent, reported:

“Hon. Frederick M. Roberts, member of the California legislature, thanked the audience on behalf of the Spikes Bros. while the stage was being set for Kid Ory’s famous Creole band, which made the first records for the Spikes Bros. The band offered a number from the pen of Mr. Ory, entitled, “Ory’s Creole Trombone.” Then they played “Maybe Some Day,” which was successfully featured by Miss Ruth Lee, who is after the laurels of Mamie Smith… Dainty little Roberta Dudley was the next little “mite” of personality to grace the boards. She rendered the “Krooked Blues”… She started a panic with her number, and it was a long time before she could break into the song, the applause came so fast.” [2]

Note that although the title of one Ory band releases is mentioned (“Ory’s Creole Trombone”), there’s no mention of it having yet been recorded. The reason can be found in a May 27 Defender report that the Spikes Brothers a week earlier had “sent to Oakland for ‘Kid Ory’s Famous Creole Jazz Band’ to make their first records,” presumably meaning the first records in their own right, rather than in just an accompanying role. (The same article repeats that Dudley and Lee had already recorded their numbers — further proof that these could not have been June recordings).

The earliest mention we’ve found of the Ory band release (Sunshine 3003) is in the Defender for July 29, 1922. [3] Using the same turnaround time outlined above, that fits perfectly with a late May recording session. In addition, there was a production error on this release that did not occur with the earlier releases (the Sunshine labels were not applied at the factory, requiring the Spikes brothers to apply them by hand), suggesting the records were not pressed at the same time as the two vocal releases.

Based on the above evidence, we feel that two separate sessions were involved for the 1922 Ory recordings, for which the following are more accurate dates than the customarily cited June 1922:

Santa Monica, CA: c. Early April 1922 (released June 1, 1922)
Roberta Dudley, acc. by Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band:

Krooked Blues / When You’re Alone Blues
Nordskog 3007, Sunshine 3001

Santa Monica, CA: c. Early April 1922 (released June 1, 1922)
Ruth Lee, acc. by Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band:

Maybe Someday / That Sweet Something, Dear
Nordskog 3008, Sunshine 3002

Santa Monica, CA: c. Late May 1922 (released August, 1922)
Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band:
Ory’s Creole Trombine / Society Blues
Nordskog 3009 (as Spikes Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra)
Sunshine 3003 (as Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra)


[1] Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (May 27, 1922), p. 8.
[2] Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (June 24, 1922), p. 8.
[3] Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (July 29, 1922), p. 6.

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.)


 

The Playlist • More Forgotten Vaudevillians: Bert Williams’ Imitators (1921–1924)

MSP_OK-434-B_brooks.

SHELTON BROOKS: Murder in the First Degree

New York: c. April 1921 — Released: July 1921
Okeh 4340 (mx. S 7878 – A)
With “Rega Orchestra” (Okeh studio orchestra conducted by Fred Hager)

Neither F. Wallace Rega nor Milo Rega were actual recording artists or conductors, contrary to some discographies.“F. Wallace Rega” was a pseudonym for Fred Hager, as confirmed in the federal Catalog of Copyright Entries. “Milo Rega” was a composite alias (“Justin Milo” being a pseudonym for Justin Ring, which in turn was the professional name of Justus Ringleben), as disclosed in the same source.

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HAM TREE HARRINGTON: Nobody Never Let Me In on Nothin’

New York: March 11, 1924 — Released: June 1924
Brunswick 2588 (mx. 12674, 12675, or 12676*)
With uncredited orchestra (conductor unlisted in files)

*The selected take is not shown on the pressings or in the Brunswick files.

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EDDIE HUNTER (piano by C. LUCKEYTH “LUCKEY” ROBERTS): Hard Times

Camden, NJ: November 16, 1923 — Released: July 18, 1924; Deleted: 1926
Victor 19359 (mx. B 28897 – 2)

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Capsule Biographies from the Mainspring Press Website:

Shelton Brooks
Shelton Brooks, with his prodigious skill as a songwriter and two successful decades on stage, is an undeservedly forgotten pioneer in black entertainment. Born in Amherstburg, Ontario (not Amesburg, as cited in Rust’s Complete Entertainment Discography) in 1886, Brooks left school in the early 1900s to play piano in Detroit cafes. His first break as a songwriter came when Sophie Tucker introduced his composition, “Some of these Days,” which she recorded in 1911 (Amberol 691). Over the next decade, Brooks wrote a string of hits that included “There’ll Come a Time” (1911), “Ruff Johnson’s Harmony Band” (1914), “The Darktown Strutter’s Ball” (1916), “Walkin’ the Dog” (1917), and “Saturday” (1921). By 1915, Brooks was touring successfully on the Keith and Orpheum vaudeville circuits as a Williams mimic.

In 1922 Brooks was featured as the master of ceremonies in Plantation Revue with Florence Mills (opened July 17, 1922). A European tour with Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds — including a royal command performance before George V — followed in 1923, but in November of that year Brooks returned to the United States. He co-starred with Ham Tree Harrington and Florence Mills in the Broadway production of Dixie to Broadway (opened October 29, 1924). A review of the show in The Messenger for January 1925 predicted that Brooks was “in a fair way to surpass the late Bert Williams, if he can find a producer who can keep him at work and give him his head.”

Apparently, Brooks didn’t find that producer, and he began to fade from public notice after his Okeh recording contract ended in late 1926. There were more vaudeville appearances, including a 1928 tour with band leader Ollie Powers, but in 1931 Brooks made his final appearance in a Broadway musical, a long-running production of Brown Buddies (opened October 7, 1930), with Bill Robinson, Adelaide Hall, and Ada Brown. He died in 1975.

Okeh released 27 sides by Brooks from early 1921 through late 1926 that ran the gamut from comic routines to Williams-style recitations of his own songs and included one race-series release (Okeh 8062) with blues singer Sara Martin. In March 1922, the Chicago Defender announced that Brooks and several other popular black stars would make Echo records as soon as their current contracts expired. But no Echo records, by Brooks or anyone else, have ever surfaced.

Ham Tree Harrington
A diminutive and sometimes cantankerous individual, Ham Tree Harrington developed a following in the Harlem nightclubs, billing himself as “The Pint-Sized Bert Williams.” Louis Hooper, pianist and mainstay of the Elmer Snowden and Bob Fuller bands in the 1920s, recalled Harrington’s ongoing feud with cornet star Johnny Dunn in a 1966 Record Research interview: “Now Johnny was no trouble maker…but there was something on his mind he didn’t like about Ham Tree, and Harrington knew it. Dunn got up and…said something to Harrington. Ham Tree stood up and WHAM! He hit him! The next day they were still ribbing each other.”

After several years in vaudeville, Harrington got a major break with a starring role in the 1922 Broadway productions of Strut Miss Lizzie. Another feature role followed in 1924’s Dixie to Broadway with Shelton Brooks and Florence Mills, about which the New York Post commented, “Harrington pulls off one of his most original pantomimes of ghost-fright seen in a long day…it is effective beyond words.” Despite good reviews, Harrington returned to club and vaudeville work and didn’t appear in another Broadway musical until the ill-fated 1930 production of J.C. Johnson’s Change Your Luck, in which he co-starred with Alberta Hunter for all 17 performances.

Eddie Hunter
Thanks to his association with Alex Rogers (Williams’ collaborator as far back as 1900), Eddie Hunter is more closely linked to Bert Williams than the other performers listed here.

Hunter seems to have appeared on the scene suddenly, first attracting notice in 1923 for his starring role in the Broadway production of How Come? He also wrote the show’s libretto, which was criticized at the time for borrowing too liberally from Sissle & Blake’s Shuffle Along. The show opened on April 16, 1923 to generally poor reviews and ran for only 32 performances. The New York Sun huffed, “It’s getting dark on Broadway. But not very dark, as the young people who make up the personnel of How Come? have hardly the shade of darkness.”

Hunter’s next Broadway appearance came with newcomer Adelaide Hall in My Magnolia during the summer of 1925. Reviewers liked Hunter and Hall but weren’t enthusiastic about the show itself, which closed after only four performances. Hunter did not make another Broadway appearance until Blackbirds of 1933, in which he starred with Edith Wilson and Bill (Bojangles) Robinson. The show opened on December 2, 1933 but survived for only 25 performances.  More Eddie Hunter recordings…

The Playlist • Some Forgotten Vaudevillians (1921–1925)

MSP_gennett-5111B-8282.

MR. O’CONNELL (as BILLY REYNOLDS): I Got It (The Fidg-e-ty Fidge)

New York (master shipment date): March 17, 1923
Gennett 5111 (mx. 8282 – A)
With uncredited orchestra

A mystery artist — We’re going out on a limb here by lumping whoever this is in with the vaudevillians, but his style certainly suggests some stage experience. The Gennett log sheet attributes this only to a “Mr. O’Connell” (not M. J. O’Connell, based on the aural evidence), and the record was issued under the equally obscure name of “Billy Reynolds.” Anyone know anything about him?

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EDDIE NELSON: I’ve Got the Joys

New York — Released October 1921
Emerson 10426 (mx. 41919 – 3)
With studio orchestra probably directed by Arthur Bergh

 

MSP_nelson-eddie_1925.
Eddie Nelson (1894–1940; not to be confused with song-writer Ed G. Nelson) was a California native who toured in vaudeville with a succession of partners. His first major role in a musical comedy was in the 1921 production of “Sun-Kist” (Globe Theater, New York), from which he took his nickname. Nelson was a hit in London in 1927, where a reviewer opined, “He is starring at a very big salary…and evidently jusitifies it.” He made one Vitaphone short in 1928, and additional single-reelers in the 1930s as “Sun-Kist Nelson.”

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JANE GREEN: Somebody Like You

New York: January 30, 1925 — Released April 24, 1925; Deleted 1926
Victor 19604 (mx. B 31451 – 6)
With studio orchestra directed by Nathaniel Shilkret

green-jane-2Another California native, Jane Green got her start as a child actress in Los Angeles, toured in vaudeville as a teenager, then headlined at the major New York houses from 1918 into the late 1920s. Her Broadway credits include “The Century Revue” and “The Midnight Rounders” (1920), “Nifites of 1923,” and various editions of the “Grenwich Village Follies.” She began broadcasting over station WOR (Newark, NJ) in 1925.

Photo from the G. G. Bain Collection, Library of Congress

 

The Playlist • More Billy Murray Favorites (1910–1915)

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AMERICAN QUARTET (BILLY MURRAY, lead tenor): That Fellow with the Cello Rag

Camden, NJ: April 4, 1911
Victor 5844 (mx. B 9946 – 5)
Released: June 1911
With studio orchestra (conductor unlisted in files)

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BILLY MURRAY: Shaky Eyes

Camden, NJ: May 16, 1910
Victor 16504 (mx. B 8959 – 2)
Released: August 1910 — Deleted: May 1913
With studio orchestra (conductor unlisted in files)

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BILLY MURRAY: Eskimo Rag

Camden, NJ: June 17, 1912
Victor 17166 (mx. B 12112 – 2)
Released: November 1912 — Deleted: November 1914
With studio orchestra (conductor unlisted in files)

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BILLY MURRAY: The Magic Melody

Camden, NJ: May 7, 1915
Victor 17790 (mx. B 16004 -2)
Released: July 1915 — Deleted: January 1920
With studio orchestra (Ted Levy, conductor)

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Discographical data from the original Victor files, courtesy of John Bolig. The Billy Murray photos below (c. 1919–1920) from the G. G. Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

 

LOCmurray-golf LOCmurray-farmer LOCmurray-arborLOCmurray-driving

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The Playlist • Bob Roberts Favorites (1904–1909)

MSP_victor-mon_2832_B1412Robert A. “Bob” Roberts came from theatrical stock (his father was Nicholas “Nick” Roberts, one of the crustier characters in nineteenth-century popular theater). He was a well-traveled headliner, and as the early 1900s progressed he spent an increasing amount of time touring, including long stays on the West Coast. As a result, his recorded output diminished markedly after 1909. Roberts’ family background, and his recording and performing careers (which began in vaudeville and ended three decades later on radio), are covered in  “American Recording Pioneers: Bob Roberts” on the Mainspring Press website.

As was symptomatic of the period in which they were written, some of these songs contain racial stereotypes and demeaning language, which does not represent the views or attitude of Mainspring Press.

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BOB ROBERTS: Good Bye, Eliza Jane

Philadelphia: May 23, 1904 — Released August 1904
Monarch Record 2832 (mx. B 1412 – )
Orchestra probably directed by Arthur Pryor *

Roberts also recorded this song with piano accompaniment on the same date (mxs. A and B 1341, in 7″ and 10″ form, respectively). The orchestra-accompanied versions apparently were  made as unnumbered tests, but then were assigned mxs. A and B 1412 in early June, having been selected for issue instead of the piano-accompanied versions. The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings’ entries for these recordings are scrambled, erroneously showing the orchestra-accompanied version as having been issued only in 7″ form and 10″ Monarch 2832 as being piano-accompanied only (although it is obviously orchestral, as heard here, and as correctly listed in Victor’s August 1904 supplement).

* Arthur Pryor’s likely presence is based upon recording engineer Harry Sooy’s recollection that Victor hired Pryor as its house conductor in late 1903, when the company began regular experiments with orchestral accompaniments. There was not yet a resident Victor studio orchestra when this recording was made; free-lance musicians were hired on an as-needed basis, according to Sooy. Pryor eventually found the job “too confining,” and around September 1904 the position was given to Walter B. Rogers, who built Victor’s own in-house orchestra.

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BOB ROBERTS: ’Tain’t No Disgrace to Run If You’re Skeered

New York; Released March 1904
Columbia XP cylinder 32398 (-2)
Self-announced; Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince
Hear Bob Roberts’ Victor version of this title

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BOB ROBERTS: I’m Just Barely, Living, Dat’s All

New York; Released June 1904
Columbia 1768 (mx. 1768 – 3; “X” under label)
Self-announced; Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince

The Columbia Master Book Discography shows this take only on the Fairview label.

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BOB ROBERTS: I’ve Got a Tickling Sensation ‘Round My Heart for You

New York; Released March 1908
Harmony 3743  (Columbia mx. 3743 – 1)
Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince

The Harmony issue is unlisted in The Columbia Master Book Discography.

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BOB ROBERTS: That Was Me

New York; Released June 1909
Columbia A667 (mx. 4003 – 2)
Studio orchestra probably directed by Charles A. Prince

This take is unlisted in The Columbia Master Book Discography. The speed change  in the first verse is a flaw in the original recording.

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BOB ROBERTS with FEMALE CHORUS: The Boogie Boo

Brooklyn, New York (352 Livingston St.); Released July 1909
Indestructible 1104 (two-minute cylinder)
Studio orchestra probably directed by Joseph Lacalle. The female singers are unidentified.

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The Playlist • Ragtime Accordion Classics (1915-1928)

MSP_bwy-1189A_20608-1Three ragtime pieces with some marked similarities, particularly Frank Salerno’s “Kent Street Blues,” which is a slight reworking of Pietro Deiro’s “Melody Rag.” The latter was originally titled “Philadelphia Blues”; although entered as such in the Victor files, the title never appeared on the record labels.

The third strain of “Melody Rag” has been plagiarized from time to time — as heard here on the Salerno recording, but more famously by Weiss & Baum in their 1949 hit, “Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In).”

These recordings and thousands of others (US and foreign) are detailed in The Ragtime Discography, 1894–1960: Cakewalks, Rags, and Novelties on Cylinders and 78, a multimedia CD available exclusively from Mainspring Press. In addition to the most detailed ragtime discography yet published, the CD includes 99 historic recordings in MP3 format, plus high-resolution reproductions of 50 rare ragtime sheet-music covers.

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PIETRO DEIRO: Melody Rag (a.k.a. Philadelphia Blues)

Camden NJ: October 5, 1915
Released: January 1916 — Deleted: January 1923
Victor 17895 (mx. B 16597 – 1)

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PIETRO J. FROSINI: New York Blues — Rag Classical

New York (79 Fifth Avenue): September 15 (or 16), 1916
Released: January 1917
Edison Blue Amberol cylinder 3052 (dubbed from disc mx. 4998-C)

The Edison studio cash book shows a combined payment for Frosini’s September 15 and 16 sessions; this recording appears to be from the earlier session, based on master numbers.

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FRANK SALERNO: Kent Street Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. May 1928
Broadway 1189 (NYRL mx. 20608 – 1)

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Just Arrived — “Edison Two-Minute and Concert Cylinders” — In Stock

NOW IN STOCK — Available Exclusively from Mainspring Press

ED2M-cover-x5EDISON TWO-MINUTE AND CONCERT CYLINDERS
American Series, 1897–1912
By Allan Sutton

398 pages, illustrated • 7″ x 10″ quality softcover
$49 (U.S. –  Free Shipping)
Order directly from Mainspring Press

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Edison Two-Minute and Concert Cylinders is the first study  of these records to be compiled from the surviving company documentation (including the factory plating ledgers, studio cash books, remake and deletion notices, catalogs, supplements, and trade publications), along with first-hand inspection of the original cylinders. All American-catalog issues from 1897 through 1912, including the Grand Opera series, are covered.

Unlike previously published guides, which don’t list Edison’s numerous and often confusing remakes, this new volume lists all versions — even indicating those initially supplied by Walcutt & Leeds — along with the listing or release dates and the distinguishing details (changes in artists, accompaniments, announcements, etc.) for each. Plating dates for brown-wax pantograph masters and early Gold Moulded masters, which provide valuable clues to the long-lost recording dates, are published here for the first time.

Other features include composer and show credits, medley contents, accompaniment details, pseudonym identification, an illustrated footnoted history of Edison cylinder production during the National Phonograph Company period, user’s guide, and indexes.

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The Playlist • Ragtime Xylophone (1908–1920)

MSP_utd-A1149_19737.

CHRIS CHAPMAN: Dill Pickles Rag

Camden, NJ: July 15, 1908
Victor 5560 (mx. B 6089 – 7)
With studio orchestra (conductor not listed in files)

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EL COTA (LAWRENCE ALBERT COATES): Red Pepper — A Spicy Rag

New York (master shipment date): January 26, 1912
United A1149 (Columbia mx. 19737 – 1)
With studio orchestra (probably Charles A. Prince, director)

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GEORGE HAMILTON GREEN: Triplets

New York: February 1920
Emerson 10169 (mx. 4882 – 1)
With studio orchestra (possibly Arthur Bergh, director)

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W. C. HANDY’S ORCHESTRA (Jasper Taylor, xylophone): That “Jazz” Dance

New York (master shipment date): September 21, 1917
Columbia A2419 (mx. 77367 – 1)
Taylor is not credited in the Columbia files or on the labels; his presence is confirmed in Handy’s memoirs.

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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:

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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).

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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:

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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)
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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…