HENRY (RED) ALLEN & HIS ORCHESTRA: Swing Out (EE+)
New York: July 17, 1929
Victor V-38080 (mx. BVE 53930 – 2)
TINY PARHAM & HIS MUSICIANS: Voodoo (EE–)
Chicago: February 1, 1929
Victor V-38054 (mx. BVE 48844 – 2)
TINY PARHAM & HIS MUSICIANS: Skag-a-Lag (EE–)
Chicago: February 1, 1929
Victor V-38054 (mx. BVE 48845 – 2)
BENNIE & BUSTER MOTEN (et al.): Loose Like a Goose (EE+)
Chicago: July 18, 1929
Victor (Argentina) V-38123 (mx. BVE 55428 – 2) c. 1930 Buenos Aires pressing, roughly contemporaneous with the U.S. release. Both the U.S. and Argentinian labels credit only Bennie and Buster Moten (pianos) by name, although clarinetist Woody Walder dominates the side.
BENNIE MOTEN y SU ORQUESTA: Dentro de Poco (It Won’t Be Long) (E)
Chicago: July 17, 1929
Victor (Argentina) V-38123 (mx. BVE 55427 – 3) c. 1930 Buenos Aires pressing, roughly contemporaneous with the U.S. release.
EDDIE JOHNSON’S CRACKERJACKS (Benny Jackson, vocal): The Duck’s Yas Yas (E)
Atlanta (Egleston Auditorium): February 25, 1932
Bluebird B-6278 (mx. BVE 71625 – 1) 1936 original-stamper reissue of Victor 23329. .
Some surprising luck this week — both of the Matson’s Creole Serenaders Edisons found a new home here within a few days of each other (one in lovely shape, the other having led a little harder life, but still perfectly serviceable).
Both copies use the scarcer takes. “I Just Want a Daddy” is the rarer issue of the two, having been “red-starred” — Edison’s signal to dealers that the record was not expected to sell very well and therefore should be ordered only sparingly. A sales genius, Edison was not.
CHARLES A. MATSON’S CREOLE SERENADERS: I Just Want a Daddy (I Can Call My Own) (V++)
New York: July 30, 1923
Edison 51224 (mx. 9105 – C)
CHARLES A. MATSON’S CREOLE SERENADERS: ’T’ain’t Nobody’s Biz-Ness If I Do (intro: Aching Hearted Blues) (EE–)
New York: July 30, 1923
Edison 51222 (mx. 9104 – A)
This group has flummoxed collectors and discographers for decades. Various writers have suggested Freddie Keppard as the cornetist, or Armand Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra in disguise, along with more far-fetched guesses. Now, thanks to some first-class sleuthing reported on the grammophon-platten.de website, we have a credible answer as to who actually plays on these sides — and it sure isn’t Keppard, or anyone else you’re likely to have heard of, with one exception.
Based on newspaper clippings from April and June 1923, as displayed on the grammophon-platten site, this group consists of:
Thomas E. Hillery (cornet); Levi Bush (trombone); Carlos Daugherty (clarinet, saxophone); Charles O. Moseley (saxophone); William Escoffery (banjo); William (Bill) Benford (tuba); Curtis Moseley (percussion). (Julian Arthur was listed as a violinist, but a violin isn’t audible on these recordings.)
Of course, these clipping don’t tell us who actually was present in the Edison studio. But given the consistency between the April and June reports, and the proximity of the latter to the July session, they’re probably the best evidence we’re going to get — and certainly more to be trusted than the guesswork that’s surrounded this band for so many years.
Hillery — the principal person of interest in this band — was born in Baltimore, where he trained and apparently spent much of his time. Until this discovery, he was a cipher to historians and discographers, although he seems to have been highly regarded in his hometown. Bush and Daugherty were also active in Baltimore in the 1920s, and Escoffery was a native of nearby Washington, DC.
Hillery’s obituary (he died in 1928, at age 28), biographical material on the other band members, and all the other supporting evidence can be viewed on the Charles Matson bio page at grammophon-platten — a beautiful piece of research, and highly recommended, as is the entire site.
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
CALIFORNIA RAMBLERS (as VARSITY EIGHT): Charleston
New York: May 13, 1925
Cameo 741 (mx. 1448 – C)
RED & MIFF’S STOMPERS: Stampede
New York: October 13, 1926
Edison 51854 (mx. 11246 – C)
RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES: That’s No Bargain
New York: December 8, 1926
Brunswick 3407 (mx. E 20995)
We’re pleased to announce that Race Records and the American Recording Industry, 1919–1945 (Allan Sutton, Mainspring Press) has been nominated for a 2017 Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded-Sound Research by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Winners will be announced later this year.
Race Records is available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries. Here’s a peek inside the book, at some of our favorite race-record ads:
(Label scan courtesy of Kurt Nauck. MP3 conversion from
a tape dubbing supplied by the late Mike Stewart.)
LOTTIE KIMBROUGH BEAMAN (as LENA KIMBROUGH) with PAUL BANKS’ TRIO: City of the Dead
Kansas City: Late 1924
Meritt 2201 (mx. X-22)
Winston Holmes’ Meritt label is one of the rarest race-record brands of the 1920s, and although anecdotes concerning it abound, reliable documentation has been hard to come by.
Traditionally, works like Dixon, Godrich & Rye’s Blues and Gospel Records, 1890–1943 have cited mid-1926 as the date of Meritt’s first release. However, we now know otherwise, thanks to a blurb on p. 8 of the National Edition of The Chicago Defender for January 10, 1925. Clearly, Meritt 2201 had already been recorded by that time; based on the article, the correct recording date would be late 1924, approximately eighteen months earlier than has been assumed by discographers:
There are also some discrepancies in the personnel listing, although here we are not certain which account to trust — the Defender wasn’t particularly reliable when it came to fine details, but on the other hand, BGR doesn’t cite its sources. Clifford Banks is shown as a clarinetist in the Defender article, but as an alto saxophonist in BGR; Simon Hoe is shown as a one-string violinist in the Defender, but as a clarinetist in BGR. Personally, we don’t hear either a saxophone or a violin on either side, although admittedly the few copies we’ve heard have been so worn, and that questionable third instrument is so faintly recorded, that we wouldn’t want to bet on what it was. (By the way, these are acoustic recordings, not electrical as one might expect had they actually been made in mid-1926.)
Lena Kimbrough was one of several names used by Kansas City blues-belter Lottie Kimbrough Beaman; this is the first mention we’ve seen of her having studied in Europe. The revised recording date could explain why Holmes used a pseudonym for her — perhaps he did so to avoid a conflict with Paramount, for whom she was still recording in the fall of 1924?
POSTSCRIPT — THE WINSTON HOLMES “SESSION” PHOTOGRAPH
Back in the late 1960s, Doug Jydstrup located Lottie’s sister Estella, who had two versions of a photo that Winston Holmes used to promote Meritt 2201. Turns out, Lottie was sick on the day of the shoot according to the far slimmer Estella, who filled in for her sister in the photo. Just to add to the deception, Simon Hoe also failed to show up, so Winston Holmes himself filled in, posing with a clarinet (which, by the way, he could not play), and Clifford Banks was posed with a saxophone — in other words, a rather fanciful re-creation all around. You can find the details and both photos in 78 Quarterly (Volume 1-2) — The entire run can be downloaded free at 78 Quarterly Download (on the late, lamented Dinosaur Discs blog, which sadly is no longer active but is still online as of this writing).
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)
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.  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.” 
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.  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)
 Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (May 27, 1922), p. 8.  Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (June 24, 1922), p. 8.  Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender (July 29, 1922), p. 6.