Early Okeh Race Record Advertisments (1921–1925)

(Top to bottom) August 1923, July 1921, and June 1925. Okeh claims the dubious distinction of having been the first label to segregate records by black artists, in the spring of 1921. Numbered in the 8000s, they were advertised as “Race Records,” a term that was soon picked up by other labels. The Norfolk Jazz Quartet (which also recorded spirituals as the Norfolk Jubilee Four) were sufficiently popular with white buyers that Okeh continued to release their records in the 4000 standard catalog series until late 1921.



Okeh Race Records Ad: Clarence Williams, Sara Martin, Mamie Smith (1923)

This Okeh race record ad dates to August 1923. Clarence Williams, besides being exclusive to Okeh at the time, also served as the race series’ first talent scout and A&R manager. The performers pictured and mentioned were all New York–based; Okeh made its first Chicago recordings just two months earlier, and was readying them for release when this ad appeared.


Sunday’s Playlist (March 24) • Alberta Hunter in the 1920s


ALBERTA HUNTER, as JOSEPHINE BEATTY (with Red Onion Jazz Babies, Louis Armstrong, cornet): Texas Moaner Blues

New York: November 8, 1924
Silvertone 4033  (Gennett mx. 9176-A)


ALBERTA HUNTER (with Clarence Williams, piano): You for Me, Me for You

New York: August 11, 1926
Okeh 8365  (mx. O-E 74253-A)


ALBERTA HUNTER (with unknown piano and guitar): Gimme All the Love You Got

New York: July 18, 1929
Columbia 14450-D  (mx. W 148822-2)


For more on Alberta Hunter and other 1920s cabaret blues singers, be sure to check out Alex van der Tuuk’s Paramount’s Rise and Fall, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

Friday’s Playlist (January 13) • Clarence Williams on Broadway: The “Bottomland” Recordings

In 1927 Clarence Williams tried his hand as the producer of a New York musical. “Bottomland” — which he produced and wrote, and for which he supplied the music and most of the lyrics — opened at the Princess Theater on June 27 of that year.

The show starred Katherine Henderson (who was very much a real person, and not a pseudonym as some jazz hobbyists have claimed), Sara Martin, and Eva Taylor, with Williams directing the orchestra and also appearing at the piano on stage.

The first two titles here are instrumental treatments of vocal selections from the show. “Shooting the Pistol” is an adaptation “Shoot dat Pistol,” the choral finale to Act I. “(I’m Going Back to) Bottomland” was the show’s opening number, sung on stage by Eva Taylor.

“Any Time” was from the second act (Williams continued to record songs from the show for several years, as is the case with this 1928 issue). “Take Your Black Bottom Dance Outside,” which was recorded while the show was still in its planning stages, was sung as part of a mini-revue within the main  production.

The critics couldn’t find much to like about “Bottomland,” and it closed after nineteen performances.



New York (probably Independent Recording Laboratories): c. July 1927
Paramount 12517  (control # 2837-2)


CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ ORCHESTRA: (I’m Going Back to) Bottomland

New York (probably Independent Recording Laboratories): c. July 1927
Paramount 12517  (control # 2838-2)


CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ JAZZ KINGS (vcl – Clarence Williams):
Any Time

New York: April 10, 1928
Columbia 14314-D   (mx. W-145993-1)


CLARENCE WILLIAMS’ BLUE FIVE ORCHESTRA (vcl – Katherine Henderson): Take Your Black Bottom Dance Outside

New York: April 27, 1927
Brunswick 7015   (mx. E-23237)


Full discographic details of all of Clarence Williams’ recordings can be found in Brian Rust’s classic Jazz Records 1897-1942, 6th Edition — now out-of-print in book form, but available from Mainspring Press as a convenient, instantly searchable CD ROM (Windows and Mac OS-X compatible).