Fletcher Henderson: Some Newspaper Highlights (1923 – 1931)

Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra: A Few  Newspaper Highlights from Our Ongoing Henderson Research (1923 – 1931)

 

 

 

An even earlier example of a Henderson satellite band (see previous post) — a November 15, 1924 appearance in Watsonville, California. The actual Henderson band recorded in Columbia’s New York studio on November 14. Given the state of American transportation at the time, the band could not possibly have reached California by the following day, and then returned to New York in time for its November 17 Plaza date. (There is no connection to the “Tennessee Ten” on Victor records, which was a white band.)

 

 

Henderson was a prolific broadcaster (this relatively early example is from August 1923). He accompanied Emma Gover and Edna Hicks on some of their recordings during this period. The 1923 Gover–Henderson Pathé sides were brokered by band manager Ed Kirkekby (whose California Ramblers did not yet occupy him full-time), as confirmed in Kirkeby’s logbook.

 

 

As one of several headliners with the Club Alabam’ show
(April 1924)

 

 

A plug for Henderson in a 1924 popularity contest. In the early 1930s he was bested by Blanche Calloway in a similar contest, but only by a few votes. (New York, November 1924)

 

 

Sam Lanin sharing the bill with Henderson at the Roseland, during Louis Armstrong’s tenure with the Henderson band (New York, December 1924)

 

 

Romano’s was one of several white bands, besides Lanin’s, to share the bill with Henderson at the Roseland. (New York, September 1924)

 

 

The Henderson orchestra, or a small unit from it (depending upon the session), masqueraded as The Dixie Stompers for Columbia’s low-priced Harmony line. (June 1926 ad for an April recording)

 

 

“The white man of colored musicians” — a supposed compliment? (Pottsville, Pennsylvania, July 1926)

 

 

Henderson and cutting-edge phonographic technology — the Brunswick Panatrope, the first all-electric phonograph for the consumer market (although the Henderson orchestra had not made any electrical recordings for Brunswick at that time). Scranton, Pennsylvania, June 1926.

 

 

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, June 1926

 

 

Pottsville, Pennsylvania (July 1926)

 

 

A Henderson band and Ed Kirkekby’s California Ramblers made several joint appearances during their summer 1926 tours. Earlier, while still a freelance band manager and talent broker, Kirkeby had secured some recording sessions for Henderson, as confirmed in his logbooks. (Scranton, Pennsylvania, August 1926)

 

 

Pittsburgh, July 1926

 

 

Battle of the bands at the Roseland, with Henderson facing off against Jean Goldkette’s newly arrived orchestra (New York, October 11, 1926)

 

 

Chillicothe, Ohio, July 1927

 

 

Henderson’s auto accident in August 1928 took a heavy toll on him,
as well as on his band (September 1 report)

 

 

New York, June 1929. The mention of “classical airs” bears out reports that the band’s full repertoire was not represented on  its records.

 

 

The “Great Day” debacle of 1929. For a detailed account of this unfortunate turning point in Henderson’s career, see Jeffrey Magee’s The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz (Oxford University Press), available from amazon.com and many libraries.

 

 

Henderson’s orchestra had been a mainstay of Columbia’s standard pop catalog since 1923, but for reasons unknown, the company assigned his December 1928 recordings of “Come On, Baby!” (a commercial hit tune) and “Easy Money” to the segregated 14000-D Race series. He was quickly returned to the pop series.

 

 

If the Victor contract referenced in this June 1931 blurb was truly exclusive, it’s not reflected in Henderson’s actual Victor output for 1931–1932, which was intermixed with releases on several competing labels and fell far short of the twenty records per year mentioned here.

 

 

Hard times — New York (July 1931)

 

 

Fletcher Henderson’s Satellite Bands (1924 – 1929)

Fletcher Henderson’s Satellite Bands (1924 – 1929)
By Allan Sutton

 

 

One aspect of Fletcher Henderson’s career that’s been generally overlooked by most of his biographers is his use of “satellite” bands — those second-string groups that busy bandleaders dispatched  under their names to tour the boondocks or play low-prestige events like college and civic-group dances. This was a common practice in the 1920s, known to have been engaged in by Harry A. Yerkes*, Ed Kirkeby, and other popular band leaders and managers.

The first mention of a suspected Henderson satellite band appeared in March 1925. Henderson’s Rainbow Orchestra, it was reported, was a new unit that would “bid for popular favor against Mr. Henderson’s original Roseland Orchestra.”

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An early mention of Henderson’s Rainbow Orchestra (March 1925)

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Whether Henderson’s Rainbow Orchestra was a separate unit, as the article suggests, or perhaps just a small group drawn from the main band, remains unclear. No recordings credited to Fletcher Henderson’s Rainbow Orchestra are known. The name (sometimes spelled “Rainbo”) appeared in newspaper ads off-and-on for a few months, mostly in connection with a touring band that played the smaller cities in Pennsylvania and central New York state.

There is far more certainty surrounding Fletcher Henderson’s Collegians. This appears to have been a group of younger musicians who were employed primarily as a touring band. The name first appeared in the autumn of 1925, with one advertisement describing the group as “A Fletcher Henderson unit of young colored boys full of ‘pep.’”

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Altoona, Pennsylvania (October 2, 1925)

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Based on strong circumstantial and aural evidence, it seems virtually certain that the Collegians were a Henderson satellite band. There are confirmed instances of the group appearing in far-flung locations on the same dates that Henderson’s main band is known to have been performing, recording, or broadcasting in New York city. The Plaza Music Company released three very un-Hendersonlike sides credited to Fletcher Henderson’s Collegians, and they can come as a bitter disappointment to unwary collectors. The mundane stock arrangements and total absence of Henderson’s own readily recognizable soloists strongly suggest that these recordings were the work of a band that was his in name only:

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FLETCHER HENDERSON’S COLLEGIANS (Andy Razaf, vocal):
Dear, On a Night Like This

New York (Independent Recording Laboratory): November 26, 1927
Regal 8441  (mx. 7622 – 3)

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Ads for Henderson’s Collegians vanished in early 1928. In the meantime, another apparent satellite band had surfaced — Fletcher Henderson’s Stompers (not to be confused with The Dixie Stompers, an alias that Columbia used to mask the actual Henderson band, or a small unit derived from it, on its low-priced Harmony and Velvet Tone labels). Ads for the Stompers began appearing in the autumn of 1927. An article from October of that year reported that Henderson’s brother Horace was directing the group:

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Horace Henderson as director of Fletcher Henderson’s Stompers
(Pittsburgh, October 1927)

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The Stompers’ itinerary is well documented in newspapers of the period. Like the Collegians, they are known to have been traveling on some dates when the main Henderson band was performing or recording in New York or Chicago. Occasional ads declaring that “Fletcher Henderson himself” would appear suggest that his presence with the group might have been something out of the ordinary. The Stompers spent the autumn of 1927 and early winter of 1928 crisscrossing Pennsylvania and parts of New York state. Aside from Pittsburgh, the band played mostly smaller cities and college towns.

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Benny Carter as director of Fletcher Henderson’s Stompers (Mansfield, Ohio, September 1928). Several months later, Horace Henderson took over the Stompers name for his own band.

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One Bennett Carter took over direction of the Stompers in the summer of 1928. Better known to modern listeners as saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter, he began working with  Fletcher Henderson’s main band later that year, playing a key role in reshaping what had become a rather slipshod outfit following Henderson’s late-August auto accident.

Horace Henderson subsequently appropriated the Stompers name for his own band, ads for which began running in early 1929. Occasional ads for Fletcher Henderson’s Stompers continued to appear into mid-1930, intermixed with a larger number for Horace Henderson’s Stompers, mostly involving one- or two-night stands in Pittsburgh and some smaller Pennsylvania cities.

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* Not the same individual as Hulbert A. Yerkes, a Columbia records executive who went by the initials “H. A,” causing some writers to conflate the two.

 

© 2019 by Allan R. Sutton. All rights are reserved.

Collectors’ Corner • Some March Finds (Fletcher Henderson, Sammy Stewart, William Haid, Wendell Hall, Bob Deikman)

After a sluggish start that included plowing through more red-label Columbias, etc., than anyone should ever have to, March ended with some nice finds from a collector who’s downsizing. If you’re doing the same, and have material of similar quality to dispose of, let us know (top prices paid for top records, if needed for the collection; true E- or better, on the VJM scale, with strong V+ the minimum acceptable grade except in rare cases). Here are a few favorites from the new batch:
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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: You’ve Got to Get Hot  [EE-]

New York: October 1923
Vocalion 14726 (mx. 12199)

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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Charleston Crazy  [E]

New York: November 1923
Vocalion 14726 (mx. 12376)

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SAMMY STEWART & HIS ORCHESTRA: Copenhagen  [E-]

Chicago: September 1924
Paramout 20359 (mx. 1891-1)

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WILLIAM HAID: Shim-Sha-Wabble [sic] & I’ll See You in My Dreams  [V+]

Marsh Laboratories, Chicago: c. January 1925
Autograph unnumbered (mx. 701)

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WENDELL HALL: Hot Feet  [E-]

New York: March 29, 1927
Champion 15295 (Gennett mx. GEX-561)

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BOB DEIKMAN’S ORCHESTRA (as Grandview Inn Orchestra): Roll Up the Carpets  [E]

Richmond, IN: December 25, 1927
Champion 15401 (Gennett mx. GEX-991)

Collector’s Corner • Some February Finds (Stracciari, Szkilondz, Lizzie Miles, Fletcher Henderson, Jelly Roll Morton, Harry Hudson, Coon Sanders Night Hawks

Lots of immigrant 78s turned up this month, and Denver being a sanctuary city, I just had to offer them a safe home (don’t tell Captain Tweetie & the ICE Patrol) — Most notably, a big cache of tasty jazz and hot-dance items on British labels, plus a few scarce-label operatics, to add to the collection; and several crates of nice stuff for the next auction (some of it—gasp—Mexican), whenever that may be. Here are a few new favorites from the February haul (sorry, the arias haven’t been checked for proper pitch)…
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RICCARDO STRACCIARI: Tannhauser – Romanza di Volframo (E-)

Societa Italiana di Fonotipia 278 [92459]
Milan: February 12, 1909

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ADELAIDE ANDREJEWA SZKILONDZ: Lakme – Glöckchen Arie (EE-)

Parlophon P.275
Berlin: 1910s
In response to a listener’s question: Yes, this is the complete side; the unusual “cold start” is exactly as recorded

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LIZZIE MILES (Clarence Johnson, piano): You’re Always Messin’ ’Round with My Man (EE-)

His Master’s Voice B 1703
New York: May 23, 1923

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FLETCHER HENDERSON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Alabamy Bound [take 3]  (E-)

Imperial (British) 1420
New York: January 1925

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JELLY ROLL MORTON & HIS RED HOT PEPPERS: That’ll Never Do (E)

His Master’s Voice B 4836
New York: March 5, 1930

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HARRY HUDSON’S MELODY MEN (Hudson, vocal): It Don’t Do Nothin’ But Rain (E-)

Edison Bell Radio 849
London: April 1928

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HARRY HUDSON’S MELODY MEN (Hudson, vocal): How Long Has This Been Goin’ On? (E-)

Edison Bell Radio 849
London: April 1928

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COON SANDERS NIGHT HAWKS ORCHESTRA (Carlton Coon, vocal): That’s All There Is, There Ain’t No More (EE-, with label damage)

Zonophone (British) 3946
Camden, NJ; August 7, 1925

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