Decca 1600 – Connie Boswell with Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats – 1937

Connie Boswell with ceramic cats, late 1930s.

Connie Boswell with ceramic cats, late 1930s.

The time has come once again to remember Miss Connie Boswell of the famous Boswell Sisters on the anniversary of her birth.  Last time, we celebrated the occasion with her “Washboard Blues”.  Since I’ve already covered Connie’s life, let’s instead take a look at a very important record in her career.

In 1936, the Boswell Sisters had taken their last curtain call.  Connie was the only one still singing professionally, and the Andrews Sisters came to fill the role once occupied by the Bozzies,   Though already a popular recording artist, the following year, Connie came up with something that was to make hers one of the biggest names in popular music through the 1940s.  Inspired by her childhood love of Caruso, and her sister Martha, Connie wanted to swing Friedrich von Flotow’s “M’appari tutt’amor” from the opera Martha.  At first, Decca was hesitant to release the swinging tune, worried that desecrating the operatic piece as jazz would spark outrage, but she convinced them, assuring the company that she would assume full responsibility if things turned sour.  On the contrary, “Martha” was Connie’s biggest hit since the breakup of the Boswell Sisters, and made her one of the biggest things of 1938, earning her a newspaper interview with famed reporter Ernie Pyle.  The attention Connie received even caused bandleader Larry Clinton to send an irritated letter accusing her of ripping off the idea from him.  After “Martha”, Connie held her position, making a series of hits, including a number of duets with Bing Crosby, until a 1947 hiatus took her out of the Hit Parade until her return to recording in 1951.

Decca 1600 was recorded on November 13, 1937 in Los Angeles, California.  Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats are made up of Yank Lawson on trumpet, Warren Smith on trombone, Matty Matlock on clarinet, Eddie Miller on tenor sax, Bob Zurke on piano, Nappy Lamare on guitar, Bob Haggart on string bass, and Ray Bauduc on drums.

Below, taking up more space on this page than I’d like, you can see Connie Boswell’s own lyric sheet, most likely a rough draft, for “Martha”, presumably typed by Connie herself.  It is typed on a letterhead bearing the name of Harry Leedy, Connie’s husband and manager, as can be seen through the paper near the bottom.  Evidently, she made a mistake and flipped the sheet over to type on the other side.

Lyrics for "Martha" hand typed, presumably, by Connie herself, on Harry Leedy letterhead.

Lyrics for “Martha” hand typed, presumably, by Connie herself.

Now, the much anticipated, and unfortunately under-appreciated today, “Martha (Ah So Pure [M’appari tutt’amor])” really swings, thanks in no small part to the top-of-the-line accompaniment by Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats.  As you can see, Decca took special care to label it “Swing Vocal” rather than simply “Vocal”

Martha

Martha, recorded November 13, 1937 by Connie Boswell with Bob Cats.

On the reverse, Connie swings another tune, this time the old cowboy song “Home On the Range”.  “I like the nightclub with its swinging saxes, but when it comes to payin’ taxes, I’ll take my home on the range.”

Home On the Range

Home On the Range, recorded November 13, 1937 by Connie Boswell with Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats.

Paramount 20364 – Boyd Senter – 1924

On November 30, we commemorate the birth of the one and only “Jazzologist Supreme,” the eccentric clarinetist Boyd Senter.

Boyd Senter was born on November 30, 1898 on a farm in Nebraska.  Much like his contemporary Bix Beiderbecke, he was inspired to play jazz after hearing a record by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.  Like many budding jazzmen, he took up the saxophone and clarinet, and also became proficient on trumpet and banjo.  Senter built his reputation on his novelty clarinet playing, and came to be known as the “Jazzologist Supreme.”  His first session was with Jelly Roll Morton’s Steamboat Four/Stomp Kings/Jazz Kids, which, despite bearing his name, did not feature Jelly Roll Morton.  In 1924, Senter made a number of records at Orlando B. Marsh’s Chicago-based recording laboratories, where some of the earliest electrically recorded discs were being cut.  Following the Marsh recordings, Senter made a series of sides for Pathé before moving to Okeh in 1927, where he was frequently accompanied by Eddie Lang on guitar.  On one session, a redo of his “Mobile Blues”, originally recorded for Marsh, everyone in the studio was reportedly so drunk that the recording was rejected (it was released in Europe, though).  The next year he formed a jazz band dubbed the Senterpedes, which often included the talents of the Dorsey Brothers, Phil Napoleon, and Vic Berton.  Senter and his Senterpedes moved to Victor in 1929, and among other titles, cut a jazz version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “In the Jailhouse Now”.  Senter made his last recordings in Hollywood for Victor in 1930, and continued to play jazz in Detroit until the end of the Swing era, after which he turned to a life of selling sporting goods.  Boyd Senter died in Oscoda, Michigan in June of 1982.

Paramount 20364 was recorded in October of 1924 by Marsh Laboratories in Chicago, Illinois, among the earliest electrical recordings made.  Boyd Senter switches between clarinet, alto saxophone, and trumpet, and is accompanied by Jack Russell on piano and Russell Senter on drums.

First, the Jazzologist Supreme stomps through the raggy “Fat Mamma Blues”.

Fat Mamma Blues

Fat Mamma Blues, recorded October 1924 by Boyd Senter.

Another of his own compositions, Senter next plays “Gin Houn’ Blues”.

Gin Houn' Blues

Gin Houn’ Blues, recorded October 1924 by Boyd Senter.

Motorola Home Recording Disc – “Mother” – 1944

As we here in the States are giving our thanks and digesting our bountiful dinners this Thanksgiving, it seems an opportune time to share a few words spoken by some voices from the past.  A one-of-a-kind glimpse into a different time, courtesy of one family and their home record lathe.

This Motorola Home Recording Disc was cut on December 1, 1942 and November 22, 1944, likely somewhere in Texas, as that’s where I found it.

On “Thanksgiving 1944”, we are granted the opportunity to listen in on a family get-together taking place during the War, seventy-two years in the past.  As they record their voices for posterity, they have apparently just finished off “a regular Samuel Gordon Thanksgiving dinner.”

Thanksgiving 1944, recorded November 22, 1944 by Mother.

Thanksgiving 1944, recorded November 22, 1944 by Mother.

On the other side of this home recording, cut two years before the first, Mother recounts “When Norman Left Home” for Officer Candidate School.  Alas, this side doesn’t play quite as well as the other one.

When Norman Left Home, recorded December 1, 1942 by Mother.

When Norman Left Home, recorded December 1, 1942 by Mother.

Vocalion 3401 – Don Albert and his Orchestra – 1936

In their heyday, Don Albert’s orchestra was called “America’s Greatest Swing Band”, a title which they perhaps deserved.  Today, however, their renown, however great it may have been in the 1930s, has faded.

Don Albert was born Albert Anité Dominique in New Orleans on August 5, 1908.  He was the nephew of trumpeter Natty Dominique, and also reportedly a relative of Barney Bigard.  Albert took up the trumpet to join in on the Crescent City’s famous brass bands, and was instructed on the instrument by Milford Piron, brother of the renowned bandleader Armand J. Piron.  Sometime in the middle part of the 1920s, Albert relocated to Dallas, where he joined Alphonso Trent’s orchestra at the Adolphus Hotel (later the Gunter Hotel), with whom he toured across the southwestern United States.  After departing from Trent, Albert joined Troy Floyd’s orchestra of the Plaza Hotel in San Antonio, with whom he remained until forming his own band in 1929.  Initially calling themselves “Don Albert and his Ten Pals”, Albert’s new band played the Texas State Fair in 1929, and supplanted Floyd’s band at the Shadowland speakeasy in San Antonio.  In the 1930s, Albert’s orchestra toured across twenty-four of these United States, and billed themselves as “America’s Greatest Swing Band”, but only recorded eight titles in one San Antonio session for the American Record Corporation.  In the 1940s, Albert opened an integrated club, Don’s Keyhole, in San Antonio, which closed in 1948, at which point he returned to New Orleans for a short period.  Once back in San Antonio, Albert opened another club, and following harassment from authorities, filed a restraining order against the city, taking his case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court and winning.  Aside from his musical work, Albert was also employed as a civil servant at Fort Sam Houston from the late forties or early fifties until retiring in 1974.  Don Albert retired from performance in the late 1950s, but continued to play sporadically for the rest of his life.  He died in San Antonio on March 4, 1980.

Vocalion 3401 was recorded on November 18, 1936 in San Antonio, Texas.  Don Albert directing Billy Douglas, Alvin Alcorn, and Hiram Harding on trumpets, James “Geechy” Robinson and Frank Jacquet on trombones, Herbert Hall on clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, Gus Patterson and Harold “Dink” Taylor on alto sax, Louis Cottrell on clarinet and tenor sax, Lloyd Glenn on piano, Ferdinand Dejan on guitar, James Johnson on string bass, and Albert Martin on drums.

The “big” sound of Albert’s “Rockin’ and Swingin'” exemplifies that of Texas jazz in the 1930s (compare to Boots and his Buddies’ “Rose Room”).

Rockin' and Swingin'

Rockin’ and Swingin’, recorded November 18, 1936 by Don Albert and his Orchestra.

On the other side, Merle Turner sings the vocal on this band’s swinging version of the seven year old (at the time of recording, that is) popular song from The Dance of Life, “True Blue Lou”.

True Blue Lou

True Blue Lou, recorded November 18, 1936 by Don Albert and his Orchestra.

Hit 7119 – Cootie Williams and his Orchestra – 1944

October 10 marks ninety-nine years since the birth of Thelonious Monk, and what better way to commemorate that event than with the first recording of his famous “‘Round Midnight”, performed by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.  (Please do not confuse that photograph of Cootie Williams on the left of the page with Monk, it is not.)  I will admit that while I usually tend to prefer earlier music, this is one of my favorite records.

Cootie Williams, 1940s. From Esquire's 1944 Jazz Book.

Cootie Williams, 1940s. From Esquire’s 1944 Jazz Book.

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  From 1922, the Monks lived in New York City, where Thelonious was exposed to jazz music.  He taught himself to play piano when he was six years old, and accompanied a touring evangelist in his teenage years.  In the 1940s, Monk played at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, and was with Lucky Millinder’s orchestra for a period in 1942, and Cootie Williams’ in 1944.  He made his first recordings as bandleader in 1947 for Blue Note.  With a unique approach to music, and life, Monk’s work lacked public appeal initially, and his recordings sold poorly for some years, though he was regarded highly by fellow musicians and jazz aficionados.  In 1951, police confiscated his cabaret card, and he was unable to play in nightclubs until he regained it in 1957.  Eventually, Monk became regarded as one of the greats of jazz music, having composed such standards as “‘Round Midnight”, “Straight, No Chaser”, and “Blue Monk”.  Monk left the music scene in the 1970s, and died in 1982.

Hit 7119 was recorded October 22, 1944 in New York by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.  The band features Williams, Ermit V. Perry, George Treadwell, Lammar Wright, and Tommy Stevenson on trumpet, Ed Burke, Ed Glover, and Robert Horton on trombone,  Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Frank Powell on alto sax, Sam “The Man” Taylor and Lee Pope on tenor sax, Eddie de Verteuil on baritone sax, Bud Powell on piano, Leroy Kirkland on guitar, Carl Pruitt on bass, and Sylvester “Vess” Payne on drums.

First, Cootie and the band play the first ever recording made of Thelonious Monk’s famous “‘Round Midnight”, claimed to be the most recorded standard composed by a jazz musician.

'Round Midnight

‘Round Midnight, recorded October 22, 1944 by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.

Next up, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson shouts the blues on “Somebody’s Gotta Go”.

Somebody's Gotta Go

Somebody’s Gotta Go, recorded October 22, 1944 by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.