One of the foremost exponents of the ukulele craze in the 1920s, Wendell Hall—the Red Headed Music Maker—enjoyed a fruitful career beginning with his introduction of the wildly popular “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”, and could perhaps be viewed among the earliest artists to “cross over” from popular to hillbilly style music.
Wendell Woods Hall was born on August 23, 1896, the youngest of three sons born to minister George and church organist Laura Hall of St. George, Kansas. His family moved to Chicago around the turn of the century, and there young Wendell got his start in music. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1917, but fell ill during the flu epidemic the following year and did not see combat, but spent some time entertaining his fellow troops following his recovery. Following his return home, he found work as a song plugger for the sheet music industry. Before long, he struck out on the vaudeville circuit singing and playing the xylophone, but soon—like his contemporary Cliff Edwards—switched to the more inexpensive and portable ukulele. On occasion, he was known to double on guitar or tiple. He began publishing popular songs in the early 1920s, and by 1923 he’d arrived in New York to embark on a successful career as a radio and recording artist. He made his debut on September 28, 1923, in a session for Gennett records, cutting the first of several versions of his big hit “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”. The following month, he re-did the number for Edison and Victor, beginning a successful engagement with the latter which produced a string of popular records and lasted until 1933, interrupted by brief stints for Brunswick in 1925 and ’26 and for Columbia in 1927. Hall’s rural-flavored novelty songs often blurred the line between popular and “hillbilly” music, and he frequently collaborated with the country guitarist, whistler, and fellow Kansan Carson J. Robison, who made his first records with Hall. With the smash success of “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'” and other successful records behind his belt, Hall introduced and marketed a signature “Red Head” model of ukulele, manufactured by the Regal Musical Instrument Company, and instructional booklets on “Wendell Hall’s Ukulele Method”. He remained a popular radio artist into the 1930s after the Great Depression had killed off his record career, but began to falter as the ukulele fell from favor later in the decade. Nonetheless, he remained an active musician and music publisher, and made a brief comeback in the early 1950s. Wendell Hall died on April 2, 1969 in Mobile, Alabama, and was buried in Manhattan, Kansas.
Victor 19171 was recorded in New York City on October 12, 1923. It was released on the twenty-third of the following month. It reportedly sold more than two million copies, and Hall later re-recorded both sides electrically on July 29, 1925, to keep them technologically up-to-date. This record was transferred at 76.59 RPM, as is widely accepted for acoustical Victor records of this era.
Firstly, the Pineapple Picador sings his biggest hit composition, that old chestnut “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”. Hall later followed up with the “Second Installment” in 1925 and “Part 3” in 1933. The simple but humorous ditty proved enormously popular with artists in a wide range of genres.
Actually recorded first at the session, Hall sings his “theme” song “Red Headed Music Maker” on the “B” side, interpolating “Red Hot Blues”.