As 2016 comes to its close, I extend my sincerest wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017. Old Time Blues’ resolution for the new year is to keep the hot jazz, lowdown blues, down home old time, and other esoteric tunes flowing like fine wine, and in even greater volume! Unfortunately, I still don’t have a suitable Guy Lombardo record prepared for this occasion, so please enjoy last year’s celebratory disc.
Also, be sure to tune in to the world famous Radio Dismuke all through New Years’ Day for the rebroadcast of the annual New Years’ Eve Broadcast! For the first time, I have the tremendous pleasure of joining those esteemed collectors with some of the best sides from the Old Time Blues collection to add to their already impressive playlist!
Old Time Blues wishes everyone a very merry Christmas! 1911 Postcard.
That special time of the year has come around once again. Last year we celebrated with Harry Reser’s band, and what better way to celebrate this holiday season than with these four Christmas classics sung by our old pal Gene Autry.
Columbia 20377, in the hillbilly series, was recorded on August 28, 1947 and released on October 6 of the same year. First up, Gene Autry sings his own Christmas classic, “Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)”. On the reverse, he sings the charming “An Old-Fashioned Tree”.
Here Comes Santa Clause (Down Santa Claus Lane) and An Old-Fashioned Tree, recorded August 28, 1947 by Gene Autry.
The first side of Columbia 38610 was recorded on June 27, 1949, the second sometime in July of the same year. Autry is accompanied by the Pinafores on both sides. First, Gene sings Johnny Marks’ classic song about the beloved character created for Montgomery Ward in 1939, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Next, on “If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas” Autry ponders how Santa Claus will make out in his sleigh it there’s no snow. Ol’ Gene seems to have forgotten that the sleigh is flight capable.
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas, recorded June 27 and July, 1949 by Gene Autry and the Pinafores.
I always say, “good jazz is the best medicine¹.” Whenever I have an ache or pain, it always helps take the edge off, and when I’m feeling blue, a hot tune will really pep me up! Few records can do it better than this one, one of the great masterpieces from Louis Armstrong’s period with Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. With Armstrong in the mix, the band, also consisting of greats like Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey, and Don Redman, was just about unbeatable.
Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra in 1925. Pictured left to right: Howard Scott, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Dixon, Fletcher Henderson, Kaiser Marshall, Buster Bailey, Elmer Chambers, Charlie Green, Ralph Escudero, and Don Redman. From Jazzmen, 1938, courtesy of Fletcher Henderson.
Vocalion 14926 was recorded October 30, 1924 in New York and pressed in that red shellac. The always outstanding lineup of Henderson’s orchestra consists of Louis Armstrong, Elmer Chambers, and Howard Scott in the trumpet section, Charlie Green on trombone, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Don Redman on clarinet and alto sax, Coleman Hawkins on clarinet and tenor sax, Fletcher Henderson on piano, Charlie Dixon on banjo, Ralph Escudero on tuba, and Kaiser Marshall on drums. All band members pictured above play on this record.
“Words” is a fine tune—I have no complaints—but it cannot begin to approach the masterpiece on the other side of the disc. (I still would recommend listening to this one too, though!)
Words, recorded October 30, 1924 by Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra.
Named not for the city in Denmark, but the tobacco in the States, “Copenhagen” is nothing if not a masterpiece. Probably my all-time favorite Fletcher Henderson recording. This is a take “B” of two existing takes, and they really get in the groove. Is this the greatest jazz record of all time? Maybe, maybe not, but it is up there. (In fact, I may be crucified by some for it, but I like this one better than the Wolverines recording with Bix Beiderbecke.)
Copenhagen, recorded October 30, 1924 by Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra.
¹ I am not a medical doctor and therefore not qualified to dispense medical advice.
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.
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, 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, recorded November 13, 1937 by Connie Boswell with Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats.
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, recorded October 1924 by Boyd Senter.
Another of his own compositions, Senter next plays “Gin Houn’ Blues”.
Gin Houn’ Blues, recorded October 1924 by Boyd Senter.