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.

MacGregor & Sollie MS 2635/6 – The Texas Drifter – 1938

On this day, we remember the Texas Drifter, Goebel Reeves, singing hobo of the 1920s and ’30s, on the anniversary of his birth.  To commemorate the occasion, here is one of the last recordings Reeves made.

Goebel Leon Reeves was born on October 9, 1899 in Sherman, Texas to a middle class family.  His father sold shoes and his mother was a music teacher.  After his father’s election to the Texas state legislature, the Reeves moved to Austin, where Goebel worked as a pageboy.  Reportedly, his first experience with hobos was in Austin; an encounter with a railroad bum left him enthralled with the lifestyle.  Reeves served as a bugler in the First World War, and was wounded on the front lines.  After the war, he turned to the life of a hobo, bumming across the nation and singing for a living.  Sometime in the 1920s, Reeves sailed to Europe as a merchant seaman.  Reeves claimed to have met and befriended Jimmie Rodgers, who at the time would have been working on the railroad as a brakeman.  He was also known to have made a variety of colorful claims that were verifiably false.  In the 1920s, Reeves performed on WFAA in Dallas, and made his first records for Okeh in 1929, spurred to do so after hearing Jimmie Rodgers on record.  Throughout the decade that followed, Reeves recorded for Gennett, Brunswick, and the American Record Corporation, under such names as “The Texas Drifter” and “George Riley.”  Throughout the 1930s, he made radio appearances on Rudy Vallée’s program, the WLS National Barn Dance, and the WSM Grand Ole Opry.  In 1933, he appeared at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.  He made his final recordings in 1938, a series of non-commercial records for MacGregor & Sollie in Hollywood, California.  Reeves worked as a sailor again in the 1930s, and he entertained United States troops during World War II, before returning to the States to work for the government in internment camps in California, owing to the fact that he spoke Japanese.  Goebel Reeves later joined the Wobblies and retired to Bell Gardens, California, where he remained until a fatal heart attack on January 26, 1959, having lived quite a life.

MacGregor & Sollie MS 2635 and MS 2636 (or 875 and 876 depending on which number you choose to use) was recorded in 1938.  I haven’t been able to locate that actual date of recording.  It is pressed in Columbia style Royal Blue laminated shellac.

First, the Texas Drifter sings the old familiar “Pictures from Life’s Other Side”.

Pictures From Life's Other Side

Pictures From Life’s Other Side, recorded 1938 by The Texas Drifter.

On the reverse, Reeves recites his account of “The Hobo’s Convention”.

The Hobo's Convention

The Hobo’s Convention, recorded 1938 by The Texas Drifter.

Victor 21710 – Slim Lamar’s Southerners – 1928

Slim Lamar, from 1930 Victor catalog.

Slim Lamar, from 1930 Victor catalog.

Details regarding the life of territory band leader Slim Lamar are scarce, and there doesn’t appear to be any biography of him available on the web.  As such, I’ve rewritten and republished this article in an effort to shed some light on the obscure musician’s life.  A special thanks goes out to Messrs. Joseph Scott and Paul Lindemeyer for their research on Lamar, without which this article would not have been possible.

Slim was in fact Henry Elbert Lamar, born in Galveston, Texas on October 27, 1905, the son of John and Lucille Lamar.  By the 1920s, the Lamars had taken up residence in the cradle of jazz, New Orleans.  Slim played reeds, and apparently moonlighted selling musical instruments.  At least as early as 1927, Lamar was leading the Southerners, an exceptional territory jazz band which included the talents of Tony Almerico and Sunny Clapp among its ranks.  He would seem to have been associated with the cabal of influential territory band leaders that included Clapp and Blue Steele.  In September of 1927, the Southerners played the Edgewater Gulf Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, and made their first recordings a year later, during a Victor field trip in Memphis, Tennessee.  While in Memphis, Lamar also recorded with Mart Britt’s orchestra, and may have accompanied Irene Beasley on one session that yielded no issued recordings.  Following those sessions, Lamar’s Southerners ventured to Indianapolis for a two week engagement at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, reported in the Indianapolis Star as the band’s first trip north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  After Indianapolis, they played at the Egyptian Room of the Kosair Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  Lamar’s band recorded several more sides in February of 1929 in Camden, New Jersey, after which Slim Lamar is not known to have made any further recordings.  In 1938, he relocated to Florence, Alabama, where he married Edna Reams and started the Lamar Furniture Company.  Henry “Slim” Lamar remained in Florence until his death on June 3, 1989.

In the 1930s, Henry Lamar’s younger brother Ewell Ayars Lamar (1911-1992), a pianist known as the “Greyhound of the Ivories,” took up the moniker of “Slim” and led a dance band called the Music Gentlemen in Indianapolis, which reportedly included some former members of Joe Sanders’ orchestra, and featured a vocalist named Helen Folk.  Ewell had composed “My Castle of Love”, recorded by the Southerners in 1928, but not issued, and played piano in his older brother’s band in its first year.

Victor 21710 was recorded on September 6 and 4, 1928, respectively, at the Memphis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee, the Southerners’ first and third sessions.  In the band are Tony Almerico and Irwin Kunz on cornets, Sunny Clapp on trombone, Slim Lamar and Jim Rush on clarinet and alto sax, Bedford Brown on clarinet and tenor sax, Dick Wilson on violin, Adrian J. Larroque on piano, Jack Cohen on banjo and guitar, Bonnie Pottle on string bass, and Bobby Turley on drums.  The band is directed by Bob Nolan, composer of “Goofus”, and the band’s usual vocalist (though he doesn’t sing on these sides).  It was issued in January of 1929.

“Goofus” was immortalized in a comic by R. Crumb, in which he describes his saga of finding the record, only to have it snatched away, leaving him hunting for years before winning a copy in an auction.  He aptly descries it as “crazy, eccentric jazz.”  The scat quartet is made up of Tony Almerico, Jim Rush, Dick Wilson, and Jack Cohen.


Goofus, recorded September 6, 1928 by Slim Lamar’s Southerners.

On the other side, though “Happy” may not be as well known as the previous, it doesn’t disappoint, offering an encore performance of more of this band’s unique hot style.


Happy, recorded September 4, 1928 by Slim Lamar’s Southerners.

This record was originally posted on August 16, 2016 in honor of cornetist Tony Almerico’s birthday.  The article has been rewritten and republished with content relevant to bandleader Slim Lamar.

Romeo 5109 – Gene Autry & Jimmy Long – 1931

Singing cowboy and 20th century superstar Gene Autry was born on this day in 1907, and to commemorate the occasion, here is Autry’s first hit, featuring his early duet partner Jimmy Long.

A depiction of Gene Autry featured on an early 1930s Perfect record sleeve.

A depiction of Gene Autry featured on an early 1930s Perfect record sleeve.

Gene Autry was born Orvon Grover Autry on September 29, 1907 in Grayson County, Texas, near Tioga.  After high school, he worked as a telegraph operator for St. Louis–San Francisco Railway, and would sing and play guitar on slow days.  After losing that job, Autry sang on Tulsa’s KVOO, and when Will Rogers encouraged his singing career, he went to New York for an audition with the Victor Company, which wound up producing one record with Jimmy Long and Frankie Marvin on steel guitar.  After Victor, Autry recorded for Columbia, which yielded several releases on their budget labels, in the style of the famous singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers.  After Columbia, he recorded for Gennett and the American Record Corporation, staying with the latter for many years.  In 1934, he was “discovered” by Nat Levine of Mascot Pictures and made his motion picture debut in In Old Santa Fe, becoming the original singing cowboy of the screen.  Before long, Autry became the top singing cowboy on film until he was surpassed by Roy Rogers, and his blue yodeling style was replaced with a more Western repertoire.  He had hit records with “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” in 1931 (and again in ’35), “Back in the Saddle” in 1939, and the Christmas classics “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  During World War II, Autry served in the Army Air Corps.  In the 1950s, Autry appeared in his own television program, and became involved in baseball.  He retired from show business in 1964, having made over one-hundred films and over six-hundred records.  Autry died of lymphoma on October 2, 1998.  He is the only person thusfar to be awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in all five categories.

Romeo 5109 was recorded on October 29 and 30, 1931 in New York City by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long.  In addition to Autry’s guitar, the pair are accompanied by Roy Smeck on steel guitar.

“Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” was Gene Autry’s first big hit, and one of his most enduring songs, making its biggest success in 1935 when Autry sang it in Tumbling Tumbleweeds.

Silver Haired Daddy of Mine

Silver Haired Daddy of Mine, recorded October 29, 1931 by Gene Autry & Jimmy Long.

Following the same formula as the previous, on the flip, they perform “Mississippi Valley Blues”.

Mississippi Valley Blues

Mississippi Valley Blues, recorded October 30, 1931 by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long.

Victor 19212 – Ted Weems and his Orchestra – 1923

115 years ago today, the prolific bandleader Ted Weems was born.  He had hits with “Piccolo Pete” and “Heartaches”, and co-wrote such songs as “Oh, Mo’nah” and “Jig Time”.   In commemoration of the occasion, here is his first record.

Weems was born Wilfred Theodore Wemyes on September 26, 1901 in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania.  He began his musical path when he entered a contest to win a pony, but wound up with a violin instead.  He later took up the trombone as well.  Weems organized his first band while in school, and did so again in college with a more professional group that took professional engagements at hotels and restaurants.  In 1921, Weems’ band played at the inauguration of President Warren G. Harding.  The Weems band made their first record in 1923 for the Victor Talking Machine Company, with whom they continued to record for the next ten years.  After leaving Victor, the Weems band recorded for Columbia, and then Decca.  Like many bands and musicians of that day and age, much of their success was found on the airwaves.  During the war, Weems joined the Merchant Marines and led their band.  After a period of relative dormancy, Weems’ popularity was revived in 1947 when a North Carolina disc jockey played his uptempo rumba recording of “Heartaches” from 1933, which was met with unexpected enthusiasm from the public.  After that unexpected success, Victor reissued the record, and Decca followed suit with a reissue of their recording of the same tune that Weems had cut in 1938, both of which became hits.  Weems organized a new band, which stayed together until 1953.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ted Weems died of emphysema.

Victor 19212 was recorded on November 20, 1923 in Camden, New Jersey, the first sides ever cut by Ted Weems’ Orchestra.  Both sides were originally made as tests, but must’ve impressed the higher-ups, as they wound up being assigned masters and issued.  The band consists of Art Weems and Paul Creedon on trumpets, Ted Weems on trombone, Norman Nugent and Walter Livingston clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and bass sax, Francis Buggy on clarinet, soprano sax, and tenor sax, Charles Gaylord on violin, Reuel Kenyon on piano, Weston Vaughan on banjo, George Barth on tuba and string bass, and Cecil Richardson on drums.

First up, Weems’ band plays the western-themed “Covered Wagon Days”.

Covered Wagon Days

Covered Wagon Days, recorded November 20, 1923 by Ted Weems and his Orchestra.

On the reverse, they play a superb instrumental rendition of the old standard “Somebody Stole My Gal”.

Somebody Stole My Gal

Somebody Stole My Gal, recorded November 20, 1923 by Ted Weems and his Orchestra.