This record, featuring two guitar-accompanied popular songs by one Happy Joe Hill, was recorded by the Starr Piano Company quite late in their history, at a point when the Great Depression had all but killed off sales completely. The Superior label was introduced by Starr Piano around the time their Gennett label disappeared from the market. With the Great Depression only getting worse as time passed, all the record companies were in bad shape financially, the Starr Piano Company especially so, and as such, Superior records aren’t very commonly encountered.
Happy Joe Hill—per George Kay’s Superior Catalog published in Record Research—was a pseudonym for Harold J. Leslie. Leslie recorded four titles for the Starr Piano Company in 1932, consisting of “‘Leven Pounds of Heaven” and “I Wanna Count Sheep (Till the Cows Come Home)”, issued on Superior 2803 and Champion 16404, and “Rhymes” and “I Could Expect it From Anyone but You”, issued on Superior 2815 and Champion 16413. His releases on the Champion label were credited as Jack Leslie. With a single guitar backing lending to a more rural, folksy feel, his songs differ a bit from most of the standard pop fare of the period, and make for fairly interesting listening. Compare to Charlie Palloy’s solo recordings for Crown records in 1933, at a time when that company was near its end. Whether or not he intentionally borrowed his performing name from the union agitator of the same name I do not know. Outside of his brief recording career, I can find no details regarding Leslie’s life, professional or private. If anyone out there has any information regarding “Happy Joe Hill”, please comment, I’d love to know.
Superior 2815 was recorded in March of 1932 by Happy Joe Hill, accompanied by guitar, likely his own. Unless I’m misinterpreting the data in Kay’s Superior Catalog, it shipped out a total of only forty-two copies!
The first side of this record features Happy Joe’s very polite and sincere rendition of Leslie Sarony’s “Rhymes”, with somewhat Americanized lyrics. I’ll eventually post the version by Jack Hylton’s Orchestra here too, so you can compare.
On the flip, and with a bit more background noise, Hill performs “I Could Expect it From Anyone But You”, written by Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart, and Ed Nelson and published by DeSylva, Brown and Henderson. Composer Al Hoffman sued or at least threatened to sue the BMI in 1946 over similarities between this song and the pop hit “Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)”—and rightly so, the latter song “borrowed” close to the entire melody of this 1932 flop.
Updated on June 15, 2017 and with improved audio on June 21, 2017.