Besides Christmas, December 25 marks another important date in history, the birthday of Cab Calloway. As a belated celebration of that anniversary, here is Cab’s first record, with two takes of his first recordings. This record was made soon after Cab took control of the excellent Harlem band, the Missourians, who had played at the Cotton Club under Andy Preer in the middle of the 1920s. After departing from their Cotton Club engagement when Preer died and Duke Ellington replaced them in 1927, they returned in the early 1930s under the leadership of Cab Calloway.
Brunswick 4936 was recorded July 24, 1930 in New York City. The band includes the same basic personnel as the Missourians, with R.Q. Dickerson, Wendell Culley, and Lammar Wright on trumpets, De Priest Wheeler on trombone, William Thornton Blue on clarinet and alto sax, Andrew Brown on clarinet, alto sax, and bass-clarinet, Walter “Foots” Thomas on tenor sax, alto sax, and baritone sax, Earres Prince on piano, Morris White on banjo, Jimmy Smith on tuba, and Leroy Maxey on the drums. This record stayed “in print” for many years, I even have a 1938-39 silver label Brunswick issue of it. Also recorded at this session was an unissued take of “I’ll Be a Friend (With Pleasure)”; I don’t know of any surviving copies of that recording. You may note that the first issue label credits “The Jungle Band”, a pseudonym that was typically given to Duke Ellington’s recordings on Brunswick, the only exceptions that I know of being this one and Chick Webb’s first recording.
Two takes were recorded of Cab Calloway’s very first recording, “Gotta Darn Good Reason Now (For Bein’ Good)”. The second take was released first, presumably because either Cab or the producers at Brunswick preferred that take, and it seems more polished than the first, where Cab seems more hesitant. Later pressings used the first take, likely because the original stamper was beginning to wear out. Here, the sound files are included in order of release, with the second take first.
Only one take is known to exist of Cab Calloway’s famous rendition of “St. Louis Blues”, so the better sounding of the two records is featured here. Just listen to how long he holds that note!