This Dance Band Double Feature is dedicated to Smith Ballew, who was born on this day (January 21) in 1902. Under his frequently used pseudonym, Buddy Blue and his Texans, Ballew and his band play four classic songs of the early 1930s recorded on the Crown label.
Smith Ballew was born Sykes Ballew in Palestine, Texas on January 20, 1902. He had his education in Sherman, Texas before finishing college at the University of Texas in Austin. While at UT, Ballew played banjo in James Maloney’s band, called Jimmie’s Joys at the time. That band, with Ballew, made a few records in California for the Golden label in 1923. By the late 1920s, he was working as a studio vocalist in New York, working for a plethora of different bands and labels. After working steadily as a singer well into the 1930s, Smith turned to acting, appearing mostly in Westerns as a singing cowboy. After retiring from music in 1967, Ballew worked in the aircraft industry, eventually settling in Fort Worth. He died March 2, 1984 in Longview, Texas.
Crown 3149 was recorded in May of 1931. On the first side, Smith Ballew sings Harry Warren’s 1931 hit, the timeless “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)”. On the reverse, we hear “On the Beach With You”, this side claims to be a waltz, but it sounds more like a fox trot to my ear. The vocalist on this side is allegedly Charlie Lawman, but it sounds identical to Ballew’s vocal on the flip, and I believe it’s still him. On these 1931 recordings, the band retains much of a late 1920s sound with banjo rhythm and an accordion.
The second disc, Crown 3281, was recorded in January of 1932. This record feature two popular songs from Irving Berlin’s Face the Music, “Let’s Have Another Cup o’ Coffee” and Soft Lights and Sweet Music”. Both sides feature a vocal by Ballew. The band seems to have modernized significantly on these recordings, less than a year later, and may very well be an entirely different group.