One of the few independent record labels to spring up during the Great Depression was Crown, founded in 1930 by the Plaza Record Company after the merger that created the American Record Corporation, leaving them without their flagship label, Banner. Most of Crown’s output consisted of popular and jazz music, but they also issued some interesting country recordings, such as this one.
Frankie Marvin was born January 27, 1904 in Butler, Indian Territory, where he grew up with his brother, the future popular singer and ukulele man Johnny Marvin. At some point in the mid-1920s, Frankie came to New York to begin a recording career like his brother. Frankie Marvin sang variously as a studio vocalist for dance and jazz bands (he can be heard singing “St. James Infirmary” with King Oliver’s Orchestra) and a country singer a la Jimmie Rodgers, often accompanying himself on guitar. Marvin also worked as an accompanist to Gene Autry on some of his early records.
Crown 3058, recorded in New York by Frankie Marvin in January 1931 features two off-brand versions of country hits of the day.
First, Marvin sings Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 8”, better known today as “Mule Skinner Blues”. Based on my own research, this is likely the first of many covers of Rodgers’ classic song.
Next, Marvin sings his, Gene Autry, and George Rainey’s composition “True Blue Bill”, occasionally known as “I’m a Truthful Fellow”. He seems to be channeling “Ukulele Ike” Cliff Edwards’ trademark form of scatting, known as “effin'”, here.