We last heard from Cab’s underappreciated sister Blanche Calloway the previous time we celebrated her birthday, with her “There’s Rhythm In the River”/”I Need Lovin'” with Andy Kirk’s band. Now the time of year has come around once again that we celebrate the birthday of the late Blanche with her music. As I’ve already gone in to some detail on Blanche’s life in the aforementioned post, I won’t rewrite my biography of her here.
When the band calling themselves “Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys” began recording for the RCA Victor Company on March 2, 1931, it was essentially as a pseudonym for Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy, fronted by vocalist Blanche. Not long after that session, before their next, Blanche tried to take over leadership of the Twelve Clouds of Joy for her own. Andy Kirk however, would have none of that, and so Blanche was left to put together a band of her own, and that she did. With Kirk band trumpeters Edgar Battle and Clarence Smith still along, Blanche assembled a new “Joy Boys”, with a few future swing era stars—Cozy Cole and Ben Webster most notably—sitting in along the way. The new Joy Boys, with occasional changes in personnel, continued to record into the middle of the 1930s, cutting seventeen sides for Victor in 1931, four for the American Record Corporation in 1934, followed by a fifth unissued recording the next year, and four more for Vocalion in 1935. The organization come to an end in 1936, when Blanche and a band member were locked up for disorderly conduct in Yazoo, Mississippi after trying to use a whites only restroom, and another bandmate ran off with all their money.
Victor 22866 was recorded on November 18, 1931 at the Church Building studio in Camden, New Jersey. It sold a mere 3,233 copies. Blanche’s Joy Boys are made up of Henry Mason, Clarence E. Smith, and Edgar Battle on trumpets, Alton Moore on trombone, Ernest Purce on clarinet and alto sax, Leroy Hardy on alto sax, Charlie Frazer on tenor sax, Clyde Hart on piano, Andy Jackson on banjo, Joe Durham on tuba, and Cozy Cole on drums.
First, Blanche sings one of her characteristic songs, her own composition, “Growling Dan”, featuring a mention of her brother’s famous Minnie the Moocher.
On the flip, she sings a blues song popularized by Bessie Smith, the Clarence Williams and Hezekiah Jenkins (!) composition, “I Got What it Takes (But it Breaks My Heart to Give it Away)”.