In 1925, the Boswell Sisters had made quite a name for themselves in their hometown of New Orleans. Three years prior, they had won a talent contest for WAAB radio, which earned them a three day gig at the Palace Theatre. They were regularly engaged around town, particularly at functions of the Young Men’s Gymnastic Club, whose promotive director had taken a shine to the Bozzies. It was a YMGC function where the sisters were noticed by vaudeville headliners Van and Schenck, who were at the time playing at the Orpheum. They loved the Boswells’ act, and promised to pull some strings in their favor when they returned to New York. Very soon after that, they cut their first record. E.T. King of the Victor Talking Machine Company was in town with mobile recording equipment, just in from Houston on the first such “field trip” they ever made (though not the first recording session held in New Orleans). The Boswell Sisters were the first artists to record for Victor in New Orleans, they cut three sides, “You Can Call Me Baby All the Time”, “I’m Gonna Cry (The Cryin’ Blues)”, and “Pal o’ Mine” on March 22, 1925, followed by “Dad” and “Nights When I Am Lonely” on the 25th. Only two of those five were issued. Other artists to record on the historic New Orleans field trip were Tony Parenti’s Famous Melody Boys, Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Reportedly the Boswells’ record was mistaken for a “race” record, and as a result kept out of many record stores. Nonetheless, the sisters were eager to head to Camden and cut a few more, though fate held them in New Orleans until 1928.
Victor 19639 was recorded on March 22 and 25, 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana. These recordings were made acoustically, shortly before Victor commenced mainstream electrical recording (though they had made several prior to these). It is the Boswell Sisters first record, as well as their only record made in the 1920s.
Tragically, this record arrived in my possession broken in three pieces, the result of incompetent packing (one of the worst jobs I’ve ever seen), and can be seen on the “wall of shame” on Old Time Blues’ guide to packing 78s. I couldn’t allow a record this rare and this great to remain in pieces however, so I set about repairing it. After warming up by repairing two other broken discs, I carefully lined up the grooves, setting the pieces as tightly together as possible, and superglued the edges and run-out to hold it together. Fortunately, it tracked, and played with clicks. After transferring, I painstakingly removed every click the cracks caused, and equalized out the rest of the thumps. The end result exceeded my every expectation of what this broken record could sound like. A few slight clicks still remain, but I believe you’ll find that it sounds quite clean, all things considered (seeing as it has the equivalent of four cracks to the label in it).
First, in the style of her idol Mamie Smith, seventeen-year-old Connie belts out “I’m Gonna Cry (Cryin’ Blues)”, accompanied on piano by her sister Martha. Young Vet joins in later on to help Connie vocally imitate a hot instrumental break.
Next, all the sisters join in on “Nights When I Am Lonely”, which features the Bozzies’ trademark style of scat known as “-ggling” (that’s pronounced “gulling”). On this side, they are accompanied on piano by Vitaly Lubowski, who had recorded the previous day with Tony Parenti’s Famous Melody Boys.