August 23 marks the anniversary of the birth of the “Crooning Troubadour” Nick Lucas—sometimes called the “grandfather of jazz guitar”—whose tenor crooned charmed millions spanning more than one generation.
Nick Lucas was born Dominic Nicholas Anthony Lucanese in Newark, New Jersey on August 22, 1897. Lucas played banjo with various dance bands in the early 1920s, and in June of 1922, made his debut recordings for Pathé with “Picking the Guitar” and “Teasin’ the Frets”, both guitar solos. He re-recorded both sides for Brunswick the next year (and again in 1932, electrically). Before long, he was making vocal records for Brunswick as “the Crooning Troubadour,” with his pleasing tenor croon accompanied by his own guitar, sometimes with a piano or orchestra. In 1929, Lucas appeared in the talking picture Gold Diggers of Broadway, introducing “Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips with Me”, which he also made a hit on record. In 1930 and ’30, he recorded with his own band, the “Crooning Troubadours”, and the following year made some recordings for Hit of the Week. Lucas’ fame faded in the 1930s, as swing became king, but he continued to perform. In the 1940s he made a few Soundies, followed by some Snader Telescriptions in 1951. Lucas experienced a resurgence in popularity many years later. He appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1969, for the televised wedding of Tiny Tim—a devotee of his—who had re-popularized “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips”. In 1974, he performed several songs for the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby. After enjoying a career that spanned a great deal longer than half a century, Nick Lucas died of pneumonia in 1982.
Brunswick 6049 was recorded in New York on February 6 and January 31, 1931, respectively. I respectfully disagree with Brian Rust’s assertion that “vocal records by this artist are of no interest as jazz,” as these two are quite jazzy, but as such, I am unable to provide a list of personnel for Lucas’ Crooning Troubadours. The band is likely made up of Brunswick studio men.
First, Lucas croons the pop tune “Running Between the Rain-drops”.
Next, he sings one of my favorites, “Hello! Beautiful”, a tune commonly associated with Maurice Chevalier.