The following record is something a bit different from the run-of-the-mill—by any measure. But if it’s that so-called “old, weird America” you’re looking for, as Greil Marcus put it, then you’ll hardly find much weirder and older than this.
The musical selections on these two sides are performed by the Vaughan Happy Two, a duo related to the Vaughan Quartet, a popular and prolific sacred singing group, though its members did not sing with the quartet. The Vaughan Quartet, Happy Two, and several other associated groups were sponsored by the James D. Vaughan Music Company of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, a successful publisher of sacred music, the namesake founder of which also established the Vaughan School of Music in 1911 and radio station WOAN in 1922. Vaughan’s Quartet first recorded in 1921 and did so extensively thereafter. Many of their recordings were issued on Vaughan’s own private record label, as well as Victor and Paramount. The Vaughan Happy Two—Arthur B. Sebren and Cullie G. Wilson—was formed in 1925, and made their first records in 1928, which they followed up with five more sessions between then and 1930, making for a total of four sessions for the Vaughan label and two for Victor, twenty-two sides in all. Their recorded repertoire included both sacred and secular songs, and their traveling stage act reportedly extended to monologues and musical saw. The recordings they left behind, at least the ones on this disc, are rather reminiscent of the parlor music from so long ago, an old fashioned style that unsurprisingly proved popular with many rural listeners in the 1920s, longing for simpler times as the modern world rapidly advanced around them.
Victor V-40001 was recorded on October 20, 1928 in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the second release in Victor’s “Native American Melodies” series, as they dubbed their V-40000 rural series prior to May of 1930. It was probably released early in 1929, and was cut from the catalog in 1930. The Vaughan Happy Two are tenor C.G. Wilson and baritone A.B. Sebren, accompanied on piano by M.B. Stroud.
They first sing “A Married Man in Trouble”, a song composed by prolific gospel songwriter James Rowe and Vaughan Quartet member Adger M. Pace. Though called the “Happy Two”, this song is quite the opposite (“how sad, how sad”), though indeed it is delivered in good humor.
On the “B” side, Sebren and Wilson sing “Chicken”, which, while credited to J. Porter Thomason and Charles W. Vaughan, is an adaptation of the old minstrel song “Chicken Don’t Roost Too High for Me”, performed by artists as diverse as Riley Puckett and Gid Tanner and the Beale Street Sheiks (Frank Stokes and Dan Sane, as “Chicken You Can Roost Behind the Moon”).