Victor 19212 – Ted Weems and his Orchestra – 1923

115 years ago today, the prolific bandleader Ted Weems was born.  He had hits with “Piccolo Pete” and “Heartaches”, and co-wrote such songs as “Oh, Mo’nah” and “Jig Time”.   In commemoration of the occasion, here is his first record.

Weems was born Wilfred Theodore Wemyes on September 26, 1901 in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania.  He began his musical path when he entered a contest to win a pony, but wound up with a violin instead.  He later took up the trombone as well.  Weems organized his first band while in school, and did so again in college with a more professional group that took professional engagements at hotels and restaurants.  In 1921, Weems’ band played at the inauguration of President Warren G. Harding.  The Weems band made their first record in 1923 for the Victor Talking Machine Company, with whom they continued to record for the next ten years.  After leaving Victor, the Weems band recorded for Columbia, and then Decca.  Like many bands and musicians of that day and age, much of their success was found on the airwaves.  During the war, Weems joined the Merchant Marines and led their band.  After a period of relative dormancy, Weems’ popularity was revived in 1947 when a North Carolina disc jockey played his uptempo rumba recording of “Heartaches” from 1933, which was met with unexpected enthusiasm from the public.  After that unexpected success, Victor reissued the record, and Decca followed suit with a reissue of their recording of the same tune that Weems had cut in 1938, both of which became hits.  Weems organized a new band, which stayed together until 1953.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ted Weems died of emphysema.

Victor 19212 was recorded on November 20, 1923 in Camden, New Jersey, the first sides ever cut by Ted Weems’ Orchestra.  Both sides were originally made as tests, but must’ve impressed the higher-ups, as they wound up being assigned masters and issued.  The band consists of Art Weems and Paul Creedon on trumpets, Ted Weems on trombone, Norman Nugent and Walter Livingston clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and bass sax, Francis Buggy on clarinet, soprano sax, and tenor sax, Charles Gaylord on violin, Reuel Kenyon on piano, Weston Vaughan on banjo, George Barth on tuba and string bass, and Cecil Richardson on drums.

First up, Weems’ band plays the western-themed “Covered Wagon Days”.

Covered Wagon Days

Covered Wagon Days, recorded November 20, 1923 by Ted Weems and his Orchestra.

On the reverse, they play a superb instrumental rendition of the old standard “Somebody Stole My Gal”.

Somebody Stole My Gal

Somebody Stole My Gal, recorded November 20, 1923 by Ted Weems and his Orchestra.

Columbia 13001-D – Bessie Smith – 1923

I often notice that there’s no balance between the jazz and the and the blues (and country) that’s posted here, unfortunately the category for blues tunes on this site is terribly barren and bereft.  What better way to remedy that than with the aid of the Empress of the Blues herself, Madam Bessie Smith.  Here Bessie sings two fine songs on one of Columbia’s first issues in their series dedicated to “race records”, pressed with their beautiful “flags” label design.

Columbia 13001-D was recorded September 26 and October 10, 1923 in New York City and was the second issue in Columbia’s first Race series which ran only from 13000-D to 13007-D in 1923 and was soon abandoned in favor of their more successful 14000-D series.  These sides are two of Bessie’s earlier sides, her twenty-fifth and thirtieth to be precise, and her first in Columbia’s specifically designated “race” series.

First, Bessie moans her way through Sid Laney’s “Cemetery Blues”, backed by Jimmy Jones on piano, and recorded on the September 26 date.  This song was later adapted to the western swing style in 1928 by the Paradise Joy Boys of Dallas, Texas. Sid Laney was apparently a pseudonym used by prolific piano roll player J. Lawrence Cook.  Does that mean this piece was written by Cook, or was there a real Laney?

Cemetery Blues

Cemetery Blues, recorded September 26, 1923 by Bessie Smith.

On the flip, Bessie sings Lovie Austin’s “Any Woman’s Blues”, accompanied on piano by the great Fletcher Henderson, recorded on the October 10 date.

Any Woman's Blues

Any Woman’s Blues, recorded October 10, 1923 by Bessie Smith.

Merry Christmas from Old Time Blues!

Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and at Old Time Blues!

Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and here at Old Time Blues!

The Lord's Prayer.

Bryan and the Lord’s Prayer.

2015 being the first Christmastime we’ve had at Old Time Blues, I think it would be appropriate to start a new tradition, one record to share every Christmas eve, similar to the way that the folks over at Shorpy post that same office party photograph every Christmas. Made specially by Starr Piano Company for the Christmas season, I think this is the perfect record to start such a tradition.

Now, on December 25, 2015, 2016, 2017, a whole year later, Old Time Blues continues in our yuletide tradition of celebrating a very William Jennings Bryan Christmas!

Gennett 5225 was recorded June 30, 1923 and February 1922, respectively, presumably both at the Gennett studio of the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana.

On this special Christmas Greetings disc, former Secretary of State, three time Democratic Presidential candidate, and esteemed orator William Jennings Bryan delivers a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  I don’t know about you, but I cherish this rare opportunity to hear the voice of the “Great Commoner” on phonograph record.

The Lord's Prayer, recorded

The Lord’s Prayer, recorded June 30, 1923 by William Jennings Bryan.

On the back of this record, the Westminster Quartette sings a solemn a capella rendition of “Nearer, My God, To Thee”.

Nearer, My God, To Thee

Nearer, My God, To Thee, recorded February 1922 by the Westminster Quartette.

Updated with improved audio on December 25, 2016.

Victor 45347 – Will Rogers – 1923

Will Rogers was America’s most complete human document. He reflected in many ways the heartbeat of America.

Damon Runyon

The great American humorist Will Rogers.

The great American humorist Will Rogers, circa 1935.

On this day, August 15, eighty years ago, the great American humorist, movie star, vaudevillian, and cowboy, Will Rogers met his tragic fate with the famed aviator Wiley Post near Point Barrow in Alaska while surveying a route from North America to Russia in Post’s cobbled together airplane, with Will intending to pick up some new material for his newspaper column along the way.  The flight went well until an engine failure caused the plane to take a nosedive and crash into a lagoon.

In his life, Will Rogers, born November 4, 1879 in Oologah, Indian Territory, was one of the biggest and brightest stars of the Roaring Twenties.  He became a cowboy in his early life, and later turned to vaudeville, starring in Ziegfeld’s Follies, with his trick roping a major attraction.  By the end of the 1910s, Rogers had become a Hollywood movie star, and would appear in seventy-one pictures from 1918 to 1935.  What Will Rogers is probably best remembered for however, is his wit, which he expressed in his newspaper column from 1922 to 1935.  Befriending another of the greatest stars of the day, Charles Lindbergh, Rogers took an interest in aviation, which would be his downfall in 1935.  Will Rogers in his day became something of a folk hero, representing classical American values, and an innocence of bygone days, and his death sparked nationwide tributes.

On Victor 45347, recorded February 6, 1923 in New York City, Will Rogers gives us “A New Slant on War” and “Timely Topics”.  The record was released in March of 1923 and remained in the Victor catalog until 1927, it was later reissued as Victor 25126 on August 25, 1935, ten days after Will’s untimely demise.

With the Great War still fresh on the nation’s mind, in “A New Slant on War”, Will gives us, as the title would indicate, some humorous thoughts on war, why we have them, and how we can prevent them in the future.

A New Slant on War, recorded February 6, 1923 by Will Rogers.

A New Slant on War, recorded February 6, 1923 by Will Rogers.

While “Timely Topics” may not be so timely anymore, this side is still brimming with gems of Rogers’ timeless witticisms.

Timely Topics, recorded February 6, 1923 by Will Rogers.

Timely Topics, recorded February 6, 1923 by Will Rogers.

Columbia A3943 – Clara Smith – 1923

This particular record is one of a group that got me started in collecting, a group originally owned by my great-grandmother and her father.  I believe this one in particular was my great-great-grandfather’s, and like many from that bunch, it has seen better days.  If you ever wondered whether a white family from Texas in the 1920s would buy vaudeville blues records, there’s your answer.

This record also has the great distinction of being the first record by “Queen of the Moaners” Clara Smith.  Smith, of no relation to Bessie or Mamie, was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1893, and most details regarding her early life remain a mystery.  In the late 1910s, she toured the TOBA circuit in vaudeville before moving to Harlem in 1923, where she began recording with Columbia Records.  While in vaudeville, Smith gave a young Josephine Baker her first break in 1920, and she was good friends with Bessie Smith until a night in 1925 when Bessie got drunk and beat her up.  Clara Smith continued to record until 1932, and died of a heart attack three years later in 1935.

Columbia A3943, made several months before Columbia’s race series began, was recorded exactly 92 years ago on June 26, 1923 and features “I Got Everything a Woman Needs” and “Every Woman’s Blues” performed by Clara Smith with piano accompaniment by the great Fletcher Henderson.  Rejected takes of these tunes were recorded a month earlier on May 31.

First up, Clara moans Stanley S. Miller’s “I Got Everything a Woman Needs”, about Emmaline down in South Caroline who was “a vampire through and through.”  This is the sixth take of the recording, the only one issued, according to the DAHR.

"I Got Everything a Woman Needs" recorded by Clara Smith, June 1923.

I Got Everything a Woman Needs, recorded June 26, 1923 by Clara Smith.

On the flip, Smith sings “Every Woman’s Blues”, also written by Miller.  This one is take five out of six, also the only one issued.

"Every Woman's Blues" recorded June 26, 1923 by Clara Smith.

Every Woman’s Blues, recorded June 26, 1923 by Clara Smith.