Victor 19639 – Connie Boswell/Boswell Sisters – 1925

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.

I'm Gonna Cry (Cryin' Blues)

I’m Gonna Cry (Cryin’ Blues), recorded March 22, 1925 by Connie Boswell.

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.

Nights When I Am Lonely

Nights When I Am Lonely, recorded March 25, 1925 by the Boswell Sisters.

Regal 9791 – Harry Richman – 1925

Harry Richman around the mid-1920s.

Harry Richman around the mid-1920s.

August 10 once again marks the birthday of one of Old Time Blues’ favorite vaudevillians, Harry Richman.  Last year, we celebrated the occasion with his famous “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.  This time, I offer to you Richman’s first recording ever.

Harry Richman was born Harold Reichman on August 10, 1895 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He began performing by the age of eleven, and was working the vaudeville circuits by eighteen.  After striking out as an act of his own in the early 1920s, he worked his way up, appearing as the star of George White’s Scandals in 1926.  In 1930, he made his motion picture debut in Puttin’ on the Ritz, in which he introduced the famous Irving Berlin song of the same name.  Though his acting career failed to take off, he appeared in four more pictures from 1930 to ’38.  Throughout the 1930s, Richman hosted a radio program, and made a number of popular records.   He was also noted as a record setting aviator, making a famous round-trip flight across the Atlantic in 1936 with Dick Merrill.  In 1938, he married former Ziegfeld girl Hazel Forbes, though they had divorced by 1942.  After his career slowed down in the 1940s, Richman made a number of brief comeback appearances, largely in a nostalgic context.  He published an autobiography titled A Hell of a Life in 1966, and died in 1972.

Regal 9791 was recorded January 30, 1925, most likely in New York.  Unfortunately, though it appears to be in decent condition, it suffers from a very thin, quiet signal, and sounds generally lousy.  In spite of that, the music is still plainly audible.

First, Harry croons “Will You Remember Me”, with guitar accompaniment adding a charming, folksy effect.

Will You Remember Me

Will You Remember Me, recorded January 30, 1925 by Harry Richman.

Richman seems to put on his best Jolson for “California Poppy”.

California Poppy

California Poppy, recorded January 30, 1925 by Harry Richman.

Updated with improved audio on November 13, 2016.

Paramount 12287 – O’Bryant’s Washboard Band – 1925

May 15 marks the possible 120th anniversary of clarinetist Jimmie O’Bryant’s birth, and May 20th will mark the 115th anniversary of pianist Jimmy Blythe’s birth.  Both those musicians play on this record, so I can’t think of a better time to post it.

Like a number of artists in his era and genre, details regarding the life and times of clarinetist Jimmie O’Bryant are few and far between, and the true birth date of the “mystery man of jazz” is uncertain, but when a date is ventured, it is most often cited as May 15, 1896.  O’Bryant was born in either Louisville, Kentucky or somewhere in Arkansas.  He took up the clarinet, playing in a style often compared to Johnny Dodds, and also played saxophone.  In 1920 and ’21, he played with a band called the Tennesee Ten, and later worked with Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and W.C. Handy.  By the mid-1920s, O’Bryant was in Chicago, where he played with Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders and with his own washboard band, both producing records for Paramount.  On Paramount, he was called “The Clarinet Wizard”.  Jimmie O’Bryant’s promising career was cut short when he died of apparently unknown causes on June 24, 1928.

Paramount 12287 was recorded in June of 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. The outstanding but minimal personnel features the likes Jimmie O’Bryant on clarinet, James Blythe on piano, and Jasper Taylor on washboard.  This disc has a fairly serious crack about half way into the playing surface, but I’ve done my best to digitally remove all traces of the interruption.

“Clarinet Get Away” has been cited as the earliest recorded track to use a riff resembling the one used in Joe Garland’s 1938 composition “In the Mood”, popularized by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1939, which was in turn borrowed from Wingy Manone’s 1930 “Tar Paper Stomp”, but when I mentioned that tidbit on my YouTube upload of this tune, I get chewed out by a commenter calling it a “hoax” and saying that the recording “sounds very derivative”, so you be the judge.  This is take 2, of two issued takes.

Clarinet Get Away,

Clarinet Get Away, recorded June 1925 by O’Bryant’s Washboard Band.

James Blythe’s composition “Back Alley Rub” is more of a slow drag, and for better or worse, sounds nothing like “In the Mood”.  This one is also take 2.

Back Alley Rub, recorded June 1925 by O'Bryant's Washboard Band.

Back Alley Rub, recorded June 1925 by O’Bryant’s Washboard Band.

Updated with improved audio on May 29, 2017.

Columbia 523-D – The Georgians – 1925

It’s time now for more music for music’s sake, and it’s hard to go wrong with a Columbia Viva-Tonal, they tend to sound decent even when they’re beat to hell!

There were a number of bands to go by the name “The Georgians”.  The one in question here was a jazz ensemble made up of members of the Paul Specht Orchestra, and led by trumpet player Frank Guarente.  Guarente’s Georgians first recorded for Columbia in 1922, and traveled to Europe later in the decade at least once, making a number of recordings in Switzerland.  There seems to be some uncertainty as to when the original Georgians broke up.  Some sources indicate that they disbanded in 1924, and that Columbia later used the name for different groups.  Other sources indicate that Guarente continued to lead the band until several years later.

Columbia 523-D was recorded November 18 and December 12, 1925 in New York, New York.  According to the DAHR, this session was still under the direction of Guarente, and reportedly includes the talents of Charlie Spivak on trumpet, Al Philburn on trombone, Ernie Warren or Frank Kilduff on clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, Gilbert Dutton on clarinet and tenor sax, Walker O’Neil on piano, Roy Smeck on banjo and harmonica, and Johnny Morris on drums.

First up is “Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley!” a dandy little tune, featuring a vocal by drummer Johnny Morris.  While Rust notes Smeck as doubling on harmonica on this side, the instrument has always struck my ear as sounding like a goofus (aka Couesnophone), a toy saxophone adopted in jazz music by Adrian Rollini in 1924, I’m not sure who’s playing it here.  Recorded on the latter of the two dates, the DAHR shows takes “6” and “7” as issued for this side, this is “7”.

Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley!

Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley!, recorded December 12, 1925 by The Georgians.

“Spanish Shawl” has quite a ding in the label, but on the bright side, it creates a good cross-section of the unique composition of Columbia records; coarse shellac in the middle, surrounded by a paper coating, and topped with a playing surface of smooth laminate in which the grooves are pressed.  This side was recorded on the earlier date.

Spanish Shawil

Spanish Shawl, recorded November 18, 1925 by The Georgians.

Updated on June 24, 2016 and with improved audio on April 30, 2018.

Gennett 3005 – Straun’s Pullman Porters – 1925

Come all you rounders if you want to hear, a story about a brave engineer.  Casey Jones was the rounder’s name.  On a six-eight wheeler, boys, he won his fame.  Exactly one-hundred-sixteen years ago, on April 30, 1900, the brave engineer mounted to his cabin and he took his farewell trip into the promised land.

Casey Jones was born Jonathan Luther Jones in 1863.  He got the nickname “Cayce” from his hometown in Kentucky, and he restyled it as “Casey”.  Jones married Mary Brady in 1886 and raised three children.  He worked for the M&O and the IC railroads, and eventually rose to his dream of being an engineer, becoming one of the most able and respected in the profession, famous for his unique sound with the train whistle.  In 1893, Casey’s services were employed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

On April 30, 1900, Casey Jones made his final run.  It was a foggy night, and Casey departed in the Old 362, behind schedule at 12:50 am, pulling the No. 1.  Despite several delays, Casey was able to get the train running on schedule for a time.  The end of the run came for Casey, however, when his fireman Sim Webb spotted something on the tracks ahead.  It was a stalled freight train.  Casey slammed on his airbrakes, but it was too late, and the Old 362 plowed into the rear of the freight train, going through several cars before derailing.  Thanks to his heroic actions that night, Casey’s life was the only loss in the accident.  His story was immortalized in song by IC engine-wiper Wallace Saunders.  Casey Jones went down in history as an American folk hero, he was a teetotaler, a family man, a baseball lover, and a brave engineer.

Gennett 3005 was recorded March 24 and April 5, 1925 in Gennett’s New York studio.  “Straun’s Pullman Porters” is a pseudonym for Nathan Glantz and his Orchestra, fronted by vocalist “Chick” Straun, apparently yet another a pseudonym, this time for Jack Kaufman.  I’m not entirely sure what you’d call these old folk songs reworked as jazz, if there even is a name for them, but I know I like them.  Much like Paul Tremaine’s hot dance renditions of “She’ll Be Comin ‘Round the Mountain” (and so forth), but these two are much earlier.

The first song on this disc is Wallace Saunders’ famous tale of the brave engineer, “Casey Jones”, sung by “Chick” Straun/Jack Kaufman.  Songwriting credit is given on the label to vaudevillians T. Lawrence Seibert and Eddie Newton, who popularized the song as a comedy act, with lyrics alleging infidelity on the part of Mrs. Jones, which she opposed for many years.  I selected this version specifically to avoid those lines, in order to maintain some respect toward poor old Casey.

Casey Jones

Casey Jones, recorded March 24, 1925 by Straun’s Pullman Porters.

Unfortunately for us, the old classic tune, “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”, is marred by some skips, but it’s still a neat little side.

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, recorded April 5, 1925 by Straun’s Pullman Porters.