Brunswick 3351 – Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders – 1926

On April 10, we celebrate the birthday of Fess Williams, a mainstay of the jazz scene, both in Harlem and Chicago, for the bulk of the Jazz Age.  While Duke Ellington (or maybe Fletcher Henderson) could easily be compared to Paul Whiteman, saxophone player Fess patterned his act more after Ted Lewis, with his “gas pipe” style of playing clarinet.

Fess began life as Stanley R. Williams in Danville, Kentucky in 1894.  He was educated at the Tuskegee Institute, and started his first band in 1919.  In 1923, Fess went to Chicago, and to New York the next year.  His nickname coming from “Professor”, by ’26, he had begun leading his most popular outfit, the Royal Flush Orchestra, with whom he recorded until 1930.  Though he continued to lead bands into the 1930s, his style fell out of fashion with the coming of swing, and he began selling real estate, though he remained sporadically involved in music.  In 1962, his nephew Charles Mingus set up a reunion of sorts for the Fess and the Royal Flush Orchestra in his Town Hall Concert in New York.  Fess Williams died in 1975.

Brunswick 3351 was recorded October 1, 1926 in New York by Fess Williams’ Royal Flush Orchestra under the pseudonym “Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders”.  It was also issued on Vocalion 1054.  The band features George Temple on trumpet, David “Jelly” James on trombone, Fess Williams on clarinet and alto sax, Perry Smith on clarinet and tenor sax, Hank Duncan on piano, Ollie Blackwell on banjo, and Ralph Bedell on drums.  Fess provides the vocals on both sides.

One of the finest sides by Fess Williams’ band (and one of the finest sides in general, if you ask me) is “Messin’ Around”.

Messin' Around

Messin’ Around, recorded October 1, 1926 by Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders.

On the reverse, they play that enduring little ditty, “Heebie Jeebies”.

Heebie Jeebies

Heebie Jeebies, recorded October 1, 1926 by Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders.

Okeh 8312 – Bertha “Chippie” Hill – 1926

It seems wrong that this place called “Old Time Blues” has featured staggeringly few blues records thus far, and after that previous incursion of popular music, I think it’s high time to work some actual old time blues into the schedule.  Here’s a classic record by Bertha “Chippie” Hill featuring the work of a very familiar trumpeter.

Bertha Hill was born in 1905 in Charleston, South Carolina, she entered vaudeville in the 1910s, working with “Ma” Rainey and Ethel Waters in the TOBA circuit and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.  Hill was given the nickname “Chippie” at age 14, referring to her young age at the time.  She entered the recording industry in 1925 and only recorded until 1929, making 23 sides total.  After retiring from music in the 1930s to raise her children, Hill made a comeback in the late 1940s.  Tragically, she was struck and killed by a hit and run driver in New York City in 1950.

On Okeh 8312, a laminated “TrueTone” recorded February 23, 1926 in Chicago, Bertha “Chippie” Hill sings “Trouble In Mind” and “Georgia Man”, accompanied by Richard M. Jones on piano and the incomparable Louis Armstrong on trumpet.

Richard M. Jones’ “Trouble In Mind” is an excellent (albeit melancholy) song, delivered wonderfully by Hill.  The label on this side looks pretty darn bad, but fortunately what actually matters, the playing surface that is, is not too bad at all.

Trouble In Mind, recorded February 23, 1926 by Bertha "Chippie" Hill.

Trouble In Mind, recorded February 23, 1926 by Bertha “Chippie” Hill.

“Georgia Man” is a much lighter-hearted piece, trading the dreary theme of laying one’s head on a railroad line for a more raunchy one involving “jelly roll”.  The label’s a lot prettier on this side, and it might play just a little bit better, too.

Georgia Man, recorded February 23, 1926 by Bertha "Chippie Hill.

Georgia Man, recorded February 23, 1926 by Bertha “Chippie” Hill.

Victor 20415 – Jelly-Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers/Dixieland Jug Blowers – 1926

October 20, 1890 is one of several possible birth dates for famed jazz pianist and composer Ferd. “Jelly Roll” Morton, the others being September 20, 1885, September 20, 1889, and September 13, 1884.  For the sake of this post, happy 125th birthday, Jelly Roll.  For the occasion, I present one of his finest recordings.

One of the most interesting and storied characters in jazz, Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand LaMothe, later Mouton after his mother remarried, started out playing piano in the Storyville “sporting houses” of his home town of New Orleans before taking off to tour around the United States, working in minstrel shows and vaudeville, as well as reportedly a gambler, pool shark and pimp.  He first recorded in 1923 for Paramount, and recorded with a number of different groups until he was signed to Victor in 1926, with whom he remained until he was abruptly dropped in 1930.  The Depression years proved difficult for Morton, who was robbed of royalties by his publisher, Walter Melrose.  He was recorded again for the Library of Congress in 1938 and began recording again around then.  Blaming his declining health on a voodoo spell, Jelly Roll Morton died in Los Angeles, California in 1941.

Victor 20415 was recorded December 16 and 11, 1926 at the Webster Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.  The Jelly Roll side features George Mitchell on cornet, Kid Ory on trombone, Omer Simeon on clarinet, Jelly Roll Morton on piano and also singing the vocal, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, John Lindsay on string bass, and Andrew Hilaire on drums.  The Dixieland Jug Blowers side features Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lockwood Lewis on alto sax, Freddie Smith on banjo, Cal Smith on tenor banjo, Curtis Hayes on guitjo, and Henry Clifford and Earl McDonald on jugs.

First up, Jelly Roll’s Red Hot Peppers play one of their all-time greatest sides, King Oliver’s “Doctor Jazz Stomp” (and boy does it stomp), recorded on the December 16 date.

Doctor Jazz,

Doctor Jazz, recorded December 16, 1926 by Jelly-Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.

On the flip side, the Dixieland Jug Blowers with Johnny Dodds on clarinet play “Memphis Shake”, recorded on the December 11 date.

Memphis Shake, recorded December 11, 1926 by the Dixieland Jug Blowers.

Memphis Shake, recorded December 11, 1926 by the Dixieland Jug Blowers.

Updated with improved audio on June 6, 2017.