Romeo 5109 – Gene Autry & Jimmy Long – 1931

Singing cowboy and twentieth century superstar Gene Autry was born on this day 109 years ago on the twenty-ninth of September, 1907.  To commemorate the occasion, presented here is Autry’s first big hit record, featuring his early duet partner Jimmy Long.

Gene Autry and Jimmy Long pictured on the cover of their Cowboy Songs and Mountain Ballads song folio.

Gene Autry was born Orvon Grover Autry on September 29, 1907 in Grayson County, Texas, near Tioga.  After high school, he worked as a telegraph operator for St. Louis–San Francisco Railway, and would sing and play guitar on slow days.  After losing that job, Autry sang on Tulsa’s KVOO, and when Will Rogers encouraged his singing career, he went to New York for an audition with the Victor Company, which wound up producing one record with Jimmy Long and Frankie Marvin on steel guitar.  After Victor, Autry recorded for Columbia, which yielded several releases on their budget labels, in the style of the famous singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers.  After Columbia, he recorded for Gennett and the American Record Corporation, staying with the latter for many years.  In 1934, he was “discovered” by Nat Levine of Mascot Pictures and made his motion picture debut in In Old Santa Fe, becoming the original singing cowboy of the screen.  Before long, Autry became the top singing cowboy on film until he was surpassed by Roy Rogers, and his blue yodeling style was replaced with a more Western repertoire.  He had hit records with “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” in 1931 (and again in ’35), “Back in the Saddle” in 1939, and the Christmas classics “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  During World War II, Autry served in the Army Air Corps.  In the 1950s, Autry appeared in his own television program, and became involved in baseball.  He retired from show business in 1964, having made over one-hundred films and over six-hundred records.  Autry died of lymphoma on October 2, 1998.  He is the only person thusfar to be awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in all five categories.

Romeo 5109 was recorded on October 29 and 30, 1931 in New York City by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long.  In addition to Autry’s guitar, the pair are accompanied by Roy Smeck on steel guitar.

Sentimental to the point of sappiness (and truly a piece of Americana) “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” was Gene Autry’s first big hit, and one of his most enduring songs, making its biggest success in 1935 when Autry sang it in Tumbling Tumbleweeds.

Silver Haired Daddy of Mine

Silver Haired Daddy of Mine, recorded October 29, 1931 by Gene Autry & Jimmy Long.

Following the same formula as the previous, on the flip, they perform “Mississippi Valley Blues”.

Mississippi Valley Blues

Mississippi Valley Blues, recorded October 30, 1931 by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long.

Okeh 41577 – The Charleston Chasers – 1931

Jack Teagarden in marching band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1938, photo by Charles Peterson.

Jack Teagarden in band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1939, photo by Charles Peterson.

August 20 marks the day that we pay homage to that great trombone man from down in Texas, Jack Teagarden, who was born on that day in 1905.  In celebration of the occasion, here is a record that holds great significance in the development of swing music.  It is credited by Benny Goodman himself as the record that really saw him come into his own element, well on his path to becoming the King of Swing.

Jack was born Weldon Leo Teagarden in the small town of Vernon, Texas.  His father was an oilfield worker who played cornet in a brass band, and his mother played ragtime piano and church organ.  Jack took up the baritone horn, soon switching to trombone, his brothers Charlie and Clois chose trumpet and drums, respectively, and sister Norma learned piano.  In 1921, Teagarden joined Peck Kelley’s band in Houston, and was offered a position in Paul Whiteman’s band when the famous bandleader was passing through, though Jack opted to remain in Texas.  He made it to New York City in 1926, where he recorded with the orchestras of Ben Pollack, Roger Wolfe Kahn, and various bands organized by impresario Irving Mills, as well as numerous jazz bands led by the likes of Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, Hoagy Carmichael, and Louis Armstrong, establishing himself as the finest jazz trombonist of the age (and perhaps of any age), and a popular blues vocalist on the side.  In the early 1930s, Teagarden played with Benny Goodman’s orchestras, helping to percolate the early inklings of swing at its best, but in 1933, he signed a contract with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra for five years, preventing him from leading his own band as the swing era kicked off soon after.  Despite having fairly little opportunity for solo work with Whiteman, Teagarden was able to get in a bit of side work during that time, and started his own band after parting ways with Whiteman in 1939.  Though his orchestra lasted until 1946, it found little in the way of success.  After World War II, Teagarden played with Louis Armstrongs All-Stars, and toured internationally more than once, remaining a mainstay in the jazz scene until his death from pneumonia in 1964.

Okeh 41577 was recorded February 9, 1931 in New York City by the Charleston Chasers, under the direction of Benny Goodman.  It is a dub of the original issue on Columbia 2415-D (why they dubbed it, instead of master pressing, I couldn’t say, but I’m sure someone could.)  The almost unbeatable band features Charlie Teagarden and Ruby Weinstein on trumpets, Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Sid Stoneburn on alto sax, Larry Binyon on tenor sax, Dick McDonough on guitar, Arthur Schutt on piano, and Harry Goodman on string bass.  Jack Teagarden sings the vocals on both sides.  Unfortunately, some dumbbell thought it was a bright idea to carve an “X” into both labels.

Besides perhaps Louis Armstrong, “Basin Street Blues” is associated with no musician more than Jack Teagarden, who performed and recorded it a number of times.  It was in fact Teagarden and Glenn Miller who were responsible for adding the opening verse, “Won’t you come along with me. / To the Mississippi,” to Spencer Williams’ famous song.

Basin Street Blues

Basin Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Also quite associated with Teagarden is W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues”, which he recorded again soon after for Vocalion with Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang’s All-Star Orchestra.

Beale Street Blues

Beale Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Brunswick 6211 – Don Redman and his Orchestra – 1931

A young Don Redman in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra around 1925.

July 29th marks the anniversary of the birth of musician and arranger extraordinaire Don Redman, whose innovative work during the Harlem Renaissance helped to usher in the era of swing jazz.

Donald Matthew Redman was born into a musical family in Piedmont, West Virginia on July 29, 1900.  He first took up the trumpet, and could play all the wind instruments before he was a teenager.  Redman first studied at Storer College in Harper’s Ferry before attending the Boston Conservatory.  After graduating, he went to New York and played with Billy Page’s Broadway Syncopators, playing primarily reed instruments, and soon began arranging.  In 1923, he joined Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra, with whom he created arrangements that would develop into swing in the next decade.  After recording extensively with Henderson, Redman was invited by Jean Goldkette to take over the reigns of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in Detroit, a position which he held until 1931, when he started his own orchestra.  Redman kept his own band together until 1940, playing for the better part of the swing era, and appearing in a Vitaphone short in 1933.  After his orchestra disbanded, he continued to arrange prolifically for a number of bands, as he had done previously.  Redman died in 1964 at the age of 64.

Brunswick 6211 was recorded on September 24 and October 15, 1931 in New York City, the former being the first session by Don Redman’s newly formed orchestra under his own name.  The band includes Bill Coleman, replaced in the latter session by Langston Curl, Leonard Davis, and Henry “Red” Allen on trumpet, Claude Jones, Fred Robinson, and Benny Morton on trombone, Edward Inge and Rupert Cole on clarinet and alto sax, Don Redman on alto sax, Robert Carroll on tenor sax, Horace Henderson on piano, Talcott Reeves on banjo and guitar, Bob Ysaguirre on bass, and Manzie Johnson on drums.

Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen’s “Shakin’ the Africann”, recorded on the latter date, features a vocal by Redman, rejecting “sweet” music in favor of jazz played hot.

Shakin' the Africann

Shakin’ the Africann, recorded September 24, 1931 by Don Redman and his Orchestra.

Redman’s own “Song of the Weeds”, most commonly known as “Chant of the Weeds”, was also recorded for Columbia with a quite different sounding arrangement.

Song of the Weeds

Song of the Weeds, recorded September 24, 1931 by Don Redman and his Orchestra.

Hit of the Week L 3 – Gene Austin and Hit of the Week Orchestra – 1931

The original sleeve of this Hit of the Week.

The original sleeve of this Hit of the Week.

Thanks to the release of the free version of Brian Rust’s Jazz Records 1917-1934, I found myself rather preoccupied as of late, and neglected to post in honor of Gene Austin’s birthday, so I’ll have to offer this a little belatedly.

Gene Austin was born Lemuel Eugene Lucas in Gainesville, Texas on June 24, 1900.  He grew up in Minden, Louisiana, and learned to play guitar and piano before leaving home at fifteen to join a vaudeville troupe in Houston, Texas.  When he got on stage, his voice wooed the audience so that he was offered a job on the spot.  In 1917, he joined the Army to fight in the War and wound up in New Orleans, playing piano in Storyville before shipping off.  When he got back home, he planned to become a dentist, but ended up going back to vaudeville.  Austin first began recording with country musician George Reneau, the “Blind Musician of the Smoky Mountains”, for Vocalion and Edison, singing and playing piano, and soon switched to Victor.  With the advent of electrical recording, Gene Austin was among the first singers to exploit the more sensitive technique as a “crooner”.  His 1927 recording of “My Blue Heaven” was one the best selling and most popular records of the decade.  As the ominous clouds of the Great Depression rolled in, Austin was relegated to the budget labels, and as swing became prominent, his style soon began to sound dated.  In the mid-1930s, he began appearing in minor roles in motion pictures.  Austin continue to sing professionally for many years after falling from the spotlight, and in 1964, ran for governor of Nevada.  Besides his singing, Gene Austin was also a songwriter, and originated such standards as “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street”, “How Come You Do Me Like You Do?”, and “The Lonesome Road”.  Austin died January 24, 1972 at the age of seventy-one.

Hit of the Week L 3 was recorded in October of 1931 in New York, and released at the newsstands on November 19, 1931.  It was Gene Austin’s only Hit of the Week release.  These Hit of the Week records were pressed in coated paper and sold for fifteen cents at newsstands.  We previously heard Duke Ellington’s band on one of these unusual flexible discs.  As part of the latter half of Hit of the Week’s releases, this disc has narrower grooves to accommodate a five minute recording on one side.

On this single sided cardboard record, Gene Austin croons “Now That You’re Gone”.  The second tune, “La Paloma” is an instrumental by the Hit of the Week Orchestra.

Now That You're Gone

Now That You’re Gone, recorded October 1931 by Gene Austin and Hit of the Week Orchestra.

Updated with improved audio on May 11, 2017.

Bluebird B-5942 – Jimmie Rodgers/Jesse Rodgers – 1931/1935

This record is a remarkable one for a number of reasons.  One of those is that, being a Depression era release, it is quite scarce (and I don’t mean to sound braggadocious, I’m still surprised that I have it, myself).  Another is that is one of a number of records of the 1920s and 1930s to feature black and white artists performing together, in this case Jimmie Rodgers with the Earl McDonald’s Louisville Jug Band.  On the downside, this copy has certainly seen better days.  The years have not been kind to it, and its sound reflects that. It’s still listenable, but has a layer of surface noise.  Another bit worth mentioning is that the flip side of this record, which was released after Rodgers’ passing, features a recording by another blue yodeler who happened to be Jimmie Rodgers’ first cousin.

Both sides of Bluebird B-5942 were recorded on separate occasions.  The “A” side was recorded on June 16, 1931 in Louisville, Kentucky, the “B” side was recorded January 28, 1935 in San Antonio, Texas.  The personnel of the jug band on the first side includes George Allen on clarinet, Clifford Hayes on violin, Cal Smith on tenor guitar, Fred Smith on guitar and Earl McDonald on jug, the same basic group as the Dixieland Jug Blowers.  One seller claimed that it sold a total of 2,757 copies, but I have no idea how they came up with that number and whether or not it’s accurate, though those numbers don’t sound out of line.

On the first side, the Blue Yodeler sings “My Good Gal’s Gone”, with outstanding accompaniment by Earl McDonald’s Louisville Jug Band.  Though it was recorded in 1931, this 1935 Bluebird is the first issue of this recording.  Takes “2” and “3” of this song exist, this one is the latter.

My Good Gal’s Gone, recorded June 16, 1931 by Jimmie Rodgers.

On the “B” side, Jimmie’s first cousin, Jesse Rodgers sings “Leave Me Alone, Sweet Mama” in a style that reminds me of Cliff Carlisle more than Jimmie.  Jesse stuck around for quite a while, later dropping the “d” from his name to become Jesse Rogers by the end of the 1930s.

Leave Me Alone, Sweet Mama, recorded January 28, 1935 by Jesse Rodgers.

Leave Me Alone, Sweet Mama, recorded January 28, 1935 by Jesse Rodgers.

Updated with improved audio on May 23, 2017.