Melotone 7-07-64 – Big Bill – 1937

It’s come time once again to pay tribute to blues legend Big Bill Broonzy, on the (unconfirmed) anniversary of his birth.  Last time, I posted one of his earlier records, coupling his memorable flatpicked “How You Want it Done?” with “M & O Blues”, featuring his own jug band.  This time around, I present two sides from around the time when he was shifting from his country blues roots to a more urbane style.  I biographed Big Bill in that previous post, so I feel that I needn’t go over that again here.

An ever-versatile musician, the 1930s marked a period of development and transition for Big Bill Broonzy’s music.  He started out the decade playing pure country blues from back where he came from, akin to Josh White, or Buddy Moss.  His recordings from that period, like “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “How You Want it Done?” generally feature his own guitar, sometimes backed with another guitar or a piano.  Later, around the time the swing era kicked off in the middle part of the decade, Chicago evidently had an effect on him, as he started to develop a more citified style to fit with the public’s changing tastes.  Accordingly, his recordings started to swing, often backed by an instrumental ensemble with horn and rhythm, comparable to urban blues contemporaries like Peetie Wheatstraw.  He worked extensively with fellow blues people such as pianist Black Bob, Hawaiian guitar man Casey Bill Weldon, harmonica player Bill “Jazz” Gillum, and his half brother Washboard Sam.  By the end of the decade, his work had become quite sophisticated, producing some of his most memorable work, including “Key to the Highway” and “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”.  After the end of World War II, however, as interests in folk music began to bud, Bill returned to his rural roots.

Melotone 7-07-64 was recorded on January 31, 1937 in Chicago. Illinois.  Big Bill is accompanied by a rhythm band made up of “Mister Sheiks” Alfred Bell on trumpet, Black Bob Hudson on piano, Bill Settles on string bass, Fred Williams on drums, and Broonzy’s own guitar.

First up, Big Bill plays a classic mid-1930s blues side, “Mean Old World”, an entirely different piece than the T-Bone Walker hit of the 1940s, though Walker may have found some inspiration in this Broonzy tune.

Mean Old World, recorded January 31, 1937 by Big BIll.

Next, Bill does a peppy one with a hot dance accompaniment, “Barrel House When it Rains”, featuring the piano of the mysterious Black Bob, among others noted Chicago blues figures.

Barrel House When it Rains, recorded January 31, 1937 by Big BIll.

Master MA 103 – Hudson-DeLange Orchestra – 1937

Some of my very favorite music comes out of the second half of the 1930s, yet so little of that has been featured here on Old Time Blues so far.  To remedy that omission, here’s some sweet swing, courtesy of the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra.

The Hudson-DeLange Orchestra was formed in 1935 by the songwriting duo of Will Hudson and Eddie DeLange, who were responsible for the 1934 hit “Moonglow”.  As one of the multitude of bands managed by New York jazz impresario Irving Mills, the band was usually fronted by DeLange, with Hudson remaining behind the scenes.  Contracted first to the Brunswick records (at the time owned by the American Record Corporation, for whom Mills’ artists recorded at the time), the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra held their first session on January 15, 1936.  The following year, they moved to Master, one of two labels (the other being Variety) made for a brief period in 1937 by the American Record Corporation for Irving Mills’ stable of artists. The bandleaders split up in 1938, and Hudson and DeLange went separate ways.  Will Hudson continued to lead the orchestra for a period, then recorded with a different band for Decca in 1940.  Eddie DeLange started a new band, and recorded for Bluebird.

Master MA 103 was recorded on March 10 and 11, 1937 in New York City by the (Will) Hudson-(Eddie) DeLange Orchestra.  In the band are Charles Mitchell, Howard Schaumberger, and Jimmy Blake on trumpets, Edward Kolyer on trombone, George Bohn and Gus Bivona on clarinet and alto sax, Pete Brendel on alto and baritone sax, Ted Duane on clarinet and tenor sax, Mark Hyams on piano, Bus Etri on guitar, Doc Goldberg on string bass, and Nat Pollard on drums.

Recorded on the latter date, Will Hudson’s “Sophisticated Swing” perfectly captures the elegance and—appropriately—sophistication of the 1930s, as opposed to the gritty Depression captured by, say, Bill Cox’s “N. R. A. Blues” (or most anything by Woody Guthrie).

Sophisticated Swing, recorded March 11, 1937 by the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra.

On the flip-side, the band swings a little harder on “The Maid’s Night Off”, recorded on the former date.

The Maid’s Night Off, recorded on March 10, 1937 by the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra.

Decca 1600 – Connie Boswell with Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats – 1937

Connie Boswell with ceramic cats, late 1930s.

Connie Boswell with ceramic cats, late 1930s.

The time has come once again to remember Miss Connie Boswell of the famous Boswell Sisters on the anniversary of her birth.  Last time, we celebrated the occasion with her “Washboard Blues”.  Since I’ve already covered Connie’s life, let’s instead take a look at a very important record in her career.

In 1936, the Boswell Sisters had taken their last curtain call.  Connie was the only one still singing professionally, and the Andrews Sisters came to fill the role once occupied by the Bozzies.   Though already a popular recording artist, the following year, Connie came up with something that was to make hers one of the biggest names in popular music through the 1940s.  Inspired by her childhood love for Caruso, as well as that for her sister Martha, Connie wanted to swing Friedrich von Flotow’s “M’appari tutt’amor” from the opera Martha.  At first, Decca was hesitant to release the swinging tune, worried that desecrating the operatic piece as jazz would spark outrage, but she convinced them, assuring the company that she would assume full responsibility if things turned sour.  On the contrary, “Martha” was Connie’s biggest hit since the breakup of the Boswell Sisters, and made her one of the biggest things of 1938, earning her a newspaper interview with famed reporter Ernie Pyle.  The attention Connie received even caused bandleader Larry Clinton to send an irritated letter accusing her of ripping off the idea from him.  After “Martha”, Connie held her position, making a series of hits, including a number of duets with Bing Crosby, until a 1947 hiatus took her out of the Hit Parade until her return to recording in 1951, at which point she revived “Martha” in “soundie” format for Snader Telescriptions.

Decca 1600 was recorded on November 13, 1937 in Los Angeles, California.  Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats are made up of Yank Lawson on trumpet, Warren Smith on trombone, Matty Matlock on clarinet, Eddie Miller on tenor sax, Bob Zurke on piano, Nappy Lamare on guitar, Bob Haggart on string bass, and Ray Bauduc on drums.

Below, taking up more space on this page than I’d like, you can see Connie Boswell’s own lyric sheet, most likely a rough draft, for “Martha”, presumably typed by Connie herself.  It is typed on a letterhead bearing the name of Harry Leedy, Connie’s husband and manager, as can be seen through the paper near the bottom.  Evidently, she made a mistake and flipped the sheet over to type on the other side.

Lyrics for "Martha" hand typed, presumably, by Connie herself, on Harry Leedy letterhead.

Lyrics for “Martha” hand typed, presumably, by Connie herself.

Now, the much anticipated, and unfortunately under-appreciated today, “Martha (Ah So Pure [M’appari tutt’amor])” really swings, thanks in no small part to the top-of-the-line accompaniment by Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats.  As you can see, Decca took special care to label it “Swing Vocal” rather than simply “Vocal”

Martha

Martha, recorded November 13, 1937 by Connie Boswell with Bob Cats.

On the reverse, Connie swings another tune, this time the old cowboy song “Home On the Range”.  “I like the nightclub with its swinging saxes, but when it comes to payin’ taxes, I’ll take my home on the range.”

Home On the Range

Home On the Range, recorded November 13, 1937 by Connie Boswell with Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats.

Brunswick 8063 – Glenn Miller and his Orchestra – 1937

Glenn Miller. From Esquire's Jazz Book, 1944.

Glenn Miller. From Esquire’s Jazz Book, 1944.

On March 1, 1904, one of the great heroes of American music was born: Glenn Miller.  Miller worked with many great jazz men and future swing bandleaders as a studio sideman and member of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in the late 1920s and 1930s.  After working as an organizer and arranger for Ray Noble’s American orchestra, Miller struck out on his own in 1935 with a Columbia engagement featuring a band put together to help get him started as a leader on his own.  He organized his first “real” band in 1937 and cut a few sides  for Decca and Brunswick, but broke that group up at the start of 1938 following an unsuccessful run.  After that, Miller put together his most famous orchestra and signed with Bluebird, with whom he made some of the seminal records of the swing era, including “Moonlight Serenade”, “In the Mood”, and “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, among a great number of other classics.  In 1942, Miller enlisted in the Army Air Force, where he would lead the band in the war years until his disappearance over the English Channel on December 15, 1944.

Brunswick 8062 was recorded November 29, 1937 in New York City.  Miller’s band includes the talent of Pee Wee Erwin, Bob Price, and Ardell Garrett on trumpets, Glenn Miller, Jesse Ralph, and Bud Smith on trombone, Irving Fazola on clarinet and alto sax, Hal McIntyre and Tony Viola on alto sax, Jerry Jerome and Carl Biesacker on tenor sax, J.C. “Chummy” MacGregor on piano, Carmen Mastren on guitar, Rowland Bundock on string bass, and Doc Carney on drums.

On “Doin’ the Jive”, one of Miller’s more memorable Brunswick sides, Kathleen Lane sings, assisted by Miller, McGregor, and Jerome speaking.  “Well tell me some more, my suck egg mule!”

Doin' the Jive

Doin’ the Jive, recorded November 29, 1937 by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.

Next up, we hear Miller’s swinging arrangement of Antonín Dvořák’s “Humoresque”.  You can hear a bit of that signature “Miller” sound in this one.

Humoresque

Humoresque, recorded November 29, 1973 by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.

Victor 36205 – Benny Goodman and his Orchestra – 1937

Besides Prohibition, another momentous event that occurred on January 16 was Benny Goodman’s legendary concert at Carnegie Hall, which happened in 1938.  It was the first jazz concert ever held at Carnegie Hall, and has been credited as the event that brought swing jazz into the mainstream.  Though Goodman was initially hesitant to take the gig, he did following the success of Hollywood Hotel, in which he appeared.  At first, the audience’s reception was lukewarm, but soon Benny won them over, and it became one of the greatest landmarks in music history.  Particularly popular with the audience were Martha Tilton’s swinging of the Scottish folk song “Loch Lomond” (how’d you like for me to post the record of one sometime?), and the band’s legendary performance of Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”. The entire concert at Carnegie Hall was recorded and released by Columbia Records on the new LP format in 1950.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post two records in the same day, but the date of Goodman’s concert came to me long after I had already planned the other one, so all you lucky readers get a two-fer today.

Victor 36205 was recorded July 6, 1937 in New York City by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.  This one was not recorded at the Carnegie Hall concert, but rather a few months earlier, around the time he was filming Hollywood Hotel.  According to the label, the band includes Benny Goodman on clarinet, Hymie Schertzer, Arthur Rollini, George Koenig, and Vido Musso on saxophones, Harry James, Chris Griffin, and Ziggy Elman on trumpets, Murray McEachern and Sterling “Red” Ballard on trombones, Harry Goodman on string bass, Jess Stacy on piano, Allan Ruess on guitar, and Gene Krupa (whose birthday was just yesterday, the 15th) on drums.

Here it is, the legendary “Sing, Sing, Sing”, played with a bit of “Christopher Columbus” interpolated within.  Both sides of a longer playing twelve inch 78 played end-to-end for your listening pleasure.

Sing Sing Sing

Sing Sing Sing (Parts 1 & 2), recorded July 6, 1937 by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.