Asch A 345 – The Wayfaring Stranger – 1944

On June 14, we commemorate anniversary of the birth of Burl Ives, star of stage, screen, radio, and records.

"The Wayfaring Stranger" by Burl Ives. Cover photograph bu Gjon Mili.

“The Wayfaring Stranger” by Burl Ives. Cover photograph bu Gjon Mili.

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (what a name) was born on June 14, 1909 near Hunt City in rural Illinois, one of seven children of Scots-Irish farmers Levi and Cordelia Ives.  As a child, while singing in his mother’s garden, he was discovered by his uncle, who invited him to sing at his old soldiers reunion.  Ives made his first recording in 1929, a test for the Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana, makers of Gennett Records, though no record was issued, and the masters were destroyed.  After dropping out of college, Ives hoboed across the states as an itinerant folk songster during the Great Depression.  He began appearing on Terra Haute, Indiana’s WBOW around 1931, and in 1940, began hosting a radio show of his own, called The Wayfaring Stranger.  In 1938, he made his Broadway debut in Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys from Syracuse.  After working with the left leaning Almanac Singers in the early 1940s, Ives was drafted into the United States Army in 1942, receiving a medical discharge the following year.  Ives began his long career in motion pictures, appearing in the 1946 Western Smoky as a singing cowboy.  In the early 1950s, Ives was blacklisted as a suspected communist, and testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Throughout the 1950s onward, he continued to have a prolific career in music and pictures.  In 1964, he made his most enduring appearance in the Rankin/Bass television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, narrating the program as Sam the Snowman.  Burl Ives died of cancer on April 14, 1995, at the age of eighty-five.

Asch album A 345 was recorded in 1944.  Try as I might, I can’t seem to locate a source giving the exact date.  Going by the matrix numbers, I’d venture it was recorded sometime early in that year, January or February, possibly even late in 1943.  It was re-issued on the Stinson label in 1947.

One the first disc in the set, Ives sings two songs per side.  On the first, he sings his signature song “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, which lent its name to the album, and “Buckeyed Jim”.  On the second, he sings “The Bold Soldier” and “The Sow Took the Measles”.

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Poor Wayfaring Stranger and Buckeyed Jim, and The Bold Solider and The Sow Took the Measles, recorded 1944 by Burl Ives (The Wayfaring Stranger).

On the second, Ives sings “The Foggy Foggy Dew” and “Black is the Color”.  Years earlier, Ives was thrown in a Utah jail for singing the former, which was considered a bawdy song.

The Foggy Foggy Dew and Black is the Color, recorded

The Foggy Foggy Dew and Black is the Color, recorded 1944 by Burl Ives (The Wayfaring Stranger).

The third disc of this set features Ives’ first recording of the classic minstrel song “The Blue Tail Fly” (probably better known as “Jimmy Crack Corn”) which, in my opinion, is done masterfully.  On the reverse, he sings the traditional Scottish folk song “Henry Martyn (Pirate Ballad)”

The Blue Tail Fly and Henry Martyn (Pirate Ballad), recorded 1944 by Burl Ives (The Wayfaring Stranger).

The Blue Tail Fly and Henry Martyn (Pirate Ballad), recorded 1944 by Burl Ives (The Wayfaring Stranger).

Capitol 101 – Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra – 1942

June 5, 2017 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the recording of the first disc ever issued by Capitol Records (though not the earliest session).

Early in the 1940s, songwriter and singer Johnny Mercer joined forces with fellow songwriter Buddy DeSylva and record store owner Glenn E. Wallichs to form a new record company.  On March 27, 1942 they incorporated as Liberty Records, which was soon changed to Capitol Records.  On April 6, they held their first session, wherein Martha Tilton recorded “Moondreams” (issued as Capitol 138).  On July 1, Capitol’s first record was released, featuring the legendary Paul Whiteman’s orchestra swinging on “I Found a New Baby” and “The General Jumped at Dawn”.  The fledgling label had its first hit with its second release, Freddy Slack’s orchestra playing “Cow Cow Boogie”, with a vocal by Ella Mae Morse.  All was not rosy however, as only one month later, the American Federation of Musicians started their 1942-44 strike, instigating a recording ban for all union musicians.  Capitol settled with the AFM on October 11, 1943, after Decca.  The ban didn’t seem to hurt Capitol too much, and they went on to become one of the major record labels from the 1940s onward, all the way into the present day.

Capitol 101 was recorded on June 5, 1942 in Los Angeles, California, and issued the next month.  It was released less than a month later on July 1, 1942.  Some sources offer different dates of recording: Rust gives May 1942, and others say April, but Capitol’s ledgers provide the June 5 date, and they should be definitive.  The personnel, according to Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music, 1930-1967 (which differs slightly from Rust’s identification), is Billy Butterfield, Monty Kelly, Larry Neill, and Don Waddilove on trumpets, Phil “Skip” Layton and Murray McEachern on trombone, Alvy West and Danny d’Andrea onalto sax, Lennie Hartman and King Guion on tenor sax, Tommy Mace on baritone sax, Dave Newman, Harry Azen, and Saul Blumenthal on violins, Buddy Weed on piano, Mike Pingitore on guitar, Artie Shapiro on string bass, and Lou Paino on drums.

First, a frenetic and modern arrangement of the jazz standard “I Found a New Baby” highlights the talents of Buddy Weed at the piano.

I Found a New Baby, recorded June 5, 1942 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

“The General Jumped at Dawn” is a swell swing instrumental, one of my favorite swing sides, in fact, composed and arranged by Jimmy Mundy.  The Golden Gate Quartet sang a memorable version of this tune in the classic World War II film Hollywood Canteen in 1944: “Said the captain to the general, ‘Pops, we’re gonna cause a commotion.'”  Oddly, this side gets more and more worn and muffled as it plays through, then cleans up completely in the last five seconds or so.

The General Jumped at Dawn, recorded June 5, 1942 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

A Gene Autry Christmas Double Feature – Columbia 20377 & 38610 – 1947/1949

Old Time Blues wishes everyone a very merry Christmas! 1911 Postcard.

That special time of the year has come around once again.  Last year we celebrated with Harry Reser’s band, and what better way to celebrate this holiday season than with these four Christmas classics sung by our old pal Gene Autry.

Columbia 20377, in the hillbilly series, was recorded on August 28, 1947 and released on October 6 of the same year.  First up, Gene Autry sings his own Christmas classic, “Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)”.  On the reverse, he sings the charming “An Old-Fashioned Tree”.

Here Comes Santa Clause (Down Santa Claus Lane) and An Old-Fashioned Tree, recorded August 28, 1947 by Gene Autry.

The first side of Columbia 38610 was recorded on June 27, 1949, the second sometime in July of the same year.  Autry is accompanied by the Pinafores on both sides.  First, Gene sings Johnny Marks’ classic song about the beloved character created for Montgomery Ward in 1939, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  Next, on “If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas” Autry ponders how Santa Claus will make out in his sleigh it there’s no snow.  Ol’ Gene seems to have forgotten that the sleigh is flight capable.

Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas, recorded June 27 and July, 1949 by Gene Autry and the Pinafores.

Motorola Home Recording Disc – “Mother” – 1944

As we here in the States are giving our thanks and digesting our bountiful dinners this Thanksgiving, it seems an opportune time to share a few words spoken by some voices from the past.  A one-of-a-kind glimpse into a different time, courtesy of one family and their home record lathe.

This Motorola Home Recording Disc was cut on December 1, 1942 and November 22, 1944, likely somewhere in Texas, as that’s where I found it.

On “Thanksgiving 1944”, we are granted the opportunity to listen in on a family get-together taking place during the War, seventy-two years in the past.  As they record their voices for posterity, they have apparently just finished off “a regular Samuel Gordon Thanksgiving dinner.”

Thanksgiving 1944, recorded November 22, 1944 by Mother.

Thanksgiving 1944, recorded November 22, 1944 by Mother.

On the other side of this home recording, cut two years before the first, Mother recounts “When Norman Left Home” for Officer Candidate School.  Alas, this side doesn’t play quite as well as the other one.

When Norman Left Home, recorded December 1, 1942 by Mother.

When Norman Left Home, recorded December 1, 1942 by Mother.

Hit 7119 – Cootie Williams and his Orchestra – 1944

October 10 marks ninety-nine years since the birth of Thelonious Monk, and what better way to commemorate that event than with the first recording of his famous “‘Round Midnight”, performed by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.  (Please do not confuse that photograph of Cootie Williams on the left of the page with Monk, it is not.)  I will admit that while I usually tend to prefer earlier music, this is one of my favorite records.

Cootie Williams, 1940s. From Esquire's 1944 Jazz Book.

Cootie Williams, 1940s. From Esquire’s 1944 Jazz Book.

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  From 1922, the Monks lived in New York City, where Thelonious was exposed to jazz music.  He taught himself to play piano when he was six years old, and accompanied a touring evangelist in his teenage years.  In the 1940s, Monk played at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, and was with Lucky Millinder’s orchestra for a period in 1942, and Cootie Williams’ in 1944.  He made his first recordings as bandleader in 1947 for Blue Note.  With a unique approach to music, and life, Monk’s work lacked public appeal initially, and his recordings sold poorly for some years, though he was regarded highly by fellow musicians and jazz aficionados.  In 1951, police confiscated his cabaret card, and he was unable to play in nightclubs until he regained it in 1957.  Eventually, Monk became regarded as one of the greats of jazz music, having composed such standards as “‘Round Midnight”, “Straight, No Chaser”, and “Blue Monk”.  Monk left the music scene in the 1970s, and died in 1982.

Hit 7119 was recorded October 22, 1944 in New York by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.  The band features Williams, Ermit V. Perry, George Treadwell, Lammar Wright, and Tommy Stevenson on trumpet, Ed Burke, Ed Glover, and Robert Horton on trombone,  Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Frank Powell on alto sax, Sam “The Man” Taylor and Lee Pope on tenor sax, Eddie de Verteuil on baritone sax, Bud Powell on piano, Leroy Kirkland on guitar, Carl Pruitt on bass, and Sylvester “Vess” Payne on drums.

First, Cootie and the band play the first ever recording made of Thelonious Monk’s famous “‘Round Midnight”, claimed to be the most recorded standard composed by a jazz musician.

'Round Midnight

‘Round Midnight, recorded October 22, 1944 by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.

Next up, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson shouts the blues on “Somebody’s Gotta Go”.

Somebody's Gotta Go

Somebody’s Gotta Go, recorded October 22, 1944 by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra.