Columbia 36886 – Frank Sinatra – 1945

After exhausting some of my best patriotic material on last year’s Fourth of July, I had to deliberate considerably on what I should discuss on this year’s Independence Day.  Although it steps a bit out of Old Time Blues’ usual prewar milieu, I don’t think I could find a more beautifully patriotic record that better captures what it means to be an American than this 1945 Frank Sinatra classic.  This also marks the official debut of my new pre-owned Grado phonograph cartridge (although I’ve updated the audio on some older posts), so the sound should be a little crisper than in the past.

Columbia 36886 was recorded in two sessions, the first around 8:45 PM on August 22, 1945, the second around 9:15 PM on August 27, 1945, both in Hollywood, California.  On the first date, Axel Stordahl conducts an orchestra made up of Uan Rasey, Leonard Mach, and Bruce Hudson on trumpet, Peter Beilman, Elmer Smithers, and Carl Loeffler on trombone, James Stagliano on French horn, Fred Stulce, Heinie Beau, Don Lodice, Harold Lawson, and Leonard Hartman on reeds, Sam Freed, Jr., Nicholas Pisani, Peter Ellis, Sol Kindler, Mischa Russell, Gerald Joyce, Samuel Cytron, Howard Halbert, David Frisina, Anthony Perrotti, Walter Edelstein, and William Bloom on violins, David Sterkin, Maurice Perlmutter, and Allan Harshman on viola, Cy Bernard, Jack Sewell, and Arthur Kafton on ‘cello, Ann Mason Stockton on harp, Frank Leithner on piano, Perry Botkin on guitar, Jack Ryan on string bass, and Ray Hagan on drums.  On the second date, the orchestra is largely the same, except Charles Griffard replaces Rasey on trumpet, Jimmy Skiles replaces Beilman on trombone, John Cave replaces Stagliano on horn, Mannie Gershman replaces Stulce on reeds, Olcott Vail, Victor Arno, and George Kast replace Joyce, Halbert, and Bloom on violin, Garry White replaces Harshman on viola, Fred Goerner and Nicholas Ochi-Albi replace Bernard and Kafton on ‘cello, and Lauretta McFarland, Mark McIntyre, and Dave Barbour replace Stockton, Leithner, and Botkin on harp, piano, and guitar, respectively.

In 1945, shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War, the young Frank Sinatra, ever a hit with the bobby soxers, starred in an RKO Radio Pictures short film, written by Albert Maltz and directed by Mervyn LeRoy, titled The House I Live In.  In it, Sinatra, taking five from a recording session, breaks up a fight between a group of schoolboys, who are putting the hurt on a peer for being Jewish.  Frank steps in and teaches the boys a lesson on tolerance, and what it means to be an American, before singing the titular song.  The moving film won an honorary Academy Award and Golden Globe for its excellence, and was in later years inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

With music by Earl Robinson and words by Abel Meeropol (under the pen name Lewis Allan), “The House I Live In” made its debut in 1942 as part of the revue Let Freedom Sing, before it came to star in the film of the same name.  Although it was written by individuals whose politics would only a few years later gain them McCarthy-era ostracism, I can think of few songs so truthfully and patriotically American as “The House I Live In”.  It reflects truly timeless values that are every bit as valid today as they were then.

The House I Live In, recorded August 22, 1945 by Frank Sinatra.

Maintaining the patriotic theme, on the flip, Sinatra is joined by the Ken Lane Singers for a lovely rendition of “America, the Beautiful”.

America, the Beautiful, recorded August 27, 1945 by Frank Sinatra.

Capitol CE 16 – The History of Jazz, Vol. 1, The ‘Solid’ South – 1945

The History of Jazz, Vol. 1, The 'Solid' South

The History of Jazz, Vol. 1, The ‘Solid’ South

As January 20 comes to a close, so does the 128th anniversary of the birth of that great song spinner Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly.  I know of no better way to celebrate the life of such an important hero of American music than with this type of musical extravaganza.  I’ll admit that I did not realize the date until this very day, and this is a bit of a rush job, so as not to miss the occasion entirely.  I was lucky enough to find this great album set from Capitol Records at the same time as that home recording, and, featuring not only Lead Belly, but a variety of other great artists, I believe it’s perfect for the occasion.  Now, I couldn’t tell you that this set is a historically accurate history of jazz music, but it does feature some fine tunes.

The man of the hour, Lead Belly. From album’s inside cover.

Capitol CE 16 was released in early 1945, and contains five discs, a step up from the typical four.  The individual sides were recorded on the following dates: 10021 on October 4 and 27, 1944; 10022 on June 30, 1944; 10023 on June 30 and January 27, 1945; 10024 on March 7, 1944; and 10025 on January 27, 1945.  These records feature a great number of fine artists, the highlights being Lead Belly, to whom this post is dedicated, Wingy Manone, Johnny Mercer (who founded Capitol), Zutty Singleton, and many others, whose names can be found listed on the album cover pictured above.

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Atomic A-215 – Slim Gaillard Quartette – 1945

One-hundred years ago today, on January 4, 1916, pianist, guitarist, and singer Bulee “Slim” Gaillard was born.  Though the details of his early life are disputed, he claimed to have been born in Cuba and spent his childhood picking bananas and sugar-cane there before embarking on a world-round voyage with his Greek father where he was accidentally left on Crete from where he worked his way to America.  Whatever his origins, Gaillard first found fame in the 1930s performing with bassist Slam Stewart as half of “Slim and Slam”, who had a hit in 1938 with “Flat Fleet Floogee” (as it was originally titled, better known as “Flat Foot Floogee”).  By the 1940s, Gaillard had become a leading bebopper and hepster supreme, famous for a scat language of his own creation called “Vout”, which involved interjecting a lot of the word “vout” and suffixing just about everything with “o’reenie” or “o’roonie”.  He had a smash hit in 1946 with “Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)”.  Gaillard died February 26, 1991.

Atomic A-215 was recorded December 15, 1945 in Hollywood, California.  The band includes Slim Gaillard on guitar, the always distinguished Zutty Singleton on drums, “Tiny” (aka “Bam”) Brown on bass, and Dodo Marmarosa on piano.  These Atomic records had a very distinctive label design didn’t they, one of my favorites, artistically.

Mere months after the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II in the Pacific Theater, Slim Gaillard’s Quartette cut “Atomic Cocktail”.  In the rather esoteric genre of “atomic music” that appeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s as the atomic era began, with such songs as “Atom and Evil” and “Old Man Atom”, this one, in my opinion, stands out as one of the best.

Atomic Cocktail, recorded

Atomic Cocktail, recorded December 15, 1945 by the Slim Gaillard Quartette.

According to legend, “Yep-Roc-Heresay” (pronounced “yep rock ha-reesy”) has Gaillard and Tiny Brown reading the names of Arabic dishes from the menu of a Middle Eastern restaurant offering such fare as yabra, stuffed grape leaves, harisseh, an Arabian dessert, kibbeh bil sanieh, a meat dish, and lahem meshwi, lamb kebabs.  “That’s a good deal McNeil” is, of course, not in Arabic.  Despite its innocuous nature in reality, it was reportedly banned from airplay by several radio stations for fear of carrying secret messages promoting drugs and crime.

Yep-Roc-Heresay, recorded

Yep-Roc-Heresay, recorded December 15, 1945 by the Slim Gaillard Quartette.