Victor 22866 – Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys – 1931

Blanche Calloway. late 1920s or early ’30s. Pictured in Of Minnie the Moocher and Me.

We last heard from Cab’s underappreciated sister Blanche Calloway the previous time we celebrated her birthday, with her “There’s Rhythm In the River”/”I Need Lovin'” with Andy Kirk’s band.  Now the time of year has come around once again that we celebrate the birthday of the late Blanche with her music.  As I’ve already gone in to some detail on Blanche’s life in the aforementioned post, I won’t rewrite my biography of her here.

When the band calling themselves “Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys” began recording for the RCA Victor Company on March 2, 1931, it was essentially as a pseudonym for Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy, fronted by vocalist Blanche.  Not long after that session, before their next, Blanche tried to take over leadership of the Twelve Clouds of Joy for her own.  Andy Kirk however, would have none of that, and so Blanche was left to put together a band of her own, and that she did.  With Kirk band trumpeters Edgar Battle and Clarence Smith still along, Blanche assembled a new “Joy Boys”, with a few future swing era stars—Cozy Cole and Ben Webster most notably—sitting in along the way.  The new Joy Boys, with occasional changes in personnel, continued to record into the middle of the 1930s, cutting seventeen sides for Victor in 1931, four for the American Record Corporation in 1934, followed by a fifth unissued recording the next year, and four more for Vocalion in 1935.  The organization come to an end in 1936, when Blanche and a band member were locked up for disorderly conduct in Yazoo, Mississippi after trying to use a whites only restroom, and another bandmate ran off with all their money.

Victor 22866 was recorded on November 18, 1931 at the Church Building studio in Camden, New Jersey.  It sold a mere 3,233 copies.  Blanche’s Joy Boys are made up of Henry Mason, Clarence E. Smith, and Edgar Battle on trumpets, Alton Moore on trombone, Ernest Purce on clarinet and alto sax, Leroy Hardy on alto sax, Charlie Frazer on tenor sax, Clyde Hart on piano, Andy Jackson on banjo, Joe Durham on tuba, and Cozy Cole on drums.

First, Blanche sings one of her characteristic songs, her own composition, “Growling Dan”, featuring a mention of her brother’s famous Minnie the Moocher.

Growling Dan

Growling Dan, recorded November 18, 1931 by Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys.

On the flip, she sings a blues song popularized by Bessie Smith, the Clarence Williams and Hezekiah Jenkins composition, “I Got What it Takes (But it Breaks My Heart to Give it Away)”.

I Got What It Takes

I Got What It Takes (But it Breaks My Heart to Give it Away), recorded November 18, 1931 by Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys.

Madison 5098 – Lew Gold and his Orchestra/Tuxedo Syncopators – 1930

Cliff Jackson, circa 1939. From Eddie Condon's Scrapbook of Jazz.

Cliff Jackson, circa 1939. From Eddie Condon’s Scrapbook of Jazz.

This record, a split release on Grey Gull’s Madison label, one of the later issues on the label, is interesting for a number of reasons.  The first thing that sticks out about it is the color.  Rather than the typical black, or slightly less typical red, it is pressed in dark brown shellac, one of several atypical shades used by Madison.

Most interesting, though, is the unusual pairing of songs; popular fox-trot on one side, and hot jazz on the other.  This record is one of a handful of super hot jazz records made by Grey Gull in their later years, many of which could be considered among the hottest jazz put to record.

On side “A”, you find an elegant sweet dance band rendition of the classic “Confessin’ (That I Love You)” by Lew Gold and his Orchestra, with a vocal refrain by popular studio vocalist Paul Small.  Turn the record over, however, and you’ll find something quite different…

Confessin' (That I Love You), recorded December 1929 by Lew Gold and his Orchestra.

Confessin’ (That I Love You), recorded December 1929 by Lew Gold and his Orchestra.

On the flip side of Madison 5098, you’re greeted by a red hot roaring Harlem jazz number by a band under a rather typical Grey Gull pseudonym, “Tuxedo Syncopators”.  In actuality, it is stride pianist Cliff Jackson and his Crazy Kats (as their name appeared on non-pseudonymous record labels, i.e. not “Krazy Kats”), a band once considered one of the hottest in Harlem, who played at the Lenox Club on 652 Lenox Ave, a popular night spot for members of Duke Ellington’s orchestra.

“Horse Feathers”, recorded January 30, 1930 in New York, the first session for the Krazy Kats, features, besides Cliff Jackson at the piano, Henry Goodwin playing exceptionally hot trumpet and singing the amazing scat vocal, Melvin Herbert on second trumpet, Waymon “Noisy” Richardson on trombone, Rudy Powell on clarinet and alto sax, Earl Evans on alto sax, Horace Langhorn providing tenor saxophone, Andy Jackson on banjo, Percy Johnson on the drums, and Chester Campbell providing the romping tuba bass.

Horse Feathers, recorded January 30, 1930 by Tuxedo Syncopators.

Updated on June 24, 2016, and with improved audio on July 16, 2017.