Bluebird B-7746 – Artie Shaw and his Orchestra – 1938

Clarinetist Artie Shaw does everything his advisors tell him not to do.  He shouts down other bandleaders, kicks music publishers out the back door calling them racketeers, scowls at his admirers, refuses to turn on the charm or be civil, says he’s there to make music and not to pose.  When kids come to dance, he plays what he likes, thinks they should like it.  He plays no request numbers.  In other words, he does as he damn pleases.

— Esquire’s Jazz Book, 1944

Artie Shaw, October 1939. Down Beat photo by Ray Rising.

Artie Shaw, October 1939. Down Beat photo by Ray Rising.

I’ve been meaning to try and work some more swing music into the busy schedule here on Old Time Blues, and with today (May 23) being Artie Shaw’s birthday, it seems like a prime opportunity.

Arthur Jacob Arshawsky was born on May 23, 1910 in New York City, his father hailing from Russia and his mother from Austria.  He took up the saxophone at the age of thirteen, and soon switched to clarinet.  In the mid-1920s, Shaw worked with Austin Wylie’s orchestra, before moving on to Irving Aaronson’s Commanders, and later Roger Wolfe Kahn’s orchestra and others.  Into the 1930s, he found steady work as a studio player like so many other New York jazz musicians of the day.  By the middle of the 1930s, Shaw had started his own orchestra, recording for Brunswick as “Art Shaw and his New Music”.  He began a contract with the RCA Victor Company in 1938, with whom he produced his largest volume of hits, including “Begin the Beguine”, “Back Bay Shuffle”, and his theme song “Nightmare”.  Where Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing”, many proclaimed Shaw the “King of Clarinet”, though Shaw felt it ought to have been the other way around, as “Benny Goodman played Clarinet. [He] played music.”  In 1940, Shaw made his feature film debut with Fred Astaire in Second Chorus, which Astaire considered “the worst film he ever made”, and caused Shaw to swear off movie appearances.  During World War II, Shaw enlisted in the Navy and led a band in the Pacific, while Glenn Miller was doing the same in Europe, and received a medical discharge after eighteen months.  Throughout the 1950s onward, he experimented with artistic variations on jazz music.  Artie Shaw was by his own admission “a very difficult man”, and was married eight times (probably making him the runner up for the title of “Most Married Swing Bandleader” after Charlie Barnet, who was married eleven times).  Shaw died of diabetes at the age of 94 in 2004.

Bluebird B-7746 was recorded July 24, 1938 in New York City.  The band consisted of Artie Shaw on clarinet, John Best, Claude Bowen, and Chuck Peterson on trumpets, George Arus, Ted Vesely, and Barry Rogers on trombones, Les Robinson and Hank Freeman on alto saxes, Tony Pastor and Ronnie Perry on tenor saxes, Les Burness on piano, Al Avola on guitar, Sid Weiss on string bass, and Cliff Leeman on drums.

First up is Artie Shaw’s famous rendition of Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine”, described by Shaw as “a nice little tune from one of Cole Porter’s very few flop shows.”

Begin the Beguine

Begin the Beguine. recorded July 24, 1938 by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra.

Tony Pastor sings the vocal on Shaw’s swing rendition of the famous “Indian Love Call”.

Indian Love Call

Indian Love Call, recorded July 24, 1938 by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra.

Bluebird B-6415 – Duke Ellington and his Orchestra – 1927/1928

In celebration of fifty “likes” on our Facebook page, we’ll have a jubilee here at Old Time Blues, and what better way to than with the hot jazz of Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Orchestra on two of their hottest for Victor records.

Bluebird B-6415 was recorded on two separate occasions, the first side on March 26, 1928 and the second on December 19, 1927, both in New York City.  The “A” side was originally issued on Victor 21580 and “B” on Victor 21490 and again on 22985.

Given the two record dates, the two sides feature different personnel in the band.  The first includes Arthur Whetsel, Bubber Miley, and Louis Metcalf in the trumpet section, “Tricky Sam” Nanton on trombone, Barney Bigard on clarinet and tenor sax, Otto Hardwicke on clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, baritone sax, and bass sax, Harry Carney on clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and baritone sax, Duke Ellington on piano, Fred Guy on banjo, Wellman Braud on string bass, and Sonny Greer on drums.  The second features  Miley and Metcalf on trumpets, Tricky Sam on trombone, Rudy Jackson on clarinet and alto sax, Otto Hardwicke and Harry Carney on all the same reeds as the first side, and Ellington, Guy, Braud, and Greer in the same positions as the previous.

One of Ellington’s best, “Jubilee Stomp” was played in 2011’s The Artist, albeit on a disgustingly inaccurate phonograph.

Jubilee Stomp

Jubilee Stomp, recorded March 26, 1928 by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.

On “Blue Bubbles”, Ellington shares composer credit with Bubber Miley, and the piece bares some stylistic resemblance to another of Miley’s works, “Black and Tan Fantasy”.

Blue Bubbles

Blue Bubbles, recorded December 19, 1927 by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.

Another Bluebird Dance Band Double Feature – B-5049 & B-5053 – 1933/1931

As I’m in the process of uploading this duo of early Bluebirds to my YouTube channel (which you should most definitely take a look at if you like this kind of music), it seems like a fine time to do another Bluebird Dance Band Double Feature.  Last time, I featured some of the sweet style of music that dominated pop music in the early 1930s, but this time I’ve got a couple of hotter bands for you, led by Paul Tremaine and Gene Kardos.

Bluebird B-5049 was recorded April 14, 1933 in New York City by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra.  On the first side, they play sweeter on Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather”, which had recently been debuted in the Cotton Club Parade of 1933.  On the reverse, they play “Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane”, a remake of the rendition they had recorded for Columbia in February of 1930 (I’ll post the original sometime, too).

Bluebird B-5049, recorded April 14, 1933 by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra.

Stormy Weather & Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane, recorded April 14, 1933 by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra.

The two sides of Bluebird B-5053 were recorded on two different occasions.  The first side is another by Paul Tremaine, a wild “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain”, recorded at the same April 14, 1933 session.  That one is also a (considerably more frenetic) redo of one of their 1930 Columbia recordings. Be sure to listen for the little bit of “hinkle dinkle rooty too” between two of the choruses.

On the flip-side, Gene Kardos and his Orchestra play a hot rendition of Carson Robison’s “Left My Gal in the Mountains”, recorded June 10, 1931 and originally issued on Victor’s short-lived Timely Tunes budget label.  This was Kardos’ first session.  The band consists of Sammy Castin and Willie Mayer on trumpets, Milt Shaw on trombone, Gene Kardos on alto sax, Joe Sagora on clarinet and alto sax, Morris Cohen or Nat Brown on clarinet, alto sax, and tenor sax, Joel Shaw on piano, Albert Julian on guitar, Danny Bono or Ben Goldberg on tuba, and Saul Howard on drums.  The vocalist is Albert Julian

Bluebird B-5053, recorded

She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain & Left My Gal in the Mountains, recorded April 14, 1933 and June 10, 1931 by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra and Gene Kardos and his Orchestra.

Updated on June 24, 2016.

Bluebird B-5587 – Riley Puckett – 1934

At one of my regular haunts the other day, I happened upon this exceptionally fine copy of what may be considered the great country singer Riley Puckett’s best record.  As it happens, some of Puckett’s relatives in Georgia are close family friends of mine, so I thought it might be nice to whip up a quick post for this fine disc.

George Riley Puckett was born in 1894 in Dallas, Georgia.  He was struck blind after a doctor threw salt in his eyes attempting to treat an infection.  Around the time of his early performances, he was dubbed “The Bald Mountain Caruso.”  Rising to become one of the most popular country musicians of the era, Puckett recorded both solo and with a number string bands, most notably Gid Tanner’s Skillet Lickers, from 1924 until 1941.  He died of blood poisoning in 1946.

On Bluebird B-5587, Riley Puckett plays guitar and sings two of his finest songs, accompanied by the Skillet Lickers’ Ted Hawkins on mandolin.  Both sides were recorded March 29, 1934 at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

On side “A”, Riley soulfully sings and yodels Carson Robison’s humorous tale of salvation on the wonderful “I’m Gettin’ Ready to Go”.

I’m Gettin’ Ready to Go, recorded March 29, 1934 by Riley Puckett.

On the “B” side, Puckett delivers a marvelous performance of one of his most famous songs, “Ragged but Right”.

Ragged but Right, recorded March 29, 1934 in San Antonio by Riley Puckett

Ragged but Right, recorded March 29, 1934 by Riley Puckett

A Bluebird Dance Band Double Feature – B-5268 & B-5269 – 1933

To break the monotony of all the jazz and blues, here’s a bit of a departure from the style of music I’ve been featuring here for the past couple weeks, two early 1930s dance band records on Victor’s Bluebird label.

In the early days of the Victor budget label, Bluebird featured, in addition to some great jazz and country, many excellent dance bands, which played the popular tunes of the day.  These two records, the consecutively numbered Bluebird B-5268 and B-5269, feature some of the popular hits of 1933, by Sam Robbins and Reggie Childs’ orchestras.

The first of the two Bluebird B-5268, recorded November 22, 1933 by Sam Robbins and his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra features the Billy Hill hit “The Old Spinning Wheel”, and Zez Confrey’s “Sittin’ on a Log (Pettin’ My Dog)”, both performed in a sweet style with a smooth sax section that puts one in mind of Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians.

The Old Spinning Wheel & Sittin' On a Log (Pettin' My Dog), recorded November 22, 1933 by Sam Robbins and his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra

The Old Spinning Wheel & Sittin’ On a Log (Pettin’ My Dog), recorded November 22, 1933 by Sam Robbins and his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra

The second disc features Reggie Childs and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra (I presume he took over for Ben Bernie), playing Mack Gordon and Harry Revel’s “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?”, from Sitting Pretty, with vocals by Don Howard, a performance that has long been one of my favorites in that genre.  On the other side, a real tour de force on “Many Moons Ago”, another Gordon and Revel tune, with a vocal by Duke Durbin.  Both sides were recorded on November 27, 1933, five days after the previous record.

Did You Ever See a Dream Walking & Many Moons Ago, recorded November 27, 1933 by Reggie Childs and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra

Did You Ever See a Dream Walking & Many Moons Ago, recorded November 27, 1933 by Reggie Childs and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra