It seems that it’s been far too long since we last heard from our good friends the Boswell Sisters. I try to give both the sisters’ works and Connie’s solos equal attention in accordance with the fairness doctrine, and it’s already been more than a year since I last posted one of the trio’s records, so here are those syncopating harmonists from New Orleans with one of their earliest records.
The years of 1929 and ’30 saw the Boswell Sisters on the West Coast. They had settled in Los Angeles following a vaudeville tour of the States, residing in an apartment at El Pueblo Court in Hollywood. They became popular local radio artists, even recording around fifty titles for a series of transcription discs made by the Continental Broadcasting Corporation to be shipped out for broadcast in Hawaii. They also “side-miked” for some motion pictures, to have their voices dubbed over those of movie actors that couldn’t sing, notably for the number “Harlem Hop” in the film Under Montana Skies. In 1930, they hadn’t made a commercial record in five years, not since their first one made in New Orleans in 1925, but that was soon to change. That July, the sisters teamed with Jackie Taylor’s Los Angeles-based dance band to record two sides, “We’re On the Highway to Heaven” from Oh Sailor Behave and “That’s What I Like About You”, though only the former was released. Later, that October, Okeh recorded them solo, singing four songs including the first commercial take of their signature song “Heebie Jeebies”. All four sides were released, essentially constituting the beginning of their solo recording career. Not long after, with Harry Leedy hired as their manager, they moved to New York and began their fruitful engagement with Brunswick, often accompanied by the Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra, that resulted in their vibrant and prolific legacy.
Okeh 41470 was recorded on October 3 and 31, 1930 in Los Angeles, California, the second of their two Okeh records. The instrumentation consists solely of Martha Boswell’s piano and the trio’s vocal effects. This is the pure, unadulterated Boswell Sisters sound of their early days, before the influence of manager Harry Leedy, record bigwig Jack Kapp, and their ilk.
On the first side, the Bozzies sing “Gee, But I’d Like to Make You Happy” from the musical picture Good News (it was written for the movie and did not appear in the 1927 stage production).
On the flip, recorded at the later date, they sing one of my favorite Boswell performances, “Don’t Tell Her What’s Happened to Me”, rendered as “Don’t Tell Him“.