Montgomery Ward M-4225 – The Carter Family – 1932/1928

The Carter Family in the late 1920s. Left to right: Sara, A.P., Maybelle.

The Carter Family in the late 1920s. Left to right: Maybelle, A.P., Sara.

With all due apologies for my unintended ten day hiatus, I hope now to return to regular posting.  And what better a note to return on than these great classics by the one and only Carter Family, in honor of Sara Carter, born on this day 118 years ago.

Sara Elizabeth Dougherty was born in Copper Creek, Virginia on July 21, 1898 to William and Nacy Dougherty.  In 1915, she married Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter, with whom she had three children, Gladys, Janette, and Joe.  In the 1920s, Sara began performing traditional folk songs with her husband and cousin Maybelle as the Carter Family.  In August of 1927, they came to Bristol, Tennessee to record for the first time in a series of sessions organized by Ralph S. Peer for the Victor Talking Machine Company.  At the Bristol Sessions, the Carter Family recorded six sides, four on the first and two on the second of August.  Their first record, “Poor Orphan Child” and “The Wandering Boy” was issued on Victor 20877 in December of 1927, with considerable success.  In May of 1928, they ventured to Victor’s facilities in Camden, New Jersey to record again.

In 1932, the Carter’s experienced marital strife, with Sara having an affair with her husband’s cousin, while he was away on one of his many efforts to “discover” new material for the family.  They divorced in 1939, and the original Carter Family disbanded in 1943, after which Sara married A.P.’s cousin and moved to California, where she retired from music.  She later made a comeback during the folk revival of the 1960s with Maybelle.  Sara died at the age of 80 on January 8, 1979.

Montgomery Ward M-4225 was recorded in two separate sessions, the first on May 9, 1928, and the second on October 14, 1932, both in Camden, New Jersey.  They were originally issued on Victor 21434 and 23776.  This Montgomery Ward issue was pressed from the original masters.

“The Church in the Wildwood” is a song that I recollect fondly from my own childhood, and the Carters’ rendition is a pleasure to hear.  Fittingly, this side was recorded in Victor’s Camden, New Jersey church studio.

The Church in the Wildwood

The Church in the Wildwood, recorded October 14, 1932 by the Carter Family.

The Carter Family’s classic rendition of the old standard “Keep On the Sunny Side” could be compared to Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel” as a song that became indelibly associated with them, serving as their theme song when they performed on border blaster radio.  Also like Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel”, it was recorded at the Carters’ first session after the Bristol Sessions.

Keep On the Sunny Side

Keep On the Sunny Side, recorded May 9, 1928 by the Carter Family.

Victor 16777 – Sousa’s Band – 1912/1920

An early edition sheet music to "The Stars and Stripes Forever", dating to 1897.

An early edition sheet music to “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, dating to 1897.

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the United States’ Declaration of Independence from England.  This year’s Independence Day is a particularly important one, being the United States’ 240th.  As such, it would only be appropriate to celebrate with patriotic music by America’s March King, John Philip Sousa.

This year, Old Time Blues celebrates with John Philip Sousa’s own band playing a patriotic serenade.  However, Sousa himself, who was well known for his distaste for “canned music” does not direct his band on this record.  Instead, his protégé Arthur Pryor directs on the first side, and Victor’s musical director Josef Pasternack does so on the other.  We also previously posted Sousa’s final composition, the 1932 “Century of Progress March”, written for the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Records like this are sometimes hard to date, as Victor had a tendency to record multiple takes over the course of several years (or decades), all on the same matrix and catalog numbers.  These appear to be takes 16 and 3, respectively.  That would indicate that the “A” side was recorded on December 13, 1912, and the “B” side was recorded on November 9, 1920, both in Camden, New Jersey.  The record was originally issued in November of 1910, and was cut from the catalog in October of 1926, when an Orthophonic version was released on Victor 20132, which remained in the catalog for an astounding thirty years.

First, Sousa’s Band plays his great 1897 composition, the “Stars and Stripes Forever March”.

Stars and Stripes Forever

Stars and Stripes Forever March, recorded December 13, 1912 by Sousa’s Band.

On the flip, it’s Sousa’s “Fairest of the Fair March”, composed in 1908 for the Boston Food Fair.

Fairest of the Fair

Fairest of the Fair, recorded November 9, 1920 by Sousa’s Band.

Victor 22641 – Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys – 1931

Blanche Calloway. From Cab's autobiography.

Blanche Calloway. From Cab’s autobiography.

On February 9, 1902, 114 years ago to the day, Blanche Calloway came into this world.  Her career is overshadowed by the fame of her brother, Cab Calloway, but she easily possessed just as much musical talent as her better known sibling.  Here are two first-rate jazz songs in honor of Ms. Calloway.

Born into a middle class family of Baltimore, Maryland, Blanche Calloway made her first professional appearance in the local production of Sissle and Blake’s Shuffle Along, against the wishes of her parents.  Beginning in 1923, she toured in Plantation Days, starring Florence Mills, which wound her up in Chicago.  Sometime during her time with Plantation Days, she was joined by her brother Cab.  In 1925, Blanche made her recording debut on Okeh records, singing a pair of blues songs with accompaniment by Louis Armstrong and Richard M. Jones.  Later in the 1920s, she recorded several songs with Ruben Reeves’ River Boys before joining Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy as a vocalist.  After attempting and failing to take control of the Twelve Clouds of Joy (Andy would have none of that), Blanche formed her own band, the Joy Boys, with some of Kirk’s former band mates, and at times had in her ranks Ben Webster and Cozy Cole.  The Joy Boys toured and recorded sporadically throughout the 1930s until she and a band member were arrested in Yazoo, Mississippi for using a whites-only restroom, and while incarcerated, another member of the band absconded with all the group’s money and hightailed it.  After retiring from music in the late 1930s, Blanche went on to a variety of occupations, including founding a cosmetics company in the late 1960s.  Blanche Calloway died of breast cancer on December 16, 1978, at the age of seventy-six.

Victor 22641 was recorded March 2, 1931 in Camden, New Jersey, at Blanche Calloway’s first Victor session.  The band is actually Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy under Blanche’s name, and consists of Harry Lawson, Edgar Battle, and Clarence E. Smith on trumpets, Floyd Brady on trombone, John Harrington on clarinet and alto sax, John Williams on alto sax, Lawrence Freeman on tenor sax, Mary Lou Williams on piano, Bill Dirvin on banjo, Andy Kirk on tuba, and Ben Thigpen on drums.  Blanche Calloway of course provides the vocals on both sides.

First, Blanche sings “There’s Rhythm in the River”, with Andy Kirk’s always excellent Twelve Clouds of Joy backing her.

There's Rhythm in the River

There’s Rhythm in the River, recorded March 2, 1931 by Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys.

On the flip she sings “I Need Lovin'”, with an even better performance by both Blanche and the band.  Interestingly, this issue has the song incorrectly listed as “All I Need is Lovin'” though some labels show the correct title.

All I Need Is Lovin'

I Need Lovin’, recorded March 2, 1931 by Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys.

Victor 18537 – Billy Murray/Arthur Fields – 1919

January 16, 2016 marks the 96th anniversary of the passage of the Volstead Act and the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, better known as Prohibition.  That noble experiment lasted for thirteen years, ten months, nineteen days, seventeen hours, thirty-two minutes, and thirty seconds, before it was repealed by the 21st Amendment, passed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 5, 1933.  To commemorate that occasion, here’s a record with two topical tunes, one for the Volstead Act, one for the end of the First World War, sung by two popular personalities of those days.

Victor 18537 was recorded February 14 and 27, 1919 in Camden, New Jersey by Billy Murray and Arthur Fields, singing two topical songs about current events of the day.  Both sides feature an orchestra directed by Josef Pasternack.

On what is actually the “B” side of the record, that consummate vaudevillian Billy Murray laments the ratification of the 18th Amendment with “How Are You Goin’ to Wet Your Whistle” (When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry)”.

How Are You Goin' to Wet Your Whistle? (When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry), recorded February 14, 1919 by Billy Murray.

How Are You Goin’ to Wet Your Whistle? (When the Whole Darn World Goes Dry), recorded February 14, 1919 by Billy Murray.

On the “A” side, Arthur Fields, in his vaudevillian element, sings one of his better remembered songs, “Hot Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm? (After They’ve Seen Paree)”, referring to the homecoming of our boys from the Great War.

You Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm? (After They've Seen Paree), recorded February 27, 1919 by Arthur Fields.

You Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm? (After They’ve Seen Paree), recorded February 27, 1919 by Arthur Fields.

Victor 21142 – Jimmie Rodgers – 1927

On this day, September 8, in the year of our Lord 1897, the Father of Country Music, America’s Blue Yodeler, the great Jimmie Rodgers was born. Rodgers began recording at Victor’s legendary Bristol sessions, and became one of America’s most popular singing stars throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, until his tragic demise from tuberculosis at the age of 35.

James Charles Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi or Geiger, Alabama, after his mother died when he was a child, the young Jimmie spent much of his youth with various relatives before returning to live with his father, a railroad man.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Jimmie began working as a water boy, and later a brakeman for the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, though his first love was entertainment.  Working on the railroad, Jimmie Rodgers learned the ways of music from the likes of gandy dancers and hobos.  After tuberculosis put his railroad work on hiatus, Rodgers turned to entertaining, and organized various groups and shows on vaudeville and radio.

In 1927, Ralph Peer headed a recording field trip for Victor records in Bristol, Tennessee, and on August 4 of that year, from 2:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon, Rodgers recorded his first sides, Sleep, Baby, Sleep and The Soldier’s Sweetheart.  After his first record’s moderate success, Jimmie Rodgers traveled north to record further sides and held his second session in Camden, New Jersey.  Achieving great success with his records over the next few years, Rodgers became one of the nations most popular artists, earning nicknames such as “America’s Blue Yodeler” and “The Singing Brakeman”, and later “The Father of Country Music.”  He was also one of the first artists to popularize country music, after Vernon Dalhart.  Ultimately, his tuberculosis caught up with him, and a mere two days after his final recording session, Jimmie Rodgers died in the Taft Hotel in New York City.

Victor 21142, from Jimmie Rodgers’ second recording session, was recorded November 30, 1927 at Victor’s Camden, New Jersey studio and issued in May of 1928.  The record was a hit, and remained in Victor’s catalog for many years, well into the 45 RPM era.

On the first side, Jimmie sings his first of thirteen “Blue Yodels”, this one simply titled “Blue Yodel” here, but also frequently known by the title “T for Texas”.

Blue Yodel, recorded November 30, 1927 by Jimmie Rodgers.

Blue Yodel, recorded November 30, 1927 by Jimmie Rodgers.

On the flip, Rodgers sings Kelly Harrell’s “Away Out on the Mountain”, which features some of his more elaborate yodeling.

Away Out on the Mountain, recorded November 30, 1927 by Jimmie Rodgers.

Away Out on the Mountain, recorded November 30, 1927 by Jimmie Rodgers.

Updated with improved audio on June 9, 2017.