Conqueror 8183 – Dick Powell – 1933

Dick Powell as pictured in Stars of Radio and Things You Would Like to Know About Them.

A star of stage, screen, radio, and records, the 1930s would have been unquestionably more depressing without Dick Powell as a leading man.

Richard Ewing Powell was born on November 14, 1904 in Mountain View, Arkansas.  He began singing as a child, and started out in choirs and local bands.  Soon he got his big break as a vocalist with Myron Schultz’s Midwestern territory band, the Royal Peacock Orchestra.  Not long after arriving in Indianapolis, he joined Charlie Davis’ orchestra.  In 1927, Powell made his first records: “Beautiful” and “Is She My Girl Friend? (How-de-ow-dow)” for Vocalion.  Finding success as a a master of ceremonies, he later relocated to Pittsburgh, and then off to Hollywood.  When Warner Bros. bought out Brunswick Records—the parent company of Vocalion—in 1930, they offered him a motion picture contract.  Thus, he began his ascent to stardom, as a “boy tenor” in musical pictures in the 1930s, then as a hard-boiled tough guy in film noir in the 1940s.  He found early success paired with Ruby Keeler in a string of  musicals: 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade, Dames, and Flirtation Walk, most of which were choreographed by Busby Berkeley.  Later, he went on to portray Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in 1944’s Murder, My Sweet.  The aforementioned six titles account for only a small fraction of his extensive career in films.  In 1936, Powell married frequent co-star Joan Blondell, and later married June Allyson in 1945.  When television came around, Powell got in on it; he hosted Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre and The Dick Powell Show, respectively, from 1956 to 1963.  Dick Powell died of cancer on January 2, 1963, speculated to have been the result of radioactivity from nuclear testing near the set of the Howard Hughes film The Conqueror in 1956.

Conqueror 8183 was recorded on May 25, 1933 in New York City.  According to Rust, Powell’s accompaniment includes Bunny Berigan, Mannie Klein, Charlie Margulis on trumpet, Russ Morgan or Charlie Butterfield on trombone, Chester Hazlett on clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto sax, and Larry Binyon on tenor sax and flute, among others.  Both tunes are hits from one of my favorite movies, the 1933 (if that much doesn’t go without saying) Warner Bros. musical Gold Diggers of 1933, in which Powell starred.

First, Powell sings a bubbly rendition of “Pettin’ in the Park”, complete with sound effects.

Pettin' In the Park

Pettin’ In the Park, recorded May 25, 1933 by Dick Powell.

On the flip, he sings Gold Diggers’ big hit: the “Shadow Waltz”.

Shadow Waltz

Shadow Waltz, recorded May 25, 1933 by Dick Powell.

Victor 21274 – Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra – 1928

Whiteman's famous "Potato Head" emblem.

Whiteman’s famous “Potato Head” emblem.

On this day, March the twenty-eighth, we remember the the “King of Jazz” himself, the eminent Paul Whiteman, on the 126th anniversary of his birth.  To commemorate the occasion, I present one of his finest records, from the height of his fame, a time when his band contained the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, Bing Crosby, and so many other great figures of roaring twenties jazz.

Paul Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado to a musical family.  His father, Wilberforce Whiteman, was a music instructor at the Denver County public schools, and at one point had as a pupil a young Andy Kirk, who later became the leader of the Twelve Clouds of Joy in Kansas City.  As a youngster, Paul took up the viola, and played in several symphony orchestras, and led a band in the U.S. Navy during the Great War.  After the war’s end, Whiteman started his own dance band, and began recording with Victor as “Paul Whiteman and his Ambassador Orchestra.”  His first record, featuring “Whispering” paired with “The Japanese Sandman”, was a great success, and started him on the path to fame.

Over the next years, Paul Whiteman was a mainstay in the Victor catalog, and his records sold well, but he did not achieve his greatest fame until the last years of the decade.  In 1924, Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, which he premiered with his concert orchestra at An Experiment in Modern Music at Aeolian Hall in New York.  In 1927, Whiteman was able to hire away some of the top musicians from Jean Goldkette’s band, including Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke, and he also picked up the Rhythm Boys: Al Rinker, Harry Barris, and Bing Crosby.  By that time, he was making his name as the “King of Jazz” (the legitimacy of which is hotly debated), and was among the most famous names in music of the 1920s.  In 1930, the Whiteman band starred in a grand technicolor motion picture vaudeville revue entitled King of Jazz.  Into the Great Depression, Whiteman maintained his status for several years, introducing talent such as the charming Ramona (and her Grand Piano).  Eventually, as swing became king, Whiteman’s time in the limelight began to fade.  Though he made several generally immemorable swing records, and appeared on the first issue of Johnny Mercer’s Capitol Records in 1942, he never returned to the fame he knew in the 1920s.  Whiteman continued to lead bands sporadically into his twilight years, and died of a heart attack in 1967.

Victor 21274 was recorded in two separate sessions in 1928, the first on February 18, and the second ten days later on February 28.  The band, featuring some of the top white jazz talent of the day, included Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, Eddie Pinder on trumpet, Bill Rank on trombone, Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody sax, Chester Hazlett on alto sax. Izzy Friedman on clarinet, Charles Strickfaden on tenor sax, Roy Bargy on piano, Min Leibrook on tuba, Mike Pingatore on banjo, Mike Trafficante on string bass, and Hal McDonald on drums.

One of the great classics introduced by Whiteman’s orchestra, and a mainstay of his repertoire was Harry Barris’ “Mississippi Mud”.  The outstanding vocals on this side are provided by Miss Irene Taylor, assisted by the Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker, and a second vocal trio consisting of Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, and Austin Young.  This is take “3” of this side, take “2” was later issued on Victor 25366.

Mississippi Mud

Mississippi Mud, recorded February 18, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

On “From Monday On”, another Harry Barris composition, Bing takes the lead vocal, backed up by the same group featured on the first side.  This side is take “6”, take “4” was later issued on Victor 25368 and take “3” appeared on Victor 27688.

From Monday On

From Monday On, recorded February 28, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

Really fine tunes, both of them.