Gennett 6505 – The New Yorkers – 1928

An original “New Electrobeam” record sleeve.

To me, the records made in the 1920s and 1930s on labels like Gennett and Paramount (manufactured by the Starr Piano Company and the Wisconsin Chair Company, respectively) seem to be a part of Americana.  They were distinctively American companies made in America’s heartland, and recorded a large amount of music by and for the American common man.  While today’s record, though indeed a Gennett, is not one of those vernacular types, it is a “New Electrobeam” by an excellent New York dance band.

Gennett 6506 was recorded June 18, 1928 in New York City by the New Yorkers, a Carl Fenton orchestra. The vocal refrains are by Carl Mathieu, who also sang as a member of the Peerless Quartet.

“Carl Fenton” was, however, not a real person.  Fenton began “life” in the early 1920s as a pseudonym for Gus Haenschen, an executive and studio band leader with Brunswick Records, whose name was “ill-suited” for record labels given attitudes toward Germans following World War I (plus, just look at it, it’s like a mess of letters).  This “Carl Fenton” recorded for Brunswick between 1920 and 1927.  In 1927, Reuben Greenberg, who had been a member of the band, bought the name from Haenschen and began using it to lead his own band, which recorded with Gennett and later had a pivotal role with the QRS label made by Cova around 1930.  In 1932, Greenberg legally changed his name to Carl Fenton, thus bringing the fictional bandleader into reality.

The band first plays a very nice syncopated version of “You’re a Real Sweetheart”, strangely credited to “Kahn-Fioritta”, even though the song was actually written by Irving Caesar and Cliff Friend.  Vocalist Carl Mathieu seems to miss his cue a little bit on this side.

You're a Real Sweetheart, recorded 1938 by The New Yorkers.

You’re a Real Sweetheart, recorded June 18, 1928 by The New Yorkers.

On the reverse, they play another great one, the 1928 hit “Dusky Stevedore”, this time correctly credited to Andy Razaf and J.C. Johnson.

Dusky Stevedore, recorded 1928 by The New Yorkers.

Dusky Stevedore, recorded June 18, 1928 by The New Yorkers.

Victor 24193 – Leo Reisman and his Orchestra – 1932

How could we overlook the great Fred Astaire on his own 117th birthday?  (We couldn’t.)  Here’s one of his early phonograph recordings to celebrate the occasion.

Fred Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz on May 10, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska.  His family moved to New York in 1905, and his mother encouraged his older sister Adele’s and his own natural dancing talents, hoping to have them become a brother and sister vaudeville act.  Changing their name to Astaire, they did, and began appearing in musical theater as a dancing duo in the 1910s, singing all along the way.  After a string of successful shows on Broadway and in London, including Lady Be Good and Funny Face, Fred and Adele broke up the pair after she married.  Fred’s first show separate from his sister was Cole Porter’s Gay Divorce in 1932.  Soon after, Astaire headed off to Hollywood, where the results of his RKO screen test was reported to have said, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.”  Nevertheless, David O. Selznick signed Astaire to RKO Radio Pictures in spite of his “enormous ears and bad chin line.”  Astaire’s first picture role was in the 1933 Joan Crawford and Clark Gable vehicle Dancing Lady, in which he played “Fred Astaire”.  Not long after, Fred was teamed up with budding starlet Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio, the first of nine films in which the pair would appear.  From then on out, Astaire appeared in numerous films with a variety of partners, and eventually started into straight acting (and a couple retirements, in between).  Fred Astaire died in 1987 at the age of 88.

Victor 24193 was recorded November 22, 1932 in Victor’s Studio 1 in New York, New York, by Leo Reisman and his Orchestra featuring Fred Astaire singing the vocals on both sides.  Both sides feature songs from Cole Porter’s Gay Divorce.  This record was recorded using RCA Victor’s early 1930s microphone system, producing astounding fidelity.

First, Fred Astaire sings Cole Porter’s famous “Night and Day”.  You may notice Astaire’s voice crack a little on one line in this one.

Night and Day

Night and Day, recorded November 22, 1932 by Leo Reisman and his Orchestra.

On the reverse, Astaire sings “I’ve Got You On My Mind”.  Just listen to that high fidelity!

I've Got You On My Mind

I’ve Got You On My Mind, recorded November 22, 1932 by Leo Reisman and his Orchestra.

Gennett 3005 – Straun’s Pullman Porters – 1925

Come all you rounders if you want to hear, a story about a brave engineer.  Casey Jones was the rounder’s name.  On a six-eight wheeler, boys, he won his fame.  Exactly one-hundred-sixteen years ago, on April 30, 1900, the brave engineer mounted to his cabin and he took his farewell trip into the promised land.

Casey Jones was born Jonathan Luther Jones in 1863.  He got the nickname “Cayce” from his hometown in Kentucky, and he restyled it as “Casey”.  Jones married Mary Brady in 1886 and raised three children.  He worked for the M&O and the IC railroads, and eventually rose to his dream of being an engineer, becoming one of the most able and respected in the profession, famous for his unique sound with the train whistle.  In 1893, Casey’s services were employed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

On April 30, 1900, Casey Jones made his final run.  It was a foggy night, and Casey departed in the Old 362, behind schedule at 12:50 am, pulling the No. 1.  Despite several delays, Casey was able to get the train running on schedule for a time.  The end of the run came for Casey, however, when his fireman Sim Webb spotted something on the tracks ahead.  It was a stalled freight train.  Casey slammed on his airbrakes, but it was too late, and the Old 362 plowed into the rear of the freight train, going through several cars before derailing.  Thanks to his heroic actions that night, Casey’s life was the only loss in the accident.  His story was immortalized in song by IC engine-wiper Wallace Saunders.  Casey Jones went down in history as an American folk hero, he was a teetotaler, a family man, a baseball lover, and a brave engineer.

Gennett 3005 was recorded March 24 and April 5, 1925 in Gennett’s New York studio.  “Straun’s Pullman Porters” is a pseudonym for Nathan Glantz and his Orchestra, fronted by vocalist “Chick” Straun, apparently yet another a pseudonym, this time for Jack Kaufman.  I’m not entirely sure what you’d call these old folk songs reworked as jazz, if there even is a name for them, but I know I like them.  Much like Paul Tremaine’s hot dance renditions of “She’ll Be Comin ‘Round the Mountain” (and so forth), but these two are much earlier.

The first song on this disc is Wallace Saunders’ famous tale of the brave engineer, “Casey Jones”, sung by “Chick” Straun/Jack Kaufman.  Songwriting credit is given on the label to vaudevillians T. Lawrence Seibert and Eddie Newton, who popularized the song as a comedy act, with lyrics alleging infidelity on the part of Mrs. Jones, which she opposed for many years.  I selected this version specifically to avoid those lines, in order to maintain some respect toward Casey.

Casey Jones

Casey Jones, recorded March 24, 1925 by Straun’s Pullman Porters.

Unfortunately for us, the old classic tune, “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”, is marred by some skips, but it’s still a neat little side.

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, recorded April 5, 1925 by Straun’s Pullman Porters.

Melotone M 12828 – Joe Venuti and his Orchestra – 1933

Happy Easter (1942) from Old Time Blues to you!

A Happy Easter (1942) from Old Time Blues to you!

I spent some time carefully deliberating over an appropriate record for this Easter.  I considered a variety of rural sacred material, but nothing seemed to fit properly, before it hit me: what song could be more fitting for the occasion than Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade”!  I don’t know how I could have initially made such an oversight.

While these sides bear the name of Joe Venuti (though it was probably actually just an ARC studio band that may or may not have included Venuti at all), they’re not particularly hot music.  In fact, they’re rather run-of-the-mill Depression era pop tunes, not bad by any means, quite good actually, but not hot jazz.  However, these sides are remarkable for at least one reason: they both feature a vocal refrain by one Dolores DeFina, using the name Dolores Reade at the behest of her agent.  Less than a year after this record was made, Dolores Reade married an emergent vaudevillian by the name of Bob Hope.  Though she had to put up with Bob’s womanizing habit, the two remained married until Hope’s death in 2003.  Dolores passed in 2011 at the age of 102.

Melotone M 12828 was recorded October 26, 1933 in New York City by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra, featuring a vocal chorus on both sides by Dolores Reade.  Both songs originate from Irving Berlin’s 1933 revue, As Thousands Cheer.  While the full personnel is not known, the band includes, besides Venuti on violin, Max Farley on clarinet and alto sax and Pat Davis or Bud Freeman on tenor sax.

In celebration of the holiday today, here’s a charming rendition of “Easter Parade”.

Easter Parade

Easter Parade, recorded October 26, 1933 by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra.

On the other side is another song from As Thousands Cheer, though it’s not as well remembered as “Easter Parade”, “Heat Wave”.

Heat Wave

Heat Wave, recorded October 26, 1933 by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra.

Updated on June 24, 2016.

An Electradisk Dance Double Feature – 1922 & 1923 – 1932

Peter DeRose and May Singhi Breen. From 1932 publication.

May Singhi Breen and Peter DeRose. From 1932 publication.

For your hopeful enjoyment today, I offer you yet another dance band double feature, this time two Electradisks.  As with our first Bluebird double feature, these two are consecutively numbered, one catalog number falling immediately after other.

Electradisk was the RCA Victor Company’s second venture into the field of budget records, following the failure of Timely Tunes.  Electradisks were introduced in 1932 and originally offered in an eight inch format (which is very rarely seen today) along with a prototypical Bluebird of the same format and sold at Woolworth’s dimestores.  Soon, both Bluebird and Electradisk were upgraded to the standard ten inch format, which seems to have sold better, though Bluebirds of that period are still impossible to find.  The Electradisk label continued into 1933, and was discontinued in that same year.  Around that time, the “buff” label Bluebird was introduced, and began huge success and a mainstay well into the 1940s.

On the first of the pair, the Peter De Rose Orchestra (actually Tom Berwick’s Orchestra using DeRose’s name) plays “I’m Sure of Everything but You” with a vocal by the husband and wife duo of DeRose and “the original ukulele lady” May Singhi Breen, and “Underneath the Harlem Moon”, with a vocal by the Marshall Sisters, no doubt trying to capitalize on the success of the Boswell Sisters (though they’re nowhere near as good, sorry to say).  Electradisk 1922 was recorded November 22, 1932 in RCA’s Studio 1 in New York City.

I'm Sure of Everything But You and Underneath the Harlem Moon

I’m Sure of Everything But You and Underneath the Harlem Moon, recorded November 22, 1932 by Peter De Rose Orchestra.

The second disk splits up its artist credits to Jim Harkins and his Orchestra and Sid Peltyn and his Orchestra, but once again, both are pseudonyms for Tom Berwick’s band.  According to the distinguished Mr. Paul Lindemeyer, Harkins was a Boston area banjo and guitar player who doubled on the bagpipes.  Both sides of Electradisk 1923 were recorded November 23, 1932 in New York.

Play, FIddle, Play and Here it is Monday and I've Still Got a Dollar

Play, Fiddle, Play and Here it is Monday and I’ve Still Got a Dollar, recorded November 23, 1932 by Jim Harkins and his Orchestra and Sid Peltyn and his Orchestra.