Brunswick 6162 – Connie Boswell – 1931

We’ve celebrated the anniversary of the incomparable Miss Connie Boswell’s birth several times before here on Old Time Blues, but this time around it’s particularly significant, for it’s her 110th birthday.  Likewise, this is a particularly significant record for the occasion: Connie’s first solo record (excepting her early 1925 straggler).

Connie Boswell around 1932.

Connie was born Constance Foore Boswell—taking her middle name from her mother’s maiden name—in Kansas City, Missouri on December 3, 1907, the third of the Boswell children, and the middle Boswell sister.  They relocated to Birmingham when Connie was about three years old, and it was there where she suffered the incident that would leave her crippled, most likely by a bout of infantile paralysis, though her mother claimed it was the result of an accident involving a toy wagon.  In any event, she was left completely incapacitated, yet in spite of adversity, Connie recovered, even being able to stand up and walk after a fashion for a time, though she would later rely on a wheelchair.  Soon after the accident, the Boswells packed up and moved to New Orleans, where the children were exposed to—and became a part of—the genesis of jazz.

The three Boswell Sisters became a popular musical act around town, singing harmony and playing instruments; when the Victor Talking Machine Company made their first field trip to Houston and New Orleans, the Boswells made their first record.  Several years later, after some setbacks, the trio left for Chicago to embark on a vaudeville tour.  Eventually, they wound up in California, where they settled for a time in Los Angeles and became popular radio personalities.  Then a young hotel clerk they’d met and befriended in a seedy joint in San Francisco—Harry Leedy—came to visit and convinced them to take him on as their manager, and later Connie’s husband.  He succeeded in getting them a contract with Brunswick, and they traveled to New York to make records.  But in spite of his successful management of the trio, Leedy believed that Connie was the only sister with a lick of talent, and that the other two were essentially superfluous.  He pushed for Connie to do more solo work, which she did, and he positioned her to take more leading vocals on the Sisters’ records.  Ultimately, it’s likely that Leedy contributed considerably to the tensions that resulted in the Boswell Sisters 1936 breakup.

After the disintegration of the trio, Connie’s career fell into a bit of a slump, but her runaway swing hit of von Flotow’s “Martha” brought fast to the spotlight.  Throughout the remainder of the 1930s, and into the ’40s, she remained one of the most popular singers in the nation, duetting frequently with Bing Crosby.  She made a number of noteworthy film appearances in It’s All Yours and Artists and Models in 1937, the latter which saw her sing the Academy award nominated “Whispers in the Dark”, Kiss the Boys Goodbye in 1941, Syncopation in 1942, and Swing Parade of 1946.  Around 1942, she altered the spelling of her name to “Connee”, stating that it was easier to sign, but also possibly due to numerological reasons recommended by her sister Martha.  In the years following the Second World War, Connee Boswell’s career began to slow down, and she took a hiatus from her long time association with Decca Records in 1946.  The following year, she made two records for Apollo, and then quieted down for a five year stretch.  In 1952, Connee made a triumphant return to Decca, accompanied by Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five, but her voice was beginning to sound noticeably hoarse in her mid-forties.  Nonetheless, she continued making records and television appearances on programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show through the decade, concluding with her final album in 1958.  Also in ’58, she made an appearance in the movie Senior Prom, and took a recurring role as “Savannah Brown” in the television adaptation of Pete Kelly’s Blues.  Slowing down in the 1960s, Connee made two rock ‘n’ roll-esque 45s for the Charles label in 1962, her last commercial records.  After a fairly quiet decade, Connee Boswell died of stomach cancer on October 12, 1976.

Brunswick 6162 was recorded around July 27, 1931 in New York City.  Connie Boswell is accompanied more-or-less by the Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra, consisting of Manny Klein on trumpet, on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet, Harry Hoffman on violin, sister Martha Boswell on piano, Dick McDonough on guitar, Joe Tarto on string bass, and Chauncey Morehouse on drums and vibraphone.

First, Connie sings an upbeat composition by the Harries Tobias and Barris, “What is It?”, with a little swinging going on in the background.

What is It?, recorded July 27, 1931 by Connie Boswell.

Next, Connie sings the lovely “I’m All Dressed Up With a Broken Heart”, a song which, much like Russ Columbo’s “You Call it Madness”, is truly evocative of its era.

I’m All Dressed Up With a Broken Heart, recorded July 27, 1931 by Connie Boswell.

Okeh 41577 – The Charleston Chasers – 1931

Jack Teagarden in marching band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1938, photo by Charles Peterson.

Jack Teagarden in band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1939, photo by Charles Peterson.

August 20 marks the day that we pay homage to that great trombone man from down in Texas, Jack Teagarden, who was born on that day in 1905.  In celebration of the occasion, here is a record that holds great significance in the development of swing music.  It is credited by Benny Goodman himself as the record that really saw him come into his own element, well on his path to becoming the King of Swing.

Jack was born Weldon Leo Teagarden in the small town of Vernon, Texas.  His father was an oilfield worker who played cornet in a brass band, and his mother played ragtime piano and church organ.  Jack took up the baritone horn, soon switching to trombone, his brothers Charlie and Clois chose trumpet and drums, respectively, and sister Norma learned piano.  In 1921, Teagarden joined Peck Kelley’s band in Houston, and was offered a position in Paul Whiteman’s band when the famous bandleader was passing through, though Jack opted to remain in Texas.  He made it to New York City in 1926, where he recorded with the orchestras of Ben Pollack, Roger Wolfe Kahn, and various bands organized by impresario Irving Mills, as well as numerous jazz bands led by the likes of Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, Hoagy Carmichael, and Louis Armstrong, establishing himself as the finest jazz trombonist of the age (and perhaps of any age), and a popular blues vocalist on the side.  In the early 1930s, Teagarden played with Benny Goodman’s orchestras, helping to percolate the early inklings of swing at its best, but in 1933, he signed a contract with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra for five years, preventing him from leading his own band as the swing era kicked off soon after.  Despite having fairly little opportunity for solo work with Whiteman, Teagarden was able to get in a bit of side work during that time, and started his own band after parting ways with Whiteman in 1939.  Though his orchestra lasted until 1946, it found little in the way of success.  After World War II, Teagarden played with Louis Armstrongs All-Stars, and toured internationally more than once, remaining a mainstay in the jazz scene until his death from pneumonia in 1964.

Okeh 41577 was recorded February 9, 1931 in New York City by the Charleston Chasers, under the direction of Benny Goodman.  It is a dub of the original issue on Columbia 2415-D (why they dubbed it, instead of master pressing, I couldn’t say, but I’m sure someone could.)  The almost unbeatable band features Charlie Teagarden and Ruby Weinstein on trumpets, Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Sid Stoneburn on alto sax, Larry Binyon on tenor sax, Dick McDonough on guitar, Arthur Schutt on piano, and Harry Goodman on string bass.  Jack Teagarden sings the vocals on both sides.  Unfortunately, some dumbbell thought it was a bright idea to carve an “X” into both labels.

Besides perhaps Louis Armstrong, “Basin Street Blues” is associated with no musician more than Jack Teagarden, who performed and recorded it a number of times.  It was in fact Teagarden and Glenn Miller who were responsible for adding the opening verse, “Won’t you come along with me. / To the Mississippi,” to Spencer Williams’ famous song.

Basin Street Blues

Basin Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Also quite associated with Teagarden is W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues”, which he recorded again soon after for Vocalion with Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang’s All-Star Orchestra.

Beale Street Blues

Beale Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Vocalion 2587 – Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) – 1933

Today we celebrate the birthday of Cliff Edwards, the man known as “Ukulele Ike”.  He was one of the leading figures in the proliferation of the ukulele during the roaring twenties, and made his mark on the cinematic world as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.  Edwards’ distinctive vocal style was punctuated with his trademark “effin’,” a sort of kazoo sounding scat singing of his own creation.

Cliff Edwards as illustrated in Radio Round-Ups by Gurman and Slager, 1932.

Clifton Avon Edwards was born June 14, 1895 in Hannibal, Missouri, of no particular musical background.  He took up singing in St. Louis saloons in his teenage years, and bought his first ukulele because it was the cheapest instrument he could find.  He was given the nickname “Ukulele Ike” by a bar owner who couldn’t remember his actual name.  In 1918, he made a hit in Chicago with “Ja-Da” and was hired onto the vaudeville stage by Joe Frisco.  He made his first phonograph records in 1922 with Ladd’s Black Aces and Bailey’s Lucky Seven, for Gennett, and was signed to Pathé soon after.  Over the course of the 1920s, he made his way to the top, becoming one of the most successful singing stars in America, with numerous hits on record and stage.  In 1929, Edwards was brought into the world of moving pictures by Irving Thalberg, and made his mark on the budding talking pictures with his introduction of “Singin’ in the Rain” in The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  He continued to appear in movies through the 1930s, and provided the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s production of Pinocchio in 1940.  His stardom in stage, screen, and radio faded over the course of the Great Depression, though he continued to work in show business for many years, still making sporadic appearances in the 1950s and ’60s.  In spite of his fame and success, Edwards was careless with his money, and died penniless of arteriosclerosis in 1971.  Most of his medical bills were paid by Walt Disney Productions.

Vocalion 2587 was recorded October 24 and 26, 1933 in New York City by Cliff Edwards.  Both sides feature tunes from the 1933 motion picture Take a Chance.  Edwards is accompanied by Dick McDonough on guitar on the first side, and Artie Bernstein on string bass on the second.

Here, Ukulele Ike croons the Depression-era classic, “It’s Only a Paper Moon”.  One of my personal favorites.

It's Only a Paper Moon

It’s Only a Paper Moon, recorded October 24, 1933 by Cliff Edwards “Ukulele Ike”.

Next, he sings a less remembered, but equally excellent tune, Herman “Dodo” Hupfeld’s “Night Owl”.  I can relate.

Night Owl

Night Owl, recorded October 26, 1933 by Cliff Edwards “Ukulele Ike”.

Updated with improved audio on May 11, 2017, and on May 31, 2017 and June 9, 2017.

Brunswick 6847 – The Boswell Sisters – 1931/1932

This website needs more Boswell Sisters.  It’s going into its sixth month of existence and still only has one article featuring the Boswells.  That simply won’t do.  After all, it was the Boswell Sisters that dragged the center of my interests back from the 1940s and 1950s into the 1920s and 1930s, and they’ll always have a special place in my heart.  To remedy this unacceptable omission, here are two of the Boswells’ finest sides, one of my favorite records.

Brunswick 6847 was recorded on two separate occasions, the first side was recorded December 7, 1932, and the second was recorded earlier, April 23 (my birthday), 1931, both sides in New York City.  The first side “Crazy People” features only a rhythm backing by Dick McDonough on guitar and Artie Bernstein on string bass, along with Martha Boswell on piano.  The flip side, “Shout, Sister, Shout” features a truly all-star accompaniment directed by Victor Young, including either Mannie Klein or Jack Purvis on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, and Chauncey Morehouse on drums and vibraphone.

Although the Boswells’ rendition of Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco’s “Crazy People” was recorded in 1932, a few months after the sisters filmed their performance of the song for The Big Broadcast, it was not given a record issue until this one in 1934.

Crazy People, recorded December 7, 1932 by The Boswell Sisters.

Crazy People, recorded December 7, 1932 by The Boswell Sisters.

The Boswells’ classic performance of Clarence Williams’ “Shout, Sister, Shout” on the other hand was issued originally on Brunswick 6109 in 1931, and again issued on Brunswick 6783, before this issue in 1934.

Shout, Sister, Shout, recorded April 23, 1931 by The Boswell Sisters.

Shout, Sister, Shout, recorded April 23, 1931 by The Boswell Sisters.