Victor 20293 & 20507 – Five Harmaniacs – 1926/1927

Styling themselves as cowboys, the Five Harmaniacs were a novelty jug band that had a short-lived but apparently successful run on vaudeville in the middle part of the 1920s.  During that run, they also made a series of recordings for a number of companies in 1926 and ’27.  The group cut their first side, titled “Harmaniac Blues”, in Chicago for Paramount in June of ’26 as the Harmaniac Five.  They followed with four sides for Victor, two for Brunswick, two for Edison, and one for Gennett, all of them recorded in New York.  They also made radio appearances across the United States.

There is conflicting information surrounding the identities of the members of the Five Harmaniacs.  Brian Rust lists Claude Shugart as the jug and washboard player, Jerry Adams on comb, Percy Stoner on kazoo and banjo, with Wade Hampton Durand, Walter Howard, and Ned Nestor filling out the rest of the band, each taking some part on banjo, guitar, harmonica, and ukulele.  The 1978 LP release The Five Harmaniacs – 1926-27 (Puritan 3004) lists an entirely different personnel including Syd Newman on harmonica, kazoo, and washboard, Dave Robertson on harmonica and washboard, Roy King on banjo, ukulele, and jug, Jerry Adams on comb, Walter Howard on guitar, and Claude Shugart on ukulele. Claude Shugart is incorrectly identified in some sources as Clyde, and Wade Durand (incorrectly) as Wayne.  The Mainspring Press asserts that “the usual members of this group were Jerry Adams, Hampton Durand, Walter Howard, Ned Nestor, Clyde Shugart, and Percy Stoner,” with that information apparently recorded in Brunswick ledgers from their session with that company.

C. Shugart is listed as the vocalist on the label of “Sadie Green Vamp of New Orleans”, confirming his presence in the Harmaniacs.  He may have also played kazoo and possibly banjo.  Rust’s identification of Shugart as playing jug is likely incorrect, as jug can be heard during his vocal on “Sadie Green”.  It is also certain that Walter Howard was the vocalist on “What Makes My Baby Cry?”, and surviving evidence indicates that he played the guitar as well.  With Jerry Adams listed on comb in both sources, he most likely did in fact fill that role, and may have doubled on banjo.  It would not have been uncommon in this type of band for each member to have played more than one instrument, and they may have switched back and forth periodically.  As all sources confirm Howard, Shugart, and Adams as members, there is little evidence to cast doubt on their presence, but the identities of the other members are unconfirmed, at least in my research.

Walter Howard was born in 1897 and hailed from Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.  His brother Edgar, who played banjo, was also a musician of some merit.  Wade Hampton Durand was born in Indiana in 1877, and was working in music as early as the turn of the century.  In 1918, he worked as a musical director in Los Angeles, and by 1940, he was an arranger in New York, living in a hotel that played host to a host of other musicians.  Durand died in 1964.  While Durand is confirmed as the co-composer of “Coney Island Washboard” and “Sleepy Blues”, his instrumental role in the Harmaniacs, if any, is uncertain.  It has also been posited that Jerry Adams real name was Harold Whitacre.

The two discs, four sides, featured in this post account for the Five Harmaniacs’ full recorded output for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

Victor 20293 was recorded September 17, 1926 in New York City.  C. Shugart (be it Clyde or Claude) provides the vocals on “Sadie Green Vamp of New Orleans”.  On the other side, they play the first ever recording of the now classic “Coney Island Washboard”, composed by Durand and Adams, with words by Shugart and Ned Nestor, as an instrumental.

Sadie Green Vamp of New Orleans and Coney Island Washboard

Sadie Green Vamp of New Orleans and Coney Island Washboard, recorded September 17, 1926 by the Five Harmaniacs.

The Harmaniacs returned to the Victor studio five months later and recorded Victor 20507 on February 5, 1927.  Walter Howard recites the vocal on the rollicking “What Makes My Baby Cry?”, backed up on the flip with the little bit bluer sounding instrumental “It Takes a Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home)”.

What Makes My Baby Cry? and It Takes a Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home)

What Makes My Baby Cry? and It Takes a Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home), recorded February 8, 1927 by the Five Harmaniacs.

Updated on December 1, 2016 and June 24, 2017.

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.

A Crown Dance Band Double Feature – 3149 & 3281 – 1931/1932

This Dance Band Double Feature is dedicated to Smith Ballew, who was born on this day (January 21) in 1902.  Under his frequently used pseudonym, Buddy Blue and his Texans, Ballew and his band play four classic songs of the early 1930s recorded on the Crown label.

Smith Ballew was born Sykes Ballew in Palestine, Texas on January 20, 1902.  He had his education in Sherman, Texas before finishing college at the University of Texas in Austin.  While at UT, Ballew played banjo in James Maloney’s band, called Jimmie’s Joys at the time.  That band, with Ballew, made a few records in California for the Golden label in 1923.  By the late 1920s, he was working as a studio vocalist in New York, working for a plethora of different bands and labels.  After working steadily as a singer well into the 1930s, Smith turned to acting, appearing mostly in Westerns as a singing cowboy.  After retiring from music in 1967, Ballew worked in the aircraft industry, eventually settling in Fort Worth.  He died March 2, 1984 in Longview, Texas.

Crown 3149 was recorded in May of 1931.  On the first side, Smith Ballew sings Harry Warren’s 1931 hit, the timeless “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)”.  On the reverse, we hear “On the Beach With You”, this side claims to be a waltz, but it sounds more like a fox trot to my ear.  The vocalist on this side is allegedly Charlie Lawman, but it sounds identical to Ballew’s vocal on the flip, and I believe it’s still him.  On these 1931 recordings, the band retains much of a late 1920s sound with banjo rhythm and an accordion.

I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store) and On the Beach With You

I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store) and On the Beach With You, recorded May 1931 by Buddy Blue and his Texans.

The second disc, Crown 3281, was recorded in January of 1932.  This record feature two popular songs from Irving Berlin’s Face the Music, “Let’s Have Another Cup o’ Coffee” and Soft Lights and Sweet Music”.  Both sides feature a vocal by Ballew.  The band seems to have modernized significantly on these recordings, less than a year later, and may very well be an entirely different group.

Let's Have Another Cup o' Coffee and Soft Lights and Sweet Music

Let’s Have Another Cup o’ Coffee and Soft Lights and Sweet Music, recorded January 1932 by Buddy Blue and his Texans.

Another Bluebird Dance Band Double Feature – B-5049 & B-5053 – 1933/1931

As I’m in the process of uploading this duo of early Bluebirds to my YouTube channel (which you should most definitely take a look at if you like this kind of music), it seems like a fine time to do another Bluebird Dance Band Double Feature.  Last time, I featured some of the sweet style of music that dominated pop music in the early 1930s, but this time I’ve got a couple of hotter bands for you, led by Paul Tremaine and Gene Kardos.

Bluebird B-5049 was recorded April 14, 1933 in New York City by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra.  On the first side, they play sweeter on Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Stormy Weather”, which had recently been debuted in the Cotton Club Parade of 1933.  On the reverse, they play “Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane”, a remake of the rendition they had recorded for Columbia in February of 1930 (I’ll post the original sometime, too).

Bluebird B-5049, recorded April 14, 1933 by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra.

Stormy Weather & Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane, recorded April 14, 1933 by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra.

The two sides of Bluebird B-5053 were recorded on two different occasions.  The first side is another by Paul Tremaine, a wild “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain”, recorded at the same April 14, 1933 session.  That one is also a (considerably more frenetic) redo of one of their 1930 Columbia recordings. Be sure to listen for the little bit of “hinkle dinkle rooty too” between two of the choruses.

On the flip-side, Gene Kardos and his Orchestra play a hot rendition of Carson Robison’s “Left My Gal in the Mountains”, recorded June 10, 1931 and originally issued on Victor’s short-lived Timely Tunes budget label.  This was Kardos’ first session.  The band consists of Sammy Castin and Willie Mayer on trumpets, Milt Shaw on trombone, Gene Kardos on alto sax, Joe Sagora on clarinet and alto sax, Morris Cohen or Nat Brown on clarinet, alto sax, and tenor sax, Joel Shaw on piano, Albert Julian on guitar, Danny Bono or Ben Goldberg on tuba, and Saul Howard on drums.  The vocalist is Albert Julian

Bluebird B-5053, recorded

She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain & Left My Gal in the Mountains, recorded April 14, 1933 and June 10, 1931 by Paul Tremaine and his Orchestra and Gene Kardos and his Orchestra.

Updated on June 24, 2016.

A Bluebird Dance Band Double Feature – B-5268 & B-5269 – 1933

To break the monotony of all the jazz and blues, here’s a bit of a departure from the style of music I’ve been featuring here for the past couple weeks, two early 1930s dance band records on Victor’s Bluebird label.

In the early days of the Victor budget label, Bluebird featured, in addition to some great jazz and country, many excellent dance bands, which played the popular tunes of the day.  These two records, the consecutively numbered Bluebird B-5268 and B-5269, feature some of the popular hits of 1933, by Sam Robbins and Reggie Childs’ orchestras.

The first of the two Bluebird B-5268, recorded November 22, 1933 by Sam Robbins and his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra features the Billy Hill hit “The Old Spinning Wheel”, and Zez Confrey’s “Sittin’ on a Log (Pettin’ My Dog)”, both performed in a sweet style with a smooth sax section that puts one in mind of Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians.

The Old Spinning Wheel & Sittin' On a Log (Pettin' My Dog), recorded November 22, 1933 by Sam Robbins and his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra

The Old Spinning Wheel & Sittin’ On a Log (Pettin’ My Dog), recorded November 22, 1933 by Sam Robbins and his Hotel McAlpin Orchestra

The second disc features Reggie Childs and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra (I presume he took over for Ben Bernie), playing Mack Gordon and Harry Revel’s “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?”, from Sitting Pretty, with vocals by Don Howard, a performance that has long been one of my favorites in that genre.  On the other side, a real tour de force on “Many Moons Ago”, another Gordon and Revel tune, with a vocal by Duke Durbin.  Both sides were recorded on November 27, 1933, five days after the previous record.

Did You Ever See a Dream Walking & Many Moons Ago, recorded November 27, 1933 by Reggie Childs and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra

Did You Ever See a Dream Walking & Many Moons Ago, recorded November 27, 1933 by Reggie Childs and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra