Bluebird B-5942 – Jimmie Rodgers/Jesse Rodgers – 1931/1935

This record is a remarkable one for a number of reasons.  One of those is that, being a Depression era release, it is quite scarce (and I don’t mean to sound braggadocious, I’m still surprised that I have it, myself).  Another is that is one of a number of records of the 1920s and 1930s to feature black and white artists performing together, in this case Jimmie Rodgers with the Earl McDonald’s Louisville Jug Band.  On the downside, this copy has certainly seen better days.  The years have not been kind to it, and its sound reflects that. It’s still listenable, but has a layer of surface noise.  Another bit worth mentioning is that the flip side of this record, which was released after Rodgers’ passing, features a recording by another blue yodeler who happened to be Jimmie Rodgers’ first cousin.

Both sides of Bluebird B-5942 were recorded on separate occasions.  The “A” side was recorded on June 16, 1931 in Louisville, Kentucky, the “B” side was recorded January 28, 1935 in San Antonio, Texas.  The personnel of the jug band on the first side includes George Allen on clarinet, Clifford Hayes on violin, Cal Smith on tenor guitar, Fred Smith on guitar and Earl McDonald on jug, the same basic group as the Dixieland Jug Blowers.

On the first side, the Blue Yodeler sings “My Good Gal’s Gone”, with outstanding accompaniment by Earl McDonald’s Louisville Jug Band.  Though it was recorded in 1931, this 1935 Bluebird is the first issue of this recording.

My Good Gal’s Gone, recorded June 16, 1931 by Jimmie Rodgers.

On the “B” side, Jimmie’s first cousin, Jesse Rodgers sings “Leave Me Alone, Sweet Mama” in a style that reminds me of Cliff Carlisle more than Jimmie.  Jesse stuck around for quite a while, later dropping the “d” from his name to become Jesse Rogers by the end of the 1930s.

Leave Me Alone, Sweet Mama, recorded January 28, 1935 by Jesse Rodgers.

Leave Me Alone, Sweet Mama, recorded January 28, 1935 by Jesse Rodgers.

Updated with improved audio on May 23, 2017.

Victor 20415 – Jelly-Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers/Dixieland Jug Blowers – 1926

October 20, 1890 is one of several possible birth dates for famed jazz pianist and composer Ferd. “Jelly Roll” Morton, the others being September 20, 1885, September 20, 1889, and September 13, 1884.  For the sake of this post, happy 125th birthday, Jelly Roll.  For the occasion, I present one of his finest recordings.

One of the most interesting and storied characters in jazz, Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand LaMothe, later Mouton after his mother remarried, started out playing piano in the Storyville “sporting houses” of his home town of New Orleans before taking off to tour around the United States, working in minstrel shows and vaudeville, as well as reportedly a gambler, pool shark and pimp.  He first recorded in 1923 for Paramount, and recorded with a number of different groups until he was signed to Victor in 1926, with whom he remained until he was abruptly dropped in 1930.  The Depression years proved difficult for Morton, who was robbed of royalties by his publisher, Walter Melrose.  He was recorded again for the Library of Congress in 1938 and began recording again around then.  Blaming his declining health on a voodoo spell, Jelly Roll Morton died in Los Angeles, California in 1941.

Victor 20415 was recorded December 16 and 11, 1926 at the Webster Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.  The Jelly Roll side features George Mitchell on cornet, Kid Ory on trombone, Omer Simeon on clarinet, Jelly Roll Morton on piano and also singing the vocal, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, John Lindsay on string bass, and Andrew Hilaire on drums.  The Dixieland Jug Blowers side features Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lockwood Lewis on alto sax, Freddie Smith on banjo, Cal Smith on tenor banjo, Curtis Hayes on guitjo, and Henry Clifford and Earl McDonald on jugs.

First up, Jelly Roll’s Red Hot Peppers play one of their all-time greatest sides, King Oliver’s “Doctor Jazz Stomp” (and boy does it stomp), recorded on the December 16 date.

Doctor Jazz,

Doctor Jazz, recorded December 16, 1926 by Jelly-Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.

On the flip side, the Dixieland Jug Blowers with Johnny Dodds on clarinet play “Memphis Shake”, recorded on the December 11 date.

Memphis Shake, recorded December 11, 1926 by the Dixieland Jug Blowers.

Memphis Shake, recorded December 11, 1926 by the Dixieland Jug Blowers.

Updated with improved audio on June 6, 2017.