Durium De Luxe K6 – Eddie Cantor with Phil Spitalny’s Music – 1931

Eddie Cantor in the 1930s.  Pictured in Stars of Radio and Things You Would Like to Know About Them.

On Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the stock market on Wall Street crashed, catalyzing an economic descent into a Great Depression.  The economy had been in decline prior to the crash, but that event proved to be the point of no return, and the economy dipped continuously until hitting bottom in the winter of 1932-’33.  Economists, historians, and economic historians can argue about what caused the crash ’til the cows come home, but whatever set it off, “that’s when we started sliding in the fall of ’29,” as the Light Crust Doughboys once put it, “‘Twas a fall of fifty-fifty, you lost yours and I lost mine, but it made us all more human since the fall of ’29.”

As always, the world of music adhered to the current events, and almost immediately responded to the crash with a wave of new songs.  In an effort to cheer the Depression, peppy optimism filled many compositions of the day, such as 1930’s “Cheer Up (Good Times Are Comin’), or 1931’s “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “Headin’ for Better Times”.  As the hard times dragged on however, the pep began to run out, and—although it always persisted in the music of Ted Lewis and a few others—the optimism began to turn to cynicism, exuded from such songs as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” from Americana and “Remember My Forgotten Man” from Gold Diggers of 1933 (not to mention the countless blues and hillbilly complaining songs).  In 1931, the recently launched satire magazine Ballyhoo took that cynicism to a humorous extreme when they published their theme song, parodying the contemporary “cheer up” songs.  Perhaps because its lyrics were quite inflammatory (“let’s hang the fat-head to a tree”)—or perhaps not—their song was recorded by the rather B-list Durium Products Corporation, makers of the fifteen cent Hit-of-the-Week paper records, albeit sung by very A-list talent, old Banjo Eyes himself: Eddie Cantor.

Durium De Luxe K6 was recorded in September of 1931 in New York City.  The full personnel of Phil Spitalny’s Music is not known, at least by any source I’ve examined, but is said to include Bunny Berigan and Bob Effros on trumpets and Joe Venuti on violin.  Its label is printed with a bold colorblock pattern matching that of the eponymous magazine; it originally came with a sleeve to match, which, unfortunately, has been separated from this copy by the passage of time.  These Durium recordings had outstanding fidelity for their time, unfortunately, the paper and celluloid-like material on which they were pressed doesn’t always hold up as well as shellac, and this copy is not in pristine condition, causing some background rumble and some clicks and pops.  Nonetheless, the music is still strong, and I hope you’ll find this transfer satisfactory.

On this one-sided, two track paper record, Eddie Cantor sings “Cheer Up”, Mischa and Wesley Portnoff and Norman Anthony’s theme song of Ballyhoo.  Then, Phil Spitalny’s Music plays an absolutely fantastic instrumental arrangement of the same tune.  Be sure to not confuse this song with “Cheer Up (Good Times Are Comin’)” from the previous year—doing that would be a grave mistake.

Ballyhoo – Theme Song “Cheer Up”, recorded September 1931 by Eddie Cantor with Phil Spitalny’s Music.

Nertz.

Victor 21831 – Eddie Cantor – 1928

The actual birth date of that great vaudevillian Eddie Cantor is not definitively known.  Although he is more or less known to have been born in 1892, some sources place his birth on January 31, and others sometime in September.  Since I don’t know his real birthday any more than any other living person, I’ll just have to post my tributes to ol’ Banjo Eyes on both occasions, starting now with one of his most famous songs.

Whenever he may have been born, Eddie Cantor grew up as Edward Israel “Izzy” Itzkowitz in New York City at the turn of the century.  After his parents died when he was a small child, the young Edward was raised by his dearly beloved grandmother, Esther Kantrowitz, from whom he got the name Cantor.  He started his career in show business in the late 1910s, and in 1917, Eddie Cantor signed a contract to appear in Flo Ziegfeld’s Follies, which thrust into fame, and made him into one of the only vaudevillians that could rival Al Jolson.  Throughout his career of more than fifty years, Cantor accomplished more than could fit on this page, including his well-remembered association with the March of Dimes, a name which he coined (pun intended) for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.  Cantor died October 10, 1964, two years after passing of his wife Ida.

Victor 21831 was recorded December 18, 1928 at New York City’s Liederkranz Hall by Eddie Cantor, accompanied by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra.  He sings two songs that he originally introduced in Ziegfeld’s musical Whoopee.

The first song on this disc is probably Cantor’s most famous song, Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson’s “Makin’ Whoopee”.

Makin' Whoopee

Makin’ Whoopee, recorded December 18, 1928 by Eddie Cantor.

On the reverse, Cantor bemoans his woes of wooing the women on Jack Yellen and Milton Ager’s “Hungry Women”.

Hungry Women

Hungry Women, recorded December 18, 1928 by Eddie Cantor.