Victor 19212 – Ted Weems and his Orchestra – 1923

115 years ago today, the prolific bandleader Ted Weems was born.  He had hits with “Piccolo Pete” and “Heartaches”, and co-wrote such songs as “Oh, Mo’nah” and “Jig Time”.   In commemoration of the occasion, here is his first record.

Weems was born Wilfred Theodore Wemyes on September 26, 1901 in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania.  He began his musical path when he entered a contest to win a pony, but wound up with a violin instead.  He later took up the trombone as well.  Weems organized his first band while in school, and did so again in college with a more professional group that took professional engagements at hotels and restaurants.  In 1921, Weems’ band played at the inauguration of President Warren G. Harding.  The Weems band made their first record in 1923 for the Victor Talking Machine Company, with whom they continued to record for the next ten years.  After leaving Victor, the Weems band recorded for Columbia, and then Decca.  Like many bands and musicians of that day and age, much of their success was found on the airwaves.  During the war, Weems joined the Merchant Marines and led their band.  After a period of relative dormancy, Weems’ popularity was revived in 1947 when a North Carolina disc jockey played his uptempo rumba recording of “Heartaches” from 1933, which was met with unexpected enthusiasm from the public.  After that unexpected success, Victor reissued the record, and Decca followed suit with a reissue of their recording of the same tune that Weems had cut in 1938, both of which became hits.  Weems organized a new band, which stayed together until 1953.  Ten years later, in 1963, Ted Weems died of emphysema.

Victor 19212 was recorded on November 20, 1923 in Camden, New Jersey, the first sides ever cut by Ted Weems’ Orchestra.  Both sides were originally made as tests, but must’ve impressed the higher-ups, as they wound up being assigned masters and issued.  The band consists of Art Weems and Paul Creedon on trumpets, Ted Weems on trombone, Norman Nugent and Walter Livingston clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and bass sax, Francis Buggy on clarinet, soprano sax, and tenor sax, Charles Gaylord on violin, Reuel Kenyon on piano, Weston Vaughan on banjo, George Barth on tuba and string bass, and Cecil Richardson on drums.

First up, Weems’ band plays the western-themed “Covered Wagon Days”.

Covered Wagon Days

Covered Wagon Days, recorded November 20, 1923 by Ted Weems and his Orchestra.

On the reverse, they play a superb instrumental rendition of the old standard “Somebody Stole My Gal”.

Somebody Stole My Gal

Somebody Stole My Gal, recorded November 20, 1923 by Ted Weems and his Orchestra.

Brunswick 4653 – Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy – 1929

Continuing in out tradition of honoring music heroes of the 1920s and ’30s, today we remember Andy Kirk, on the 118th anniversary of his birth.

Andrew Dewey Kirk was born May 28, 1898 in Kentucky, but soon relocated to Denver, Colorado, where he spent his early years.  In Denver, Kirk was instructed by Wilberforce Whiteman, father of Paul Whiteman, learning to play saxophone and tuba.  He started his career as a professional musician with George Morrison’s band, before moving on to Terrence Holder’s Dark Clouds of Joy.  Holder left the band in 1929, and Kirk assumed leadership, moving the group from Dallas to Kansas City, and renaming them the Twelve Clouds of Joy.  In Kansas City, Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy gigged at the Pla-Mor Ballroom, and made their first recordings, with Mary Lou Williams on piano, in November of 1929 during a Brunswick field trip, followed by several more the next year.  In 1931, Kirk picked up Blanche Calloway as a vocalist, and made several more records under the guise of “her Joy Boys”, after which he stopped recording for several years.  He reemerged in 1936 with a hep swing band and a lucrative contract with Decca, with the Twelve Clouds of Joy becoming one of most successful territory bands, and in some regards, the successor to a position held by Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra.  When Billboard began charting hit records, his “Take It and Git” was the first to chart on the “Harlem Hit Parade”.  Kirk gave up music in 1948, instead turning to a career in real estate and hotel management.  He died in 1992 at the age of 94.

Brunswick 4653 was recorded on November 7 and 8, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri.  From Kirk’s first and second sessions, and his first issued record.  The Twelve Clouds of Joy are comprised of Gene Prince and Harry Lawson on trumpets, Allen Durham on trombone, John Harrington on clarinet and alto sax, John Williams on alto sax and baritone sax, Lawrence ‘Slim’ Freeman on tenor sax, Andy Kirk on bass sax and tuba, Claude Williams on violin, Mary Lou Williams on piano, William Dirvin on banjo, guitar, Edward McNeil, drums.

First, the band plays Mary Lou Williams’ hot jazz arrangement of “Casey Jones”, styled here as “Casey Jones Special”.  I’ve always loved that brief interjection of country fiddle before going right back into jazz.

Casey Jones Special

Casey Jones Special, recorded November 8, 1929 by Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy.

I’m not sure if “Cloudy” was the official theme song of the Twelve Clouds of Joy, but it ought to have been if it wasn’t.  They recorded this tune again for Decca in 1936, with a vocal by Pha Terrell.

Cloudy

Cloudy, recorded November 7, 1929 by Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy.

Victor 21470 – Jules Allen “The Singing Cowboy” – 1928

From 1930 Victor catalog.

From 1930 Victor catalog.

If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s singing cowboys.  Not those Hollywood type like Roy Rogers (not that I have anything against Roy, I like him too), but the handful of real life cowboys that made recordings of songs from right there on the range in the 1920s and ’30s.  This record falls squarely into that category.  This was one of my lucky finds from a little store out in Mineral Wells, Texas, along with some other fine rural selections.  It’s likely been in Texas ever since it left the pressing plant in Camden.

Jules Verne Allen was born on April 1, 1883 in the charming little town of Waxahachie, Texas, he began working as a cowboy in the next decade, punching cattle from Montana to the Rio Grande.  He served his country in the Great War, enlisting in the Army in 1917.  For many years, Allen worked as an officer of the law, as a police officer and deputy sheriff in El Paso, and as a member of the legendary Texas Rangers.  As a cowboy, he learned the traditional songs of the West, played on the guitar, and when the Western phenomenon swept the nation in the late 1920s, Allen began performing those songs on the radio for WOAI in San Antonio and WFAA in Dallas.  Billed as “The Singing Cowboy”, he cut three sides for the Victor Talking Machine Co. on one of their field trips in El Paso in 1928, later making twenty more sides, of which all but one were issued.  One of the most popular of the early singing cowboys, in 1933, Allen wrote Cowboy Lore, a book detailing the life of a cowpuncher.  Continuing to perform on the radio into the 1940s, Allen died on July 10, 1945.

Victor 21470 was recorded April 21, 1928 by Jules Allen during one of Victor’s field trips in El Paso, Texas.  These two are Allen’s debut recordings.

First up, Allen sings N. Howard Thorp’s classic cowboy song, “Little Joe, the Wrangler”.

Little Joe, the Wrangler, recorded

Little Joe, the Wrangler, recorded April 21, 1928 by Jules Allen.

Next, Allen sings the Texas gambling song “Jack o’ Diamonds” in the old cowboy rather than the blues style associated with the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson.  The last time we heard this tune, it sung by TCU physics professor Newton Gaines, and to be honest, I believe ol’ Jules delivers a better performance.

Jack o' Diamonds, recorded

Jack o’ Diamonds, recorded April 21, 1928 by Jules Allen.

Gennett 5395 – Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra – 1924

Today, March 14, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the prolific bandleader Bernie Cummins with his first record.

Bernie Cummins, Circa 1930.

Bernie Cummins, circa 1926.

Born in Akron, Ohio in 1900, drummer Bernie Cummins had an extraordinarily long career as a bandleader, he organized his first band in 1919, and recorded fairly steadily from the middle of the 1920s until the 1940s, and working until the demise of the big band in the late 1950s.  This record, I believe, was the first of those many.  Cummins recorded first with Gennett in his native Midwest, switching to Brunswick later, and moving to Victor at the end of the 1920s, then Columbia in the mid-1930s, recording on the side for the Plaza/ARC budget labels along the way.  I believe he was with Vocalion in the late 1930s, and I’m not certain where he went after that.  At one point early in his career, Cummins served briefly as manager of the Wolverine Orchestra, most famous for featuring the talent of a young Bix Beiderbecke, and recommended the Wolverines to replace his band following his engagement with the Cinderella Roof ballroom in New York City.  Cummins died in 1986.

Gennett 5395 was recorded January 28, 1924 in Richmond, Indiana by Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra.  The full personnel of the band is unclear, but it included Bernie on drums, his brother Walter on banjo, and Karl Radlach on piano.  The Toadstool Inn was a speakeasy in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Home Folks Blues” is an energetic jazz number with plenty of “doo wacka doo” in it.

Home Folks Blues

Home Folks Blues, recorded January 28, 1924 by Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra.

On the flip, the play an instrumental of “Ida” (Sweet as Apple Cider), every bit as fine as the first side, though I believe I prefer the former.

Ida

Ida, recorded January 28, 1924 by Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra.

Victor 20552 – Memphis Jug Band – 1927

On this day, February 5, we remember Will Shade, leader of the Memphis Jug Band, on the 118th anniversary of his birth on that day in 1898.  Unfortunately, this disc by his illustrious Memphis Jug Band has seen a lot of action in its eighty-nine years of existence, and is in pretty poor condition, but, as is the case with many jug band records, it’s quite uncommon, and this is the best copy I was able to procure.  “Audible but muffled” is the description given to the record by its previous owner, and the music sort of fades between “almost decent” and “downright lousy”.  Oh well.  Nonetheless, here it is.

Victor 20552 was recorded February 24, 1927 at the McCall Building in Memphis, Tennessee, the first two sides from the Memphis Jug Band’s first recording session, and their first issued record.  The band includes Will Shade on guitar and harmonica, Will Weldon on guitar, Charlie Polk on jug, and Ben Ramey on kazoo.

“Stingy Woman” may or may not play a little cleaner than the flip side, which unfortunately isn’t saying a whole lot, and was recorded second in the session.  Apparently the original owner wasn’t a fan of Will Weldon, going by their defacement of the label.

Stingy Woman, recorded

Stingy Woman, recorded February 24, 1927 by the Memphis Jug Band.

“Sun Brimmers” takes its name from Will Shade’s nickname, Son Brimmer, and perhaps was intended to be titled “Son Brimmer’s Blues”.  This was the first side recorded by the Memphis Jug Band.

Sun Brimmers, recorded

Sun Brimmers, recorded February 24, 1927 by the Memphis Jug Band.

Updated with improved audio on June 21, 2017.