Generally, I hesitate to post reissues, I really do. They’re often dubs, which offer lowers fidelity than the original, and let’s face it: original issues are just more desirable as collectors items. Sometimes, however, original pressings may be exceedingly difficult to track down, and as nice as it might be have an original, it’s simply more practical to take the reissue. They have the music on them, after all, and that’s what matters the most.
I’d wanted this record for quite a number of years, on any issue. The Gennett originals are notoriously rare (and notoriously expensive)—at one time, the 78 Quarterly estimated fewer than five copies in existence—and even the reissue proved for me to be quite hard to find. Finally, one of my favorite eBay sellers posted this one for sale, so I jumped on it. I’d go as far as to place it as one of my favorites (though that list could easily run into the hundreds, or thousands). Much as I’d love to own the original, this circa 1950s reissue is a quite decent dub, and in excellent condition, so it provides beautiful playback.
What makes this one remarkable, and worthy of reissue, is that it contains the first ever recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s now renowned composition “Stardust”. That Stardust melody first haunted Carmichael while he was on the campus of Indiana University, his alma mater—inspired by the jazz music of Bix Beiderbecke, he began whistling the tune, and ran to get it written down. After polishing it up a bit, he took it to the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, where he recorded it for their Gennett label with Emil Seidel’s orchestra. It’s said that Gennett found the recording to be of lesser quality, and considered destroying the masters. Fortunately, they didn’t and it was released, though the success of “Stardust” was yet to come, the record didn’t sell too well. Two years later, Carmichael published the song as “Star Dust” (the title has appeared as both one and two words throughout its history) through Mills Music, with lyrics added by Mitchell Parrish. McKinney’s Cotton Pickers made an early recording in 1928, and Mills’ Hotsy Totsy Gang cut one in ’29, around the time Carmichael published it. Isham Jones’ orchestra made a popular recording of the tune in 1930, followed closely by the smash success of the budding Bing Crosby’s rendition in 1931. The Crosby hit inspired a wave of new recordings of “Star Dust” in 1931. Since then, that Star Dust melody has haunted our reverie countless times, as it elevated to become one of the most successful songs of the twentieth century.
Sentry 4011 was originally issued on Gennett 6311, recorded on October 28 and 31, 1927 in Richmond, Indiana. The two sessions featured different bands using the identity of “Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals”: the former included Hoagy Carmichael on piano, doubling on cornet, Andy Secrest and Bob Mayhew on cornet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Nye Mayhew on tenor sax, Mischa Russell on violin, and three unidentified players of guitar, tuba, and drums; the latter session features Emil Seidel’s Orchestra with Carmichael sitting in, made up of Byron Smart on trumpet, Oscar Rossberg on trombone, Gene Woods or Dick Kent on alto sax, Maurice Bennett on tenor sax, Don Kimmell on guitar, Hoagy on piano, Paul Brown on tuba, and Cliff Williams on drums.
Although it was the “B” side of the original issue, “Stardust”, is effectively the “A” side of this reissue (it has the lower matrix number)—understandably so, as it is the tune that made the biggest hit, not only of the two on this record but practically of any two on any record. This has always been—and I feel I can safely say always will be—my favorite version of the classic. The original label called this a “stomp,” and while I’m not sure I’d agree with that, it is really a lovely recording, and possesses an almost dreamlike quality that is very seldom paralleled in recorded music.
On the other side, Hoagy’s “One Night in Havana”, recorded at the earlier date with the Dorsey brothers in the band, is another really delightful tune, with a similar dreamy air to the previous. Though it never made quite as much of a hit as “Stardust”, Hoagy thought enough of it to record it a further three times, only one of which was released on the flip-side of the original issue of his “Georgia (On My Mind)”. This one was also issued on Champion 15420 at the time, but since then, it seems to have received little attention.