Brunswick 3351 – Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders – 1926

On April 10, we celebrate the birthday of Fess Williams, a mainstay of the jazz scene, both in Harlem and Chicago, for the bulk of the Jazz Age.  While Duke Ellington (or maybe Fletcher Henderson) could easily be compared to Paul Whiteman, saxophone player Fess patterned his act more after Ted Lewis, with his “gas pipe” style of playing clarinet.

Fess began life as Stanley R. Williams in Danville, Kentucky in 1894.  He was educated at the Tuskegee Institute, and started his first band in 1919.  In 1923, Fess went to Chicago, and to New York the next year.  His nickname coming from “Professor”, by ’26, he had begun leading his most popular outfit, the Royal Flush Orchestra, with whom he recorded until 1930.  Though he continued to lead bands into the 1930s, his style fell out of fashion with the coming of swing, and he began selling real estate, though he remained sporadically involved in music.  In 1962, his nephew Charles Mingus set up a reunion of sorts for the Fess and the Royal Flush Orchestra in his Town Hall Concert in New York.  Fess Williams died in 1975.

Brunswick 3351 was recorded October 1, 1926 in New York by Fess Williams’ Royal Flush Orchestra under the pseudonym “Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders”.  It was also issued on Vocalion 1054.  The band features George Temple on trumpet, David “Jelly” James on trombone, Fess Williams on clarinet and alto sax, Perry Smith on clarinet and tenor sax, Hank Duncan on piano, Ollie Blackwell on banjo, and Ralph Bedell on drums.  Fess provides the vocals on both sides.

One of the finest sides by Fess Williams’ band (and one of the finest sides in general, if you ask me) is “Messin’ Around”.

Messin' Around

Messin’ Around, recorded October 1, 1926 by Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders.

On the reverse, they play that enduring little ditty, “Heebie Jeebies”.

Heebie Jeebies

Heebie Jeebies, recorded October 1, 1926 by Bud Jackson’s Swanee Serenaders.

Victor 22298 – King Oliver and his Orchestra – 1930

...hang a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain, the the boys'll know I died standing pat...

…put a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain, so the boys’ll know I died standing pat… (Illustration from 1930 Victor catalog.)

“Here’s a treat!  Hot playing, hot singing, and rhythm that will make you squirm when you hear it,” is what Victor said of this record in their April 1930 supplemental catalog, “It’s one of the meanest, hottest, most irresistible dance records ever.  It’s the kind that breaks down all inhibitions!”  This was actually the first King Oliver record I ever owned.  I got it by accidentally bidding more than I’d intended to in an online auction.  In spite of that, I was thrilled to have such a great record in my clutches, and I still get a thrill thinking of this outstanding hot jazz record.  Since it was my first, I think it’s fair for it to be the first King Oliver record uploaded here.

By this late time in his career, King Joe was suffering from gum disease, and took far fewer solos on his trumpet than he did in years prior, and did not play on many of his Victor recordings at all.  On this one however, Oliver does in fact play, though not a whole lot.

Victor 22298 was recorded January 28, 1930 at 28 West 44th Street in New York by King Oliver and his Orchestra.  There seems to be some confusion as to the personnel, it features either Bubber Miley and Henry “Red” Allen, Jr. or Dave Nelson and Oliver on trumpet, Jimmy Archey on trombone, Bobby Holmes on clarinet and soprano sax, Glyn Paque and possibly Hilton Jefferson on clarinet and alto sax, Walter Wheeler on tenor sax, Carroll Dickerson on violin, Arthur Taylor on banjo, Jean Stultz on guitar, Clinton Walker on tuba, Don Frye or Hank Duncan on piano, and possibly Fred Moore on drums.  Dickerson directed this session under Oliver’s name.  Studio vocalist and occasional Jimmie Rodgers imitator Frankie Marvin provides the vocals.  If anyone out there could tell me which personnel is definitively correct, I’d be much appreciative.

Of the first track, the Victor catalog says, “the ‘St. James Infirmary’ has created a sensation among dance enthusiasts.  This record by King Oliver has capped the climax,” later continuing, “the song is taken from the old-time ‘Gambler’s Blues’.”  Old time blues, they say, can’t say I have any complaints about that!  While I couldn’t say for sure, many of the trumpet solos in this one do sound a lot like Bubber Miley’s style.

St. James Infirmary

St. James Infirmary, recorded January 28, 1930 by King Oliver and his Orchestra.

“King Oliver’s second number is a fox trot, ‘When You’re Smiling’.  [This record] should be under your arm, carefully wrapped, the next time you come from a shopping excursion… And after that, you’ll have many moments in which to praise your buying instinct!”  If you hadn’t guessed, that’s how Victor finished their marketing ploy for this record.  Can’t say I really disagree with them, but thanks to Old Time Blues, you won’t have to wait ’till your next shopping trip in 1930 to hear it!

When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)

When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You), recorded January 28, 1930 by King Oliver and his Orchestra.