Victor 25090 – Benny Goodman and his Orch. – 1935

By many accounts, the swing era kicked off on August 21, 1935, when Benny Goodman’s band played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California.  They say that Goodman’s boys were playing it on the sweet side, with stock arrangements and little swing, and the crowds weren’t much having it.  Amongst the yawns, Gene Krupa suggested, “If we’re gonna die, Benny, let’s die playing our own thing,” and so the band got out their hot Fletcher Henderson arrangements and hepped the cats to kingdom come.  Thus, the swing era was born.

Swing as a genre had emerged earlier in the decade, as the largely distinct styles of hot jazz and orchestrated dance music of the 1920s began to converge as one: jazz made for dancing.  Early exponents of the style included the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Cab Calloway, the Casa Loma Orchestra, and others.  Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to ask a musician about it, ’cause I couldn’t tell you.

In a session supervised by Ed Kirkeby, Victor 25090 was recorded on July 1, 1935 at RCA Victor’s Studio 2 in New York City.  It was released on July 31, exactly four weeks prior to his date at the Palomar.  In the band are Bunny Berigan, Ralph Muzillo, and Nate Kazebier on trumpets, Sterling Ballard and Jack Lacy on trombones, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Toots Mondello and Hymie Schertzer on alto saxophones, Arthur Rollini and Dick Clark on tenor saxes, Frank Froeba on piano Allan Ruess on guitar, Harry Goodman on string bass, Gene Krupa on drums

Benny Goodman’s famous recording of Fletcher Henderson’s arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s “King Porter” (Stomp) received high marks from the music publications of the day, and rightly so, it’s a masterwork.  Henderson’s own band recorded variations of the arrangement at least thrice, first in 1928 for Columbia, then for Okeh in 1932 as “New King Porter Stomp”, and finally for Vocalion in 1933.  Whether or not Benny’s band played this one at the Palomar Ballroom, I really don’t know, but it seems likely.

King Porter, recorded July 1, 1935 by Benny Goodman and his Orch.

On the reverse, they play a little less hot, but nonetheless excellent on “Sometimes I’m Happy”, from Hit the Deck—another Henderson arrangement.

Sometimes I’m Happy, recorded July 1, 1935 by Benny Goodman and his Orch.

Okeh 41577 – The Charleston Chasers – 1931

Jack Teagarden in marching band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1938, photo by Charles Peterson.

Jack Teagarden in band uniform. From Jazzmen, 1939, photo by Charles Peterson.

August 20 marks the day that we pay homage to that great trombone man from down in Texas, Jack Teagarden, who was born on that day in 1905.  In celebration of the occasion, here is a record that holds great significance in the development of swing music.  It is credited by Benny Goodman himself as the record that really saw him come into his own element, well on his path to becoming the King of Swing.

Jack was born Weldon Leo Teagarden in the small town of Vernon, Texas.  His father was an oilfield worker who played cornet in a brass band, and his mother played ragtime piano and church organ.  Jack took up the baritone horn, soon switching to trombone, his brothers Charlie and Clois chose trumpet and drums, respectively, and sister Norma learned piano.  In 1921, Teagarden joined Peck Kelley’s band in Houston, and was offered a position in Paul Whiteman’s band when the famous bandleader was passing through, though Jack opted to remain in Texas.  He made it to New York City in 1926, where he recorded with the orchestras of Ben Pollack, Roger Wolfe Kahn, and various bands organized by impresario Irving Mills, as well as numerous jazz bands led by the likes of Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, Hoagy Carmichael, and Louis Armstrong, establishing himself as the finest jazz trombonist of the age (and perhaps of any age), and a popular blues vocalist on the side.  In the early 1930s, Teagarden played with Benny Goodman’s orchestras, helping to percolate the early inklings of swing at its best, but in 1933, he signed a contract with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra for five years, preventing him from leading his own band as the swing era kicked off soon after.  Despite having fairly little opportunity for solo work with Whiteman, Teagarden was able to get in a bit of side work during that time, and started his own band after parting ways with Whiteman in 1939.  Though his orchestra lasted until 1946, it found little in the way of success.  After World War II, Teagarden played with Louis Armstrongs All-Stars, and toured internationally more than once, remaining a mainstay in the jazz scene until his death from pneumonia in 1964.

Okeh 41577 was recorded February 9, 1931 in New York City by the Charleston Chasers, under the direction of Benny Goodman.  It is a dub of the original issue on Columbia 2415-D (why they dubbed it, instead of master pressing, I couldn’t say, but I’m sure someone could.)  The almost unbeatable band features Charlie Teagarden and Ruby Weinstein on trumpets, Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Sid Stoneburn on alto sax, Larry Binyon on tenor sax, Dick McDonough on guitar, Arthur Schutt on piano, and Harry Goodman on string bass.  Jack Teagarden sings the vocals on both sides.  Unfortunately, some dumbbell thought it was a bright idea to carve an “X” into both labels.

Besides perhaps Louis Armstrong, “Basin Street Blues” is associated with no musician more than Jack Teagarden, who performed and recorded it a number of times.  It was in fact Teagarden and Glenn Miller who were responsible for adding the opening verse, “Won’t you come along with me. / To the Mississippi,” to Spencer Williams’ famous song.

Basin Street Blues

Basin Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Also quite associated with Teagarden is W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues”, which he recorded again soon after for Vocalion with Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang’s All-Star Orchestra.

Beale Street Blues

Beale Street Blues, recorded February 9, 1931 by the Charleston Chasers.

Victor 36205 – Benny Goodman and his Orchestra – 1937

Besides Prohibition, another momentous event that occurred on January 16 was Benny Goodman’s legendary concert at Carnegie Hall, which happened in 1938.  It was the first jazz concert ever held at Carnegie Hall, and has been credited as the event that brought swing jazz into the mainstream.  Though Goodman was initially hesitant to take the gig, he did following the success of Hollywood Hotel, in which he appeared.  At first, the audience’s reception was lukewarm, but soon Benny won them over, and it became one of the greatest landmarks in music history.  Particularly popular with the audience were Martha Tilton’s swinging of the Scottish folk song “Loch Lomond” (how’d you like for me to post the record of one sometime?), and the band’s legendary performance of Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”. The entire concert at Carnegie Hall was recorded and released by Columbia Records on the new LP format in 1950.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post two records in the same day, but the date of Goodman’s concert came to me long after I had already planned the other one, so all you lucky readers get a two-fer today.

Victor 36205 was recorded July 6, 1937 in New York City by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.  This one was not recorded at the Carnegie Hall concert, but rather a few months earlier, around the time he was filming Hollywood Hotel.  According to the label, the band includes Benny Goodman on clarinet, Hymie Schertzer, Arthur Rollini, George Koenig, and Vido Musso on saxophones, Harry James, Chris Griffin, and Ziggy Elman on trumpets, Murray McEachern and Sterling “Red” Ballard on trombones, Harry Goodman on string bass, Jess Stacy on piano, Allan Ruess on guitar, and Gene Krupa (whose birthday was just yesterday, the 15th) on drums.

Here it is, the legendary “Sing, Sing, Sing”, played with a bit of “Christopher Columbus” interpolated within.  Both sides of a longer playing twelve inch 78 played end-to-end for your listening pleasure.

Sing Sing Sing

Sing Sing Sing (Parts 1 & 2), recorded July 6, 1937 by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.

Victor 25494 – Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra – 1930

This record, one I’ve been on the lookout for for quite a while, arrived just in time for Hoagy Carmichael’s 116th birthday, and I know of no better occasion to feature it here than that.

Howard Hoagland Carmichael was born November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana.  One of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, he is remembered for many enduring compositions including “Washboard Blues”, “Riverboat Shuffle”, “Star Dust”, “Rockin’ Chair”, “Georgia (On My Mind)”, “Lazy River”, and so many more.  Carmichael graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1926, but after playing with a student band, he soon turned to music instead. Hoagy made his first recordings for the Indiana-based Gennett Records with Curtis Hitch’s Happy Harmonists in 1925.  Over his long career, Carmichael became one of America’s foremost songwriters, and worked with such personalities as Paul Whiteman and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.  Hoagy Carmichel died in 1981 at the age of 82.

Victor 25494 is a 1936 master pressed reissue made up of sides originally from two different discs, recorded on May 21, 1930 and September 15, 1930 in New York.  Both sides feature different, but equally star studded personnel in the band.  Hoagy does the vocal on both sides, and both feature the cornet of Bix Beiderbecke, in two of his last recording sessions.

“Rockin’ Chair” was originally issued on Victor V-38139 and features the musical talent of Bix on cornet, plus Bubber Miley on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Arnold Brilhart on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Hoagy on organ, Harry Goodman on tuba, and Gene Krupa on drums.

Rockin' Chair, recorded

Rockin’ Chair, recorded May 21, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

On the original recording of Carmichael’s famous “Georgia (On My Mind)”, originally issued on Victor 23013, the musicians present are Bix on cornet once again, with Ray Lodwig on trumpet, Jack Teagarden and Boyce Cullen on trombone, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Min Leibrook on bass saxophone (though I honestly don’t hear a bass sax here), and Chauncey Morehouse on drums.  This was Bix’s final recording session.

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded September 15, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

Brunswick 3975 – Bennie Goodman’s Boys – 1928

Today, May 30, is Benny Goodman’s birthday, so what better way to celebrate than with one of his earliest records?

On June 4, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, in what I believe was only his third session under his own name, future King of Swing Benny Goodman (credited here as “Bennie”) and his Boys recorded Shirt Tail Stomp and Blue, issued on Brunswick 3975.  Also recorded that day were Jungle Blues and Room 1411.

In addition to Goodman on clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, the band includes Jimmy McPartland on cornet, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Fud Livingston on clarinet and tenor sax, Vic Breidis on piano, Dick Morgan on guitar, Benny’s brother Harry Goodman on tuba, and Ben Pollack on the drums.

According to legend, Shirt Tail Stomp was intended as a parody of Dixieland jazz and deliberately played as corny as possible, which, to the musicians surprise, turned out to be a hit with audiences.  Nevertheless, the excellent musicianship shows through, and it remains an excellent, if somewhat novel piece.

Shirt Tail Stomp, recorded June 4, 1928 by Bennie Goodman's Boys.

Shirt Tail Stomp, recorded June 4, 1928 by Bennie Goodman’s Boys.

On the flip-side, Benny’s Boys play a little slower on Blue, a 1922 Lou Handman, Grant Clark, and Edgar Leslie composition, credited on the label to Clark, Leslie and Pete Wendling.

Blue, recorded by Bennie Goodman's Boys

Blue, recorded June 4, 1928 by Bennie Goodman’s Boys.

Updated on June 24, 2016 and with improved audio on November 13, 2016 and May 28, 2017.