Perfect 15754 – Gene’s Merrymakers/Hollywood Dance Orchestra – 1932/1930

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1930s. As pictured in Man’s Advancing Civilization, 1934.

On March 4, 1933, former Governor of New York Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated thirty-second President of the United States of America, having won the election of 1932 by a wide margin.  Following more than a decade of Republican control, Roosevelt ushered in an era of Liberal Democrat presidencies (most of them his own) that would last nearly twenty years.  His marked the last inauguration to be held on that date, as the twentieth amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified earlier in the year, moving the event to its current January 20th date.  Over the preceding winter, the Great Depression had driven the United States’ economy to its lowest depths, with unemployment rated peaking at almost twenty-five percent.  President Hoover, to his credit, was trying in his own way to stimulate recovery, but his efforts proved rather slow to work at best.  Roosevelt offered America a New Deal, and he delivered it.  Mere months after assuming office, Roosevelt got right on it, pushing passage of his first “alphabet soup” New Deal programs, including the TVA, the CCC, the PWA, and the NRA, soon to be followed by the WPA, the FSA, and others.  Granted, Roosevelt’s New Deal was far from a perfect be-all and end-all solution, some programs worked better than others, some were pretty poorly conceived, but they did provide a “Band-Aid” (to quote a former history professor of mine) to the economic ruin, and give thousands of men a job.—and ol’ FDR proved popular enough to be re-elected an unprecedented three times.

Perfect 15754 was recorded in New York on March 16, 1933 (less than two weeks after Roosevelt’s inauguration) and March 4, 1930 (exactly three years prior to the inauguration), respectively.  The personnel of the Gene’s Merrymakers side includes Bunny Berigan on trumpet, bandleader Gene Kardos on alto sax, and Sam Weiss on drums.  The Hollywood Dance Orchestra is a pseudonym for Adrian Schubert’s Salon Orchestra, which may include Bob Effros on trumpet, Miff Mole on trombone, Tony Parenti on clarinet and alto sax, and Charlie Magnante on accordion.  The identities of the remainders of both bands (pianos, basses, etc.) are unknown.

The 1929 song “Happy Days are Here Again”—originally featured in the 1930 M-G-M motion picture Chasing Rainbows—became associated with F.D.R. when his staff made the impromptu decision to play it at the 1932 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  After that, it became his official campaign song, and thereafter became indelibly associated with New Deal Democrats.  In apparent celebration of Roosevelt’s election, the American Record Corporation opted not to reissue Vincent Lopez’s January, 1930 recording of the song (a rather odd, highly syncopated rendition with a “Lopez speaking” introduction which would have sounded somewhat dated a whole three years later), but rather to record a very jubilant new version, albeit a stock arrangement, played by Gene Kardos’ excellent New York-based dance orchestra, with a vocal by studio guy Dick Robertson.

Happy Days are Here Again, recorded March 16, 1933 by Gene’s Merrymakers.

In keeping with the Rooseveltian theme, the reverse features “The Stein Song (University of Maine)”, no doubt celebrating Roosevelt’s promised repeal of the much reviled eighteenth amendment.  Irving Kaufman sings the vocals on this 1930 reissued side.

The Stein Song (University of Maine), recorded March 4, 1930 by Hollywood Dance Orchestra.

Madison 6002 – Cosmopolitan Dance Players/Levee Syncopators – 1930

My sincere apologies for the long delay in posting here, I was preoccupied with other matters and couldn’t find the time nor the inspiration to come up with anything good to say.  But, in the words of Douglas MacArthur, I have returned, and I will do my best to keep things moving along once again, starting with this rather obscure and mysterious jazz record.

The overwhelming bulk of material commonly seen on the Grey Gull labels (Grey Gull, Radiex, Madison, Van Dyke, etc.) consists of relatively uninteresting popular songs and old standards by singers or their own studio band, usually released under pseudonyms.  That isn’t to say they’re not good, I’m personally quite fond of the Grey Gull studio band with their wild and unusual arrangements, they’re just not terribly thrilling.  However, don’t be fooled, there are a few exceptional jazz gems to be found on those labels.  Many of these “sleeper” jazz tunes occupy the “B” side of popular songs.  We previously heard Cliff Jackson’s Krazy Kats play their unbelievably hot “Horse Feathers” on the back of an ordinary dimestore rendition of “Confessin’ (That I Love You)”.  This disc falls into the same category, featuring a hit pop song on the “A” side, and hot jazz on the reverse.

The “A” side of Madison 6002 was recorded in November of 1930, the “B” side was recorded on January 17, 1930, both in New York.  The first side features a standard Grey Gull studio band, while the flip is a little more interesting.

The “Cosmopolitan Dance Players” version of “The Little Things in Life”, featuring a vocal by Irving Kaufman, is really quite nice, certainly nothing to complain about.  A fine rendition of a fine Irving Berlin tune.

The Little Things in Life

The Little Things in Life, recorded November 1930 by the Cosmopolitan Dance Players.

On the reverse, a different hot band plays “The Rackett”.  It is generally accepted that the personnel of the “Levee Syncopators” is unknown, aside from the tune’s composer Claude Austin, who likely serves as pianist.  Brian Rust listed it as a studio group with Mike Mosiello and Andy Sannella, though the style doesn’t fit with theirs, and that hypothesis has often been dismissed.  At least one source suggests that it (along with several other hot and unknown Grey Gull bands) may have been made up of Walter Bennett on trumpet, Alberto Socarras on alto sax, Walter Edwards on clarinet and tenor sax, Austin on piano, and an unknown banjo player, similar to the lineups of Bennett’s Swamplanders and Gerald Clark’s Night Owls around the same time.  Listening to other sides featuring those musicians, it sounds plausible, but I cannot confirm one way or the other with any degree of certainty.  With Grey Gull’s ledgers presumably no longer in existence, it will likely remain shrouded in mystery.

The Rackett

The Rackett, recorded January 17, 1930 by the Levee Syncopators.

Columbia 2096-D – Ben Selvin and his Orchestra – 1930

At the strike of midnight on All Hallows Eve, I offer to the viewers of this site a selection chosen specially for this occasion.  I tried to select something airing on the creepy side, and I think this one is the best I can scare up.

Columbia 2096-D was recorded January 7, 1930 in New York City by Ben Selvin and his Orchestra.  I’m not sure of the identity of the vocalists on these sides.  These labels may look rough, but I assure you folks that this one has it where it counts!

As our Halloween special, here is Ben Selvin’s Orchestra with one of their hottest numbers, the classic “Tain’t No Sin (To Dance Around in You Bones)”.  The vocalist on this side may be Irving Kaufman.

Tain't No Sin

‘Tain’t No Sin (To Dance Around in Your Bones), recorded January 7, 1930 by Ben Selvin and his Orchestra.

“Funny Dear, What Love Can Do” is a rather unremarkable dance band song, not bad by any means, but I find it has a hard time stacking up against the tour de force on “‘Tain’t No Sin”.


Funny Dear, What Love Can Do, recorded January 7, 1930 by Ben Selvin and his Orchestra.