Vocalion 15498 – Red Nichols and his Five Pennies – 1926

Red Nichols, late 1930s/early 1940s. Down Beat photo by Gordon Sullivan.

Red Nichols, late 1930s/early 1940s. Down Beat photo by Gordon Sullivan.

The eighth of May, 2016 marks exactly 111 years after the birth of jazz cornetist Red Nichols.  Nichols was one of the most popular and prolific jazz musicians of the roaring twenties.  I believe this disc was his first record with his famous “Five Pennies.”

Loring “Red” Nichols was born May 8, 1905 in Ogden, Utah.  Nichols took up the cornet, the primary “jazz” instrument of the day, and was a child prodigy.  Nichols joined a Midwestern jazz band in the early 1920s, and moved on to New York by 1923.  In New York, he met trombonist Miff Mole, with whom he played for many years.  In 1926, Nichols signed with the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, and recorded prolifically with his band, the “Five Pennies,” which often consisted of some of the best white jazz musicians in New York.  Although his records were among the best-selling hot jazz records of the 1920s, musical styles began to change as the Great Depression rolled in, and Brunswick dropped Nichols in 1932.  He continued to record throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, but never saw such fame as he had known in his days of yore.  In 1959, Danny Kaye starred in The Five Pennies, a biographical picture loosely based on Nichols’ life.  At the end of his life, Red Nichols played in Las Vegas, where he died of a heart attack in 1965.

Vocalion 15498 was recorded December 8, 1926 in New York City by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.  It was also issued on Brunswick 3407 and in the “race” series on Vocalion 1069.  The band includes Nichols on cornet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, and Vic Berton on the drums.  Though many of his “Five Pennies” groups were actually much larger, this one is true to its name.

First, the Five Pennies play Hoagy Carmichael’s “Washboard Blues”, a different take than the one released on Brunswick.  We last heard this tune as it was sung by the lovely Connie Boswell seven years after this side was cut.

Washboard Blues, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

Washboard Blues, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

Nichols’ composition “That’s No Bargain” is a sizzling hot side marred only by some stressed grooves during a loud section in the middle.  Fine modernistic jazz.

That's No Bargain, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

That’s No Bargain, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

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 6847 – The Boswell Sisters – 1932/1931

This website needs more Boswell Sisters.  It’s going into its sixth month of existence and still only has one article featuring the Boswells.  That simply won’t do.  After all, it was the Boswell Sisters that dragged the center of my interests back from the 1940s and 1950s into the 1920s and 1930s, and they’ll always have a special place in my heart.  To remedy this unacceptable omission, here are two of the Boswells’ finest sides, one of my favorite records.

Brunswick 6847 was recorded on two separate occasions, the first side was recorded December 7, 1932, and the second was recorded a year and a half earlier, April 23, 1931, both sides in New York City.  The first side, “Crazy People”, features only a rhythm backing by Dick McDonough on guitar and Artie Bernstein on string bass, along with Martha Boswell on piano.  The flip side, “Shout, Sister, Shout” features a truly all-star accompaniment directed by Victor Young, including either Mannie Klein or Jack Purvis on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, and Chauncey Morehouse on drums and vibraphone.

Although the Boswells’ rendition of Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco’s “Crazy People” was recorded in 1932, a few months after the sisters filmed their performance of the song for The Big Broadcast, it was not given a record issue until this one in 1934.

Crazy People, recorded December 7, 1932 by The Boswell Sisters.

Crazy People, recorded December 7, 1932 by The Boswell Sisters.

The Boswells’ classic performance of Clarence Williams’ “Shout, Sister, Shout” on the other hand was issued originally on Brunswick 6109 in 1931, and again issued on Brunswick 6783, before this issue in 1934.

Shout, Sister, Shout, recorded April 23, 1931 by The Boswell Sisters.

Shout, Sister, Shout, recorded April 23, 1931 by The Boswell Sisters.

Okeh 8696 – Ed. Lang and his Orchestra – 1929

October 25 marks the birthday of jazz guitar great Eddie Lang, who was born on that day in 1902.  Eddie Lang was born as Salvatore Massaro in Philedelphia, Pennsylvania.  He initially took up violin, playing with his close school friend Joe Venuti, and later switched to guitar.  In the 1920s, Lang played in various bands and with such luminaries as Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Adrian Rollini, and Lonnie Johnson, the latter of whom he recorded with under the name “Blind Willie Dunn”.  Tragically, Eddie Lang died in 1933 at the age of 30 as the result of a botched tonsillectomy.

Okeh 8696 was recorded on May 22, 1929 in New York City, and issued in their race series for some reason.  The band includes the talent of Tommy Dorsey on trumpet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, Joe Tarto on string bass, and Stan King on drums.  This record isn’t in the greatest condition, but I think it’s a great choice to celebrate Eddie’s birthday.

First, the band plays “Freeze an’ Melt”, a Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh composition.

"Freeze an' Melt", recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Freeze an’ Melt, recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Eddie Lang takes a nice long solo on “Hot Heels”, composed by Jack Pettis and Al Goering.

Hot Heels, recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Hot Heels, recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Velvet Tone 1859-V – Annette Hanshaw Accomp. by New England Yankees – 1929

October 18 marks the birthday of “Personality Girl” Annette Hanshaw, who was born on this day in 1901.  Hanshaw began recording for Pathé Records in 1926 and recorded for them for two years before moving to Columbia, where most of her records were issued on their Harmony, Velvet Tone, and Diva budget labels, with a small number on Okeh and Columbia.  She remained with Columbia until 1932, when she began a contract with the American Record Company which she maintained until her retirement from music in 1934.  Although her singing was beloved by fans, Hanshaw was not fond of her records, and in her own words “disliked all of them intensely.”

Velvet Tone 1859-V was recorded February 20, 1929 in New York City, and was also issued on Harmony 859-H and Diva 2859-G.  Miss Hanshaw is accompanied by the “New England Yankees”, actually Ben Selvin’s Columbia studio orchestra, which includes Tommy Dorsey and Tommy Gott on trumpets, Charlie Butterfield on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, and Hank Stern or Joe Tarto on tuba, among several others who remain unknown.

First, Miss Hanshaw delivers a delightful performance of the 1929 classic “A Precious Little Thing Called Love” from The Shopworn Angel.

A Precious Little Thing Called Love,

A Precious Little Thing Called Love, recorded February 20, 1929 by Annette Hanshaw Accomp. by New England Yankees.

Next, she sings one of her signature songs, “Mean to Me”.

Mean to Me,

Mean to Me, recorded February 20, 1929 by Annette Hanshaw Accomp. by New England Yankees.

That’s all.

Updated on June 24, 2016.