Nordskog 3004 – Herb Weidoeft’s Famous Orchestra – 1922

The following disc comes from the Old Time Blues Collection’s selection of rare and unusual record labels.  It is one that while seldom encountered holds a unique and important place in the history of the recording industry, and bears a rather unusual, Scandinavian name: Nordskog.

The Nordskog Phonograph Company was founded by Andrae Nordskog in 1921 in Santa Monica, California.  As was emblazoned so proudly on their labels, they were the first  record label based on the United States’ West Coast.  Although their material was recorded locally in Los Angeles, they contracted an East Coast company, The Arto Company, to take care of pressing.  This setup meant they had to ship their wax master from one coast to the other, by railroad.  Unfortunately, many masters didn’t survive the journey.  In spite of their rather makeshift manufacturing process, Nordskog managed to attract some significant talent, including “Queen of Vaudeville” Eva Tanguay and jazz legend Kid Ory and his Sunshine Band, and they had the distinction of producing the first recordings of several notable West Coast dance bands, such as those of Abe Lyman, Henry Halstead, and Herb Wiedoeft.  Others included material by popular East Coast artists like Arthur Fields and Charles Harrison, drawing from Arto’s catalog.  Trouble came in 1923, when Arto went out of business while in possession of all Nordskog’s masters.  The company filed suit for the return of their property, but nothing materialized, and it was all too little and too late for Nordskog, for they too folded soon after, having released little more than fifty records.

Nordskog 3004, the fourth release on the fledgling label, was recorded early in 1922 in Los Angeles, California.  Herb Wiedoeft’s name is misspelled “Weidoeft” on the label.  Although not listed in either Rust’s Jazz and Ragtime Records or American Dance Band Discography, the personnel probably resembles that of Wiedoeft’s recordings for Brunswick the following year, which featured Herb Wiedoeft on trumpet, Joseph Nemoli on cornet and viola, Jesse Stafford on trombone and baritone horn, Larry Abbott, Gene Siegrist, and Fred Bibesheimer on reeds (clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and oboe), Vincent Rose on piano, Jose Sucedo on banjo, Guy Wiedoeft on tuba and string bass, and, Adolph Wiedoeft on drums and xylophone.

First up, they play a nicely orchestrated rendition of the popular 1922 jazz hit, “Virginia Blues”, perhaps most famously recorded by Ladd’s Black Aces featuring the recording debut of Cliff Edwards.

Virginia Blues, recorded in 1922 by Herb Weidoeft’s [sic] Famous Orchestra.

On the “B” side, they play Nacio Herb Brown and Gene Rose’s oriental fox trot “Persian Nights”.  This appears to be the only version of this tune to have been recorded.

Persian Nights, recorded in 1922 by Herb Weidoeft’s [sic] Famous Orchestra.

Columbia 1761-D – Harry Reser’s Syncopators – 1929

Today, January 17, we celebrate the 120th birthday of that great banjo luminary, Harry Reser.  He was born on that day in 1896.  Reser is known for his great multitude of recordings under an enormous number of names in the 1920s and 1930s, perhaps the most memorable of which were the Clicquot Club Eskimos, who took their name from the brand of ginger ale that sponsored a radio show featuring Reser’s band.  Reser also recorded under many other band names, including the Clevelanders, the Six Jumping Jacks, and, as in this case, his Syncopators.  Many of his groups featured vocals by Tom Stacks.  Last time we heard from them was on Christmas Day.

Harry Reser was born in Piqua, Ohio, and was a first cousin of the Wright brothers.  He was a child prodigy on string instruments and had perfect pitch.  By the early 1920s, Reser was playing banjo professionally, and by the second half of that decade, he was headlining Clicquot Club’s radio program with his “Eskimos”, a position which he and his band held for over a decade, from 1923 until 1936.  In 1936, he recorded a short film with the Eskimos for Vitaphone.  Though Reser faded from the spotlight after the 1930s, he remained an active musician until his death in 1965 in the orchestra pit at the Imperial Theatre in Manhattan.

Columbia 1761-D was recorded March 7, 1929 in New York by Harry Reser’s Syncopators, with a vocal on both sides by Tom Stacks.  Both sides also feature a riveting bass saxophone and all-around superb musicianship, making for an excellent pair of recordings.  As far as I can tell from the nearly incomprehensible Dance Band Discography (this one really ought to have been in Jazz and Ragtime Records if you ask me), this personnel of Reser’s Syncopators includes Tommy Gott on trumpet, Sam Lewis on trombone, Larry Abbott on clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, Jimmy Johnston on bass sax, Bill Wirges on piano, Harry Reser on banjo and Tom Stacks on drums.

First, they play a great version of “Kansas City Kitty”, not to be confused with “Kitty from Kansas City”, as was featured by Rudy Vallée.

Kansas City Kitty

Kansas City Kitty, recorded March, 7, 1929 by Harry Reser’s Syncopators.

The reverse’s title is quite a mouthful, “I’m Wild About Horns on Automobiles that Go ‘Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta'”, but this side remains one of my favorites.

I'm Wild About Horns on Automobiles (That Go Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta)

I’m Wild About Horns on Automobiles that Go Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta, recorded March 7, 1929 by Harry Reser’s Syncopators.

Updated on September 4, 2016.