Victor 21274 – Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra – 1928

Whiteman's famous "Potato Head" emblem.

Whiteman’s famous “Potato Head” emblem.

On this day, March the twenty-eighth, we remember the the “King of Jazz” himself, the eminent Paul Whiteman, on the 126th anniversary of his birth.  To commemorate the occasion, I present one of his finest records, from the height of his fame, a time when his band contained the likes of Bix Beiderbecke, Bing Crosby, and so many other great figures of roaring twenties jazz.

Paul Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado to a musical family.  His father, Wilberforce Whiteman, was a music instructor at the Denver County public schools, and at one point had as a pupil a young Andy Kirk, who later became the leader of the Twelve Clouds of Joy in Kansas City.  As a youngster, Paul took up the viola, and played in several symphony orchestras, and led a band in the U.S. Navy during the Great War.  After the war’s end, Whiteman started his own dance band, and began recording with Victor as “Paul Whiteman and his Ambassador Orchestra.”  His first record, featuring “Whispering” paired with “The Japanese Sandman”, was a great success, and started him on the path to fame.

Over the next years, Paul Whiteman was a mainstay in the Victor catalog, and his records sold well, but he did not achieve his greatest fame until the last years of the decade.  In 1924, Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, which he premiered with his concert orchestra at An Experiment in Modern Music at Aeolian Hall in New York.  In 1927, Whiteman was able to hire away some of the top musicians from Jean Goldkette’s band, including Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke, and he also picked up the Rhythm Boys: Al Rinker, Harry Barris, and Bing Crosby.  By that time, he was making his name as the “King of Jazz” (the legitimacy of which is hotly debated), and was among the most famous names in music of the 1920s.  In 1930, the Whiteman band starred in a grand technicolor motion picture vaudeville revue entitled King of Jazz.  Into the Great Depression, Whiteman maintained his status for several years, introducing talent such as the charming Ramona (and her Grand Piano).  Eventually, as swing became king, Whiteman’s time in the limelight began to fade.  Though he made several generally immemorable swing records, and appeared on the first issue of Johnny Mercer’s Capitol Records in 1942, he never returned to the fame he knew in the 1920s.  Whiteman continued to lead bands sporadically into his twilight years, and died of a heart attack in 1967.

Victor 21274 was recorded in two separate sessions in 1928, the first on February 18, and the second ten days later on February 28.  The band, featuring some of the top white jazz talent of the day, included Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, Eddie Pinder on trumpet, Bill Rank on trombone, Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody sax, Chester Hazlett on alto sax. Izzy Friedman on clarinet, Charles Strickfaden on tenor sax, Roy Bargy on piano, Min Leibrook on tuba, Mike Pingatore on banjo, Mike Trafficante on string bass, and Hal McDonald on drums.

One of the great classics introduced by Whiteman’s orchestra, and a mainstay of his repertoire was Harry Barris’ “Mississippi Mud”.  The outstanding vocals on this side are provided by Miss Irene Taylor, assisted by the Rhythm Boys: Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker, and a second vocal trio consisting of Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, and Austin Young.  This is take “3” of this side, take “2” was later issued on Victor 25366.

Mississippi Mud, recorded February 18, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

On “From Monday On”, another Harry Barris composition, Bing takes the lead vocal, backed up by the same group featured on the first side.  This side is take “6”, take “4” was later issued on Victor 25368 and take “3” appeared on Victor 27688.

From Monday On, recorded February 28, 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

Really fine tunes, both of them.

Updated on May 31, 2018.

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.