Broadway 8089 – Georgia Melody Boys – 1927

There were some artists of yesteryear who created a truly unique sound, and made music that was without parallel (for better or for worse).  Names like Washington Phillips—who seemingly played two modified zithers simultaneously to accompany his sanctified singing—come to mind.  In this case (partly because I don’t have any of Mr. Phillips’ records), we’ll look at the Golden Melody Boys, a truly obscure duo whose sound was aptly characterized by Tony Russell as “a bubbling sixteen-string polyphony.”  While I count eighteen (the American tiple has ten strings), they certainly made music like no other that I am aware of.

The Golden Melody Boys—Dempsy “Demps” Jones and Philip Featherstonhaugh (or “Featherstonehaugh”, or “Featherstone”)—were a musical duo hailing from Ceder Rapids, Iowa.  Demps was born on November 9, 1890 in Fountain Run, Kentucky; Phil on November 4, 1892 in Illinois.  Phil could play a mean mandolin, and Demps was skilled on guitar, banjo, and the rather out-of-the-ordinary tiple.  Aside from their musical proclivities, Dempsy was the Linn County Recorder, and worked variously on the side as a baseball player, a newspaperman, in construction, and for Quaker Oats.  Phil, apparently, was more or less of a bootlegger.  They were playing together as early as 1925, and played on Earl May’s KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, as well as a number of other stations.  They made their recording debut in October of 1927 for the New York Recording Laboratories (makers of Paramount, Broadway) in Chicago, and cut a total of eighteen sides for them over the following year, all of which but one were released.  Dempsy followed up with six solo re-recordings of earlier titles for the Starr Piano Company (for their Champion and Superior labels) on November 19, 1931 in Richmond, Indiana.  Jones stayed in Iowa, starting a family band in the 1930s which apparently continued all the way into the days of television, while Featherstonhaugh moved west.  Jones died on April 10, 1963 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Featherstonhaugh on March 1, 1969 in Beaumont, California.  As of late, their “Gonna Have ‘Lasses in de Mornin'” made its way into PBS’s grand project American Epic.

Broadway 8089 was recorded circa October of 1927 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Golden Melody Boys (here under the rather thin pseudonym “Georgia Melody Boys”) consist of Demps on tiple and Phil on mandolin.  Demps provides the vocals.  It was their first released record, and was also issued on Paramount 3068.  Jones recorded both these songs again in their 1931 Gennett session.

“My grandfather’s hat was too big for his head, it was caused by drinking Milwaukee beer,” is the first line in “The Old Tobacco Mill” (a parody of the old “My Grandfather’s Clock”), and is just the sort of whimsical, often nonsensical lyrics that characterize the bulk of the Golden Melody Boys’ recorded output.

The Old Tobacco Mill, recorded October, 1927 by the Georgia Melody Boys.

On “The Cross Eyed Butcher”, we’re treated to two stories for the price of one, first that ot the titular butcher, then of a fellow’s dental follies, with a nice little instrumental break in-between.  Demps’s vocals rather remind me of Frank Crumit, who—incidentally—was also a tiple player.

The Cross Eyed Butcher, recorded October, 1927 by the Georgia Melody Boys.

Paramount 20364 – Boyd Senter – 1924

On November 30, we commemorate the birth of the one and only “Jazzologist Supreme,” the eccentric clarinetist Boyd Senter.

Boyd Senter was born on November 30, 1898 on a farm in Nebraska.  Much like his contemporary Bix Beiderbecke, he was inspired to play jazz after hearing a record by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.  Like many budding jazzmen, he took up the saxophone and clarinet, and also became proficient on trumpet and banjo.  Senter built his reputation on his novelty clarinet playing, and came to be known as the “Jazzologist Supreme.”  His first session was with Jelly Roll Morton’s Steamboat Four/Stomp Kings/Jazz Kids, which, despite bearing his name, did not feature Jelly Roll Morton.  In 1924, Senter made a number of records at Orlando B. Marsh’s Chicago-based recording laboratories, where some of the earliest electrically recorded discs were being cut.  Following the Marsh recordings, Senter made a series of sides for Pathé before moving to Okeh in 1927, where he was frequently accompanied by Eddie Lang on guitar.  On one session, a redo of his “Mobile Blues”, originally recorded for Marsh, everyone in the studio was reportedly so drunk that the recording was rejected (it was released in Europe, though).  The next year he formed a jazz band dubbed the Senterpedes, which often included the talents of the Dorsey Brothers, Phil Napoleon, and Vic Berton.  Senter and his Senterpedes moved to Victor in 1929, and among other titles, cut a jazz version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “In the Jailhouse Now”.  Senter made his last recordings in Hollywood for Victor in 1930, and continued to play jazz in Detroit until the end of the Swing era, after which he turned to a life of selling sporting goods.  Boyd Senter died in Oscoda, Michigan in June of 1982.

Paramount 20364 was recorded in October of 1924 by Marsh Laboratories in Chicago, Illinois, among the earliest electrical recordings made.  Boyd Senter switches between clarinet, alto saxophone, and trumpet, and is accompanied by Jack Russell on piano and Russell Senter on drums.

First, the Jazzologist Supreme stomps through the raggy “Fat Mamma Blues”.

Fat Mamma Blues

Fat Mamma Blues, recorded October 1924 by Boyd Senter.

Another of his own compositions, Senter next plays “Gin Houn’ Blues”.

Gin Houn' Blues

Gin Houn’ Blues, recorded October 1924 by Boyd Senter.

Herwin 75555 – Ernest Hare – 1927

Chas. A. Lindbergh, from Victor catalog.

Chas. A. Lindbergh.  From Victor catalog.

On May 21, 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh completed the first non-stop flight from Long Island’s Roosevelt Field to Paris’ Le Bourget Field.  Thus, he was catapulted to international fame, and to quote the Howard Johnson and Al Sherman song, “like an eagle, he flew into everyone’s heart.”

An air mail pilot, the twenty-five year old Lindbergh took an offer from the French-born New York hotelier Raymond Orteig to award $25,000 to the first pilot to successfully complete a non-stop flight across the Atlantic ocean.  Procuring a custom built Ryan airplane dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh, the dark horse of the contenders for the prize, left Roosevelt Field on Long Island on the morning of May 20, 1927, and arrived in Paris on the night of the next day, creating what was dubbed the largest traffic jam in Parisian history.  Becoming an overnight sensation, the hype surrounding Lindbergh was the largest media event of the inter-war years (we covered the third largest previously), Lindy was the 1927 “Man of the Year” for Time magazine, the topic of songs, and the likely namesake of that wildly popular dance craze, the Lindy Hop.

Herwin 75555 was recorded in May of 1927, mere days after Lindy’s flight, by Ernest Hare, and features two songs in celebration of Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight.  It is a Paramount pressing leased from Plaza masters, and was also issued on Banner 1994, Broadway 1078, Regal 8326, Oriole 921 and 922 (with the sides split up), and possibly others.  Hare was a very successful singer in the 1910s and 1920s, and is best known for his association with Billy Jones, who, as a pair, were known as the “Happiness Boys”, among many other names.  The Herwin label was a St. Louis, Missouri label produced from 1924 to 1930 by brothers Herbert and Edwin Schiele, mostly using masters leased from Gennett and Paramount.

On the first of the two Lindy songs sung by our Happiness Boy, Hare sings, “Lindbergh (The Eagle of the U.S.A.)”.

Lindbergh (The Eagle of the USA)

Lindbergh (The Eagle of the U.S.A.), recorded May 1927 by Ernest Hare.

On the second, he sings L. Wolfe Gilbert and Abel Baer’s similar composition, “Lucky Lindy”.  It’s been said that just about every song made about Lindbergh’s flight is terribly cheesy, and that’s about true, but I believe this one, as performed by Hare, is my favorite of the bunch.

Lucky Lindy

Lucky Lindy, recorded May 1927 by Ernest Hare.

Updated with improved audio on June 29, 2017.

Paramount 12287 – O’Bryant’s Washboard Band – 1925

May 15 marks the possible 120th anniversary of clarinetist Jimmie O’Bryant’s birth, and May 20th will mark the 115th anniversary of pianist Jimmy Blythe’s birth.  Both those musicians play on this record, so I can’t think of a better time to post it.

Like a number of artists in his era and genre, details regarding the life and times of clarinetist Jimmie O’Bryant are few and far between, and the true birth date of the “mystery man of jazz” is uncertain, but when a date is ventured, it is most often cited as May 15, 1896.  O’Bryant was born in either Louisville, Kentucky or somewhere in Arkansas.  He took up the clarinet, playing in a style often compared to Johnny Dodds, and also played saxophone.  In 1920 and ’21, he played with a band called the Tennesee Ten, and later worked with Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and W.C. Handy.  By the mid-1920s, O’Bryant was in Chicago, where he played with Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders and with his own washboard band, both producing records for Paramount.  On Paramount, he was called “The Clarinet Wizard”.  Jimmie O’Bryant’s promising career was cut short when he died of apparently unknown causes on June 24, 1928.

Paramount 12287 was recorded in June of 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. The outstanding but minimal personnel features the likes Jimmie O’Bryant on clarinet, James Blythe on piano, and Jasper Taylor on washboard.  This disc has a fairly serious crack about half way into the playing surface, but I’ve done my best to digitally remove all traces of the interruption.

“Clarinet Get Away” has been cited as the earliest recorded track to use a riff resembling the one used in Joe Garland’s 1938 composition “In the Mood”, popularized by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1939, which was in turn borrowed from Wingy Manone’s 1930 “Tar Paper Stomp”, but when I mentioned that tidbit on my YouTube upload of this tune, I get chewed out by a commenter calling it a “hoax” and saying that the recording “sounds very derivative”, so you be the judge.  This is take 2, of two issued takes.

Clarinet Get Away,

Clarinet Get Away, recorded June 1925 by O’Bryant’s Washboard Band.

James Blythe’s composition “Back Alley Rub” is more of a slow drag, and for better or worse, sounds nothing like “In the Mood”.  This one is also take 2.

Back Alley Rub, recorded June 1925 by O'Bryant's Washboard Band.

Back Alley Rub, recorded June 1925 by O’Bryant’s Washboard Band.

Updated with improved audio on May 29, 2017.

Broadway 1140 – Devine’s Wisconsin Roof Orchestra – 1927

So I’m told that it’s International Jazz Day today.  I was unaware of the occasion, but I certainly can’t let it fall by the wayside, so here’s a real humdinger of a jazz record…

One of the best ways to experience the “real” jazz of the 1920s and 1930s is to seek out the oftentimes scarce records by the so-called “territory bands”, that being bands that traveled around various regions, usually by bus, gigging at dance halls, hotel ballrooms, and the occasional radio station.  I think it’s safe to assume that those bands played what the regular folks were interested in hearing.

Today’s disc comes from a fine Midwestern territory band that had the distinction of playing at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Roof Garden, an open-air ballroom perched atop the Carpenter Building at 700 North 6th Street, owned and operated by George J. Devine, who lent his name to the band for many of their records.  The band, led by saxophone player and Kansas-native Bill Carlsen, was a hot one, playing in a style that we today might call “dixieland jazz” (at that time, of course, it was just “jazz”), with that hot and raucous sound common to Midwestern jazz bands.

Broadway 1140 was recorded in December of 1927 at Paramount’s Chicago studio by Devine’s Wisconsin Roof Orchestra, directed by Bill Carlsen (spelled Carlson on the label).  The band includes Dip Happe and Alec Alexander on trumpets, Ole Turner on trombone, Paul Peregrine, Harry Bortner and Bill Carlsen on reeds, Lee Simmons on piano, Ralph West on banjo, Chet Harding on tuba and Harry Pierce at the drums.  This record was also issued as Paramount 12599.

First, the band plays a fine rendition of the “New St. Louis Blues”, which, as it turns out, is actually the same old St. Louis Blues as always.  My speculation is that bands like this one titled it “new” to entice buyers that likely already owned a copy of the “old” St. Louis Blues.

New St. Louis Blues, recorded December 1927 by Devine's Wisconsin Roof Orchestra.

New St. Louis Blues, recorded December 1927 by Devine’s Wisconsin Roof Orchestra.

Next up, they play one of my all-time favorite versions of that classic (or as Satchmo might put it, “one of the good old good ones”), “Tiger Rag”.  This pressing is the first of two extant takes of this side.

Tiger Rag, recorded December 1927 by Devine's Wisconsin Roof Orchestra.

Tiger Rag, recorded December 1927 by Devine’s Wisconsin Roof Orchestra.