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 April thirtieth is International Jazz Day.  I was unaware that such an occasion existed, but I certainly can’t let it fall by the wayside, so here’s a real humdinger of a jazz record, and from a most unexpected place…

An autographed photo of bandleader Bill Carlsen, dating to the late 1920s or early ’30s.

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.

This 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 hot and stomping novelty 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 what is surely one of the all-time best versions of that classic (or as Satchmo might have put it, “one of the good old good ones”), “Tiger Rag”.—one of my own favorites, at least  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.

Updated with improved audio on June 5, 2018.

Black Swan 2005 – Lulu Whidby – 1921

In honor of Black History Month, I present to you a Black Swan phonograph record, from the first line “race records” made by and for African American people, featuring the early sounds of vaudevillian female blues, with an early appearance by Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra.

The story of Black Swan began during the Harlem Renaissance in 1920, when few black entertainers were afforded opportunities to record for any of the major record labels.  A man by the name of Harry Herbert Pace, previously a business partner of W.C. Handy, founded the Pace Phonograph Corporation in New York, and began to produce phonographs and records.  Pace also brought in a young song plugger from Handy’s company to serve as recording director and leader of the house orchestra, Fletcher Henderson.  Early on, Pace had difficulty finding a company that would agree to press records from the masters he recorded.  Eventually, Pace was able to contract his record pressing to the Wisconsin Chair Company of Port Washington, Wisconsin, makers of Paramount records.  From 1921 to 1923, Black Swan offered records recorded by black entertainers and intended for black audiences.  Some of the top artists on Black Swan included Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters, and W.C. Handy’s Band.  Unfortunately, the company folded at the end of 1923, and all of their assets were purchased by Paramount Records, who began their 12000 legendary race records series shortly thereafter, reissuing many recordings from Black Swan on some of the earliest releases.

Black Swan 2005 was recorded circa April 1921 in New York City by Lulu Whidby with Henderson’s Novelty Orchestra.  It was later reissued on Paramount 12127, and also appeared on Claxtonola 40055.  The early Fletcher Henderson band includes Chink Johnson or George Brashear on trombone, Edgar Campbell on clarinet, probably Cordy Williams on violin, Fletcher Henderson on piano, and possibly John Mitchell or Sam Speed on banjo; the trumpet and tuba players are unknown.  It has been suggested that Garvin Bushell played clarinet at this session, but he did not recall participating.

It has been suggested that the standard 78.26 RPM is too fast for this record, and I can agree to that.  If anyone has a suggestion as to what the correct speed may be, I’ll add new transfers with it corrected.

First, Lulu Whidby sings the classic Harry Creamer and Turner Layton song, “Strut Miss Lizzie”.

Strut Miss Lizzie

Strut Miss Lizzie, recorded circa April 1921 by Lulu Whidby.

On the reverse, Whidby sings Irving Berlin’s “Home Again Blues”.  Henderson’s orchestra really shines on this one.

HomeAgainBlues

Home Again Blues, recorded circa April 1921 by Lulu Whidby.

Paramount 14012 – Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra – 1927

In celebration of the 118th anniversary of Smack Henderson’s birth, here is a record I searched for long and hard, before I was fortunate enough to find this 1940s John Steiner reissue.  This near mint dub trades some of its audio fidelity for a much cleaner and smoother surface than I’d be likely to find on the original Paramount issue, which was once speculated in 78 Quarterly to have “less than ten copies.”

Paramount 14012 was recorded May 11, 1927 in New York City and was originally issued on Paramount 12486. This issue is a 1948 dub made by record collector and producer John Steiner. The band features the talent of Joe and Russell Smith on trumpet, Benny Morton on trombone, Buster Bailey and Don Redman on clarinet and alto sax, Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax and clarinet, Fletcher Henderson on piano, Charlie Dixon on banjo, June Cole on tuba, and Kaiser Marshall on drums. The label erroneously credits Tommy Ladnier, who does not play on this record.

“Swamp Blues” tops my list of all-time favorite jazz recordings, and was the reason for my purchasing the record.

Swamp Blues,

Swamp Blues, recorded May 11, 1927 by Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra.

Perhaps even hotter than the previous, “Off to Buffalo” is another superb jazz side, not to be confused with the similarly titled Warren and Dubin song “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” from Forty-Second Street.

Off To Buffalo, recorded May 11, 1927 by Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra.

Off To Buffalo, recorded May 11, 1927 by Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra.

Updated with Improved audio on June 19, 2017.

Broadway 8114 – Harkins and Moran – 1927

I’ve been featuring a lot of jazz recently, and I think it’s about time for a change of pace, so today I offer this old time country record for your enjoyment.

When I bought my VV 4-4 Victrola a while back, along with it came a collection of about sixty or seventy records in the Victrola’s original albums.  Most of these records were standard popular fare of the 1920s: Gene Austin, Waring’s Pennsylvanians, and plenty of waltzes.  However, as I flipped to the last couple of pages in one album, I discovered three records on the Broadway label, which are always fun to find.  One of them was a popular song pairing, the other two were old time fiddle records.

This one, Broadway 8114 is credited to “Harkins and Moran”, an alliterative pseudonym for actual artists Sid Harkreader, fiddle and Grady Moore, guitar.  It was recorded in June of 1927 at the Chicago studios of the New York Recording Laboratories (of Paramount fame).  It was also issued on Paramount 3023, and “John Henry” was issued on Herwin 75532 with different backing.

The duo’s fine rendition of the old folk song “John Henry” is marred by a large edge flake that necessitated a small amount of audio restoration, but I think it cleaned up fairly well.  The same set of lyrics was sung by Harkreader’s associate Uncle Dave Macon in his memorable rendition.

John Henry, recorded June 1927 by Harkins and Moran.

John Henry, recorded June 1927 by Harkins and Moran.

On the flip side, Harkreader and Moore play the classic “Old Joe”, a track that was featured on Volume 2 of Yazoo’s compilation, “Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be: Early American Rural Music”.  Real fine fiddle music.

Old Joe, recorded in June 1927 by Harkins and Moran.

Old Joe, recorded June 1927 by Harkins and Moran.

Updated with improved audio on July 20, 2017.