August 10 once again marks the birthday of one of Old Time Blues’ favorite vaudevillians, Harry Richman. Last year, we celebrated the occasion with his famous “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. This time, I offer to you Richman’s first recording ever.
Harry Richman was born Harold Reichman on August 10, 1895 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He began performing by the age of eleven, and was working the vaudeville circuits by eighteen. After striking out as an act of his own in the early 1920s, he worked his way up, appearing as the star of George White’s Scandals in 1926. In 1930, he made his motion picture debut in Puttin’ on the Ritz, in which he introduced the famous Irving Berlin song of the same name. Though his acting career failed to take off, he appeared in four more pictures from 1930 to ’38. Throughout the 1930s, Richman hosted a radio program, and made a number of popular records. He was also noted as a record setting aviator, making a famous round-trip flight across the Atlantic in 1936 with Dick Merrill. In 1938, he married former Ziegfeld girl Hazel Forbes, though they had divorced by 1942. After his career slowed down in the 1940s, Richman made a number of brief comeback appearances, largely in a nostalgic context. He published an autobiography titled A Hell of a Life in 1966, and died in 1972.
Regal 9791 was recorded January 30, 1925, most likely in New York. Unfortunately, though it appears to be in decent condition, it suffers from a very thin, quiet signal, and sounds generally lousy. In spite of that, the music is still plainly audible.
First, Harry croons “Will You Remember Me”, with guitar accompaniment adding a charming, folksy effect.
Richman seems to put on his best Jolson for “California Poppy”.
Updated with improved audio on November 13, 2016.