Gennett 6505 – The New Yorkers – 1928

An original “New Electrobeam” record sleeve.

To me, the records made in the 1920s and 1930s on labels like Gennett and Paramount (manufactured by the Starr Piano Company and the Wisconsin Chair Company, respectively) seem to be a part of Americana.  They were distinctively American companies made in America’s heartland, and recorded a large amount of music by and for the American common man.  While today’s record, though indeed a Gennett, is not one of those vernacular types, it is a “New Electrobeam” by an excellent New York dance band.

Gennett 6506 was recorded June 18, 1928 in New York City by the New Yorkers, a Carl Fenton orchestra. The vocal refrains are by Carl Mathieu, who also sang as a member of the Peerless Quartet.

“Carl Fenton” was, however, not a real person.  Fenton began “life” in the early 1920s as a pseudonym for Gus Haenschen, an executive and studio band leader with Brunswick Records, whose name was “ill-suited” for record labels given attitudes toward Germans following World War I (plus, just look at it, it’s like a mess of letters).  This “Carl Fenton” recorded for Brunswick between 1920 and 1927.  In 1927, Reuben Greenberg, who had been a member of the band, bought the name from Haenschen and began using it to lead his own band, which recorded with Gennett and later had a pivotal role with the QRS label made by Cova around 1930.  In 1932, Greenberg legally changed his name to Carl Fenton, thus bringing the fictional bandleader into reality.

The band first plays a very nice syncopated version of “You’re a Real Sweetheart”, strangely credited to “Kahn-Fioritta”, even though the song was actually written by Irving Caesar and Cliff Friend.  Vocalist Carl Mathieu seems to miss his cue a little bit on this side.

You're a Real Sweetheart, recorded 1938 by The New Yorkers.

You’re a Real Sweetheart, recorded June 18, 1928 by The New Yorkers.

On the reverse, they play another great one, the 1928 hit “Dusky Stevedore”, this time correctly credited to Andy Razaf and J.C. Johnson.

Dusky Stevedore, recorded 1928 by The New Yorkers.

Dusky Stevedore, recorded June 18, 1928 by The New Yorkers.

Gennett 3005 – Straun’s Pullman Porters – 1925

Come all you rounders if you want to hear, a story about a brave engineer.  Casey Jones was the rounder’s name.  On a six-eight wheeler, boys, he won his fame.  Exactly one-hundred-sixteen years ago, on April 30, 1900, the brave engineer mounted to his cabin and he took his farewell trip into the promised land.

Casey Jones was born Jonathan Luther Jones in 1863.  He got the nickname “Cayce” from his hometown in Kentucky, and he restyled it as “Casey”.  Jones married Mary Brady in 1886 and raised three children.  He worked for the M&O and the IC railroads, and eventually rose to his dream of being an engineer, becoming one of the most able and respected in the profession, famous for his unique sound with the train whistle.  In 1893, Casey’s services were employed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

On April 30, 1900, Casey Jones made his final run.  It was a foggy night, and Casey departed in the Old 362, behind schedule at 12:50 am, pulling the No. 1.  Despite several delays, Casey was able to get the train running on schedule for a time.  The end of the run came for Casey, however, when his fireman Sim Webb spotted something on the tracks ahead.  It was a stalled freight train.  Casey slammed on his airbrakes, but it was too late, and the Old 362 plowed into the rear of the freight train, going through several cars before derailing.  Thanks to his heroic actions that night, Casey’s life was the only loss in the accident.  His story was immortalized in song by IC engine-wiper Wallace Saunders.  Casey Jones went down in history as an American folk hero, he was a teetotaler, a family man, a baseball lover, and a brave engineer.

Gennett 3005 was recorded March 24 and April 5, 1925 in Gennett’s New York studio.  “Straun’s Pullman Porters” is a pseudonym for Nathan Glantz and his Orchestra, fronted by vocalist “Chick” Straun, apparently yet another a pseudonym, this time for Jack Kaufman.  I’m not entirely sure what you’d call these old folk songs reworked as jazz, if there even is a name for them, but I know I like them.  Much like Paul Tremaine’s hot dance renditions of “She’ll Be Comin ‘Round the Mountain” (and so forth), but these two are much earlier.

The first song on this disc is Wallace Saunders’ famous tale of the brave engineer, “Casey Jones”, sung by “Chick” Straun/Jack Kaufman.  Songwriting credit is given on the label to vaudevillians T. Lawrence Seibert and Eddie Newton, who popularized the song as a comedy act, with lyrics alleging infidelity on the part of Mrs. Jones, which she opposed for many years.  I selected this version specifically to avoid those lines, in order to maintain some respect toward Casey.

Casey Jones

Casey Jones, recorded March 24, 1925 by Straun’s Pullman Porters.

Unfortunately for us, the old classic tune, “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”, is marred by some skips, but it’s still a neat little side.

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, recorded April 5, 1925 by Straun’s Pullman Porters.

Champion 15687 – Dan Hughey – 1929

Before there were folk singers like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, there was “The Kentucky Mountain Boy”, Bradley Kincaid (who performs under a pseudonym on this disc).  Equally comfortable in hillbilly attire as with round framed spectacles, tidy hair, and pressed suits, Kincaid was of a decidedly more sophisticated mold than many of the more “hillbilly” folk singers of his day, while still not succumbing to the urbanity that has in some eyes damaged the credibility of such performers as Vernon Dalhart.

Bradley Kincaid was born in Point Level, Kentucky on July 13, 1895 and made his radio debut on Chicago’s WLS National Barn Dance in 1926 and later became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on WSM in Nashville in 1945.  After a long and successful career which included giving future Grand Ole Opry star Marshall Jones the nickname “Grandpa” while working with him at a Boston radio station in 1935, Kincaid died following injuries sustained in a car accident at the ripe old age of 94 on September 23, 1989.

Champion 15687 was recorded January 28, 1929 in Richmond, Indiana by Bradley Kincaid, given the nom de disque “Dan Hughey” on this release.  It was also issued on Gennett 6761 and Supertone 9362, and later reissued on Champion 45057 by Decca.  The “A” side also appeared on Superior 2656.

One of the great classic American folk songs, Kincaid first sings “Four Thousand Years Ago”, called “The Highly Educated Man” by John A. Lomax in his American Ballads and Folk Songs.

Four Thousand Years Ago

Four Thousand Years Ago, recorded January 28, 1929 by Dan Hughey.

On the reverse, Kincaid sings “Liza Up In the ‘Simmon Tree”.  This is one of those folk songs that bears great lyrical similarity to other songs; for example, “shoes and stockings in her hand and her feet all over the floor” can be heard in Wendell Hall’s “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'”, and “well, I wouldn’t marry a poor girl, I’ll tell you the reason why…” is similar to the lyrics of “Chewing Gum”, as sung by the Carter Family.

Liza Up in the Simmon Tree

Liza Up in the ‘Simmon Tree, recorded January 28, 1929 by Dan Hughey.

Updated on June 15, 2017.

Gennett 5395 – Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra – 1924

Today, March 14, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the prolific bandleader Bernie Cummins with his first record.

Bernie Cummins, Circa 1930.

Bernie Cummins, circa 1926.

Born in Akron, Ohio in 1900, drummer Bernie Cummins had an extraordinarily long career as a bandleader, he organized his first band in 1919, and recorded fairly steadily from the middle of the 1920s until the 1940s, and working until the demise of the big band in the late 1950s.  This record, I believe, was the first of those many.  Cummins recorded first with Gennett in his native Midwest, switching to Brunswick later, and moving to Victor at the end of the 1920s, then Columbia in the mid-1930s, recording on the side for the Plaza/ARC budget labels along the way.  I believe he was with Vocalion in the late 1930s, and I’m not certain where he went after that.  At one point early in his career, Cummins served briefly as manager of the Wolverine Orchestra, most famous for featuring the talent of a young Bix Beiderbecke, and recommended the Wolverines to replace his band following his engagement with the Cinderella Roof ballroom in New York City.  Cummins died in 1986.

Gennett 5395 was recorded January 28, 1924 in Richmond, Indiana by Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra.  The full personnel of the band is unclear, but it included Bernie on drums, his brother Walter on banjo, and Karl Radlach on piano.  The Toadstool Inn was a speakeasy in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Home Folks Blues” is an energetic jazz number with plenty of “doo wacka doo” in it.

Home Folks Blues

Home Folks Blues, recorded January 28, 1924 by Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra.

On the flip, the play an instrumental of “Ida” (Sweet as Apple Cider), every bit as fine as the first side, though I believe I prefer the former.

Ida

Ida, recorded January 28, 1924 by Bernie Cummins and his Toadstool Inn Orchestra.

Champion 15714 – Smoke Jackson and his Red Onions – 1929

Recorded on this day in 1929, here’s one of my favorite discs, though the condition is rather lacking, owing to a heavily scratched surface from many years of unsleeved storage. “Smoke Jackson and his Red Onions” is a pseudonym for Zack Whyte’s Chocolate Beau Brummels, a fine Midwestern territory band.  The 78 Quarterly estimated “at least 15” copies of this record in their “Rarest 78s” article.  While it’s most likely not quite that scarce, it’s still far from a common disc.

Zack Whyte was born in 1898 in Richmond, Kentucky, and attended Wilberforce College, where he played banjo with Horace Henderson’s Collegians. He started leading his own Cincinnati-based bands in 1923, and eventually formed the Chocolate Beau Brummels, a territory band that recorded six sides with Gennett in 1929, and helped to bring several greats including Sy Oliver and Herman Chittison to prominence. Whyte retired from music in 1939 and died in 1967.

These two superb sides of Champion 15714 were recorded in Richmond, Indiana on February 26, 1929.  This Champion issue sold around 8,000 copies.  It was also issued on Gennett 6797 and Supertone 9368 under the pseudonym “Eddie Walker and his Band.”  According to the Red Hot Jazz Archive, includes the star-studded lineup of Zack Whyte directing and playing banjo, Bubber Whyte (his brother?), Henry Savage, and the great Sy Oliver on trumpets, Floyd Brady on trombone, Clarence Paige, Ben “Snake” Richardson, and Earl Tribble on alto saxes, Al Sears on tenor and baritone sax, the always excellent Herman Chittison on piano, Montgomery Morrison on tuba, and William Benton on drums.

Beginning with side “A”, the Chocolate Beau Brummels play a stomping rendition of Hudson Whittaker and Thomas A. Dorsey’s (a.k.a. Tampa Red and Georgia Tom) hit “It’s Tight Like That”. I believe this is the second take, and it really gets in the groove.

It's Tight Like That, recorded February 26, 1929 by Zack Whyte and his Chocolate Beau Brummels.

It’s Tight Like That, recorded February 26, 1929 by Smoke Jackson and his Red Onions.

On the flip-side, which is a little worse for wear, they play a masterful rendition of Joe “King” Oliver’s “West End Blues”, with a beautiful piano intro by Herman Chittison and some fine banjo by the leader.  The label splits the composer’s credit between Oliver and publisher Clarence Williams. I believe this one is the third take, but with Gennett’s lack of any identifying marks in the “dead wax”, it’s hard to be sure.

West End Blues, recorded February 26, 1929 by Zack Whyte and his Chocolate Beau Brummels.

West End Blues, recorded February 26, 1929 by Smoke Jackson and his Red Onions.

Updated with improved audio on January 15, 2017 (for “It’s Tight Like That”).