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, herein is 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 may likely not be quite that scarce (although there surely are at least fifteen copies), 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.”  The Chocolate Beau Brummels consist of 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.

A bit worse for wear than the previous, on the flip-side 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 April 22, 2018.

Connorized 3011 – Connorized Jazz Hounds – 1921

Today marks the 123rd birthday of Mr. Jimmy Durante, who was born on February 10, 1893.  Before his most famous years as a beloved comedian, the Great Schnozzola got his start as a pianist in the earliest years of jazz music on record.  This record features two of his sides as a sideman with Ladd’s Black Aces (none of whom were black or named Ladd).

Connorized 3011 was recorded in September of 1921 in New York and originally appeared on Gennett 4762.  Connorized Jazz Hounds is a pseudonym for Ladd’s Black Aces.  The personnel features Phil Napoleon on trumpet, Moe Gappel on trombone, Doc Behrendson on clarinet, Jimmy Durante on piano, and Jack Roth on drums.  The Connorized label was produced by Starr Piano Co. using masters from Gennett.

“Shake It and Break It Blues”, is a fine early jazz tune.  I believe it is Sam Lanin that interjects the brief vocalization.

Shake It and Break It Blues

Shake It and Break It Blues, recorded September 1921 by Connorized Jazz Hounds.

The flip, “Aunt Hager’s Children’s Blues”, is a classic W.C. Handy blues song, and does not disappoint either.

Aunt Hager's Children's Blues

Aunt Hager’s Children’s Blues, recorded September 1921 by Connorized Jazz Hounds.

(Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!)

Champion 16212 – Cliff Carlisle – 1931

Cliff Carlisle was born in Taylorsville, Kentucky in 1903 one of quite a number of singers that started out as something of a copyist of Jimmie Rodgers, and in fact recorded with him on steel guitar in one 1931 session.  He started out recording in 1930 with guitarist and vocalist Wilber Ball for the Starr Piano Company (Gennett) in Richmond, Indiana.  After Ball left the act in 1934, Cliff began playing with his younger brother Bill Carlisle, who eventually eclipsed Cliff in popularity.  The two brothers continued recording, both together and separately, well into the 1950s, when Cliff retired.  Cliff Carlisle died in 1983 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Champion 16212 was recorded February 13, 1931 in Richmond, Indiana, and features Wilber Ball on second guitar.  According to the sales figures presented by the Old Time Herald, this record sold 1,461 copies, not a whole lot by any means, but a pretty decent seller by 1931 Champion standards.

One of Cliff’s standards, which he recorded on more than one occasion (this one being the first), “The Brakeman’s Reply” has quite a twist ending; you’ll have to listen…

TheBrakemansReply

The Brakeman’s Reply, recorded February 13, 1931 by Cliff Carlisle.

“Box Car Blues” is a perfect example of the kind of rip-roaring steel guitar and hollering yodeling at which Cliff Carlisle so excelled.  Just listen to that guitar!

Box Car Blues, recorded February 13, 1931 by Cliff Carlisle.

Box Car Blues, recorded February 13, 1931 by Cliff Carlisle.

Merry Christmas from Old Time Blues!

Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and at Old Time Blues!

Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and here at Old Time Blues!

The Lord's Prayer.

Bryan and the Lord’s Prayer.

2015 being the first Christmastime we’ve had at Old Time Blues, I think it would be appropriate to start a new tradition, one record to share every Christmas eve, similar to the way that the folks over at Shorpy post that same office party photograph every Christmas. Made specially by Starr Piano Company for the Christmas season, I think this is the perfect record to start such a tradition.

Now, on December 25, 2015, 2016, 2017, a whole year later, Old Time Blues continues in our yuletide tradition of celebrating a very William Jennings Bryan Christmas!

Gennett 5225 was recorded June 30, 1923 and February 1922, respectively, presumably both at the Gennett studio of the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana.

On this special Christmas Greetings disc, former Secretary of State, three time Democratic Presidential candidate, and esteemed orator William Jennings Bryan delivers a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  I don’t know about you, but I cherish this rare opportunity to hear the voice of the “Great Commoner” on phonograph record.

The Lord's Prayer, recorded

The Lord’s Prayer, recorded June 30, 1923 by William Jennings Bryan.

On the back of this record, the Westminster Quartette sings a solemn a capella rendition of “Nearer, My God, To Thee”.

Nearer, My God, To Thee

Nearer, My God, To Thee, recorded February 1922 by the Westminster Quartette.

Updated with improved audio on December 25, 2016.