Hit of the Week L 3 – Gene Austin and Hit of the Week Orchestra – 1931

The original sleeve of this Hit of the Week.

The original sleeve of this Hit of the Week.

Thanks to the release of the free version of Brian Rust’s Jazz Records 1917-1934, I found myself preoccupied yesterday, and neglected to post in honor of Gene Austin’s birthday, so I’ll have to offer this a little belatedly.

Gene Austin was born Lemuel Eugene Lucas in Gainesville, Texas on June 24, 1900.  He grew up in Minden, Louisiana, and learned to play guitar and piano before leaving home at fifteen to join a vaudeville troupe in Houston, Texas.  When he got on stage, his voice wooed the audience so that he was offered a job on the spot.  In 1917, he joined the Army to fight in the War and wound up in New Orleans, playing piano in Storyville before shipping off.  When he got back home, he planned to become a dentist, but ended up going back to vaudeville.  Austin first began recording with country musician George Reneau, the “Blind Musician of the Smoky Mountains” for Vocalion and Edison, singing and playing piano, and soon switched to Victor.  With the advent of electrical recording, Gene Austin was among the first singers to exploit the more sensitive technique as a “crooner”.  His 1927 recording of “My Blue Heaven” was one the best selling and most popular records of the decade.  As the ominous clouds of the Great Depression rolled in, Austin was relegated to the budget labels, and as swing became prominent, his style soon began to sound dated.  In the mid-1930s, he began appearing in minor roles in motion pictures.  Austin continue to sing professionally for many years after falling from the spotlight, and in 1964, ran for governor of Nevada.  Besides his singing, Gene Austin was also a songwriter, and originated such standards as “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street”, “How Come You Do Me Like You Do?”, and “The Lonesome Road”.  Austin died January 24, 1972 at the age of 71.

Hit of the Week L 3 was recorded in October of 1931 in New York, and released at the newsstands on November 19, 1931.  It was Gene Austin’s only Hit of the Week release.  These Hit of the Week records were pressed in coated paper and sold for fifteen cents at newsstands.  We previously heard Duke Ellington’s band on one of these unusual flexible discs.  As part of the latter half of Hit of the Week’s releases, this disc has narrower grooves to accommodate a five minute recording on one side.

On this single sided cardboard record, Gene Austin croons “Now That You’re Gone”.  The second tune, “La Paloma” is an instrumental by the Hit of the Week Orchestra.

Now That You're Gone

Now That You’re Gone, recorded October 1931 by Gene Austin and Hit of the Week Orchestra.

Updated with improved audio on May 11, 2017.

Brunswick 6472 – Bing Crosby with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians – 1933

Guy Lombardo. From 1932 P&G publication.

Guy Lombardo. From 1932 P&G publication.

Today we honor the consummate bandleader Guy Lombardo, whose Royal Canadians were a staple on records and radio for many decades.

Gaetano Alberto Lombardo was born in London, Ontario on June 19, 1902.  His father had each of his children learn to play different instruments so they could accompany his singing.  The Lombardo brothers put their first orchestra together when they were still children, and they first played in public in 1914.  Ten years later, Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra made their first recordings for the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, released on the Gennett label.  After Gennett, the Royal Canadians recorded briefly for Brunswick, which yielded two issued sides on Vocalion in 1927, and then with Columbia, with whom he stayed until 1931.  Following his engagement with Columbia, he took his band to Brunswick from 1932 to ’34, then to Decca, as many Brunswick artists did after former employee Jack Kapp founded the company.  The Royal Canadians switched to Victor for a period, before returning to Decca in 1938.  Lombardo’s was perhaps most famous for his New Years Eve shows, which began at the Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, and continued until after his death, with the tradition carried on by his band, despite competition from Dick Clark.  Though Lombardo’s “sweet” style of music was derided by many jazz fans who preferred their music served hot, he was reportedly hailed by the likes of both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.  Guy Lombardo died of a heart attack on November 5, 1977.

Brunswick 6472 was recorded January 12, 1933 in New York City by Bing Crosby accompanied by Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians.  Both songs originate from the 1933 musical film 42nd Street.

First, Bing croons “Young and Healthy”, with Lombardo’s Royal Canadians in fine form.

Young and Healthy

Young and Healthy, recorded January 12, 1933 by Bing Crosby with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

On the flip-side, Lombardo takes top billing on “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me”.

You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me

You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me, recorded Janury 12, 1933 by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians with Bing Crosby.

Brunswick 6226 – Bing Crosby – 1931

Old Der Bingle, circa 1932.

Old Der Bingle, circa 1932.

May 3 marks the 113th birthday of the best selling recording star of the 20th century, and one of the biggest pop-culture icons in all of history, Bing Crosby who was born on this day in 1903.

Harry Lillis Crosby was born May 3, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, and moved to Spokane at the age of three.  As a youngster, he acquired the nickname “Bingo from Bingville” from a neighborhood girl with whom he shared an interest for The Bingville Bugle, a weekly feature in the Spokesman-Review.  The nickname was later shortened to “Bing.”  As a boy, Crosby worked at the Spokane Auditorium, where he saw Al Jolson perform.  While attending Gonzaga University, Bing joined a band of high school students, including Alton Rinker, called the Musicaladers.  After the group disbanded, Bing and Al went south to California, making their first record with Don Clark’s orchestra in October of 1926.  Crosby and Rinker were soon discovered by Paul Whiteman and drafted into his band as the “Rhythm Boys”, with Harry Barris added to make it a trio.  The Rhythm Boys stayed with Whiteman’s troupe until 1930, when they decided to remain in California after appearing in King of Jazz.  The group broke up later in 1930, leaving Crosby as a solo act.  Appearing for a time with Gus Arnheim’s orchestra at the Cocoanut Grove, Bing had a early success with “I Surrender, Dear”, and after leaving Arnheim’s company, had his first big hit with “Out of Nowhere” for Brunswick records.  On September 2, 1931, CBS began airing 15 Minutes with Bing Crosby, which helped to further catapult Bing into his huge success.

Crooning popular ballads in the same vein as Russ Columbo, with periodic whistling and interjections of his trademark “buh-buh-buh-boo”, Bing hit his peak in the 1930s, and stayed there for about a decade.  Over the course of the decade, Crosby made numerous appearances in motion pictures.  His first starring role came in 1932 with The Big Broadcast, which also featured the Boswell Sisters, Cab Calloway, and many other great talents.  His greatest film success came in 1944 with Going My Way, his performance in which won him an Academy Award for Best Actor  In 1934, Bing followed producer Jack Kapp to the newly founded Decca records (and in the process sacrificed much of the jazz that his style had previously held).  On Christmas Day in 1941, Bing introduced Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”, becoming the best-selling single record of all time with his May 1942 recording for Decca.  In the 1940s, Crosby pioneered the practice of pre-recording his radio programs.  Though his style of music fell from favor by the 1950s, Bing remained popular throughout the rest of his life, at the end of his life appearing in a Christmas special with David Bowie.  After a game of golf in Madrid, Bing Crosby collapsed and died from a massive heart attack on October 14, 1977.

Brunswick 6226 was recorded November 23 and December 3, 1931 in New York City.  The band, probably a studio group, as Brunswick commonly employed, may have included Mannie Klein and Jack Mollick on trumpets, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Krueger on alto sax, possibly Harry Bluestone or Harry Hoffman, Walter Biederman, Walt Edelstein, Joe Baum on violins (lordy, that’s a whole lot o’ violins!), possibly Joe Meresco on piano; Eddie Lang on guitar; Hank Stern on tuba and Larry Gomar on drums.

First up is Bing’s radio theme song, “Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)”.  It’s worth noting that this take, “A”, is different than the one I’ve heard on modern reissues.

Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day

Where the Blue of the Night—Meets the Gold of the Day, recorded November 23, 1931 by Bing Crosby.

The reverse, “I’m Sorry, Dear”, is a fairly typical of Bong’s early ’30s romantic songs, much like his classic “Just One More Chance”.

I'm Sorry, Dear

I’m Sorry, Dear, recorded December 3, 1931 by Bing Crosby.

An Electradisk Dance Double Feature – 1922 & 1923 – 1932

Peter DeRose and May Singhi Breen. From 1932 publication.

May Singhi Breen and Peter DeRose. From 1932 publication.

For your hopeful enjoyment today, I offer you yet another dance band double feature, this time two Electradisks.  As with our first Bluebird double feature, these two are consecutively numbered, one catalog number falling immediately after other.

Electradisk was the RCA Victor Company’s second venture into the field of budget records, following the failure of Timely Tunes.  Electradisks were introduced in 1932 and originally offered in an eight inch format (which is very rarely seen today) along with a prototypical Bluebird of the same format and sold at Woolworth’s dimestores.  Soon, both Bluebird and Electradisk were upgraded to the standard ten inch format, which seems to have sold better, though Bluebirds of that period are still impossible to find.  The Electradisk label continued into 1933, and was discontinued in that same year.  Around that time, the “buff” label Bluebird was introduced, and began huge success and a mainstay well into the 1940s.

On the first of the pair, the Peter De Rose Orchestra (actually Tom Berwick’s Orchestra using DeRose’s name) plays “I’m Sure of Everything but You” with a vocal by the husband and wife duo of DeRose and “the original ukulele lady” May Singhi Breen, and “Underneath the Harlem Moon”, with a vocal by the Marshall Sisters, no doubt trying to capitalize on the success of the Boswell Sisters (though they’re nowhere near as good, sorry to say).  Electradisk 1922 was recorded November 22, 1932 in RCA’s Studio 1 in New York City.

I'm Sure of Everything But You and Underneath the Harlem Moon

I’m Sure of Everything But You and Underneath the Harlem Moon, recorded November 22, 1932 by Peter De Rose Orchestra.

The second disk splits up its artist credits to Jim Harkins and his Orchestra and Sid Peltyn and his Orchestra, but once again, both are pseudonyms for Tom Berwick’s band.  According to the distinguished Mr. Paul Lindemeyer, Harkins was a Boston area banjo and guitar player who doubled on the bagpipes.  Both sides of Electradisk 1923 were recorded November 23, 1932 in New York.

Play, FIddle, Play and Here it is Monday and I've Still Got a Dollar

Play, Fiddle, Play and Here it is Monday and I’ve Still Got a Dollar, recorded November 23, 1932 by Jim Harkins and his Orchestra and Sid Peltyn and his Orchestra.

A Crown Dance Band Double Feature – 3149 & 3281 – 1931/1932

This Dance Band Double Feature is dedicated to Smith Ballew, who was born on this day (January 21) in 1902.  Under his frequently used pseudonym, Buddy Blue and his Texans, Ballew and his band play four classic songs of the early 1930s recorded on the Crown label.

Smith Ballew was born Sykes Ballew in Palestine, Texas on January 20, 1902.  He had his education in Sherman, Texas before finishing college at the University of Texas in Austin.  While at UT, Ballew played banjo in James Maloney’s band, called Jimmie’s Joys at the time.  That band, with Ballew, made a few records in California for the Golden label in 1923.  By the late 1920s, he was working as a studio vocalist in New York, working for a plethora of different bands and labels.  After working steadily as a singer well into the 1930s, Smith turned to acting, appearing mostly in Westerns as a singing cowboy.  After retiring from music in 1967, Ballew worked in the aircraft industry, eventually settling in Fort Worth.  He died March 2, 1984 in Longview, Texas.

Crown 3149 was recorded in May of 1931.  On the first side, Smith Ballew sings Harry Warren’s 1931 hit, the timeless “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)”.  On the reverse, we hear “On the Beach With You”, this side claims to be a waltz, but it sounds more like a fox trot to my ear.  The vocalist on this side is allegedly Charlie Lawman, but it sounds identical to Ballew’s vocal on the flip, and I believe it’s still him.  On these 1931 recordings, the band retains much of a late 1920s sound with banjo rhythm and an accordion.

I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store) and On the Beach With You

I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store) and On the Beach With You, recorded May 1931 by Buddy Blue and his Texans.

The second disc, Crown 3281, was recorded in January of 1932.  This record feature two popular songs from Irving Berlin’s Face the Music, “Let’s Have Another Cup o’ Coffee” and Soft Lights and Sweet Music”.  Both sides feature a vocal by Ballew.  The band seems to have modernized significantly on these recordings, less than a year later, and may very well be an entirely different group.

Let's Have Another Cup o' Coffee and Soft Lights and Sweet Music

Let’s Have Another Cup o’ Coffee and Soft Lights and Sweet Music, recorded January 1932 by Buddy Blue and his Texans.