By many accounts, the swing era kicked off on August 21, 1935, when Benny Goodman’s band played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California. They say that Goodman’s boys were playing it on the sweet side, with stock arrangements and little swing, and the crowds weren’t much having it. Amongst the yawns, Gene Krupa suggested, “If we’re gonna die, Benny, let’s die playing our own thing,” and so the band got out their hot Fletcher Henderson arrangements and hepped the cats to kingdom come. Thus, the swing era was born.
Swing as a genre had emerged earlier in the decade, as the largely distinct styles of hot jazz and orchestrated dance music of the 1920s began to converge as one: jazz made for dancing. Early exponents of the style included the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Cab Calloway, the Casa Loma Orchestra, and others. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to ask a musician about it, ’cause I couldn’t tell you.
In a session supervised by Ed Kirkeby, Victor 25090 was recorded on July 1, 1935 at RCA Victor’s Studio 2 in New York City. It was released on July 31, exactly four weeks prior to his date at the Palomar. In the band are Bunny Berigan, Ralph Muzillo, and Nate Kazebier on trumpets, Sterling Ballard and Jack Lacy on trombones, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Toots Mondello and Hymie Schertzer on alto saxophones, Arthur Rollini and Dick Clark on tenor saxes, Frank Froeba on piano Allan Ruess on guitar, Harry Goodman on string bass, Gene Krupa on drums
Benny Goodman’s famous recording of Fletcher Henderson’s arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s “King Porter” (Stomp) received high marks from the music publications of the day, and rightly so, it’s a masterwork. Henderson’s own band recorded variations of the arrangement at least thrice, first in 1928 for Columbia, then for Okeh in 1932 as “New King Porter Stomp”, and finally for Vocalion in 1933. Whether or not Benny’s band played this one at the Palomar Ballroom, I really don’t know, but it seems likely.
King Porter, recorded July 1, 1935 by Benny Goodman and his Orch.
On the reverse, they play a little less hot, but nonetheless excellent on “Sometimes I’m Happy”, from Hit the Deck—another Henderson arrangement.
Sometimes I’m Happy, recorded July 1, 1935 by Benny Goodman and his Orch.
June 5, 2017 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the recording of the first disc ever issued by Capitol Records (though not the earliest session).
Early in the 1940s, songwriter and singer Johnny Mercer joined forces with fellow songwriter Buddy DeSylva and record store owner Glenn E. Wallichs to form a new record company. On March 27, 1942 they incorporated as Liberty Records, which was soon changed to Capitol Records. On April 6, they held their first session, wherein Martha Tilton recorded “Moondreams” (issued as Capitol 138). On July 1, Capitol’s first record was released, featuring the legendary Paul Whiteman’s orchestra swinging on “I Found a New Baby” and “The General Jumped at Dawn”. The fledgling label had its first hit with its second release, Freddy Slack’s orchestra playing “Cow Cow Boogie”, with a vocal by Ella Mae Morse. All was not rosy however, as only one month later, the American Federation of Musicians started their 1942-44 strike, instigating a recording ban for all union musicians. Capitol settled with the AFM on October 11, 1943, after Decca. The ban didn’t seem to hurt Capitol too much, and they went on to become one of the major record labels from the 1940s onward, all the way into the present day.
Capitol 101 was recorded on June 5, 1942 in Los Angeles, California, and issued the next month. It was released less than a month later on July 1, 1942. Some sources offer different dates of recording: Rust gives May 1942, and others say April, but Capitol’s ledgers provide the June 5 date, and they should be definitive. The personnel, according to Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music, 1930-1967 (which differs slightly from Rust’s identification), is Billy Butterfield, Monty Kelly, Larry Neill, and Don Waddilove on trumpets, Phil “Skip” Layton and Murray McEachern on trombone, Alvy West and Danny d’Andrea onalto sax, Lennie Hartman and King Guion on tenor sax, Tommy Mace on baritone sax, Dave Newman, Harry Azen, and Saul Blumenthal on violins, Buddy Weed on piano, Mike Pingitore on guitar, Artie Shapiro on string bass, and Lou Paino on drums.
First, a frenetic and modern arrangement of the jazz standard “I Found a New Baby” highlights the talents of Buddy Weed at the piano.
I Found a New Baby, recorded June 5, 1942 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.
“The General Jumped at Dawn” is a swell swing instrumental, one of my favorite swing sides, in fact, composed and arranged by Jimmy Mundy. The Golden Gate Quartet sang a memorable version of this tune in the classic World War II film Hollywood Canteen in 1944: “Said the captain to the general, ‘Pops, we’re gonna cause a commotion.'” Oddly, this side gets more and more worn and muffled as it plays through, then cleans up completely in the last five seconds or so.
The General Jumped at Dawn, recorded June 5, 1942 by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.
The time has come to pay tribute to the consummate blues woman Memphis Minnie, on the 120th anniversary of her birth.
Memphis Minnie came into the world as Lizzie Douglas, one of thirteen children born to Abe and Gerturde Douglas in Algiers, New Orleans, on June 3, 1897. She didn’t care for the name Lizzie, and took to using the name “Kid” Douglas, a nickname given by her parents, when performing. Before she was a teenager, she learned to play banjo and guitar, and ran away to Beale Street at thirteen. Taking to a life of music, she played street corners and toured the South with the Ringling Brothers Circus. In 1929, she was given the moniker of “Memphis Minnie” by a Columbia record man while making her first records with her second husband Joe McCoy, who was dubbed “Kansas Joe”. The next year saw the release of one of her most famous songs, “Bumble Bee”, of which she recorded a number of different versions. Minnie and Kansas Joe went on to make a series of records together for Vocalion and Decca before their divorce in 1935. Relocating to Chicago, Minnie became a staple of the nightclubs, joined Lester Melrose’s stable of blues artists, and beat Big Bill Broonzy in a cutting contest. In the late 1930s, Minnie married Ernest Lawlars, better known as Little Son Joe, another blues artist, and they performed together as she had with her previous husband. In 1941, she recorded some of her biggest hits, “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” and “Looking the World Over”. Minnie continued to perform and record into the 1950s, but ill health forced her to retire thereafter. Memphis Minnie died of a stroke, the last of several, on August 6, 1973.
Vocalion 03046 was recorded on August 22, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. As the label would suggest, the instrumentation features Memphis Minnie on guitar, Black Bob Hudson on piano, and Bill Settles on string bass.
The identity of pianist “Black Bob” is surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty and confusion. He is known to have been a prolific sideman for Big Bill Broonzy, Washboard Sam, Memphis Minnie, and others, and he recorded extensively for Bluebird and the American Record Corporation between 1932 and 1942, yet his real name and identity are not verified. A number of names have been put forth, including Bob Hudson, boogie-woogie man Bob Call, Chicago pianist Bob Robinson, and others. The most likely candidate seems to be Hudson, who recorded with the Memphis Nighthawks on the same day as Black Bob’s session with Big Bill’s Jug Busters, and made one unissued side under his own name two days later, which is reported to match stylistically with Black Bob’s playing. Most sources, when a last name is given at all, identify Black Bob as Hudson.
First up, Minnie, Bob, and Bill beat out the swing number “Joe Louis Strut”, one of a number of tunes dedicated to the world heavyweight champion of the same name.
Joe Louis Strut, recorded August 22, 1935 by Memphis Minnie, Black Bob, Bill Settles.
One of those “number of tunes” is on the flip, on which Minnie sings solo on her tribute/plea for love to Louis, the classic “He’s in the Ring (Doing that Same Old Thing)”. This is take “2” of the song, I prefer the first take myself, but to my knowledge, it wasn’t released commercially on 78.
He’s in the Ring (Doing that Same Old Thing), recorded August 22, 1935 by Memphis Minnie
Benny Goodman, as pictured in Esquire’s Jazz Book, 1944.
The first birthday ever celebrated on Old Time Blues was the legendary Benny Goodman’s. Now the time has come around once again to pay tribute to one of the most important musical figures of the twentieth century, and one of my own favorites, the one and only King of Swing.
Benjamin David Goodman was born on May 30, 1909, the ninth of twelve children of David and Dora Goodman, a family of poor Jewish immigrants in Chicago, Illinois, a pivotal location in the development of jazz. Goodman’s father took him to free concerts on the weekends, and enrolled him in twenty-five cent music lessons at the local synagogue. He later took clarinet lessons under a classically trained professional. Benny soon joined the boy’s club band at the Hull House. He first played professionally in 1921, and joined Ben Pollack’s Orchestra at the age of sixteen, with whom he made his first commercial recordings in 1926.
In 1928, Goodman made his first records under his own name for Vocalion and Brunswick as “Bennie Goodman’s Boys”. By that time, he had already recorded quite extensively, and continued to work prolifically as a studio musician until forming his own orchestra. After making a series of dance band recordings for Brunswick’s Melotone label in 1930 and ’31, and one date with Columbia the same year, Goodman, with the help of John Hammond, who arranged for a series of sessions for Columbia, put together the first incarnation of the band that would make him famous in 1933. With Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, and others in-and-out, Goodman’s new band played swing. In June of 1934, Goodman and his orchestra opened at Billy Rose’s new Music Hall at 52nd and Broadway, and secured a spot on the NBC radio show Let’s Dance. With need to expand his repertoire as a result of his newfound success, Goodman began purchasing sophisticated arrangements from Fletcher Henderson. In 1935, Goodman’s orchestra switched from the failing Columbia to Victor Records, which soon produced a hit with “King Porter Stomp”.
On August 21, 1935, Benny Goodman’s orchestra kicked off the swing era with a famous engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California. In 1937, Goodman and his orchestra appeared in The Big Broadcast of 1937 and Hollywood Hotel. As Goodman’s popularity continued to soar, Goodman earned the distinction of leading the first jazz ensemble to play at Carnegie Hall, at his legendary concert on January 16, 1938. In addition to his orchestra, Goodman also led small groups, his famous Trios, Quartets, and Sextets. Goodman refuted segregation, employing the likes of Charlie Christian, Lionel Hampton, and Teddy Wilson, once stating, “If a guy’s got it, let him give it. I’m selling music, not prejudice.” At various points, his band employed the enticing vocals of Helen Ward, Martha Tilton, and Peggy Lee, among many others. In 1939, he left Victor to return to Columbia, which had been purchased and revived by CBS, with his band appearing on first issue of the revived label. His success did not falter through the end of the swing era in the middle of the 1940s. Even after swing had swung, Goodman was still in demand as a revered jazz musician. In 1947, he switched labels once again, to Johnny Mercer’s Capitol Records. He made forays into bebop, cool jazz, and classical music. Benny Goodman continued to play until his death from a heart attack on June 13, 1986.
Columbia 2958-D was recorded on August 16, 1934 in New York City. In the band are Russ Case, Jerry Neary, and Sam Shapiro on trumpets, Red Ballard and Jack Lacey on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Hymie Schertzer and Ben Kantor on alto sax, Arthur Rollini on tenor sax, Claude Thornhill on piano, George Van Eps on guitar, Hank Wayland on string bass, and Sammy Weiss on drums. As indicated by the “Music Hall” appellation, this record dates to Goodman’s stretch at Billy Rose’s Music Hall.
First up is Benny Goodman’s amazingly energetic first recording of “Bugle Call Rag”, most certainly my favorite recording of the standard. Goodman recorded another notable version for Victor in 1936, and it remained a staple of his repertoire.
Bugle Call Rag, recorded August 16, 1934 by Benny Goodman and his Music Hall Orchestra.
Some of my very favorite music comes out of the second half of the 1930s, yet so little of that has been featured here on Old Time Blues so far. To remedy that omission, here’s some sweet swing, courtesy of the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra.
The Hudson-DeLange Orchestra was formed in 1935 by the songwriting duo of Will Hudson and Eddie DeLange, who were responsible for the 1934 hit “Moonglow”. As one of the multitude of bands managed by New York jazz impresario Irving Mills, the band was usually fronted by DeLange, with Hudson remaining behind the scenes. Contracted first to the Brunswick records (at the time owned by the American Record Corporation, for whom Mills’ artists recorded at the time), the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra held their first session on January 15, 1936. The following year, they moved to Master, one of two labels (the other being Variety) made for a brief period in 1937 by the American Record Corporation for Irving Mills’ stable of artists. The bandleaders split up in 1938, and Hudson and DeLange went separate ways. Will Hudson continued to lead the orchestra for a period, then recorded with a different band for Decca in 1940. Eddie DeLange started a new band, and recorded for Bluebird.
Master MA 103 was recorded on March 10 and 11, 1937 in New York City by the (Will) Hudson-(Eddie) DeLange Orchestra. In the band are Charles Mitchell, Howard Schaumberger, and Jimmy Blake on trumpets, Edward Kolyer on trombone, George Bohn and Gus Bivona on clarinet and alto sax, Pete Brendel on alto and baritone sax, Ted Duane on clarinet and tenor sax, Mark Hyams on piano, Bus Etri on guitar, Doc Goldberg on string bass, and Nat Pollard on drums.
Recorded on the latter date, Will Hudson’s “Sophisticated Swing” perfectly captures the elegance and—appropriately—sophistication of the 1930s, as opposed to the gritty Depression captured by, say, Bill Cox’s “N. R. A. Blues” (or most anything by Woody Guthrie).
Sophisticated Swing, recorded March 11, 1937 by the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra.
On the flip-side, the band swings a little harder on “The Maid’s Night Off”, recorded on the former date.
The Maid’s Night Off, recorded on March 10, 1937 by the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra.