Victor 21831 – Eddie Cantor – 1928

The actual birth date of that great vaudevillian Eddie Cantor is not definitively known.  Although he is more or less known to have been born in 1892, some sources place his birth on January 31, and others sometime in September.  Since I don’t know his real birthday any more than any other living person, I’ll just have to post my tributes to ol’ Banjo Eyes on both occasions, starting now with one of his most famous songs.

Whenever he may have been born, Eddie Cantor grew up as Edward Israel “Izzy” Itzkowitz in New York City at the turn of the century.  After his parents died when he was a small child, the young Edward was raised by his dearly beloved grandmother, Esther Kantrowitz, from whom he got the name Cantor.  He started his career in show business in the late 1910s, and in 1917, Eddie Cantor signed a contract to appear in Flo Ziegfeld’s Follies, which thrust into fame, and made him into one of the only vaudevillians that could rival Al Jolson.  Throughout his career of more than fifty years, Cantor accomplished more than could fit on this page, including his well-remembered association with the March of Dimes, a name which he coined (pun intended) for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.  Cantor died October 10, 1964, two years after passing of his wife Ida.

Victor 21831 was recorded December 18, 1928 at New York City’s Liederkranz Hall by Eddie Cantor, accompanied by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra.  He sings two songs that he originally introduced in Ziegfeld’s musical Whoopee.

The first song on this disc is probably Cantor’s most famous song, Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson’s “Makin’ Whoopee”.

Makin' Whoopee

Makin’ Whoopee, recorded December 18, 1928 by Eddie Cantor.

On the reverse, Cantor bemoans his woes of wooing the women on Jack Yellen and Milton Ager’s “Hungry Women”.

Hungry Women

Hungry Women, recorded December 18, 1928 by Eddie Cantor.

Columbia 1761-D – Harry Reser’s Syncopators – 1929

Today, January 17, we celebrate the 120th birthday of that great banjo luminary, Harry Reser.  He was born on that day in 1896.  Reser is known for his great multitude of recordings under an enormous number of names in the 1920s and 1930s, perhaps the most memorable of which were the Clicquot Club Eskimos, who took their name from the brand of ginger ale that sponsored a radio show featuring Reser’s band.  Reser also recorded under many other band names, including the Clevelanders, the Six Jumping Jacks, and, as in this case, his Syncopators.  Many of his groups featured vocals by Tom Stacks.  Last time we heard from them was on Christmas Day.

Harry Reser was born in Piqua, Ohio, and was a first cousin of the Wright brothers.  He was a child prodigy on string instruments and had perfect pitch.  By the early 1920s, Reser was playing banjo professionally, and by the second half of that decade, he was headlining Clicquot Club’s radio program with his “Eskimos”, a position which he and his band held for over a decade, from 1923 until 1936.  In 1936, he recorded a short film with the Eskimos for Vitaphone.  Though Reser faded from the spotlight after the 1930s, he remained an active musician until his death in 1965 in the orchestra pit at the Imperial Theatre in Manhattan.

Columbia 1761-D was recorded March 7, 1929 in New York by Harry Reser’s Syncopators, with a vocal on both sides by Tom Stacks.  Both sides also feature a riveting bass saxophone and all-around superb musicianship, making for an excellent pair of recordings.  As far as I can tell from the nearly incomprehensible Dance Band Discography (this one really ought to have been in Jazz and Ragtime Records if you ask me), this personnel of Reser’s Syncopators includes Tommy Gott on trumpet, Sam Lewis on trombone, Larry Abbott on clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, Jimmy Johnston on bass sax, Bill Wirges on piano, Harry Reser on banjo and Tom Stacks on drums.

First, they play a great version of “Kansas City Kitty”, not to be confused with “Kitty from Kansas City”, as was featured by Rudy Vallée.

Kansas City Kitty

Kansas City Kitty, recorded March, 7, 1929 by Harry Reser’s Syncopators.

The reverse’s title is quite a mouthful, “I’m Wild About Horns on Automobiles that Go ‘Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta'”, but this side remains one of my favorites.

I'm Wild About Horns on Automobiles (That Go Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta)

I’m Wild About Horns on Automobiles that Go Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta, recorded March 7, 1929 by Harry Reser’s Syncopators.

Updated on September 4, 2016.