Melotone M 12052 – “Happy” Dixon’s Clod Hoppers – 1930

It’s no secret that I’m fond of folk and country songs adapted to jazz and dance arrangements (see Casey Jones, Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane/She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain, another Casey Jones), and this new arrival to my collection fits squarely in that mold.  I’ve always found the material on many of these early issues of Melotone records interesting, and looking through the discography, a few records by “‘Happy’ Dixon’s Clod Hoppers” particularly intrigued me.  Was it a country band or a dance band playing country music a la Paul Tremaine (as was apparently a passing fad around 1930).  No transfers of any of their records seemed to be available, and little information on the group seemed to exist, so I’d been keeping an eye out for one of their for quite a while.  This copy having fallen into my possession, I’m happy to finally be able to hear it, and now all of you can too.

Melotone M 12057 was recorded on October 27, 1930 in New York City by “Happy” Dixon’s Clod Hoppers, actually a pseudonym for Harry Reser’s Six Jumping Jacks with vocals by Tom Stacks, and most likely with Bill Wirges at the piano.

The first side is a fine fox trot rendition of the pseudo cowboy ballad “When the Bloom is On the Sage”, punctuated with Harry Reser’s famous banjo and an accordion near the end lends a Western touch.

When the Bloom is On the Sage

When the Bloom is On the Sage, recorded October 27, 1930 by “Happy” Dixon’s Clod Hoppers.

The flip-side is a little hotter, with a fast paced novelty arrangement of Henry Whitter’s famous “The Wreck on the Southern Old 97”, made popular by Vernon Dalhart in 1924.  In this version, specific reference is made to “Steve” Broady, the engineer of the Southern Railway 1102 pulling the Old 97 “Fast Mail” when it departed Monroe, Virginia on September 27, 1903, bound for Spencer, North Carolina.  As the song tells, the Old 97 never made it to Spencer, derailing on a trestle near Danville, Virginia as a result of Engine 1102’s excessive speed.  Unlike Steve Broady, Engine 1102 survived the accident, and was still in service when this side was recorded in 1930.

The Wreck On the Southern Old 97

The Wreck On the Southern Old 97, recorded October 27, 1930 by “Happy” Dixon’s Clod Hoppers.

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.