Victor 16777 – Sousa’s Band – 1912/1920

An early edition sheet music to "The Stars and Stripes Forever", dating to 1897.

An early edition sheet music to “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, dating to 1897.

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the United States’ Declaration of Independence from England.  This year’s Independence Day is a particularly important one, being the United States’ 240th.  As such, it would only be appropriate to celebrate with patriotic music by America’s March King, John Philip Sousa.

This year, Old Time Blues celebrates with John Philip Sousa’s own band playing a patriotic serenade.  However, Sousa himself, who was well known for his distaste for “canned music” does not direct his band on this record.  Instead, his protégé Arthur Pryor directs on the first side, and Victor’s musical director Josef Pasternack does so on the other.  We also previously posted Sousa’s final composition, the 1932 “Century of Progress March”, written for the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Records like this are sometimes hard to date, as Victor had a tendency to record multiple takes over the course of several years (or decades), all on the same matrix and catalog numbers.  These appear to be takes 16 and 3, respectively.  That would indicate that the “A” side was recorded on December 13, 1912, and the “B” side was recorded on November 9, 1920, both in Camden, New Jersey.  The record was originally issued in November of 1910, and was cut from the catalog in October of 1926, when an Orthophonic version was released on Victor 20132, which remained in the catalog for an astounding thirty years.

First, Sousa’s Band plays his great 1897 composition, the “Stars and Stripes Forever March”.

Stars and Stripes Forever

Stars and Stripes Forever March, recorded December 13, 1912 by Sousa’s Band.

On the flip, it’s Sousa’s “Fairest of the Fair March”, composed in 1908 for the Boston Food Fair.

Fairest of the Fair

Fairest of the Fair, recorded November 9, 1920 by Sousa’s Band.

Victor 18717 – Original Dixieland Jazz Band – 1920

The time has come around for yet another birthday celebration, this time for cornetist Dominic James LaRocca, born on April 11, 1889.

Nick LaRocca was born in New Orleans to a poor Sicilian family.  He was exposed to the brass bands there while growing up, and was inspired to take up the cornet.  Working at first as an electrician, Nick became a full time musician in the early 1910s, playing with Papa Jack Laine.  In 1916, he became a member of the Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ (later “Jazz”) Band, of which he assumed leadership, and played on their 1917 recording of “Livery Stable Blues”, often credited as the first jazz record.  The famous “Tiger Rag” was credited to LaRocca (who held the copyright for it), though it was a traditional New Orleans tune that existed for many years before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded it.  LaRocca toured around the world with the ODJB, until he had a nervous breakdown in the early 1920s, and returned to New Orleans.

After recovering from his ordeal, the band got back together in the mid-1930s for a successful reunion, at which point they made several more records for Victor, their first electrical recordings.  Late in life, he wrote a series of letters claiming to be the sole inventor of jazz (a claim also famously made by Jelly Roll Morton, who actually had for more credibility behind it than LaRocca).  LaRocca died in 1961.

Victor 18717 was recorded December 1 and 4, 1920 in New York City.  The Original Dixieland Jazz Band consists of Nick LaRocca on cornet, Eddie Edwards on trombone, Larry Shields on clarinet, Benny Krueger on alto saxophone, J. Russel Robinson on piano, and Tony Sbarbaro on drums.

First up, a medley of “Margie”, interpolating “Singin’ the Blues”.


Margie, recorded December 1, 1920 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

On the flip, another solid tune, maybe better than the first, maybe not: (Lena is the Queen of ) “Palesteena”.


Palesteena, recorded December 4, 1920 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.