Victor 22146 – The High Hatters – 1929

Leonard W. Joy, director of the High Hatters. From 1930 Victor catalog.

Leonard W. Joy, director of the High Hatters. From 1930 Victor catalog.

This is not a tremendously remarkable record.  It’s not particularly uncommon, and there’s no really fascinating story behind it.  What is remarkable is the quality of the music recorded on it.  Played by the High Hatters, it is in my opinion one of the best dance band records of the 1920s.

The High Hatters were a Victor studio orchestra directed by Leonard Joy, an employee of Victor, much like Nat Shilkret.  Joy directed a great number of bands for the company, including the Southerners, his All String Orchestra, and many uncredited bands backing musicians, but his most notable orchestra was certainly the High Hatters.  The High Hatters are quite often cited as one of the finest dance bands of the late 1920s and early 1930s, a period that could arguably be considered as having the greatest dance bands overall.  Please note that there were a number of other bands that also used the name “High Hatters”, such as Webster Moore’s High Hatters on the Columbia budget labels or Phil Hughes’ High Hatters on Perfect, but only the instances found on the Victor label are the band heard here, and even then, some from the 1930s were under a different director than Leonard Joy.

Victor 22146 was recorded October 9, 1929 in New York by the High Hatters conducted by Leonard Joy.  The versatile Frank Luther sings the vocal on both sides, which feature a pair of DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson songs from the 1929 musical film Sunny Side Up, starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.

I can’t remember exactly where I first heard this superb version of “I’m a Dreamer, Aren’t We All?”, I think it was part of a demonstration of a Victor Credenza Victrola, but I do remember that I was instantly entranced by its excellent arrangement, and you can imagine my pleasure when I turned up a copy of the disc at a store in Round Rock, Texas.

I'm a Dreamer Aren't We All, recorded October 9, 1929 by the High Hatters.

I’m a Dreamer, Aren’t We All?, recorded October 9, 1929 by the High Hatters.

On the reverse, they play “You’ve Got Me Pickin’ the Petals Off of Daisies”, another fine tune from Sunny Side Up, with a really nice banjo solo added to the mix.

You've Got Me Pickin' Petals Off of Daisies, recorded October 9, 1929 by the High Hatters.

You’ve Got Me Pickin’ Petals Off of Daisies, recorded October 9, 1929 by the High Hatters.

Edison 14028 – The Edisongsters – 1929

Thomas A. Edison, image courtesy National Park Service, via World Book.

The Wizard of Menlo Park with his electric light.  Image courtesy National Park Service, via World Book, 1977 edition.

February 11 marks the 169th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s greatest inventors, the man who gave us the phonograph, dictaphone, the kinetoscope, and the electric light, Thomas A. Edison.  In remembrance of his birthday, I present one of his least common records (and the only type I’m equipped to reproduce.)

Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio in 1847, and spent his boyhood years in Michigan.  As a youngster, Edison was called “addled” by a schoolteacher, and his formal school career ended after a brief three months.  Instead, he educated himself, with his mother’s teaching and visits to the Cooper Union in New York City.  He began his professional career as a telegraph operator, and through that work began to develop innovations related to that field.  Settling in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1876, Edison produced countless new inventions and practical improvements on existing inventions that would have great effect on the lives of people all around the world, including the practical electric light bulb, the motion picture camera, direct current (DC) electrical systems, and, most important to this website, the phonograph.  As an aside to the DC power, Edison’s position against alternating current (AC) electricity led to his development of the electric chair to prove how dangerous AC power could be.  By the end of his life at the age of 84 in 1931, Edison held 1,093 patents in his name.

In the phonograph industry, Edison began in 1877 with his recording and playback of “Mry Had a Little Lamb” on a tinfoil cylinder.  Not long after, his company began selling cylinders and the phonographs used to play them.  By the 1910s, disc records began to overshadow cylinders as the public’s preferred medium for sound reproduction, and Edison introduced his Diamond Discs in 1912, requiring an Edison phonograph to properly play the esoterically cut records.  Finally, in 1929, standard laterally cut phonograph records, playable on a Victor or comparable talking machine had far exceeded Edison’s records, and as his last venture in the phonograph business, Edison rolled out a short production of “Needle Type Electric” records, designed to play on regular laterally oriented reproducers, rather than requiring an Edison phonograph.  The “Needle Type” discs were identical in form to ordinary 78s, as opposed to the heavy, quarter inch thick Diamond Discs.  These “thin” Edisons, as they are sometimes called, were only produced for several months, making them quite scarce today.

Edison 14028 was recorded sometime in 1929, I can’t seem to place the exact date or month; if anyone knows it I’d appreciate if you could share it.  The Edisongsters, Edison’s answer to the Revelers, consist of Will Donaldson, J. Donald Parker (aka Jack Parker, aka Glen Wick), that versatile Frank Luther, and Phil Dewey.

On the “L” side (standing for the side that should face left when the record is stored in a vertical position), the Edisongsters sing “Peace of Mind”.

Peace of Mind

Peace of Mind, recorded 1929 by The Edisongsters.

On the “R” side, they sing “I Want to Meander in the Meadow”.  I’m sure both these songs are the kind of conservative, restrained, and by all means not “hot” music the old Edison would have approved of.

I Want to Meander in the Meadow

I Want to Meander in the Meadow, recorded 1929 by the Edisongsters.

Supertone S2061 – Frank Luther and Carson Robison – 1929/1928

Carson Robison and Frank Luther as “Bud and Joe Billings”. From Victor catalog, 1930.

So far I’ve mostly shared jazz records, so I think it’s about time I broke the monotony with something a bit different, so here’s one of my favorite country records, by Frank Luther and Carson Robison.

Carson Robison started out his lengthy and prolific recording career as a guitar player for vaudevillian Wendell Hall in 1924, becoming a studio guitarist and whistler for Victor records.  Later that year, he was teamed up with the classically trained hillbilly singer Vernon Dalhart, beginning a partnership that lasted until an acrimonious parting in 1928, and would define “citybilly” music.  Soon after, Robison joined forces with minister-turned-singer and fellow Kansan Frank Luther, who had previously sung with the Revelers and as a popular dance band vocalist, and the pair went on to supersede Dalhart as some of the nation’s foremost country recording artists.  Their partnership lasted until 1932, when Robison set sail with a new group to bring hillbilly music to the British Isles.  Luther continued to record domestically.

Supertone S2061 was recorded on May 21, 1929 and December 10, 1928, respectively, in New York City.  The two sides were originally issued apart, with the first side on Brunswick 425 and the second on Vocalion 5278.  This Supertone was released around 1931, and draws its masters from the Brunswick/Vocalion catalog rather than the original Gennett masters, after the Brunswick Radio Corporation (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers Pictures) acquired the contract from the Starr Piano Company.

On the first side of Supertone S2061, Frank Luther and Carson Robison perform “Left My Gal in the Mountains”, one of many country songs written by Robison and recorded by the duo on numerous labels.  The accompaniment—made up of Earl Oliver on cornet, probably Roy Smeck on steel guitar, and an unknown clarinettist and guitarist—adds a little jazz to the song.

Left My Gal in the Mountains, recorded May 21, 1929 by Frank Luther and Carson Robison.

On the flip-side, Luther, accompanied by Robison on guitar, sings Harry McClintock’s famous “Big Rock Candy Mountains” in an almost flawless imitation of Mac.


The Big Rock Candy Mountains, recorded December 13, 1928 by Frank Luther.

Updated on October 2, 2016, and June 10, 2017.