Regal 9791 – Harry Richman – 1925

Harry Richman around the mid-1920s.

Harry Richman around the mid-1920s.

August 10 once again marks the birthday of one of Old Time Blues’ favorite vaudevillians, Harry Richman.  Last year, we celebrated the occasion with his famous “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.  This time, I offer to you Richman’s first recording ever.

Harry Richman was born Harold Reichman on August 10, 1895 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He began performing by the age of eleven, and was working the vaudeville circuits by eighteen.  After striking out as an act of his own in the early 1920s, he worked his way up, appearing as the star of George White’s Scandals in 1926.  In 1930, he made his motion picture debut in Puttin’ on the Ritz, in which he introduced the famous Irving Berlin song of the same name.  Though his acting career failed to take off, he appeared in four more pictures from 1930 to ’38.  Throughout the 1930s, Richman hosted a radio program, and made a number of popular records.   He was also noted as a record setting aviator, making a famous round-trip flight across the Atlantic in 1936 with Dick Merrill.  In 1938, he married former Ziegfeld girl Hazel Forbes, though they had divorced by 1942.  After his career slowed down in the 1940s, Richman made a number of brief comeback appearances, largely in a nostalgic context.  He published an autobiography titled A Hell of a Life in 1966, and died in 1972.

Regal 9791 was recorded January 30, 1925, most likely in New York.  Unfortunately, though it appears to be in decent condition, it suffers from a very thin, quiet signal, and sounds generally lousy.  In spite of that, the music is still plainly audible.

First, Harry croons “Will You Remember Me”, with guitar accompaniment adding a charming, folksy effect.

Will You Remember Me

Will You Remember Me, recorded January 30, 1925 by Harry Richman.

Richman seems to put on his best Jolson for “California Poppy”.

California Poppy

California Poppy, recorded January 30, 1925 by Harry Richman.

Updated with improved audio on November 13, 2016.

Victor 22723 – Maurice Chevalier – 1931

At two o’clock in the morning, Sunday, March 13, 2016, most of us will be setting our clocks forward an hour for the beginning of daylight saving time.  The practice first began in Europe in 1916, and the United States followed suit in 1918.  There’s always been plenty of debate and debacle as to whether or not we should have it or not.  I don’t care one way or the other, I’m just here to play good music, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

Victor 22723 was recorded May 26, 1931 at Victor’s Studio 2 in New York City by Maurice Chevalier backed by an orchestra conducted by Leonard Joy.  Released as the economy was worsening, it sold 6,551 copies.

Forget about daylight saving time, Maurice Chevalier thinks “There Ought to Be a Moonlight Saving Time”.

There Ought to Be a Moonlight Saving Time, recorded May 26, 1931 by Maurice Chevalier.

There Ought to Be a Moonlight Saving Time, recorded May 26, 1931 by Maurice Chevalier.

On the reverse, Maurice wants your “keesses” “Right Now!”, and how!

Right Now!

Right Now!, recorded May 26, 1931 by Maurice Chevalier.

Columbia 2701-D – Harry Richman – 1932

When we last heard from Harry, he was singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz“, and I promised to post his radio theme, I Love a Parade”.  Thanksgiving Day being the occasion for one of the grandest parades of the year, it seems like a fitting choice.

Columbia 2701-D was recorded August 15, 1932 in New York City by Harry Richman and issued with their short-lived “Radio Record” label, which seemed to have often featured more than just straight song singing, in a more “radio-like” performance (some of Rudy Vallée’s have announcements at the beginning, and you’ll hear what this one’s like).

First, Richman delivers an (a bit more than) exuberant rendition of what was later the theme song of his radio show in the 1930s, Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen’s “I Love a Parade”.

I Love a Parade, recorded

I Love a Parade, recorded August 15, 1932 by Harry Richman.

Next, Richman sings the popular Arthur Freed and Harry Barris (whose birthday was just a few days before this posting) composition “It Was So Beautiful”.

It Was So Beautiful, recorded August 15, 1932 by Harry Richman.

It Was So Beautiful, recorded August 15, 1932 by Harry Richman.

Brunswick 4677 – Harry Richman with Earl Burtnett and his Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel Orchestra – 1930

Today, August 10th, marks the 120th birthday of one of my favorite vaudevillians, Harry Richman, so for your listening pleasure today, I present one of my favorite records of all time, one of the best of the many excellent songs by Irving Berlin, the great “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in its original iteration, performed by Richman, the song’s originator.  This is about as close as you can get to an “original recording” from an age when songwriters wrote their songs and all the record companies made their own records at about the same time.

Harry Richman, born Harold Reichman on August 10, 1895 in Cincinnati, Ohio, spent the bulk of the 1920s working the vaudeville circuit.  In 1926, he became a hit, starring in George White’s Scandals, and by 1930 scored himself the starring role in the motion picture “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.  The movie was not a huge success, due in part to Richman’s “overpowering” personality, but the movie’s titular theme song was a hit record for Richman.  Richman continued to perform as usual after that, debuting in 1932 what would become his radio theme, “I Love a Parade”.

Irving Berlin first penned “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, which would later become one of his most famous compositions, in May 1927, but did not publish it until December 1929. Its lyrics tell of the at the time common occurrence of White people visiting Harlem for the jazzy atmosphere cultivated by its black residents, a Jazz Age account of a time when, as Langston Hughes put it, “the Negro was in vogue”.  About fifteen years later, Berlin revised the song’s lyrics with more timely lyrics about the opulent lifestyle of Park Avenue dwellers, which are more commonly remembered today.

On Brunswick 4677, Harry Richman sings “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie” from the motion picture Puttin’ on the Ritz, accompanied on both by Earl Burtnett’s Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel Orchestra.  Both sides were recorded January 30, 1930 in Los Angeles, California.  The Biltmore Hotel Orchestra consists of Fuzz Menge on trumpet, Fran Baker on cornet, Lank Menge on trombone, Hank and Gene Miller on clarinet and alto sax, Fred Stoddard on clarinet and tenor sax, Earl Burtnett on piano, Bill Grantham on banjo, Harry Robison on string bass, and Jess Kirkpatrick on drums.

On “A”, Richman sings, well, if you can’t figure that out yourself by now then you sure haven’t been paying much attention!

Puttin' on the Ritz, recorded January 30, 1930 by Harry Richman.

Puttin’ on the Ritz, recorded January 30, 1930 by Harry Richman.

And on the flip, Richman sings his own collaborative composition, “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Chérie”.

There's Danger in Your Eyes Chérie, recorded January 30, 1930 by Harry Richman

There’s Danger in Your Eyes Chérie, recorded January 30, 1930 by Harry Richman.

Updated on June 24, 2016.