Sentry 4011 – Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals – 1927

Generally, I hesitate to post reissues, I really do.  They’re often dubs, which offer lowers fidelity than the original, and let’s face it: original issues are just more desirable as collectors items.  Sometimes, however, original pressings may be exceedingly difficult to track down, and as nice as it might be have an original, it’s simply more practical to take the reissue.  They have the music on them, after all, and that’s what matters the most.

I’d wanted this record for quite a number of years, on any issue.  The Gennett originals are notoriously rare (and notoriously expensive)—at one time, the 78 Quarterly estimated fewer than five copies in existence—and even the reissue proved for me to be quite hard to find.  Finally, one of my favorite eBay sellers posted this one for sale, so I jumped on it.  I’d go as far as to place it as one of my favorites (though that list could easily run into the hundreds, or thousands).  Much as I’d love to own the original, this circa 1950s reissue is a quite decent dub, and in excellent condition, so it provides beautiful playback.

Hoagy Carmichael pictured in Eddie Condon’s Scrapbook of Jazz.

What makes this one remarkable, and worthy of reissue, is that it contains the first ever recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s now renowned composition “Stardust”.  That Stardust melody first haunted Carmichael while he was on the campus of Indiana University, his alma mater—inspired by the jazz music of Bix Beiderbecke, he began whistling the tune, and ran to get it written down.  After polishing it up a bit, he took it to the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, where he recorded it for their Gennett label with Emil Seidel’s orchestra.  It’s said that Gennett found the recording to be of lesser quality, and considered destroying the masters.  Fortunately, they didn’t and it was released, though the success of “Stardust” was yet to come, the record didn’t sell too well.  Two years later, Carmichael published the song as “Star Dust” (the title has appeared as both one and two words throughout its history) through Mills Music, with lyrics added by Mitchell Parrish.  McKinney’s Cotton Pickers made an early recording in 1928, and Mills’ Hotsy Totsy Gang cut one in ’29, around the time Carmichael published it.  Isham Jones’ orchestra made a popular recording of the tune in 1930, followed closely by the smash success of the budding Bing Crosby’s rendition in 1931.  The Crosby hit inspired a wave of new recordings of “Star Dust” in 1931.  Since then, that Star Dust melody has haunted our reverie countless times, as it elevated to become one of the most successful songs of the twentieth century.

Sentry 4011 was originally issued on Gennett 6311, recorded on October 28 and 31, 1927 in Richmond, Indiana.  The two sessions featured different bands using the identity of “Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals”: the former included Hoagy Carmichael on piano, doubling on cornet, Andy Secrest and Bob Mayhew on cornet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Nye Mayhew on tenor sax, Mischa Russell on violin, and three unidentified players of guitar, tuba, and drums; the latter session features Emil Seidel’s Orchestra with Carmichael sitting in, made up of Byron Smart on trumpet, Oscar Rossberg on trombone, Gene Woods or Dick Kent on alto sax, Maurice Bennett on tenor sax, Don Kimmell on guitar, Hoagy on piano, Paul Brown on tuba, and Cliff Williams on drums.

Although it was the “B” side of the original issue, “Stardust”, is effectively the “A” side of this reissue (it has the lower matrix number)—understandably so, as it is the tune that made the biggest hit, not only of the two on this record but practically of any two on any record.  This has always been—and I feel I can safely say always will be—my favorite version of the classic.  The original label called this a “stomp,” and while I’m not sure I’d agree with that, it is really a lovely recording, and possesses an almost dreamlike quality that is very seldom paralleled in recorded music.

Stardust, recorded October 31, 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals.

On the other side, Hoagy’s “One Night in Havana”, recorded at the earlier date with the Dorsey brothers in the band, is another really delightful tune, with a similar dreamy air to the previous.  Though it never made quite as much of a hit as “Stardust”, Hoagy thought enough of it to record it a further three times, only one of which was released on the flip-side of the original issue of his “Georgia (On My Mind)”.  This one was also issued on Champion 15420 at the time, but since then, it seems to have received little attention.

One Night in Havana, recorded October 28, 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals.

Vocalion 15498 – Red Nichols and his Five Pennies – 1926

Red Nichols, late 1930s/early 1940s. Down Beat photo by Gordon Sullivan.

Red Nichols, late 1930s/early 1940s. Down Beat photo by Gordon Sullivan.

The eighth of May, 2016 marks exactly 111 years after the birth of jazz cornetist Red Nichols.  Nichols was one of the most popular and prolific jazz musicians of the roaring twenties.  I believe this disc was his first record with his famous “Five Pennies.”

Loring “Red” Nichols was born May 8, 1905 in Ogden, Utah.  Nichols took up the cornet, the primary “jazz” instrument of the day, and was a child prodigy.  Nichols joined a Midwestern jazz band in the early 1920s, and moved on to New York by 1923.  In New York, he met trombonist Miff Mole, with whom he played for many years.  In 1926, Nichols signed with the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, and recorded prolifically with his band, the “Five Pennies,” which often consisted of some of the best white jazz musicians in New York.  Although his records were among the best-selling hot jazz records of the 1920s, musical styles began to change as the Great Depression rolled in, and Brunswick dropped Nichols in 1932.  He continued to record throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, but never saw such fame as he had known in his days of yore.  In 1959, Danny Kaye starred in The Five Pennies, a biographical picture loosely based on Nichols’ life.  At the end of his life, Red Nichols played in Las Vegas, where he died of a heart attack in 1965.

Vocalion 15498 was recorded December 8, 1926 in New York City by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.  It was also issued on Brunswick 3407 and in the “race” series on Vocalion 1069.  The band includes Nichols on cornet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, and Vic Berton on the drums.  Though many of his “Five Pennies” groups were actually much larger, this one is true to its name.

First, the Five Pennies play Hoagy Carmichael’s “Washboard Blues”, a different take than the one released on Brunswick.  We last heard this tune as it was sung by the lovely Connie Boswell seven years after this side was cut.

Washboard Blues, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

Washboard Blues, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

Nichols’ composition “That’s No Bargain” is a sizzling hot side marred only by some stressed grooves during a loud section in the middle.  Fine modernistic jazz.

That's No Bargain, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

That’s No Bargain, recorded December 8, 1926 by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.

Brunswick 20108 – Casa Loma Orchestra with Connie Boswell – 1932

Connee Boswell in the late 1930s (autographed in 1940).

Connee Boswell in the late 1930s (autographed in 1940).

December 3 marks the 108th anniversary of the incomparable Connie (or Connee) Boswell’s birth, she was born on that day in 1907.

Connie Boswell, the second born of the Boswell Sisters, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, moving with her family to Birmingham, Alabama around 1910, then to New Orleans shortly thereafter.  As a young child, she was either involved in a coaster wagon accident or stricken with polio, leaving her completely paralyzed for a short time, and unable to walk properly for the rest of her life, requiring the use of a wheelchair for most of her life.  She and her sisters were immersed in the world of music from a very young age, Connie learning to play cello, and later saxophone (she also claimed to be able to play trumpet and “could pick up most any instrument with a little practice”).

Connie began recording with her sisters as a vocal group in 1925, and after a five year hiatus, they returned to recording in 1930.  Connie began recording solo in 1931 while still performing with her sisters, and continued to record by herself after the act broke up in 1936.  Around 1942, Connie changed the spelling of her name to “Connee”, with potential reasons ranging from it being easier to sign autographs that way to her sister Martha, who studied numerology, telling her it would bring her better luck that way.  She continued to sing throughout the 1940s and 1950s, making a few movie and television appearances along the way, before mostly retiring by the beginning of the 1960s.  Connie Boswell died of stomach cancer in 1976, a year after her husband’s passing.

Brunswick 20108 was recorded March 16, 1932 in New York City by the Casa Loma Orchestra with Connie singing the vocal on the first side.  This twelve inch 78 boasts nearly double the playing time of an ordinary ten inch record, and allows for a more concert-like performance.  On these sides, the Casa Loma Orchestra consists of Sonny Dunham, Grady Watts, and Bobby Jones on trumpets, Pee Wee Hunt and Billy Rauch on trombones, Clarence Hutchinrider on clarinet and alto sax, Kenny Sargent and Glen Gray on alto sax, Pat Davis on tenor sax, Mel Jenssen on violin, Joe Hall on piano and celeste, Gene Gifford on banjo and guitar, Stanley Dennis on string bass, and Tony Briglia on drums.

Accompanied by the always outstanding Casa Loma Orchestra, Connie sings a heartfelt rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Washboard Blues”.

Washboard Blues, recorded March , 1932 by the Casa Loma Orchestra with Connie Boswell.

Washboard Blues, recorded March 16, 1932 by the Casa Loma Orchestra with Connie Boswell.

On the flip-side, Connie unfortunately does not sing, instead, the Casa Loma Orchestra plays an instrumental, “Four Indian Love Lyrics”, which are “Kashmiri Song”, “Less Than the Dust”, “The Temple Bells”, and “Till I Wake”.

Four Indian Love Lyrics, recorded March 16, 1932 by the Casa Loma Orchestra.

Four Indian Love Lyrics, recorded March 16, 1932 by the Casa Loma Orchestra.

Updated on June 24, 2016.

Victor 25494 – Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra – 1930

This record, one I’ve been on the lookout for for quite a while, arrived just in time for Hoagy Carmichael’s 116th birthday, and I know of no better occasion to feature it here than that.

Hoagland Howard Carmichael was born November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana.  One of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, he is remembered for many enduring compositions including “Washboard Blues”, “Riverboat Shuffle”, “Star Dust”, “Rockin’ Chair”, “Georgia (On My Mind)”, “Lazy River”, and so many more.  Carmichael graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1926, but after playing with a student band, he soon turned to music instead. Hoagy made his first recordings for the Indiana-based Gennett Records with Curtis Hitch’s Happy Harmonists in 1925.  Over his long career, Carmichael became one of America’s foremost songwriters, and worked with such personalities as Paul Whiteman and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.  Hoagy Carmichel died in 1981 at the age of 82.

Victor 25494 is a 1936 master pressed reissue made up of sides originally from two different discs, recorded on May 21, 1930 and September 15, 1930 in New York.  Both sides feature different, but equally star studded personnel in the band.  Hoagy does the vocal on both sides, and both feature the cornet of Bix Beiderbecke, in two of his last recording sessions.

“Rockin’ Chair” was originally issued on Victor V-38139 and features the musical talent of Bix on cornet, plus Bubber Miley on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Arnold Brilhart on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Hoagy on organ, Harry Goodman on tuba, and Gene Krupa on drums.

Rockin' Chair, recorded

Rockin’ Chair, recorded May 21, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

On the original recording of Carmichael’s famous “Georgia (On My Mind)”, originally issued on Victor 23013, the musicians present are Bix on cornet once again, with Ray Lodwig on trumpet, Jack Teagarden and Boyce Cullen on trombone, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Min Leibrook on bass saxophone (though I honestly don’t hear a bass sax here), and Chauncey Morehouse on drums.  This was Bix’s final recording session.

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded September 15, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.