Is everybody happy?
In addition to Jimmie Lunceford, June 6 also marks the 126th anniversary of Ted Lewis’ birth. Here’s one of his most popular records of the 1930s, as well as one of my personal favorite Ted Lewis vocal performances.
Ted Lewis was born Theodore Leopold Friedman in Circleville, Ohio on June 6, 1890. He took up playing the clarinet professionally, though some would argue that his abilities on the instrument were limited. He first recorded with Earl Fuller’s Famous Jazz Band, and soon began recording for Columbia with his own jazz band, switching to Decca in 1934. With his trademark phrase, “is everybody happy?”, his schmaltzy “talk-singing” and tendency to employ top-notch musicians made him one of the most popular musical personalities of the 1920s, and into the 1930s, alongside Paul Whiteman. However, his style faded from popularity as swing became king, and his music fell out of favor, though he continued to perform for many years. Ted Lewis died on August 25, 1971.
Columbia 2652-D was recorded March 15 and 22, 1932 in New York City. Ted Lewis’ band consists of Muggsy Spanier and Dave Klein on trumpets, George Brunies on trombone; Ted Lewis and Benny Goodman on clarinet and alto sax, Sam Shapiro and Sol Klein on violins, Jack Aaronson on piano, Tony Gerhardi on guitar, Harry Barth on string bass and tuba, and John Lucas on drums.
The quintessential Depression-era tune “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town”, introduced in the motion picture Crooner, became one of the most popular songs of 1932, both for Ted Lewsis and for other artists. In my opinion, this is one of Lewis’ best vocals.
On the other side, Lewis and his band do a fine job with “Sweet Sue – Just You”, featuring a great clarinet solo by Benny Goodman.