June 5, 2017 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the recording of the first disc ever issued by Capitol Records (though not the earliest session).
Early in the 1940s, songwriter and singer Johnny Mercer joined forces with fellow songwriter Buddy DeSylva and record store owner Glenn E. Wallichs to form a new record company. On March 27, 1942 they incorporated as Liberty Records, which was soon changed to Capitol Records. On April 6, they held their first session, wherein Martha Tilton recorded “Moondreams” (issued as Capitol 138). On July 1, Capitol’s first record was released, featuring the legendary Paul Whiteman’s orchestra swinging on “I Found a New Baby” and “The General Jumped at Dawn”. The fledgling label had its first hit with its second release, Freddy Slack’s orchestra playing “Cow Cow Boogie”, with a vocal by Ella Mae Morse. All was not rosy however, as only one month later, the American Federation of Musicians started their 1942-44 strike, instigating a recording ban for all union musicians. Capitol settled with the AFM on October 11, 1943, after Decca. The ban didn’t seem to hurt Capitol too much, and they went on to become one of the major record labels from the 1940s onward, all the way into the present day.
Capitol 101 was recorded on June 5, 1942 in Los Angeles, California, and issued the next month. It was released less than a month later on July 1, 1942. Some sources offer different dates of recording: Rust gives May 1942, and others say April, but Capitol’s ledgers provide the June 5 date, and they should be definitive. The personnel, according to Paul Whiteman: Pioneer in American Music, 1930-1967 (which differs slightly from Rust’s identification), is Billy Butterfield, Monty Kelly, Larry Neill, and Don Waddilove on trumpets, Phil “Skip” Layton and Murray McEachern on trombone, Alvy West and Danny d’Andrea onalto sax, Lennie Hartman and King Guion on tenor sax, Tommy Mace on baritone sax, Dave Newman, Harry Azen, and Saul Blumenthal on violins, Buddy Weed on piano, Mike Pingitore on guitar, Artie Shapiro on string bass, and Lou Paino on drums.
First, a frenetic and modern arrangement of the jazz standard “I Found a New Baby” highlights the talents of Buddy Weed at the piano.
“The General Jumped at Dawn” is a swell swing instrumental, one of my favorite swing sides, in fact, composed and arranged by Jimmy Mundy. The Golden Gate Quartet sang a memorable version of this tune in the classic World War II film Hollywood Canteen in 1944: “Said the captain to the general, ‘Pops, we’re gonna cause a commotion.'” Oddly, this side gets more and more worn and muffled as it plays through, then cleans up completely in the last five seconds or so.