Champion 16212 – Cliff Carlisle – 1931

Cliff Carlisle was born in Taylorsville, Kentucky in 1903 one of quite a number of singers that started out as something of a copyist of Jimmie Rodgers, and in fact recorded with him on steel guitar in one 1931 session.  He started out recording in 1930 with guitarist and vocalist Wilber Ball for the Starr Piano Company (Gennett) in Richmond, Indiana.  After Ball left the act in 1934, Cliff began playing with his younger brother Bill Carlisle, who eventually eclipsed Cliff in popularity.  The two brothers continued recording, both together and separately, well into the 1950s, when Cliff retired.  Cliff Carlisle died in 1983 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Champion 16212 was recorded February 13, 1931 in Richmond, Indiana, and features Wilber Ball on second guitar.  According to the sales figures presented by the Old Time Herald, this record sold 1,461 copies, not a whole lot by any means, but a pretty decent seller by 1931 Champion standards.

One of Cliff’s standards, which he recorded on more than one occasion (this one being the first), “The Brakeman’s Reply” has quite a twist ending; you’ll have to listen…


The Brakeman’s Reply, recorded February 13, 1931 by Cliff Carlisle.

“Box Car Blues” is a perfect example of the kind of rip-roaring steel guitar and hollering yodeling at which Cliff Carlisle so excelled.  Just listen to that guitar!

Box Car Blues, recorded February 13, 1931 by Cliff Carlisle.

Box Car Blues, recorded February 13, 1931 by Cliff Carlisle.

Gennett 5225 – William Jennings Bryan/Westminster Quartette – 1923/1922

Merry Christmas from Old Time Blues!

With 2015 being the first Christmastime we’ve had on Old Time Blues, I think it would be appropriate to start a new tradition, one record to share every Christmas Eve (much in the same way that the fine folks over at Shorpy post that same office party photograph every year). This particular record, made specially by Starr Piano Company for the Christmas season, I think is the perfect one with which to start such a tradition.

Now, on December 25, 2016, 2017, 2018—a whole three years later—Old Time Blues continues in our yuletide tradition of celebrating a very William Jennings Bryan Christmas!

Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and at Old Time Blues!

Christmas Greetings from the folks at Gennett Records, and here at Old Time Blues!

The Lord's Prayer.

Bryan and the Lord’s Prayer, pasted inside the card paper record sleeve.

This record is only one in a series of ten “Christmas Greetings” records issued by the Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana, for Christmas of 1923; others included Bryan reciting the 23rd Psalm, a recitation of “Always Christmas” by Wilbur D. Nesbit, movie stars Bebe Daniels and Shirley Mason each extending their Christmas greetings, and the same from Mrs. Henry Gennett herself, among other, mostly spoken word, recordings by notable personalities of the day.  The “B” sides of each featured a Christmas song performed by various singers, bands, and vocal groups.

The “A” side of Gennett 5225 was recorded July 3, 1923, at the Gennett studio of the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana.  The “B” side was recorded in February of 1922, presumably in the same place.

On this very special Christmas Greetings disc, former Secretary of State, three time Democratic Presidential candidate, and esteemed orator William Jennings Bryan delivers a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is one of a handful phonograph recordings made by the orator, others including eleven sides for Victor in 1908, and a couple of others for Gennett made at the same time.  I don’t know about you, but I cherish this rare opportunity to hear the voice of the “Great Commoner” on phonograph record.

The Lord's Prayer, recorded

The Lord’s Prayer, recorded July 3, 1923 by William Jennings Bryan.

On the back of this record, the Westminster Quartette sings a solemn a capella rendition of “Nearer, My God, To Thee”.

Nearer, My God, To Thee

Nearer, My God, To Thee, recorded February 1922 by the Westminster Quartette.

Updated with improved audio on July 6, 2019.

Superior 2815 – Happy Joe Hill – 1932

This record, featuring two guitar-accompanied popular songs by one Happy Joe Hill, was recorded by the Starr Piano Company quite late in their history, at a point when the Great Depression had all but killed off sales completely.  The Superior label was introduced by Starr Piano around the time their Gennett label disappeared from the market.  With the Great Depression only getting worse as time passed, all the record companies were in bad shape financially, the Starr Piano Company especially so, and as such, Superior records aren’t very commonly encountered.

Happy Joe Hill—per George Kay’s Superior Catalog published in Record Research—was a pseudonym for Harold J. Leslie.  Leslie recorded four titles for the Starr Piano Company in 1932, consisting of “‘Leven Pounds of Heaven” and “I Wanna Count Sheep (Till the Cows Come Home)”, issued on Superior 2803 and Champion 16404, and “Rhymes” and “I Could Expect it From Anyone but You”, issued on Superior 2815 and Champion 16413.  His releases on the Champion label were credited as Jack Leslie.  With a single guitar backing lending to a more rural, folksy feel, his songs differ a bit from most of the standard pop fare of the period, and make for fairly interesting listening.  Compare to Charlie Palloy’s solo recordings for Crown records in 1933, at a time when that company was near its end.  Whether or not he intentionally borrowed his performing name from the union agitator of the same name I do not know.  Outside of his brief recording career, I can find no details regarding Leslie’s life, professional or private.  If anyone out there has any information regarding “Happy Joe Hill”, please comment, I’d love to know.

Superior 2815 was recorded in March of 1932 by Happy Joe Hill, accompanied by guitar, likely his own.  Unless I’m misinterpreting the data in Kay’s Superior Catalog, it shipped out a total of only forty-two copies!

The first side of this record features Happy Joe’s very polite and sincere rendition of Leslie Sarony’s “Rhymes”, with somewhat Americanized lyrics.  I’ll eventually post the version by Jack Hylton’s Orchestra here too, so you can compare.

Rhymes, recorded March 1932 by Happy Joe Hill.

Rhymes, recorded March 1932 by Happy Joe Hill.

On the flip, and with a bit more background noise, Hill performs “I Could Expect it From Anyone But You”, written by Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart, and Ed Nelson and published by DeSylva, Brown and Henderson.  Composer Al Hoffman sued or at least threatened to sue the BMI in 1946 over similarities between this song and the pop hit “Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)”—and rightly so, the latter song “borrowed” close to the entire melody of this 1932 flop.

I Could Expect it From Anyone Else But You, recorded March 1932 by Happy Joe Hill

I Could Expect it From Anyone Else But You, recorded March 1932 by Happy Joe Hill

Updated on June 15, 2017 and with improved audio on June 21, 2017.