Posted June, 1998
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Clarence Williams and His Jazz Kings 1929
This is one of my recent acquisitions. I bought this record along with 400 others for about 15 cents each! Not only is it in excellent condition and the music great, according to Les Dock's American Premium Record Guide, it is quite rare and is worth considerably more than 15 cents. A nice find indeed!
Zonky(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Clarence Williams and His Jazz Kings 1929
This is from the flip side of the previous selection. I also have a copy of this song by McKinney's Cotton Pickers. I will try to remember to put it up here too sometime.
[Note: I had originally listed the date for the two Clarence Williams selections as 1928. A visitor informed me that they were, in fact, recorded in 1929 (specifically on Dec 3). What is embarrassing is the fact that this is entirely consistent with the reference material I consulted when I came up with the 1928 date! I guess I need to pay closer attention to what is in front of me! Until I have a chance to edit it, the date on the sound file will continue to erroneously show 1928]
Grand Central Station(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
5 Red Caps 1943
This recording is from an old Gennett label. I initally included it here thinking it must be from the early 1930s as that is when the Gennett label went out of business. However, I later learned that the label's name was briefly revived during World War II .
Talk Of The Town(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Ted Weems and His Orchestra; Parker Gibbs, vocal 1930
This is another recent acquisition. I must have played this one at least a couple of dozen times already! I think the tune is very catchy! I am especially fond of the "tolling bell" effect near the end of the recording.
I Won't Dance(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Smith Ballew and His Orchestra, Smith Ballew, vocal 1935
Ballew made vocal recordings under several names with a number of bands in the late '20s and early '30s. He also had his own radio program and later went to Hollywood where he starred in low budget "singing cowboy" movies. Ballew was known for his ability to sing in virtually any key. In most of his recordings, he sings in a rather high-pitched voice. Noted discographer Brian Rust writes that Ballew told him the reason was the record companies usually demanded it, seeing him as a possible rival to Gene Austin. In this recording, however, I suspect he was pretty much using his natural voice.
Madhouse(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra 1936
In what I think is a very positive cultural sign, swing music is making something of a comeback, especially on certain college campuses on both coasts. As I have said before, so long as one considers only at his pre-1940 recordings, Benny is still "The King of Swing" in my book.
Why Not Come Over Tonight(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
George Beaver, vocal 1930
This is a fun recording. The band backing Beaver up is not named, but it is very snappy and jazzy. Some of the terms used in it are now out of date. "Hello Central" referred to the operator in the central telephone office in the days before direct dial service. "Rolls to play" referred to piano rolls - rolls of paper with holes that "programmed" player pianos.
Pleading(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Leo Reisman and His Orchestra; Harry Maxfield, vocal 1927
Another recent acquisition that I have been playing a lot. This is one of these songs that I can not decide whether is "happy" or "sad." (I am not talking about the words.) On one hand, the song is upbeat and even cheerful. On the other, it has a certain wistful quality about it. Either way, I think it is very nice.
It Had To Be That Way(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Floyd Tilman 1939
I do not have very many early Country recordings in my collection as I do not particularly care for a lot of stuff from this genre. There are exceptions however. A few years ago I came across an early 1940s recording by Floyd Tilman and his Famous Playboys. I liked it enough that I started keeping my eyes open for more. Certainly there is no question as to whether this one is happy or sad!
I've Got Something In My Eye(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Amanda Randolph and Her Orchestra; Amanda Randolph, vocal 1936
Female band leaders were very much the exception. At present, this is they only record by Ms Randolph that I have. I will definitely be on the lookout for more. As a vocalist, she certainly could belt out a song.
Cocoanut Grove(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiian Hotel Orchestra 1938
This is a catchy arrangement of a really pretty song.
I've Got My Fingers Crossed(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
"Fats" Waller and His Rhythm; "Fats" Waller, vocal 1936
These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You(Audio file updated 10/12/03)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra; Helen Ward, vocal 1936
Goodman may have been the "King of Swing," but he could do a nice job on the sentimental numbers as well. This is one of those rare songs where I like both the tune and the words. It is quite common for me to like a song but be indifferent to, or even dislike, its words.
I Wonder What's Become Of Joe(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Ernie Golden and His Hotel McAlpin Orchestra 1926
Body And Soul(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Majestic Dance Orchestra 1930
This haunting song is still occasionally performed. I do not know whose band is on this recording. A number of groups recorded under the Majestic Dance Orchestra pseudonym. Nor do I know the identity of the vocalist near the end.
A Year From Today (Audio file updated 10/12/03)
Leo Reisman and His Orchestra 1929
I Found A Million Dollar Baby(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Don Voorhees' Orchestra 1931
This is from an old Hit Of The Week record. Hit Of The Weeks were one-sided laminated cardboard discs produced by the Durium Products Company. The records were issued weekly and were distributed through newsstands rather than conventional record dealers. The price: 15 cents. The records were an attempt to revive a record industry devastated by the Great Depression. Towards the end, the company was able to fit almost 5 minutes of music on a single side - almost twice the industry standard for 10 inch records. Durium was forced to close in 1932 - a victim of the same Depression that created it. At the time, many people could not spare even 15 cents for frivolities such as records, especially when one could hear the popular tunes of the day on the radio for free. The sound quality of these cheap cardboard records was suprisingly good - though most music critics today would dismiss the content of them as being "too commercial." One of the more interesting things about this particular record is the "promo" at the very end for next week's record. Unfortunately, my copy has a slight skip which makes it hard to understand the last line. I shall, therefore, reproduce it here: "At your newsstand next Thursday."
El Sombrero De Gaspar(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Xavier Cugat and His Waldorf Astoria Orchestra 1935
I enjoy a lot of the Latin recordings from the '30s - especially the Rhumbas.
East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Chick Bullock 1936
Bullock's was a very familiar voice on the various record labels owned by the American Record Corporation in the 1930s. In those days, he would have been paid a flat fee per side without any hope of royalties. I have read that Bullock was being considered for a movie contract in Hollywood when, one morning, he woke up and discovered that the white of one of his eyes had suddenly turned black.
Dinah(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Joe Venuti's Blue Four 1928
Joe Venuti is considered by many to be jazz's greatest violinist. He was also famous for his practical jokes. The guitar player on this is another jazz legend: Eddie Lang. I have several recordings that feature Venuti and Lang and will include them in future updates.
Turn On The Heat(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Horace Heidt and His Californians 1929
This is a nice and snappy number. I have a hard time sitting still when I listen to this one.
I Can't Get Started(Audio file updated 6/5/04)
Bunny Berigan and His Boys 1936
This was Berigan's theme song - appropriately, perhaps, considering his rather tragic life. Later, Berigan would record his much more well-known big band version of this song. I was always more or less indifferent to it until I came across this earlier version with a smaller group.