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Dismuke's Hit Of The Week
Previous Selections
January 2004

January 29, 2004

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Hexagon Hotel - Mineral Wells, Texas
Hexagon Hotel
Mineral Wells, Texas
(from circa 1910s postcard)


TaxiClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orchestra              1919
(Columbia  A2799 mx 78563)

CleoClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Yerkes Jazarimba Orchestra                      1919
(Columbia  A2799 mx 78599)

I'll Say She DoesClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Al Jolson, vocal                                        1918
(Columbia A2746 mx 78153)

Joseph Knecht's Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orchestra and Yerkes Jazarimba Orchestra were  two of the more popular dance orchestras on the Columbia label in the late 1910s.  Musically, the era was a transitional period when ragtime was on the verge of being replaced by jazz as the dominant force in American popular music.  It wasn't until about a half decade later when the jazz influence was more firmly entrenched that the arrangements featured on popular dance recordings became more complex and less repetitive.  Nevertheless, the dance orchestra recordings from the late 1910s were often quite cheerful and have a certain charm about them that, in contrast with our own day and age, is refreshingly quaint and innocent.

I don't have much biographical information about Joseph Knecht.  Harry Yerkes was a recording  pioneer who made xylophone, drum and handbell recordings as far back as the very early 1900s on both cylinder and disc records.  My guess is that "Jazarimba" was a compound word combining "jazz" and "marimba."  During the late 1910s and early 1920s Yerkes conducted bands for several labels under various pseudonyms.  Songwriter and 1930s era bandleader Ted Fio Rito got his start playing piano for Yerkes' Columbia recordings in 1919.

Unlike Joseph Knecht and Harry Yerkes, Al Jolson's name is still well known to modern audiences.  Jolson performed "I'll Say She Does" in his extremely successful 1918 Broadway hit Sinbad.  Unfortunately, my copy of this recording is not in the best of shape as evidenced by the rather loud "clicks" during the first 30 seconds caused a compact area of small pits in the record's surface.  I suspect these pits are the result of the record having been exposed at one time to a few drops of some sort of chemical. 

January 22, 2004

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by

Piedmont Hotel
Mineral Wells, Texas
(from 1910s postcard)


Haviland's Happy HitsClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Victor Orchestra                                   1911
(Victor 16963-A)

This is a medley of popular tunes from around 1910 and 1911 with one common denominator - they were all published by the F.B. Haviland Company, a major New York City music publishing firm in the early 1900s. 

The following songs are included in the medley: "Fussy Rag," "Somebody Else," "Honey Love," "That Was Before I Met You" and "That's The Fellow I Want To Get."    I only have composer information about two of the songs - "Fussy Rag" which was composed by Victor Smalley and "Honey Love" which was composed by Geo. W. Meyer and Jack Drislane. The medley was arranged by R.L. Halle.  I do not have any biographical information on Halle but he was a very prolific arranger during the 1910s.

January 15, 2004

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Hotel Statler, Boston, Mass

Hotel Statler
Boston, Massachusetts

One of Boston's newest and largest hotels, located in the Park Square district.  It contains 1300 rooms each with a bath and maintains the same high standard of Statler Service as do all the other hotels on the Statler chain.
(from circa 1920s postcard)

Visit the Hotel Statler's website



(Click on each image for larger view)

Rain On The RoofClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Mickey Alpert and His Orchestra             1932
(Columbia 2614-D mx 152104)

Auf Wiedersehen, My DearClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Mickey Alpert and His Orchestra             1932
(Columbia 2614-D mx 152105)

Sadly,  the Mickey Alpert Orchestra is best remembered for its presence at the scene of a tragedy which took place a decade after this week's selections were recorded. 

A few minutes after 10:00 PM on November 28, 1942,  the band was preparing to begin its second show of the evening at one of Boston's most popular nightclubs, the Cocoanut Grove, when fire broke out in the Melody Lounge located in the club's basement.   Despite a legal capacity limit of 600, the club was packed with 1,000 patrons, many of them servicemen on leave from World War II.  Because the ceiling of the Melody Lounge was decorated with highly flammable suspended fabric, the fire spread quickly across the ceiling and up a stairwell to the main ballroom on the first floor.  Alpert later said that he had just raised his baton to start the show with a playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" when the flames roared up from the basement and raced across the dance floor.  Many patrons were burned - but many others perished in the panic that ensued.  Exit doors were blocked or locked and many were trapped when the revolving doors at the club's entrance became jammed with the bodies of patrons crushed in the rush to escape.  492 people - including members of the Alpert band - perished in the disaster.   Mickey Alpert managed to escape by crawling through a basement window and was credited with saving several lives.  The club's owner was eventually sent to prison for his gross negligence in not following basic safety practices.  However, the corruption that was commonplace in big city governments in the Northeast at the time was undoubtedly a contributing factor as well.  Despite numerous fire hazards, the club passed a fire inspection only days earlier and the club's owner felt comfortable about code violations on grounds that he was "in with the Mayor."  The disaster is still ranks as the  worst nightclub fire in American history.  For those interested in learning more about the Cocoanut Grove fire, the Boston Globe's online archives has a rather in-depth article which was originally published on the tragedy's 50th anniversary. 

Note: A visitor to the website has informed me that, according to The Columbia Master Book Discography, the recordings  of "Rain On The Roof" and "Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear" by Mickey Alpert and His Orchestra were, in fact, recorded by the Ben Selvin Orchestra using the Mickey Alpert name as a recording pseudonym.  I have since found some online references to other Selvin recording sessions which were also done using the Mickey Alpert pseudonym.  I have not yet been able to learn exactly what connection, if any, the recording pseudonym has with the actual Mickey Alpert whose band was performing when the tragic 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire broke out in Boston.  My guess is that there probably was some sort of connection as it was not uncommon for recording pseudonyms to be based on actual names - often members of the band.  Unfortunately, there is little information available about Mickey Alpert beyond his presence at the Cocoanut Grove fire.  I am still trying to find out if he worked with the Selvin band in the early '30s or held some sort of position within Columbia Records which issued the recording.  I f I am able to uncover additiona information,, I will post it here.   I have also learned that the vocalist on these selection selections was Paul Small. 

January 8, 2004

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Hotel McCartney - Texarkana, Texas
Hotel McCartney
Texarkana, Texas
(from circa 1930s matchbook cover)

Vintage Bluebird Label


Mr. And Mrs. Is The NameClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
George Hall and the Hotel Taft Orchestra
Loretta Lee and Sonny Schuyler, vocal       1934
(Bluebird B-5709-B)

Flirtation WalkClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
George Hall and the Hotel Taft Orchestra
Sonny Schuyler, vocal                               1934
(Bluebird B-5709-A)

Both of this week's selections feature songs form the 1934 movie musical Flirtation Walk which starred Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.

The George Hall band was based in New York City where it enjoyed an eight year run at the Hotel Taft near Times Square.  During the mid-1930s the band received additional visibility though its recording contract with RCA's Bluebird label and through radio broadcasts.   The band also performed on the road, appearing mostly in the Middle West and South with occasional trips as far west as the Baker Hotel in Dallas and Elitch's Gardens in Denver.

Vocalist Loretta Lee, featured in the first selection, retired from the band in 1935 to become a homemaker. Her replacement was Dolly Dawn who eventually became the band's biggest draw.  In 1941, Hall decided to turn over leadership of the band to his vocalist and assume a behind the scenes roll as its manager.  The change took place in a highly publicized ceremony at New York's Roseland Ballroom and the band became known as Dolly Dawn and Her Dawn Patrol.  By 1942 operating the band became increasingly  difficult due to the wartime shortage of musicians on the home front and Dawn decided to give it up in favor of appearing in nightclubs as a solo act.

The Hotel Taft is still standing but the structure was significantly altered in recent years and now houses the Michelangelo Hotel.


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