Dismuke's Hit Of The Week
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February 2001

February 22

Oriental Moonlight          Right click to download to hard drive.
The Night Hawks                                1927
(Romeo 346-B)

 "The Night Hawks" were almost certainly not a real group but rather a record company assigned pseudonym  - perhaps inspired by the success of the Coon-Sanders Kansas City Nighthawks Orchestra on radio and on Victor Records.   The use of pseudonyms was a very common practice at the time, especially on  inexpensive "dime store" labels.  This recording is from an old Romeo record.  Romeos were primarily distributed through the S.H. Kress & Co , a large dime store chain.  Other dime store chains included McCrory's,  S.S. Kresge and, of course, F.W. Woolworth.  Such stores were fixtures in the downtowns of early 20th century American cities.  In addition to offering a large assortment of inexpensive mass produced merchandise, most stores had a record department where prospective buyers could sample the 78 rpm records.  With the demise of Woolworth a few years back, there are  few dime stores left.  The basic idea still lives on in today's discount stores - but there is no way that a visit to one of Wal-Mart's bland, utilitarian boxes can quite live up to the Art Deco splendor of a 1930s vintage Kress store or a snack at the Woolworth lunch counter.

February 15
Milenberg Joys      Right click to download to hard drive.
McKinney's Cotton Pickers                1928
(Bluebird 10954 - A )

Despite having a name that played on black stereotypes, McKinney's Cotton Pickers is considered by many to have been one of the best jazz bands of the late 1920s - and  justifiably so, in my opinion.   The band got its start in 1921 when William McKinney formed a trio in Springfield, Ohio.  For the next few years, the band was known as The Synco Jazz Band and McKinney's Syncos.  A major turning point  came in 1927 when Don Redman hired on as music director.  That same year, the band started being booked by Jean Goldkette.  A bandleader himself, Goldkette owned Detroit's Graystone Ballroom and booked bands throughout the Midwest.  It was Goldkette who came up with the "McKinney's Cotton Pickers" name.  The band was highly successful at the Graystone and on records.  In 1931, Don Redman left in order to form his own band.  He was replaced by Benny Carter, but he too left to start a band less than a year later.  The band continued, though less successfully, under McKinney well into the late 1930s.

The particular 78 rpm I took this from is a 1940 reissue.  The original 1928 release was on Victor 21611.

February 8
Rio Grande          Right click to download to hard drive.
Floyd Tillman And His Favorite Playboys      1941
(Decca 5960-A )

Why Do You Treat Me This Way        Right click to download to hard drive.
Floyd Tillman And His Favorite Playboys
Floyd Tillman, vocal                                    1941
(Decca 6090-B)

Every so often, I will feature more than one recording on my weekly updates in this section.

Early country recordings are a mixed bag in my opinion.  Many are  way too rustic for my taste.  On the other hand,  there are others that I really enjoy despite their frequently less than inspiring lyrics.  It is a musical genre that I have an interest in exploring  further but find somewhat difficult to do because of the necessity of sifting through the recordings that really do not appeal to me. 

Tillman is one artist whose recordings I generally do enjoy.  The son of sharecropper, he was born in Ryan, Oklahoma in 1914.  He played guitar and composed many of the songs he recorded.  He was the first major country singer to accompany himself  with an electric guitar.  He was inducted in the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1984.

I think "Rio Grande" is a fun record.  The sort of steel guitar effects heard on this  recording are one of the things I like most about early country music.   "Why Do You Treat Me This Way"  is one of Tillman's own compositions.  While he had a very definite regional "twang," I think he had an interesting vocal style.  So far as I know, Floyd Tillman is still alive as I write this and lives in Marble Falls, Texas.

February 1 
Grand Terrace Rhythm         Right click to download to hard drive.
Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra      1936
(Victor  25339-A )

Henderson various bands in the 1920s and 1930s helped launch the careers of many of the era's top black jazz musicians.  Henderson is regarded as one of the major influences behind what became known as Swing music.  Unfortunately, he was not as successful financially.  In 1935, Henderson disbanded and joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra as an arranger - one of the first instances in those days of segregation where a black musician was hired to join a "white" band.  Henderson's arrangements played a large part in the  band's triumphant success at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles that helped establish Goodman as "The King of Swing."  In 1936,  he left  Goodman  in order to form the band featured on this recording.  This group survived until 1939.  Henderson  remained active in the music business until 1950, when he was stricken by a severe stroke.  He died in 1952.

As you will hear on this recording, the Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman bands of the mid 1930s sounded very similar.

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