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Dismuke's Hit Of The Week
Previous Selections
May 2003

May 29, 2003

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Atwater Kent Radio - 1925 Ad
(Click On Image For Larger View)
Atwater-Kent Radio
(from 1925 ad)


Wa Wa WaClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
The Savannah Syncopators                     1926
(Brunswick 3373-B)

Someday SweetheartClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
The Savannah Syncopators                     1926
(Brunswick 3373-A)

"Savannah Syncopators" was a recording pseudonym for the Dixie Syncopators, a band that jazz pioneer King Oliver took over from  Dave Peyton in 1925 after the break up of his famous Creole Jazz Band. 

In 1927, Oliver made the unfortunate decision to turn down a long term, high profile engagement at Harlem's Cotton Club.  The job was given to Duke Ellington and helped to propel him to superstar status.  From then on, Oliver's career and health went into decline.   In 1929,  The Dixie Syncopators was taken over by Oliver's pianist, Luis Russell.  By the mid 1930s,  the great pioneer of jazz who introduced Louis Armstrong to the world was largely forgotten.  For a while he earned his living operating a fruit stand in Savannah, Georgia.  At the time of his death in 1938, he was working as a janitor in a pool hall.

May 22, 2003

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
American Telephone & Telegraph Co - Click On Image For Larger View
(Click On Image For Larger View)
American Telephone And Telegraph Company
(from 1932 ad)

Maple Leaf RagClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Victor Arden - Phil Ohman, piano           1930
(Victor 22608-B)

Maple Leaf RagClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Earl Hines and His Orchestra                  1934
(Brunswick <British> 01995 mx C9463)

Thanks to a very successful revival in the 1973 film The Sting, many will recognize this Scott Joplin classic which dates back to around 1897. 

Joplin named the song after the Maple Leaf Club, a short-lived black social club in Sedalia, Missouri.   After being rejected by music publishers, "Maple Leaf Rag" was finally published in 1899.  The song became a best seller (In sheet music sales, that is. It wasn't until a few years later that the phonograph became a commonplace fixture in middle class parlors) and sparked a nationwide craze for ragtime compositions. 

Joplin continued to write ragtime music throughout the 1900s and into the 1910s.  Sadly, none of his works even began to approach the commercial success of "Maple Leaf Rag."  Joplin also wrote two ragtime inspired operas Guest of Honor in 1903 and Treemonisha which was copyright in 1911.   Guest of Honor was performed by a short-lived touring company financed by Joplin himself.  The production, however, was soon forced to break up when its box office receipts were stolen and Joplin was unable to meet payroll.  He never fully recovered from the financial loss. Unfortunately, the score to Guest of Honor  was never submitted to the Library of Congress and no known copy exists.

 Joplin's final years were spent in a constant but futile quest to secure financial backing for a production of Treemonisha.  It was not until 1975 that the opera was finally performed.  Joplin's  final year was spent enduring the mental and physical effects of syphilis.  He died in a mental hospital in 1917.

But while Joplin was largely forgotten by the time he died  and  the popularity of ragtime gave way to jazz during the early 1920s, "Maple Leaf Rag" continued to live on  and a number of recordings of it were made throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s by a variety of artists.

This week's first selection is performed by Victor Arden and Phil Ohman, a famous piano duo whose performances on piano rolls and records were popular during the late 1920s.  They also fronted their own dance band.

The second selection by Earl Hines and His Orchestra was originally issued in the US on Decca 218.   My copy, however, is the British release on the British Brunswick label and has an interesting history of its own.  On the label is a paper stamp indicating that it was first sold in Nazi Germany by Alberti, a very famous record store located near Berlin's Kurfürstendamm.  Alberti was a well known source for imported records frowned upon by Nazi officials.  In 1943, the store burned down after being closed by the Gestapo on grounds that it was selling the enemy's music.  Indeed, it was - as this recording of a song by a black American composer performed by an all black jazz band demonstrates!   More information on the store can be found at this website.


May 15, 2003

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
1923 Jell-o Ad
(from 1923 ad)

Back Where The Daffodils GrowClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Oriole Orchestra                               1924
(Brunswick 2769-B)

I promise that this recording is much better than the rather hokey sounding title might suggest.

The Oriole Orchestra was, in reality, the Russo-Fiorito Orchestra which was co-led by Dan Russo and Ted Fiorito.  Fiorito moved to Chicago to join Russo's band in 1921.  A year later Fiorito became co-conductor when the band opened in a high profile engagement at Detroit's Oriole Terrace nightclub.  Many of the band's recordings were made under the name of "The Oriole Terrace Orchestra" and "Russo & Fiorito's Oriole Orchestra."  In 1926, the band was chosen to open Chicago's famous Aragon Ballroom.  Russo left the band in 1928 but he apparently made some recordings on his own using the Oriole name as late as 1932.   During the 1930s,  Fiorito's band was in demand at major hotel ballrooms throughout the country and made a number of records for Brunswick and later Decca.  In 1932, future pin up girl Betty Grable joined the band as a vocalist and appeared with the band in the 1933 film "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi."  Fiorito stopped recording in 1942 but continued to lead bands, mostly  in Las Vegas, through the 1960s.

One of the things that helped Fiorito's bands was his talent as a songwriter.  He wrote over 100 songs including such hits as "Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye" "I Never Knew" "Lily of Laguna" and "Roll Along Prairie Moon."

May 8, 2003

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Chicago Rubber Tire Roller Skates
Chicago Rubber Tire Roller Skates
(from 1930 ad)

And Then Your Lips Met MineClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Cliff Roberts and His Orchestra
William Robyn, vocalist                    1930
(Romeo 1530-B mx 110312)

Here is a largely forgotten song that I think has a rather nice tune.  Its lyrics were written by bandleader and later television star Ozzie Nelson.  This record was recorded in late 1930 and released in early 1931.

The Cliff Roberts Orchestra made recordings in the late '20s and early '30s for Cameo and its affiliated Romeo label.  I suspect that it was a recording pseudonym - but I do not know for sure.  If anyone out there has information, let me know and I will publish it on next week's update.

Vocalist William Robyn made a number of recordings on Victor, Cameo and other labels mostly during the early 1920s.  His real name was William Rubin and he was born in 1894.  After his recording career ended, he performed for many years as a cantor in New York synagogues.  He died in 1996 at the age of 101.

5/9/03 - NOTE:  I had an errand to run  downtown today so I stopped by the library and looked at their copy of Brian Rust's hard-to-find American Dance Band Discography.  I was correct in assuming that "Cliff Roberts and His Orchestra" was not a real band but rather a recording pseudonym.   Most "Cliff Roberts" recordings were, in fact, the Lou Gold band - as was  the case with  this week's selection.  However, the Sam Lanin, Smith Ballew and Ted Wallace bands each made a small number of recordings using that pseudonym as well.   The use of the pseudonym started on Cameo and its subsidiary Romeo label - however, after Cameo's 1928 merger with Pathé, some of the Cliff Roberts material issued on Cameo/Romeo was also issued on the Perfect label, which had previously been Pathé subsidiary.  This week's selection was one such example and was also issued on Perfect 15404.  The exact recording date for the selection was December 9, 1930.

May 1, 2003

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
General Electric Electric Refrigerator - Click on image for larger view.
General Electric Refrigerator
Click On Image For Larger View
(from 1927 ad)


Hallelujah!Click on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
The Astorites                                          1927
(Harmony 412-H mx 144118)

Me And My ShadowClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
The Astorites 
Charles Hart, vocal                                  1927
(Harmony 412-H mx 144116)

The Astorites was a recording pseudonym for the Fred Rich Orchestra which played at New York's Hotel Astor from 1922-1928.  The Rich band was very prolific in the recording studio during the late 1920s and early 1930s recording under numerous pseudonyms, mostly for Columbia and its affiliated labels.

Both of this week's selections come from opposite sides of an old Harmony record.  Harmony was a bargain label issued by Columbia. Releases on Harmony were also issued on Columbia's other main bargain labels Velvet Tone and Diva.  While a lot of interesting stuff was issued on these labels, unfortunately, the technical quality was usually poor even for its day as most were recorded using the outdated acoustical equipment that Columbia had stopped using on its flagship label when it switched over to electrical recording in 1925.

New York's Hotel Astor (image) opened in 1904.  The hotel's roof garden, The Astor Roof, became one of America's best known dance band venues during the 1940s.  Sadly, the hotel closed in 1967 and was torn down and replaced by what I think is a rather ugly office building.


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