"Rhythm King" Redux

by Brad Kay

I was pretty sure this topic had been covered, just didn't know when. SO: the drummer I assumed it WASN'T, Hal MacDonald, actually wasn't George Marsh. I'm glad at least we got THAT settled.

Then, thanks to Nick and Albert, we sail right into controversy: the drummer might have been Lennie Hayton, or possibly Justin Ring. The preponderance of evidence favors Lennie. He was something of a free agent, playing timpani, harmonium, the third hand in the piano duet on "Louisiana," - and possibly the drums.

I listened to "In the Bottle Blues," and - sorry Nick! - THAT drummer is a Square from Delaware. He's mostly smack on the beat, barely holding the franchise by hitting on two and four. Otherwise, he can hardly keep up with his hipper colleagues. Justin Ring seems about right. Now, he might have been playing on the same actual drum kit that was used for the Bix sessions - you know: the OKeh House Drum Kit. I hear that same crash cymbal.

But - again - the "Rhythm King" guy was WILD! If it is Lennie Hayton, it is for me a hitherto undetected dimension of his musicianship, but one that I wouldn't put past him, given his overall skills. Evidently, there was more than a little George Wettling or Gene Krupa in him.

But leave us not sink into the mire of controversy. I was originally kvelling about the whole record of "Rhythm King," which taken entire, is marvellous, clearly the high point of the session. I think it's greater than the sum of its parts. The tune obviously inspired everyone. The Bix & his Gang record is really only half of the equation. Give a listen to the OTHER half, the Whiteman Rhythm Boys version on Columbia:


The lyrics - by Jo Trent! - flesh out this tale of intoxication, abandonment and Jazz Nirvana, clearly catnip for the musicians.

I am going to transfer my New copy of the Bix "Rhythm King" afresh for the Forumites. Stay tuned!


Posted on Aug 25, 2015, 12:54 PM

Respond to this message

Goto Forum Home