Our thoughts are in sync, Nick

by Coscannon

I almost posted my own excavation of Tram's pay scale the other day. Abandoned it as too long. Please bear with this new hastier version. It's even longer now.

Anyway, yes, yes! Tram's "ledger" isn't really a ledger. It's a cumulative tally of what he owes musicians by a certain date. These contingencies apply:
*Some musicians appear to have been paid more promptly than others.
*Some figures are running totals.
*Some reflect only the most recent session.
*Tram doesn't mention every participant every time (this is stated by Evans and Kiner)
*Sometimes, Evans and Kiner have typos.
*And some figures defy convenient explanation. I'll get to those later.

First: "John" is Charles Gaylord, vocalist, who (a) signed his checks as "John", and (b) was due $25 for the Oct 5 recording date, a date Evans & Kiner (on one page) claim was October 8. This is why I mentioned typos. On the previous page E & K fortunately gave the correct date of October 5. But I accept the figure of $25* to Gaylord. By the fall of 1928, $25 was Tram's minimum payment per session to any participant. Addt'l examples of minimum receivers, as noted: Rube Crozier, Charlie Margulis.

Second: I believe the $50 paid to Hall and the $50 paid to Leibrook represent total payment for both the Sept. 20 and Oct. 5 sessions. Each was due the $25 minimum per each recording session.

Third: I agree with you that Tram's pay scale can be fluky. If Tram was paying some substantial premiums, I don't know why Roy Bargy got only $30 per session. This goes straight to the heart of the mystery, as E & K state Hayton was the pianist on Oct 5. Utilizing E & K's discography, we would therefore infer that the crossed out $30 next to Bargy's name on the Oct. 5 "ledger" signifies payment made to Bargy for the Sept. 20 session only.

Fourth: Bill Rank's $100 likely represents two sessions @$50, Sept. 20 and Oct.5. That's a generous rate, considering Bargy got $30 for his Sept. 21 session. But I'm not the paymaster, so congratulations, Bill! The other possibility (which I have discarded) is that Rank's rate was $25 and reflects 4 sessions. But this would require Tram paying Rank for the Oct. 21 Bix and his Gang session (and why would he?) and also owing Rank $25 for the July 5 Chicago session. Unlikely. Hence $50 must be Rank's rate with Tram by the Fall of 1928.**

Fifth: By the Fall of 1928, Izzy Friedman was similarly getting $50 session, say E & K. That parallels Rank's rate. And so I reason: The "50" preceding the crossed out $75 next to Izzy's name indicates his rate was $50 while the payment made of $75 reflects $50 for the Oct. 5 session as well as $25 that had still been due for the Sept. 20 session.

IMPORTANT NOTE: $50 per session reflects a raise for Rank and Friedman since the Spring of 1928. For the April 3, 1928 session, Rank was due $23. E & K say Harold McDonald was due the same for that session. Yes, twenty-THREE dollars! Typos? Gambling debts? Money advanced to bellboys? Izzy Friedman, they assert, was due $20 for April 3. Fortunately for Izzy, by April 10, 1928, he was bumped up to a full $23! If that sum seems eccentric, Chet Hazlett was due $85 on April 10, which E & K claim reflects playing at both April recording sessions. At, should we infer, a rate of $42.50 apiece? Yet back on January 9, 1928, Hazlett was due only $30 for that session!

In the absence of holographic "ledger" pages for all these dates, I think there might be some misreading of figures by E & K, as well as Tram omitting some acknowledgment of advances or other extenuating factors. That was his option, obviously. He had no idea his notations would be explained, correctly or not, by E & K and then subsequently analyzed by me.

I don't think we should take Tram's note that he advanced Bix $15 as evidence that Tram was always as meticulous about extenuating factors. In my view, Tram includes that note for one very specific reason: After two sessions at the rate of $70 per session, Bix was the highest paid -- as indeed he deserved. But I observe that apart from his minimal advance, Bix was now the only one still UNpaid!

Like you, Nick, I don't understand the conclusive listing of Lennie Hayton as drummer on Sept. 20, when there is some doubt and possibly even derision of such an assertion in the statement:
"It is curious that Lennie Hayton was paid $50 but his instrument
is not listed. It has been suggested that he played drums in this
session. It has also been suggested that Smith Ballew was the
vocalist. He was not!"

IMO, "kits" indicates drum kits, not a drummer. The first letter of the mystery word I read as lower case and as "k". Tram's penmanship seems quite definitive regarding capital letters and, from angle and placement, "kits" seems an afterthought. Also consider that all other musicians, except for one, are listed by first name. I can't explain the sole exception of "Hall" except as a Satanic intrusion to ruin the perfection of my theory!

Finally, I'm not convinced Lennie Hayton is the mystery drummer, if he is the pianist on October 5 and the arranger of songs for other dates. I think the $100 represents an accumulation of assignments that don't include drummer duty on three different dates.

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*Gaylord's 2 just has a little curlicue on top. Perhaps Tram was writing in haste on a drum kit...

**(But not with Irving Mills, by way of addendum.)

Posted on Aug 30, 2015, 3:30 AM

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