A vehicle for Bixophiles and other interested individuals to ask questions, make comments and exchange information about Bix Beiderbecke and related subjects.
Any views expressed in the Bixography Forum represent solely the opinions of those expressing them and are not necessarily endorsed or opposed by Albert Haim unless he has signed the message.
Nearly 83 years ago, on Monday 15th September 1930, with a fiery ensemble lead out on "Bessie Couldn't Help It", Bix bid his farewell to the Jazz Age, in which he had done so much to influence musicians, both black and white, around the world then and right on down to the present time. Although some of his colleagues on that day, among them Jack Teagarden, Bud Freeman, Jimmy Dorsey, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang and of course Hoagy himself were destined to continue to go on to greater things, for Bix it was the end of his recording career, which had lasted for just over six years. Listening to his hot playing on that lead out on "Bessie", it's unlikely that he had any kind of premonition that this was to be his last time in the recording studio, yet he sounds determined in going out in a blaze of glory.
Coming from a non-jazz background from a white middle class family out there in the Iowa corn country, makes his story all the more incredible. Bix fan Artie Shaw said it's difficult to create anything new in music because it's all been done already. Yet Bix did it with those notes he played along with that unique tone of his. Thankfully for us many of those notes were saved on wax (including Bessie!) for all time to captivate us today. The many readers and contributors to this Forum illustrates just how greatly he is revered by so many, both in the USA and abroad.
I still hate it. As I have another day off today, I stayed up late last night for the Memory Entertainment Television channel's "oldies", and the 1959-1960 Untouchables crime program is just as loathsomely inaccurate as always. What IS it with the 1950's and early 1960's television and film productions getting nowhere NEAR to how people appeared in the 1920's-early 30's, when just about everyone around from those times were not only still alive, but a lot of them were only approaching middle age and certainly had clear, accurate memories of their youth during that era? Nearly of the the people researching, writing, and costuming that show had to be at least around that age of remembering "how things really were", if not older, and would be able to advise on accuracy, wouldn't we think?
Then there's having to endure Walter Winchell's shrill yapping narration -- I know it was the typical "snappy" sound of radio announcers in the 1930's and he was a very big name in those days, but he sounds like someone's pet poodle barking at the screen door at the newspaper delivery boy, not a newspaper columnist with a radio segment. While he screams the plot development in the background, actually overriding the soundtrack music, viewers are subjected to 1950's-coiffured "dames" in sparkling mid-calf contemporary dresses ineptly breathing their lines as they attempt to play the gangster's molls and widows. The ONLY thing which looks like "1932", when last night's action supposedly took place following Capone's incarceration in May of that year, were of course the cars, some of the room decor, and vaugely the pinstriped suits and fedora hats of the men. Even the very action of the program remains implausible -- the way the mobsters confront their rivals and the police -- watch any move from the early '30's or any newsreel from those times and their gun battles were much diffrently enacted and probably much closer to the truth -- I honestly think any circa 1960 TV show or movie is much more old fashioned and hammy than any Pre-Code film of 30 years previously.
I know people grumble that the 1987-88 film version of The Untouchables has inaccuracies and implausibility (Elliott Ness was not a married man with a child in 1930, for one thing) but at least they tried to have everything look like tired, shabby, early-Depression Chicago contrasted with the filthy rich big-shot gangsters in their fancy hotel rooms -- a cop on barely liveable wages winds up his old acoustic Victrola to play an opera record; the little girl about to be blown up in the gangster-exploded speakeasy came to fill a "growler" can with Prohibition beer for her family; not only the cars and men's suits, but the hats and dresses and hairstyles of the women reflected accurate attire and fashion of 1930-31. And in color, it's effective and appears real. Then there's this sleazy black-and-white film stock of a 1959 TV show noisily clanging with cheap fake non-period canned music (sometimes they attempt a blaring modern "Dixieland" sound in a couple of segments, but usually not); glittering with sequined party gowns, pale lipstick, false eyelashes, and helmets of sprayed bouffant hair of 1959; cheaply ineffectual comic book swaggering of "the bad guys", and gloomy Robert Stack, who resembled a corpse and spoke like one, morosely creeping through his role as the agent out to save the day.
I'm not gonna watch this show on Me TV again. . . .
Boardwalk Empire: a series with authentic recreations.
Don't waste time with some old TV shows that claim to bring you back to the 20s or 30s. Enjoy the superb "Boardwalk Empire" with settings, costumes, music, etc. that faithfully recreate the 1920s.
The Emmy-nominated Boardwalk Empire returns for Season 4 on Sunday, September 8th at 6 p.m./ 9 p.m. only on HBO. I'll be watching.
Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks won a GRAMMY in the 54th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for their work on BOARDWALK EMPIRE Volume 1 Music from the HBO Original Series CD.
--I agree, Albert. Richard and I have cut down our expensive cable service and we never did get HBO, but I do enjoy looking at Boardwalk Empire episodes on YouTube. It quite gives the feel of the era.
And really, despite little mistakes, anachronisms, inaccuracies here and there, both TV and major film movies from the late 1970's onward more carefully endeavored to be authentic in their historical/period dramas -- I can name lots of movies especially from the 1980's and 1990's about gangsters, the Depression, the jazz age and so forth, which even to this day hold up rather well and seem more believable than the circa 1960 crap. They tried to portray as realistic a portrait of the era as they were capable of; indeed, they often did better than movies currently do right now. Think of 1973's "Dillinger"; 1987's "Hoodlum" 1984's "The Cotton Club" and films like Once Upon a Time in America, and the three Godfather films from 1972 onward. Of course the music in 1973's "The Sting" was all wrong, very wrong, using 1910 Scott Joplin rags in 1936 Chicago and Joilet, Illinois. But they were at least plausible in appearance, slang, cars, gambling on a train trip and setting up an elaborate fake casino for the protagnoists to revenge themselves on the gangster who killed the grifter buddy.
I feel like looking up more old movies, at that. . . . really, nothing beats the classic old films of the actual era, especially in 1931 -- the Public Enemy, Scarface, Little Caesar, the Secret Six, but movies of 10, 20, 30 years ago DID try to expertly capture the "look" of the times. . .
We've discussed this issue before, and I've noticed the same absence of effort at costuming or set design in episodes set in the 1920s from The Glenn Miller Story on YouTube. They threw in one or two items to suggest the period, and that was it! It's almost as if the designers were afraid of looking out-of-fashion or "old-timey," choosing 1950s style suits for men, women's hairstyles, and sets. I think everyone was trying desperately to be "modern" in those days, and the movies were afraid to look out of date to the average movie goer's eyes. As Laura points out, it hadn't really been long ago for people in the fifties.
Re: I tried watching The Untouchables old TV show --
by Joe Mosbrook
I believe there is more creativity in Laura's writing than there was in the old TV show.
I remember Walter Winchell once saying he would not go to the bathroom before his radio program because he wanted more excitement in his delivery.
Didja miss something in my tirade somewhere? I just don't like the show because it's not at all accurate and Walter Winchell sounds like he's sitting on a lit bomb. Do YOU think the actors on that program look like they are in the 1920's?
Oh Joe, thanks so much for the compliment and the hearty guffaw I had! I'm just imaginging Walter Winchell squirming around as he shrills his overwrought commentary --
And Glenda, good point, 1950's productions seemed somehow afraid of not looking modern, but it utterly takes away from the story and any audience realistically and believeably getting into the atmosphere. Glenn Miller Story and Gene Krupa Story, as we've had in the other disucssions here on Bixography, just looked like another contemporary 1950's show.
I often wonder if the people who'd been, not only kids, but grown young adults fully immersed in day-to-day life, fashion, and music of the 1920's, out in the working world and paying attention to current events of the era, were disappointed at the movie and television depictions of those times, during the 1950's and 60's?
My mom was in her early teens in the mid to late 1940's, and a couple of times during a 1970's TV movie about civilian life during WWII and so forth, she'd object, "Girls didn't wear their hair long and straight like that back then!" or some other such criticism (yeah, there still was a lot on TV that "didn't get it right" during the 1970's -- the modern slang they used on "Little House on the Prairie"; the faux ambience of "Happy Days" which was supposed to take place during the 1950's but despite the fashions felt like it was right in the middle of 1975)-- she was able to point out things that looked wrong or weren't done or hadn't been invented yet. She and my dad even found some visual inaccuracies in the hilarious 1983 movie "A Christmas Story" set in the postwar 40's and filmed in Cleveland.
For what it's worth, I watched The Untouchables when it was a new show on tv in the late 1950's. It was very popular among
both adults and kids. The focus of the show was the melodrama, not authentic history. We loved the cat and mouse game played by Elliott Ness, not his clothing, and the adults, well, they already knew the late 1920's, having lived through the period. What was most interesting was that you could see this stuff on your "big" 17-inch black and white tv set, that is IF you owned a new one. The authentic cars in the shows were flavoring enough.
Tv in those days could be an adventure. I don't think authenticity was too important when your tv screen was small, b&w, the sound often tinny, and your roof antenna didn't always remove the ghosts from the image edges. It was all about the story; that did come thru the haze.
When you see these shows today--you see them much larger and clearer then we ever did in 1959--so the shortcoming are much more obvious (as are the stagey lighting shadows and make-up lines on faces)!
When I watch an old tv show from 1958 or 1963, I try to remember the times in which it was broadcast. Who didn't take a bag of vacuum tubes from the old tv down to the auto parts store to check them a clunky test-machine? So, the science of the "Outer Limits" was overwhelming to me in 1963. Today I can see its plywood and cardboard sets, as major flaws. But I try to remember, this was one year past the "Cuban Missle Crisis" and we were also newly orbiting the earth. The idea of little puppet people from Mars seemed so much more exciting and plausible back then. From that perspective, the shows still work--often very well.
Likewise, when I listen to Bix Beiderbecke and his friends, I try to place myself in the era. To know Bix playing in 1927 was to know the mechanical world of ice boxes and wringer-washers, sleeping on the stoop in summer, outhouses, and cars that broke down every 100 miles. Everyone had bad teeth (tough on horn players). To think that this music(still so fresh sounding), was created at that time and played in homes that may have had only one room with electricity, no radio, and with crank up phonographs, makes it all the more amazing!
There was a machine in our corner drugstore. This was around 1966-67.
Well, since the "old days" weren't THAT far-off to 1958-1963 audiences, what would it have hurt to have had a little more authenticity? I'm not grumbling just about the clothes, but the hammy unreal acting and emotional misrepresentation of the times -- again, I say this because having seen circa 1930 newsreels and well as movies; read the books, magazines, and newspaper articles immediately contemporary to the times; and yes, some years ago spoken to some elderly people who'd been around back then, there was definitely an overwrought, "1950's" sort of style and idealogy to the presentation of the televised story concerning early Depression gangster antics. It just doesn't strike that real note. I say the same thing about some of the goofy stuff on TV when I was a kid during the 1970's -- Happy Days sounded and sometimes looked like jr. high school kids putting on a play in 1975, the studio audience screeching over Fonzie and so forth.
And geez, Robert Stack as Eliot Ness EXCITING? His toneless declarations, gloomily expressionless face, and cardboard exertions as he "goes after the bad guys" made me chuckle! I have this video of a godawful 1964 movie where he's the head doctor and administrative superintendent of a mental hospital, and it's such a howl, no matter WHAT goes on amid the violently disturbed patients and nasty nurses and corrupt, vicious attendents, that morose cardboard cut-out of a non-actor just groans his scepural lines like a propped-up cadaver. Most hilarious of all is Joan Crawford as the leotard-clad acerbic head nurse who wants to teach the staff "self defense" against "these insane creatures who must be kept in line and taught to OBEY!" She chews up enough scenery for the rest of the cast, including Polly Bergen. Her luridly painted-on eyebrows appear to have minds of their own.
Well, anyway, the Desilu production company could have just gotten into someone's old trunk in the closet and gotten real costumes for Untouchables, right? Even though the Technicolor was a little queasily seasicky for 1952's Singing in the Rain, they DID have authentic costumes and believably "acted like 1920's people" from the hilariously whining-voiced, spoiled silent screen diva down to the chorine dancers. It was fun.
This chat reminds me that the guiding principle behind ALL cultural developments in America for most of the 20th century was PROGRESS. I.e., "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better." Until the late '60s, being "Up To Date" or "Modern" took precedence over any other concept. To call a song, a play, a movie or a book "old fashioned" was to pan it. This was extremely so in the '20s, when the pace of change was white-hot. Last year's dance hit was considered prehistoric.
Just today, on TCM, I caught a few minutes of a 1931 Vitaphone short that made fun of "old" silent movies. They were edited to look as goofy as possible, were played at about double the correct projection speed, and overlaid with snarky narration and sound effects to drive home just how quaint and silly they were. These films were no more than ten years old at the time.
Even when the past was depicted in song or story, it had to be done in contemporary style, or risk scorn. It was unthinkable for a creative artist or musician to revert to his earlier manner. Consider Johnny Dodds, whose clarinet playing and small group records practically defined hot south-side Chicago jazz in the late '20s. When he returned to recording in 1938 after a nine year hiatus, his bandmates were not his old peeps, but Charlie Shavers, Teddy Bunn, Lil Armstrong, John Kirby and O'Neill Spencer. They all, including Dodds himself, were pursuing an up-to-the-minute "swing" approach. It didn't matter that they were reviving old favorites like "Wild Man Blues" and "Melancholy." These versions were aimed at the Now Crowd of 1938. If the A&R guy had said that the 1927 record was a "classic" and insisted that the music be played exactly as back then, ALL these musicians would have felt bewildered and maybe insulted.
This thinking still prevailed in 1959 when "The Untouchables" was produced. The show had to evoke the '20s, but in the usual "up to date" way. Its "20s" music sounds exactly like the "20s" music in Some Like it Hot. It's all "20s" music from 1959. Sorry Glenda and Laura, but scrupulous adherence to historical style simply wasn't done. Even the beloved Singin' in the Rain, great as it is, looks and sounds like a picture from 1952.
It was only after ca. 1970 that this mindset began to change, and "progress" began to disappear. A cultural revolution had done away with the old music and picture business, not to mention manners and morals. Coincidentally, there was a shift in attitude toward historic music and fashions in the movies. What had been "old fashioned" or "quaint" suddenly became "classic," and was treated more respectfully.
Poor Vince and his orchestra would be busking on street corners today if that hadn't happened.
Thanks for backing me up on the premise of my first comment, Brad. Because the present is the only time in which we actually exist, right now seems the real time against which we compare things from the past. (Cf. teenagers for an example of that extreme view, when a 'phone from 2010 may be regarded as pathetically passé.)
You're right about the mindset of 1950s and 1960s movies and television, wanting to use a "colorful" period as the starting point, but not wanting to jar that immediate "modern" consciousness of their viewers with outdated clothing styles, music which sounds too different, or, god forbid, antiquated views, unless they are being played for comedic value (e.g. the "Flintstones" cartoon or "The Beverly Hillbillies").
But when it comes to time periods since the World War I era, we have film, almost endless numbers of photos, newspapers, countless pieces of literature, from best-selling novels to personal diaries and letters, and of course recordings and musical arrangements, now thanks to the internet, fairly accessible, a lot of it almost instantly. As you suggest, the result is that we know, or can know, a lot more about that post-1918 world, and a few iffy costumes, cars roughly from the same decade, cardboard sets and vaguely "old-timey" music in the background just don't satisfy.
What does this have to do with Bix? Well, this instant availability of music, in particular, means that all recorded music is now contemporary. When I was a young teenager first buying records, Bix's music was little more than a couple of decades in the past, a lifetime for me; when my grandchildren listen to mp3s of the Beatles, they are hearing music that is five decades in the past, but because it is available in the same format and from the same sources as all other music, it is just as fresh and NOW as today's top 50 when it enters their ears. Because of the ability to move back and forth in time musically (and otherwise), it seems fair to criticize soundtracks and settings in current movies and television. Anybody with a "device" and 99 cents can download a Bix tune and hear it the way it sounded on the day he went into the studio. That experience is no longer esoteric. There's no need for pale substitutes for the real thing.
BTW, when I saw "Singin' in the Rain" as a kid, I'm sure I thought it was about 1952! And that might, as you hint, have been by design. By that time, filmmakers probably were thinking of a product for a wide audience, in time as well as geography. Going for the "mo-derne" gloss made sense to them then, but we can only hope that viewers are perhaps more sophisticated now and recognize an anachronism when they see and hear it.
We do have the ability to move into any era today--its amazing to go to youtube and pull up a record or film clip I might have searched for, for half a lifetime. Yet if you go to many youtube videos--such as classic dance scenes from Fred Astaire films--you will see that they have had VERY FEW views.
Most young people will not even click a few times to find this endless repository of culture. They have no interest. Such is our education system...and sad to say...their addle-brained baby boomer parents and grandparents. The (we) baby boomers never appreciated our parents culture, and so now we worship 70-year old rockers shoe-horned into tight leather pants, who still gyrate on stage like advanced Parkinson's patients. This ends badly. Rock and roll has no graceful path to old age.
Great explanation, Brad. I can see the "why" and grope to understand it, although I do find it disagreeable in its -- well, perhaps "its being reprehensible" can be softened to "reprehensible to me" -- I just cannot help but feel as if I am losing my equalibrium when I view historic/timely popular vintage TV shows about the "olden days" and painfully realize just how far off the mark they were in authenticity. And it isn't really "post 1970's" TV and movies which have spoiled or jaded me -- you saw my whining about Happy Days and so forth being more about the 1970's than about the 1950's; the same can be said for TV Westerns (The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, the quasi-Western Little House on the Prairie -- they were no more about, nor did they visually represent, the 1880's than going into a Wal-Mart of today.
And yes, the songs, glaringly overwrought color, and other details for sharp eyes did indeed make Singing in the Rain a 1952 movie, but WITHIN the parameters -- unrealistic and historically inaccurate as they are represented as being "the dawn of talkies" circa 1928-29 -- are little gems which divulge to us that there were some people working on the film set who "remembered when": the whining prima donna film star no one dared to say "no" to; the hilariously mocked up "example" of an early soundie: "Hel-lo. You are viewing a tal-king pict-chuh," as the cameria reels in sickening close-up to a wrinkled, rotting-toothed, mustached old geezer announcing this new specialty in film [pace the quite successful DeForest experiments of 1923); even the use of a 1929 song hit Singing in the Rain revamped to 1952 sensibilities. Yes, some things were very much off, annoyingly so, but they weren't gratingly, maddeningly stupid and wrong -- the premise was played up affectionately and nostalgically, not the totally off the wall cheap vulgarity of The Untouchables with two molls in 1959 cocktail dresses arm-wrestling as a gangster boss leeringly eggs them on. There was no excuse for cheap cardboard sets and stupidly wrong costumes from a TV a production company which had the money to do better.
I guess the backing to my rant is simply owning plenty of books, news periodicals, magazines and videos of old movies from that era to maintain there was no excuse, then or now. I mean, did a pre-teen in 1925 reading a book by Howard Pyle like Men of Iron have to eschew Pyle's own illustrations of medieval times to have the characters portrayed in drawings depicting them as collegiate sheiks and flappers? I should think not. Same with silent films and stage plays -- dramas presented in historical costume were for the most part methodically researched and at least fairly accurately portrayed, not cheesed up in blatantly wrong "contemporary" dress. Of course a lot of stupidity abounded in the very early talkie era -- Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene appallingly rendered, in every sense of the word, using modern slang, for example. And I've seen lots of those TCM 1931 shorts where the shrill narrator contemptuously dismisses the one-or-two-decades old silent "flickers" as so much unwatchable garbage because they were MADE to look so by crude 1931 reproduction. So, yes, I get the point, but the "modernization" to slake the supposed demands of so-called discerning audiences were and are an insult and a shame. Universally being told: "You folks shouldn't like this because it's outdated, silly, old fashioned," and then trying to show an historical specific in modern dress with matching language and sensibilites simply ruins it. So, I guess to our distress, media ruining the pleasure of enjoying "old" entertainment is never going to go out of style!
The real subject under discussion is the paradigm shift about our history that took place nationally around 1970. There's no cause to be upset because TV and film producers of the '50s and '60s and into the '70s didn't "get it" about their past, when there was no "it" for them to "get." It didn't matter that these very producers had lived through the '10s and '20s, could remember every detail and had all the materials to confirm them. All they cared about was creating a product that spoke to the present day, a product that was up-to-the-minute and maybe a step ahead of the competition.
It's a double-edged sword, Laura. All the stuff we love from the '20s also was heedless of the past and in no way concerned itself with re-creating anything. Had you been around in 1927, would you have been unhappy with the Trumbauer OKeh of "Riverboat Shuffle" because it completely ignored the style and pacing of the Wolverines Gennett? To those guys - Bix especially - that 1924 record was ancient history, a quaint relic of the past. We love the '27 "Riverboat" exactly because it's so shiny, bursting with originality, and, gathering no moss, re-creates NOTHING. We also love the '24 record for the same reason. But those musicians would have laughed us out the room for having such ideas.
Again, this "progressive" mindset prevailed throughout the country in every field of endeavor for decades. It was practically Holy Writ. No one questioned it. Today we think it horrible and barbaric that movie studios periodically dumped or burned their old negatives and prints to make room in the warehouse. But at the time, it was unthinkable to keep a lot of old film around that had had its run, was hopelessly out-of-date, had no commercial value.
This mindset survived in people I have known who lived through the '20s and were active into their 90s and 100s; a few even alive today. Reliving the past was NOT on their agenda. It was all about what's next and how are you? I interviewed some of them for various historical projects, and they were very nice about remembering, but only because they liked me and wanted to help me out. One fellow who preferred NEVER to be reminded that he created some of the finest music of the late '20s and early '30s was Benny Carter. When confronted with one of his early records, he actually recoiled in chagrin, hating to acknowledge that his career went back so far. Where's the next gig? - was the only question on his mind.
I digress. But speaking as a time-traveller, for certifiable verisimilitude, one must visit the actual era of concern, not some other time purporting to depict it. Accept no substitutes. Take it from one who was there: Those Hollywood movies about ancient Greece and Rome are a MILLION times more inaccurate than any filmic re-creation of the '20s.
This has been a worthwhile discussion on a facet of the larger theme "What Is Time?" Brad Kay's remarks on media are particularly insightful. I was thinking only today, on the eighty-third anniversary of the recordings of Bix Beiderbecke and His Orchestra, how clearly into the swing era Bix was moving at that moment in time. Say what we will about his wonderful, bel canto, hot style in all those cherished earlier recordings, he had moved on, too. (Like Benny Carter, he was reported as deriding his old stuff.) In recordings such as "I Like That" and "Raising the Roof" with Trumbauer, they both were turning the page, and in Bix's work after he left Whiteman, he did nothing in the style of "Lazy Daddy" or "Toddlin' Blues." That's just what people, especially creative people, do.
But we don't need to gnash our teeth, Laura! It's all still out there for us. We can listen to "Fidgety Feet" and "Georgia on My Mind" in sequence and enjoy them both. We can go back and find almost anything we want to revisit from the past as it was if we choose. Unlike people in earlier eras, we can travel back and forth in time in our minds. As I've said to those lame kids who proclaimed that they knew all about "it" (e.g. World War II or Harry Potter) because they "saw the movie," my advice was "Read the book. It's way better." We can't expect movies and television shows to do it all for us if we want to know what it was really like back then. The trouble is, as Laura points out, the more we know about something, the less movies and television satisfy!
Again, I stress that your explanations are very on the mark and thoughtful. Of course I see your point,as well as Glenda's, and Joe's, etc., but I am going to maintain my opinion about how I feel about viewing relics and their portrayal of previous relics.
I'm truly less riled or upset, as you term it, then I am disappointed and disgustedly amused -- the eye-rolling, "Oh boy, here they go again," when something flits across the TV screen or they bring out the new Great Gatsby movie with rap music. I'm not curled up in a huddle on the living room floor sobbing in frustrated rage at the enormity of it all. It's less disturbing than it is just plain annoying to many of us. Especially when production companies have the funds to do much better, and hopefully audiences have been exposed to, or have access to, enough visual historical perspective to recognize someting being inauthentic.
Look at the TV series about the Tudors. Laughably inaccurate from a historical viewpoint, but it's a damned good-looking production! :D
Re: Not Riled (or Roiled, to be historically accurate!)
"Laughably inaccurate from a historical viewpoint, but it's a damned good-looking production!" Yeah, that's about right, Laura. I'll bet that's what the producers of "Singing in the Rain" said at its screening, too!
It is true that popular media of the early 20th century (and the people who consumed it) tended to be more future-oriented than backward-looking, but there were exceptions. Ulysses "Jim" Walsh was already interviewing and gathering data on pioneer recording artists during the 1920s and 30s (when many were still alive)--and he never showed much inclination toward newer recordings or younger artists. He was profiled in the Saturday Evening Post in 1939 as a "platterbug".
Rudolph Valentino had quite a revival around 1937-38, when THE SHEIK and SON OF THE SHEIK were reissued. Life magazine, in its hubris-filled way, expressed amazement that Rudy could still draw crowds, but draw them he did.
In a different vein, dozens upon dozens of "nostalgia" musicals were produced from about 1938 to the mid-1950s. Some of them made superficial attempts at accurate costumes and music, although the ones that dealt with show business figures rarely had plausible chronologies--NIGHT AND DAY features "You Do Something to Me" being introduced at the time the Lusitania was sunk, for example. Few people other than specialists would have noticed these detailed errors, although it was sometimes acknowledged in the press that these films had little to do with reality.
The other night a local station in Philadelphia ran the early 1970's movie: "Lady Sings The Blues." Aside form the cheesy production values and unimaginative soap opera plot, Diana Ross and the director really made a hash out of Billie Holiday's music. No feeling for Billie or the era at all. A fairly popular film and soundtrack in its day--but to me, a disaster.
Richard's comments just underline the point of this whole thread. Here was a potential story of a complex human being, an American story that spanned the whole roiling midcentury scene with many contemporaries still alive and performing, and some great possibilities to showcase music from the early 1930s on.
I know, wasn't that movie appalling? I've certainly liked other movies Diana Ross was in -- she did a magnificent TV movie some 19 years ago about a schizophrenic woman which was a very fine performance -- but Lady Sings the Blues was all about 1972, retro fashion, and trying to drum up shocking sensationalism in Billie Holiday's pathetic substance abuse troubles. It utterly missed the point musically, and did little or nothing to actually depict Billie's brilliant talent.
While thinking on this, I was contemplating other reknown female African-American singing artists of many years past, and it occurred to me that no one in all these decades ever attempted to do a biopic on blues pioneer Bessie Smith -- of course it could not be thought of in the racist, segregated film world pre-1950, and thank God they didn't do one later because of course they would have ruined the biography entirely (and cast Lena Horne or Dorothy Dandridge as Bessie, mayhap?) --it would have been a spic-and-span polished, light-skinned, astringent affair all around, but one would think sometime after 1990 an individual somewhere would have definitely seen the story in Bessie Smith's rise to the top during the early 1920's, she being among the first making acoustic blues recordings in a studio (and not being paid the royalties she should have!); the scary misadventures over-riding omnipresent Ku Klux Klan threats while performing in the deep South; her artistry taking her to New York to be the toast of Harlem, and her contemptuous disregard for the Van Vechtens' obsequious fawning while she was performing at their salon parties ("I never HEARD of such s---!")
In short, this was a fascinating woman who briefly -- well, for nearly a decade, at least until 1929 with a blip of comeback at 1934 -- was queen of her world, the world of the blues and the early jazz age. She needs to be realistically portrayed with all of the traits a pre-1960's movie would have shied away from in horror: often crudely earthy and sometimes violent as an outspoken woman; bisexual; a heavy drinker with a penchant for reefer and coke as well, and finally, her tragic demise in an auto wreck in 1937 when she was getting back on her feet and making a comeback after near obscurity when the Swing era hit. I know there's the play (and it's not a good one) about the death of Bessie Smith and racist indifference preventing her getting into a segregated hospital in order to save her life (she was a dying woman on the road already, her arm cut off and bleeding to death even before an ambulance could arrive) but only think of someone seriously tackling a spectacular movie version earnestly attempting to be authentic -- what a blues soundtrack; what musicianship -- good Lord, even if they had to DUB the old recordings (um, would that work? I suspect not), or else a singer not too much compromising that hearty, boomingly beautiful voice onto a big-and-beautiful currently popular star (Hollywood would pick Queen Latifah or someone, but she WOULD be better than some skinny reality show teenybopper) -- if they "got it right" or NEARLY right with the ambience and fashion (as much as her fabulous singing, Bessie WAS all about dressing up!) and 1920's Harlem and the South. . ..
But we know, it's never going to be done, or if ever attempted, would be so hideously off the mark. . ..
I think a lot of us are either Ethel Waters people or Bessie Smith people, in terms of vocal and style preference of the 1920's blues divas -- we've read that Bix preferred Ethel Waters and even mentioned it in discussion to his girlfriend Ruth, but then there's also the story of him listening, rapt, while Bessie Smith performed in a Harlem club and from his table Bix tossed money to keep her singing all night (it is true, or just another Bix or Bessie legend?). I'm definitely a Bessie person in preferring her big rich roaring voice and out-there style -- everything from Haunted House Blue to Gimme a Pigfoot. And her 1929 film short! Was there ANYTHING like St. Louis Blues? Go watch it on You Tube --
If I were making a movie about Bessie Smith today, there's no doubt whom I would cast: Queen Latifah, both playing her on screen and doing the vocals. She's the right "type" both physically and vocally, and she's already proved in the film "Chicago" that she can act credibly in a story set in the 1920's.
I really like Queen Latifah too -- she carries herself so well and is robustly lovely, never tried to struggle to skinniness (or stopped doing so) to fit into the expectations for a modern-day performer. I never felt she compromised herself in any movie roles, and singing in the movie "Chicago" -- I'd forgotten about that! Then this would be an ideal movie role for her -- wigs and a little darker makeup -- can you see her in those glamorous 1920's fashions and hear her now? She'd be a fine Bessie and if we could only enjoy historical accuracy and period authenticity in the movie itself, and the duty and purpose of the film would be to, as well as delightfully entertain, REALLY show the era in the black entertainment world of the TOBA circuit and the Harlem cabaret, the culture at large when the Columbia recording company signed her up and the white patrons of popular clubs got to experience this artist. It'd be a hell of a movie if it could be done right.
And yes, yes, yes, there IS the capacity -- if a medium-budget Public Television venue like American Masterpieces in 1976 could completely extend credibility and "you are there" believability in their production of "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" -- nothing to me screamed that it WASN'T 1923 when I watched it, both as a teenager when it was first broadcast and not now as a seasoned old grumpy owning a video copy -- then the movies could have a spectacular Bessie Smith biopic with a little research and effort!
I think the record cutting machine is pretty cool -- looks like the real thing, but I'm no expert. The band plays the tune a little too swingy for the time. I think it's some of the Bob Cats, so what can you do?
It seems like they were trying hard to render a decent sketch of the time and place, especially the difficulties of making a record. I gotta give them some credit.
Yeah, if this is representing the late 1920's -- I scooted the video ahead because it sat on the blue title section forever so I didn't get what date they were attempting to depict -- it didn't look any phony or inaccurate to me from what I have read about descriptions of making 78 records, especially in the "early electric" days of 1926-1933.
Heh heh, and it's a little easier to make 1950's men look like the jazz age era (although the actors always part their hair on the side and not the middle or off-center!) -- put 'em in bow ties and slick their hair back with pomade and they look pretty right. But I agree the band seemed just a little too polished-sounding and jauntily Dixieland a la any 1950's nostalgia LP with a modern house band, not the rough-edged attempt at the "Hot" sound or emulating black jazz (and they were not trying to sound "Sweet" like a lot of the white dance-band artists of the day; we all know that kind of blurry timbre and lack of swinging when a sweet tune was played.
The clip is not too far afield from recording in the late 20s, although wax blanks were much thicker than what's depicted here, as you can see at about :23 in the following clip:
Also, one would think that brushing away the cut wax, as depicted in "Pete Kelly's Blues", could damage the sections that have already been recorded. In SWEETHEARTS from 1938, the cut portion is seen gathering in the middle of the blank (Yes, I know they're wearing band uniforms at a recording session and how silly that would be in real life.):
Cutting machines for aluminum-coated lacquer discs eliminated this problem by using a small vacuum that removed the cut lacquer.
Harold, I think you're right about the cut wax accumulating in the middle of the disk as it records. It seems as if brushing the wax off the disk would mess up the grooves just cut and also might slow down the turning of the disk enough to alter pitch.
When I was very young a local department store had a promo in which each purchaser of pair of children's shoes could have a disk cut of the child performing. We went into a little sound booth with a recording machine which used a small white cardboard disk covered in a thin layer of white wax which spun up around the spindle as it was recorded, just as you suggested. I still have two (probably unplayable) disks, one of me belting out "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah!"
"South Rampart Street Parade"--which of course wasn't written until several years after the events depicted. (A relatively mild anachronism but still an annoying one, since there were plenty of well-known tunes bands actually did play in the early 1930's they could have used.)
Forget The Untouchables. This one was playing on the ABC network at the same time -- 1959-60.
John Cassavetes stars as Johnny Staccato, jazz pianist and private eye.
Great location shots of NYC in the late 50's. Cheezy script but loads of fun. Cassavetes is cool. The band at his Greenich Village hangout includes Pete Candioli on trumpet, Shelly Manne on drums, Red Mitchell on bass, and (here's the Bix connection, sort of) Red Norvo on vibes.
http://tcr.tynt.com/ti.js'});}">All you cotton toters, Mississippi floaters, Gather all about! Gather all about! Got some things to tell ya. Not a thing to sell ya. Listen and you'll all find out. What I'm about to say WIll take your breath away, So, come a little closer, Just a little closer, Got a lotta news to shout! Say!
Good people, you're invited tonight To the Riverboat Shuffle! Good people, we got rhythm tonight At the Riverboat Shuffle! They tell me that slidepipe tooter is grand, Best in Loosianna; So bring your freighter, come and alligator that band. Mister Hawkins on the tenor! Good people, you'll hear Milenberg Joys In a special orches-stration! Even Mamma Dinah will be there to strut for the boys I'n a room full of noise. She'll teach you to shuffle it right, So, bring your baby.
http://tcr.tynt.com/ti.js'});}">From Hoagy's collection in the Indiana University webpapge.
- Hoagy, Voynow and Mills copyrighted the song in 1925 (probably without lyrics). Voynow and Mills were "free-riders."
- Hoagy started writing lyrics for his tune in the 1930s and got the great Mitchell Parish to collaborate. Of course, they had collaborated earlier in the immortal Star Dust. Hoagy copyrighted the song again, this time in 1939, still with Voynow and Mills, but with Parish added.
I could not find the cover of the sheet music in internet. Any one?
The "Virtual Sheet Music" linked to below shows the cover of the "Hoagy Carmichael Songbook," which is not what you are looking for, but I thought the credits at the top of this page were a humorous addition to this song's ever-expanding list of composers.
Credit was assigned to Mitchel Parish, Bix Beiderbecke, Dick Voynow, and Irving Mills. Hoagy Carmichael didn't even make the list!
Given the overall politics of the music world in the 1920's, it's not hard to figure out how additional names got added to Hoagy Carmichael's as "composers" of "Riverboat Shuffle."
Dick Voynow probably got his name on because he was the pianist and effective leader of the Wolverines and could well have insisted that he be given a share of the royalties in exchange for being the leader of the first band to record the song. Later Voynow would become a producer at Brunswick Records at a time when it was quite common for record producers to insist that they receive co-writing credit (and the accompanying share of songwriting royalties) in exchange for arranging for the first recording of a song.
Irving Mills was an artists' manager and music publisher, and he was notorious for insisting that HE be cut in on songwriting credits and royalties for virtually everything he published. For his first 16 years as a bandleader Duke Ellington was under contract to Mills for both management and music publishing, and as a result most of the great Ellington pieces of the 1920's and 1930's (including Duke's biggest hits, "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady" and "Solitude") have Mills' name on them as "co-writer" to this day. In 1940 Ellington broke with Mills, went with William Morris as his new manager and formed his own publishing company, Tempo Music, because he was tired of Mills cutting in on his songwriting royalties.
Mitchell Parrish probably got credit for supplying lyrics (he also wrote the lyrics to Carmichael's biggest hit, "Stardust"). His words for "Riverboat Shuffle" can be heard on the marvelous 1931 recording by the Boswell Sisters, with an arrangement closely copied from the 1927 Beiderbecke/Trumbauer recording. (The Boswells did a similar adaptation of the Louis Armstrong Hot Five recording of "Heebie Jeebies," anticipating Lambert, Hendricks and Ross by two decades.)
As for Bix, his addition to the composer credits of "Riverboat Shuffle" seems a relatively recent one from one online source, since all accounts by his contemporaries agree that his only contribution to the piece (aside from the great solos he took on his two recordings of it) was to suggest the title (Hoagy had originally called it "Free Wheeling").
Was Hoagy's Riverboat Shuffle inspired by "Unfortunate Blues" ?
by Debbie White
Has anyone ever heard Henry Winston's "Unfortunate Blues" ? There are three renditions available on youtube - one by Ted Lewis and his Band, another by Whitey Kaufman's Original Penn Serenaders, and my favorite one of all, Harold Leonard and his Red Jackets, recorded in April of 1924. It is such a unique recording, and it hits the ground running with that same riff from Riverboat Shuffle !
Since the Wolverines' "Riverboat Shuffle" was recorded a month after Harry Winston's "Unfortunate Blues," it is possible that the band might have heard Winston's tune. Since Voynow was the putative leader of the Wolverines, he might have incorporated the idea from the earlier tune into the arrangement, thereby actually earning something like composer's credits if he did.
The tune was was composed by Fred Hamm and Henry Winston.
From the redhotjazz site: "Fred Hamm and his Orchestra were a dance band from Chicago that was managed by Edgar Benson of Benson Orchestra fame. Hamm's Orchestra performed at the Marigold Garden in Chicago from 1923 to 1925. In 1925 Fred Hamm took over the leadership of the Benson Orchestra. Fred Hamm recorded again in 1929 under the name of Fred Hamm and his Collegians. "
Off the Record CD "The Complete Wolverines, 1924-1928," Arch OTR 03. David Sager writes in the booklet with the CD:
The subsequent Original Wolverines recordings were full-size dance bands, some led by Voynow and others by bandleader Fred Hamm.
- Rust gives Dick McDonough, bj; Tony Colicchio, g.
-Ray Mitchell gives Dick McDonough, bj; Eddie Lang, g.
- Mike Peters gives Eddie Lang, g, bj*; possibly Dick McDonough, bj. Mike also specifies "Rhythm of the Day," banjo only.
Moreover, Mike writes in the page "The Essential Eddie Lang" "These 25 essential Eddie Lang recordings clearly display the work of an original, creative, and inventive artist." - Im Sitting On Top Of The World, Ross Gorman and His Orchestra. October 29, 1925 Orchestra featuring guitar solo, and accompaniment by Eddie Lang. The earliest known dance band recording where the guitar has a starring role; sixteen bars of single string, and another sixteen as accompaniment to Red Nichols trumpet (including a pre-arranged augmented break). And just when you think Langs job is complete, he reappears with a two bar single string break, eight bars of silky accompaniment for muted trumpet and clarinet, and a bluesy final chord. Three ingredients that further make for essential listening; Langs close proximity to the microphone, the exquisite quality of the electrical recording (Columbia Records), and the listener is treated to over three minutes of music sans vocal.
I agree with Mike about only a banjo being used in "Rhythm of the Day" and about Eddie Lang playing magnificent guitar solo and accompaniment in "I'm Sitting on Top of the World.". So the presence of Tony Colicchio (also spelled Colucci) is precluded. My question: do you hear a banjo in "I'm Sitting on Top of the World"?
Liked Gorman's "I'm Sitting On Top Of The World" very much - was some great listening.
Background banjo strum is audible, from beginning up to around 1:40 sec, when the guitar solo feature begins. A couple moments amid this - (a) a double-strum passes from the banjo, around 0:35 sec, as a sax phrase concludes; and (b) around 1:08 sec point, the sound of a banjo strum chord as the fretting fingers hold a position, sliding up bar, to a higher chord position.
If the banjo strums during the guitar section, I don't readily hear it. But from 2:20 sec to close, ensemble, the banjo strum resumes.
Amid the guitar lead section, from around 1:40 sec to 1:55 sec, there are two guitars playing... sounds like the piano chords steadily in accompaniment to this, also. One guitar solos, up close to the mic, while a second guitar further away adds some lower-note counterpoint.
Tonight in Asheville, NC. "RHAPSODY" THE MUSIC OF PAUL WHITEMAN.
The concert is entitled "RHAPSODY" THE MUSIC OF PAUL WHITEMAN. North Carolina orchestra leader Russ Wilson will direct a hand picked 35 piece orchestra performing the vintage orchestrations of the King Of Jazz. The concert will be performed at Diana Wortham Theater in Asheville, NC on August 31st. Among the songs played will be Happy Feet, Louisiana, OH Miss Hannah, Changes, Borneo and the 1927 rendition of Rhapsody In Blue.
Rain on the Roof. Jack Hylton. April 20, 1932. Vocal by Pat O'Malley. Rain on the Roof.Ambrose. Mar 30, 1932. Vocal by Sam Browne. Fit As A Fiddle. Ambrose. Jan 3, 1933. Fit As A Fiddle. Jack Hylton. Jan 19, 1933. Limehouse Blues. Ambrose. Aug 8, 1935. A glitch: before the complete recording, I erroneously included a fragment of the recording. Limehouse Blues. Jack Hylton. Jan 10, 1930. Tiger Rag. Jack Hylton. Jan 10, 1930. Vocal by Jack Hylton, Pat O'Malley and Billy Ternent. Tiger Rag. Ambrose.Vocal by Sam Browne and another. A Precious Thing Called Love. Ambrose. May 31, 1929.. Unidentified vocalist. A Precious Thing Called Love. Jack Hylton. April 11, 1929. Vocal by Sam Browne. Am I Blue. Ambrose. Oct 28, 1929. Vocal by Lou Abelardo. Am I Blue. Jack Hylton. June 27, 1929. Vocal by Sam Browne.
I love the sound of the 1920s and 1930s British dance bands. Enjoy.
This was a nice program even though very little of it (aside from the January 10, 1930 Hylton session that produced "Limehouse Blues" and "Tiger Rag") was all that hot. I liked the wah-wah trombone on the Ambrose "Limehouse Blues" (it seems like somebody in his band, or on his arrangers' staff, had been listening to Ellington) and overall these were pleasant recordings from bands that could play hotter than they did on these sides. (Your previous WBIX program showcasing Hylton alone had much jazzier and more progressive songs than the ones here.)
Incidentally, Jack Hylton deserves recognition as the first white bandleader to hire an African-American as a featured guest artist. In 1934 Hylton brought Coleman Hawkins to Europe and showcased him, not in front of a Black band (as he'd done with Louis Armstrong two years earlier), but with his regular orchestra of white British musicians. Benny Goodman usually gets the acknowledgment for being the first white bandleader to showcase a Black musician (Teddy Wilson with the Goodman Trio in 1935), but Hylton did it a year before Goodman did!
In 1939, on his way home to the States after a spell playing in Europe, Coleman Hawkins stopped off in London to record two sides with Jack Hylton's Band for the HMV label.
The titles, The Darktown Strutter's Ball and My Melancholy Baby, were waxed on the 26th May of that year.
Coleman Hawkins' stay in England in 1939 was a bit longer than a "stop off".
More or less marooned in Holland, he had been trying for over two years to obtain bookings in Britain, but was hampered by an embargo on American musicians working in the country imposed by the Musicians Union. In the end, an ingenious idea was hatched by Ben Davis (brother of trombonist Lew Davis), who was the Managing Director of the London Branch of Henri Selmer, the instrument makers. Davis suggested that Hawkins could tour Britain to give "free instrumental recitals to saxophone students".
Both the Ministry of Labour and the Musicians Union gave their approval (i.e. fell for it!) and so Hawkins then sailed from Holland to England, arriving March 11th, 1939. He stayed for almost four months (until July 9th, 1939), playing many dates with the Jack Hylton Orchestra. Hawkins then briefly returned to Holland to pack up all the goods he had acquired and then made the journey back home to the USA, arriving in New York on July 31st, 1939.
This story reminded me of one I once read about 1960's avant-garde jazz musician Ornette Coleman, who was invited to perform in Britain in 1965. Unfortunately the British Musicians' Union objected, so the Ministry of Labor ruled that Ornette Coleman could come to Britain only if he could prove that he was NOT a jazz musician. According to the regulations, he could prove he wasn't a jazz musician if he could prove that he was a classical composer, and he could prove he was a classical composer by writing a classical piece. So Coleman wrote a quintet for winds, and then found that the British musicians whom he wanted to perform it with him weren't allowed to do so because of similar union restrictions.
It was a little surprising to see in which high school this photograph was taken.
Thirty years before the filing of the landmark case known as Brown Vs. Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas), it seems that Topeka High School's band was already integrated. They were lucky to have young Coleman in their sax section!
About 15 years ago, my friend Robert Arkus (a huge silent comedy fan, especially
so for Buster Keaton - and former Getty Images co-worker) compiled this superbly
edited segment sync-ing some of the funniest and most athletic Buster Keaton
segments ever with music by the Grateful Dead ("King Solomon's Marbles"). It's
brilliant, and I think you guys will get a "kick" out of it (I know Buster
"This was originally done back in 1998 (15 years ago this week!!) on VHS for
presentation at The International Buster Keaton Society's convention in
Muskegon, MI. I added the cheesy open and credits more recently. The music
begins around :18 seconds in."
- The musicians in the band are identified. I noted a discrepancy in the spelling of Harold Moulding. Rust gives Al Mauling. Another: the spelling of McNiel in Rust is McNeill. I wonder what are the correct spellings.
In the 1930s, Gibson made a number of banjos for sale by other companies, including mail-order houses such as Montgomery Ward. These banjos were labeled with a variety of brand names and normally bore no Gibson markings even though they were made at the Kalamazoo factory and in many cases were very similar to Gibson catalog models. Some banjos made by Gibson for Montgomery Ward bore the brand name "Recording King"; this example is an original five-string Recording King model 1584. Rather than the Recording King logo, however, the peghead features the name "Charles McNeil", a popular player of the time who originally ordered this banjo.
In 2004, Charles McNeil was inducted in the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame for "Instruction and Education."
Among these old newspaper accounts, it was interesting to see the NBC radio broadcast schedule article from 1928, describing an upcoming radio presentation by Frank Black's Orch of an orchestrated version of Beiderbecke's "In A Mist."
Are there many other examples known of "In A Mist" being arranged for orchestral presentation, back during the Jazz Age?
The Titan of the Tuba and Me (Me, being Brian Nalepka).
Yesterday evening, the Banjo Rascals - Gerri Rhee, Jim Rheel and Brian Nalepka - with Randy Reinhardt added, came to the Stony Brook Village and had a concert on the green. The weather was perfect and the music terrific. During the intermission I introduced myself to Brian. We had a friendly conversation that included Bix, Joe Tarto and Vince Giordano. Brian leads the Nighthawks when Vince has other commitments.
Brian has a very interesting and informative article about Joe Tarto in the Fall 2009 issue of the Frisco Cricket, the official publication of the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation. Bix is mentioned in the article. Here is the link
I thank David for sending me scans of the letters and for his permission to upoad them to the Bixography website.
I am particularly fascinated by the behind the scenes information regarding Bill's efforts to produce an album of his Goldkette arrangements. Perhaps, the point I found most interesting is Bill's statement: "I would like to do such a documentary of the Goldkette band material from which most of the Bix/Tram recordings were made in small band form - in most cases without Steve Brown, Quicksell, Willcox, "Doc Ryker, Farrar and Lodwig all of whom were important members of the band."
Fortunately. Bill's efforts came to fruition with the publication of the magnificent album "Bill Challis' The Goldkette Project." However, the album was not recorded until 10 years after Bill's letters to David. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks with several guest musicians recorded the album in 1986 for Circle CLP-118. It is now available on CD from amazon.com among others. I have both the LP and the CD.
1. Ostrich Walk
2. The Blue Room
3. Clarinet Marmalade
4. Medley: A Lane in Spain/Slow River/Hoosier Sweetheart
5. Proud of a Baby Like You
6. I'm Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now
7. Singin' the Blues (Till My Daddy Comes Home)
8. My Pretty Girl
9. Riverboat Shuffle
10. Sometimes I'm Happy
11. I've Found a New Baby
12. Medley: I'd Rather Be the Girl in Your Arms (Than the Girl in Your ...)
Since last we looked in on Bill Challis in his aerie at Harveys Lake, Pa., the Goldkette Project has come to fruition in Greater Challisland.
As a consequence, the heart of this remote musical empire has been removed to a storefront on E. Market Street in nearby Wilkes-Barre, next door to the yarn shop presided over by Bill's sister-in-law. The other half of the double storefront shelters the world headquarters of the Graystone Society, which so far isn't much to look at because it is primarily a workplace.
The Graystone may be the world's smallest record society, having produced but a single recording in its brief history. The album is appropriately titled ''Bill Challis' the Goldkette Project." Since October, Bill and his brother Evan have shipped well over 500 copies to England, Sweden, Italy, "an awful lot to California" and practically everyplace else on earth where more than two jazz fans gather - but "not so much in Pennsylvania." I guess it figures.
The Challises borrowed the name Graystone from the famous Detroit ballroom that was home base for the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, an outfit much admired by musicians and aficionados for its sophistication, its collective derring-do and the class of its talent.
When the Goldkette band expired of fiscal exhaustion in 1927, the nucleus of extraordinary musicians thus liberated clambered aboard the Paul Whiteman organization. They included Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer and an innovative young arranger from upstate Pennsylvania named Bill Challis. Buttressed by Whiteman's resources and his great fund of popular acceptance, they became legendary figures in the music of America.
Though Goldkette, a French-born, Russian-trained concert pianist and entrepreneur whose greatest gift was ferreting out superior sidemen for his several Graystone dance bands (some of his other finds were the Dorsey brothers, Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti), had had a recording contract with Victor, some of his best arrangements never made it to wax.
"Bands like Whiteman and Roger Wolfe Kahn could pick out anything they wanted to record," Challis explained the other day, "but we, being from Detroit, had to take what we could get. If we wanted to record something like 'Blue Room,' Kahn already had done it."
Now a well-preserved 84, Bill Challis was rediscovered about a decade and a half ago in the Whiteman revival sparked by Richard Sudhalter and other musical archivists, and since then he had quietly plotted to revive the Goldkette genre.
There were obstacles. The charts he wrote for Goldkette had utterly vanished in the 1927 breakup. Some of them Challis had reworked from memory for Whiteman, adding embellishments to fit the larger orchestra. When he exhumed the latter product in recent years from the Whiteman archive at Williams College, he had to reverse the process and denude them to the point where they were Goldkette charts once more.
In the meantime, Challis made two connections that were to be vital to the Goldkette Project. He met Vince Giordano, a young New York bandleader-arranger who has embraced the music of the '20s and '30s with much dedication. And then there was George H. Buck Jr., an independent record producer from the South. Buck already had produced two LPs of Challis arrangements that in 1936 had been recorded for commercial radio transcription discs.
Buck agreed to issue an album of the reconstituted Goldkette charts on his Circle label. Giordano, using his Nighthawks combo as a nucleus, was more than willing to set up the session and recruit the best available musicians to round out the 14-player configuration of the Goldkette band (three reeds, three trumpets, two trombones and four rhythm, plus the violin-guitar duo Goldkette used when recording). The Jean Goldkette Orchestra came alive again on Dec. 5 and 6, 1986, in New York City, and one of its original members, trombonist Newell "Spiegle" Willcox, was seated in the brass section.
I have heard the result, and it is fascinating. Little wonder that Giordano brought in the likes of Bob Wilber, Dan Barrett and the late Dick Wellstood, for the charts are not simple, and my admiration for the original players is increased a dozenfold.
I found the Challis creations uniformly charming, nonetheless, and after several playings they have become virtual house pets: so musicianly, so caringly performed, so quintessentially 1920s. Dated, yes; look, these fragile abstractions are nearly 65 years old, and the lucubrations of jazz today are a far cry therefrom. My only real cavil is the trumpeter assigned to the Bix role, who, while technically impeccable, is as bland as head lettuce.
Whither now, the Graystone Society? There may be a Whiteman Project, or a Casa Loma Project (Challis, of course, wrote for them, too). "It depends largely on our experience with The Goldkette Project," says Evan Challis. ''At this point we're very upbeat about the whole thing."
Lady Be Good! - California Ramblers (with Adrian Rollini & Jimmy Dorsey)
I've found this rendition of "Lady Be Good!" written on 1924 by George Gershwin & made by the California Ramblers on January 28 from 1925 according to Rust's American Dance Band Discography.
On this recording, the 3rd chorus is a saxophone section soli that quotes "Dippermouth Blues (aka Sugar Foot Stomp)" written on 1923 by King Oliver & Louis Armstrong from 1:41 minutes to 2:21 minutes. And i had to say it, but the 4th & last chorus includes Adrian Rollini playing the 16 bar xylophone solo.
The personnel is: Frank Cush, Bill "Jazz" Moore (tp), Lloyd "Ole" Olsen (tb), Jimmy Dorsey, Arnold Brilhart (cl,as), Freddy Cusick (cl,ts), Adrian Rollini (bsx,xyl), Irving Brodsky (p,arr), Tommy Fellini (bjo) & Stan King (d).
This recording was issued on American Columbia 293-D with the flag label design.
With roots in jazz that went back through her husband Jimmy McPartland, who got his first fame replacing Bix with the Wolverines, Marian's long and active life in music made her one of the giants of jazz. She was one of a kind and will be missed.
Happy Birthday to trombonist Jack Teagarden! When Jack went to NYC in the 1920s, he became the talked about musician in town. A big break for Jack was getting the call to fill a vacancy in the Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra for a Victor record date. To the guys in the band, Jack was an unknown quantity. By the end of the session Tea had left a lasting impression on Kahn's band members.
Jack takes a whole chorus on "She's a Great, Great, Girl," a 1928 pop tune. Being allotted a 32-bar solo speaks volumes to the impression he made that day - a time when even seasoned jazz players were lucky to get eight or 16 bars. He's totally in command of his instrument, and his solo seems more influenced by Bix than other trombonists of that time. It's an impressive entry to a career that spanned more than three decades.
The career of Roger Wolfe Kahn has a certain similarity to Bix's: Both were born into well-to-do families (Bix's moderately so; Roger's fabulously so), and each pursued a life in the world of professional popular music, when that was considered a declassé choice for a young man of means. We know that Bix's genius led him inexorably in that direction. What about Kahn?
His Wikipedia article states: "Kahn is said to have learned to play 18 musical instruments before starting to lead his own orchestra in 1923, aged only 16. In 1925, Kahn appeared in a short film made in Lee De Forest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process. Kahn hired famous jazz musicians of the day to play in his band, especially during recording sessions, for example Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden, Red Nichols, and Gene Krupa. ... Kahn always had fun leading and conducting his orchestra. Reportedly, when the band was playing especially well he used to throw himself onto the floor and wave his legs in the air. However, in the mid-1930s, he lost interest in his orchestra and disbanded it."
... which of course makes him sound like a spoiled rich dilettante. He has the air of one in many of his photos. But his many Victor / Brunswick / Columbia records reveal a band that held to the highest professional standards, and could rise to a level of artistry that rivalled the best. The record of "She's a Great Great Girl" is wonderful, not only because of the solos by Tea and Venuti, but also the terrific ensemble spirit of the whole band. This seems like a lot more than the result of (even a talented) rich kid who threw money at good musicians, who dutifully obliged him. This was a band that played with commitment and verve, and Kahn kept it going for thirteen years (1923-36) before he switched to a career in aviation (similar to a certain C-melody sax player we know about) in which he also excelled.
What kind of a bandleader was Roger Wolfe Kahn? How "down" was he with his crew? Besides paying them handsomely, how did he earn their respect? Was it grudging or genuine? The records seem to indicate the latter.
P.S. By way of contrast, I have a twelve-inch Brunswick "Personal" record by rich kid Jack Warner, Jr. and 'his' orchestra from 1931. They give a sorry performance of "I Surrender Dear." It was recorded on Daddy Jack Sr.'s WB sound stage, and even with assistance from "Uncle Leo" (Forbstein), they don't cut the mustard.
It would be interesting to hear Jack Warner, Jr.'s record even if it's as bad as you say it is! The post reminded me of another Warner whiz kid, Jack Jr.'s cousin (Harry Warner's son) Lewis Warner, who at 23 in 1931 of an impacted wisdom tooth that got infected. Lewis had been in charge of Warners diversification into music publishing, book publishing, radio and records. While the music publishing continued and was a success, the brothers bailed out of the ancillary businesses after Lewiss death. Given that, thanks to Lewis's diversification strategy, Warner Bros. OWNED Brunswick Records in 1931, it's not surprising Jack, Jr.'s flyer into bandleading was for that label, even if it was only a commercially unreleased "personal" record.
Thanks, Brad, for sending the mp3 file of the recording by Jack Warner, Jr. and the Beverly Ramblers. Recorded Feb 28, 1931. "I Surrender Dear" "I Bring a Love Song" "Personal" 1002, made by Brunswick.
Thanks, Brad, for the chance to hear this curious record. It's really not that bad; it's true that there isn't a hint of jazz feeling or flavor at all, and the bass drum is WAY over-recorded, but these are perfectly acceptable early-1930's dance performances that would have worked in a swanky hotel ballroom with men and women politely dancing with each other in evening dress. Indeed, the arrangement of "I Surrender, Dear" here is a good deal more tasteful than the bizarre one Bing Crosby recorded with Gus Arnheim's band for Victor, with its rapid-fire tempo changes reminiscent of Whiteman at his worst, though Warner's singer, Jack Phelps, is a typically nerdy tenor of the period miles away from Bing's taste, musicality, talent and feel for jazz.
About Jack Warner, Jr. / R. W. Kahn's "Rhythm of the Day"
Jack Warner, Jr. was born March 16, 1916, making him a couple weeks short of his fifteenth birthday at the time of the recording. It's a safe bet that everyone in the band is about his age, too. Therefore, this record is a laudable effort by determined youngsters, and Jack Jr. himself is an ambitious, talented lad, to be commended for putting it together. Of course, it helped a little that the sound stages, Brunswick recording gear, Music Department personnel and song copyrights of Warner Bros. / First National were at young Jack's disposal. But at the beginning of each side, he speaks (or squeaks!) with the pride of one who knows he has done something grand.
So on "I Surrender, Dear" and "I Bring a Love Song" we forgive the Ramblers' lumpy, leaden, out-of-tune-high-school-marching-band quality, and the out-of-control tempo, which in their youthful enthusiasm, increases by about 20 per cent over the course of each side - - defects which would have been unthinkable in a professional unit of mature, seasoned musicians. Given enough time and practice, one hopes, Master Warner and his Beverly Hills Ramblers would have improved at their craft.
Let me contrast this with the record about to be posted below: "Rhythm of the Day" by Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra, recorded December 15, 1925, freshly transferred from a vinyl test in my collection, otherwise unissued on 78. This was about ten months into the band's existence; Kahn would have been 17 when they started - not much older than Jack Warner, Jr. - making Roger surely the youngest leader ever of a major New York dance orchestra.
The music sparkles brightly. A challenging Don Lindley composition, brilliantly arranged, the band handles it without a bead of perspiration. Every hair in place, tempo rock-solid, pitch-perfect, gorgeous, copasetic, danceable ensemble playing, and probing, masterful hot solos by Arthur Schutt and Joe Venuti. This Kahn band could go toe-to-toe with any orchestra in the country. A delightful record. I can't imagine why Victor never issued it.
What I want to know: How DID Roger Wolfe Kahn, this BABY, the spoiled scion of unbridled wealth, with a yen to make music, manage to lead this absolutely top-shelf organization and keep it going at that level for several years? You can't just BUY the toughest take-no-prisoners musicians and automatically get great results from them. You must EARN their respect or they won't give their best, which going by the records, they always did. Was Roger only the preening, foppish Prince Regent, with the actual organizing power in other, more mature, capable hands; or did he truly command the attention and the high regard of his men with precocious but real leadership and musicianly know-how?
Roger had several things going for him by the time he recorded "Rhythm of the Day.".
- First, he was a talented musician.
- He had purchased Arthur Lange's band in 1923. So he had a ready-made band to begin with. Some of the musicans in Lange's band were still with Roger at the end of 1925 when "Rhythm of the Day" was recorded: Tommy Gott, Owen Bartlett, Arthur Campbell.
- According to the redhotjazz archive, "After rehearsing his twelve piece band for a year in the music studio in the Kahn family mansion on 5th Avenue in New York the band made its debut at the Bohemian Cabaret in New York City in 1924."
- By the time "Rhythm of the Day" was recorded, Roger had added the following cream of the cream 1920s musicians: Miff Mole, Arnold Brilhart, Joe Venuti, Arthur Schutt and Vic Berton (all of these with connections to Bix!).
Don't get me wrong. I don't want to take away from Kahn his musical talent and dedication. But the comparison of a well-rehearsed, professional band (Roger Wolfe Kahn's) with a bunch of presumably young kids (Jack Warner's gang) may be a bit unfair.
The vital statistics for the recordidng from EDVR:
Matrix BVE-34147. Rhythm of the day / Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra
- Brad, the vinyl test you have must be from take 3.
-Note that the Victor ledgers specify "From Earl Carroll's 'Vanities'." Here is the version played by Ross Gorman with Red and Miff (see my article in the latest issue of the IAJRC Journal), the band in the Broadway production. Get a load of Miff's and Red's solos!
Actually, Albert, I think the Warner / Kahn comparison is apt: Here are two youths in their middle teens, each from a powerful and wealthy family, each in love with music and the idea of leading a band. Each makes use of the unlimited resources at his (or his father's) command to realize this dream.
Jack Warner Jr. assembles an orchestra of his peers for a short-lived journeyman effort. He goes on to a career at his Dad's movie studio.
Roger Wolfe Kahn BUYS an already accomplished professional dance band, rehearses them for a year, upgrading the personnel as he goes, gets plum gigs in New York and a Victor record deal, and maintains the band for a period of years before switching to a career in aviation.
You see, I've made up my mind: Warner at 15 was a dilettante, destined for the family business. His music making was a lark, documented on this one, possibly unique record (I got it from the Warner family). Kahn at 15 was a serious musician, hell-bent on having the best band in New York. His leadership skill speaks for itself on his band's many records. His ear for jazz talent was remarkable, as he instinctively wooed and won Mole, Venuti, Lang, Schutt, Teagarden, (later) Artie Shaw et cetera and so on. He must have had Bix in the cross-hairs too, but couldn't bag him.
It's harder in certain ways for a rich scion to make his way in the professional world than it is for a poor kid. I define a "rich" person as one with options. Bix had options. From his family perch in Davenport, he could have taken any path the world had to offer, starting with his dad's lumber business. Cole Porter had SERIOUS options. He could have been an international playboy his whole life, composing for fun. Louis Armstrong had NO options. Born into the extremest poverty, he had only his horn and his talent and one way to go, or die. It takes nothing from Louis and the other rags-to-riches guys to assert that Bix and Cole Porter and Roger Wolfe Kahn are all the more remarkable for the paths they chose and stayed with.
P. S. Yes, the Victor vinyl test of "Rhythm of the Day" is take -3. It's oversized (10-1/2 inch), has two test grooves at the rim (no signal in them, unfortunately), and no label. It's just an unprepossessing naked black slab of articulated vinylite. ALL the engineer info is etched into the center: "BVE-34147 / Dec. 15 - 1925 / 3 [i.e., take 3] / 42 / 580A51 / Rhythm of the Day, / Roger Kahn's Orch. / +4.33 L2." Does anyone know what the odd numbers signify?
I guess the two rich kids had completely different interests,
Roger was into music from his childhood. Jack graduated from USC (my alma mater) and went on to a career in the film industry. His adventure making a recording was probably just a teenager's stunt, not a manifestation of his great interest in pursuing a career in music. As a stunt, it could have been worse.
Thanks to Nick's generosity, here is Rhythm Of The Day by Bert Firman's Dance Orchestra, Zonophone 2777, recorded at Hayes, Middlesex on June 24th, 1926 and featuring Max Goldberg on trumpet, Arthur Lally on baritone sax and Ted Heath on trombone. Indeed, modernistic. [Note 1]
Imagination. Miff Mole and His Little Molers. 1927. The New Twister. Miff Mole and His Little Molers. 1927. Peg Leg Stomp. Hal Kemp and His Orchestra. 1926. Blue Rhythm. Hal Kemp and His Orchestra. 1926. Special Feature. My Favorite record of the week. I Lost My Heart in Dixieland. Original Dixieland Jazz Band. 1920. Soliloquy. Rube Bloom. Paino solo. 1926. In A Mist. Bix Beiderbecke. Piano solo. 1927. Dixie. Fred Elizalde and His Anglo-American Band. 1928. Sugar Step. Fred Elizalde and His Anglo-American Band. 1928. Play Red. The Little Ramblers. 1927. Swamp Blues. The Little Ramblers. 1927.
Again, thanks to Nick's legendary generosity. Rhythm of the Day played by the Georgia Melodians, recorded on April 9th, 1926 (their very last recording session) and released on Edison 51730. I believe the prominent trumpet player is Mickey Bloom. The trombonist is probably Herb Winfield - nice solo.
Victor Records chose not to issue any of the 4 takes that Roger Wolfe Kahn made of trumpeter Donald Lindleys modernistic Rhythm Of The Day. Why is a mystery, at least judging by take 3 presented here. Kahns star studded personnel turn in in a fine interpretation of this interesting piece highlighted by Joe Venutis characteristic solo.
I was with you through "Every hair in place, tempo rock-solid, pitch-perfect, gorgeous, copasetic, danceable ensemble playing..." but I would have to draw the line when it comes to "hot." This song just does NOT swing, although the band seems tempted in the passage following 1:25. This particular arrangement is just too mannered to slip into a groove for more than a second or so at a time. The band is too precise, too metronomic, to make anyone want to stomp or sway along. Schutt and Venuti are professional about it all, but not "hot" in their usual way.
This is a very interesting record. Kahn could swing, but he didn't choose to on this particular day.
Actually, Glenda, I don't think the idea was to be Fletcher Henderson / King Oliver "hot" on this one - it's a modernistic piece, very advanced harmonically for 1925 with whole tones, etc. etc. - showing real up-to-date harmony and a high degree of musicianship. A good description of the Kahn band as a whole, though - and his hottest record is probably "She's a Great, Great Girl", showcasing the TRULY hot trombone of Jack Teagarden - making that side immortal.
The solos on the Kahn are quite good, though, and the ones on the Gorman possibly even better and more imaginative (Miff and Nichols - or is it Lindley? - are great on the Gorman!)
John, you're right. I agreed with Brad Kay's string of adjectives that were saying exactly what you're saying. It was a complex arrangement, well performed, which was "peppy," but not jazzy. Compared to "She's A Great, Great Girl," which is both hot and a fine arrangement that sets off the hot soloing beautifully, it's not very moving to me. Nothing wrong with peppy, but I guess I just wouldn't want to hear those "just peppy" recordings more than once or twice. Emotionally, I just don't feel that magic. "She's A Great, Great Girl" I could listen to over and over. "Some like it hot," I guess.
Brad, thanks so much for posting these. The Warner record (33 1/3, I presume?) bears a great deal in common with a private Columbia issue I have from 1931 by the Hotchkiss School Dance Orchestra (all teenage prepsters attending the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut) - they play "San" (hilariously inept! - but with an excellent piano and banjo; the drummer keeping time via a HEAVY bass drum exactly a la this Warner recording), and "Love For Sale" (which was amazingly reissued about 10 years ago on a Columbia Legacy CD "Can't Help Loving That Man").
Have to admit that the Warner family name definitely helped in getting this Jack Warner Jr. item recorded (very good sound quality, too).
The Kahn item is outstanding and wonderful. Yes - WHY wasn't it issued? Too advanced for Eddie King, I suppose! There's another item by Kahn unissued (a Schutt original called - I think - "Bluin' On the Black Keys", which was probably a terrific Schutt showcase. Where is it??) - but this item sparkles with originality. It's really a treat!
The "Beverly Hills Ramblers with Jack Warner Jr." record is not a 33, but a regular double-sided heavy 12-inch 78, with a black & gold label label reading "Personal Record" instead of "Brunswick," but otherwise the familiar design. It has catalogue numbers "L-1001" and "L-1002," which suggests it is the one and only such Brunswick "Personal" ever produced. This is possibly the only copy.
About ten years ago, I did professional audio transfers for a Warner family member, who over a period of months brought over all kinds of exotic studio transcriptions, air checks and home recordings of the fabled clan for me to digitize. I was paid nicely for each session, but when this record turned up, I very politely asked if I could possibly have it in lieu of money. (Grovelled and begged is more like it.) To my great surprise, my client readily agreed. It has been a much prized item on my shelf ever since.
Thanks for pointing out the subtle differences between "Modernistic" and "Swinging." To me, "Rhythm of the Day" is all of a piece with the whole "Symphonic Jazz" movement in which Whiteman, Bix, Nichols, Mole, Fud, Gershwin etc. etc. were so deeply involved. It "Swings" in its own special way. The Kahn record is exemplary, and was made quite early in the game. It WAS produced by Eddie King. Note the crash cymbal. That's Mr. King's pet, mandatory house crash cymbal, which was used on virtually every Victor dance record from about 1922 to late '26. Didn't matter what kind of cymbal a band's drummer preferred. Eddie King decreed that ONLY this one recorded properly, to the exclusion of all others. One could date Mr. King's demise at Victor to the last recorded use of this cymbal, which must have been around October of '26.
I'd like to hear the Hotchkiss kids massacre of "San."
Would love to see a scan of that label, if you can. I'm sure you're correct in assuming it's the only copy in the world. Did the Warner family have any unique tests of vaudevillians or early talkie stars, either singing or comedy skits?
Aha - so Eddie King DID produce the Kahn date! I felt that was the case, and the reason for the reject on "Rhythm Of the Day". Not quite up Eddie's alley (much less Allen's Alley)...
If I can get an MP3 made of that Hotchkiss "San", I'll certainly upload it. Not able to do so from home at the moment, but I won't forget about it!
Connections of Roger Wolfe Kahn and Bix. "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me."
I don't agree with your assertion about the similarity between Roger Wolfe Kahn's and Bix's careers. There were more differences than similarities. and the differences are huge. First, Kahn was a New Yorker, independently wealthy and his father gave him anything he wanted, whereas Bix was from the middle west, of slightly upper middle class background and earned his living. Roger marrried several times, Bix died a bachelor. Certainly, Roger loved music and had a talent for it, but eventually abandoned it for other hobbies. Bix was totally devoted to music, and never abandoned it. Roger led his band in various clubs and venues; Bix only in recordings. I could go on, but I think the point is clear.
Connections between Roger and Bix.
- So many musicians recorded or played with both Roger and Bix: Joe Venuti, Arthur Schutt, Irving Brodsky, Eddie Lang, Miff Mole, Stan King, Vic Berton, Jack Teagarden, Joe Tarto, Jimmy Dorsey.
- In Aug 1927, Kahn and Bix with Rollini were expected to be in the ex-Cinderella Ballroom. See this ad in Variety, Aug 24, 1927.
Looking for something else, I found an article in the Utica Daily Press, Apr 18, 1960. I highlight two sentences in this article:
- "The altoist-clarinetist [Billy Pierce] joined Roger Wolfe Kahn then the chief rival of Jean Goldkette's big band in 1927." The comparison of Kahn with Goldkette sounds reasonable to me: both large dance bands with the cream of the cream of white musicians
- "I [Billy Pierce] knew Bix (Beiderbecke, the legendary trumpet star). He was so far ahead of his time, it was fantastic."
Here is one of my favorite RWK recordings. A composition by Gatskill and McHugh.
Frank tells me that this is perhaps the Victor Young Orchestra using the pseudonym of Val York. There is circumstancial evidence to support Frank's suggestion. In March 1935, Fats Waller made a number of recordings for Associated Music Publishers, Inc.; these were issued on the label "Associated Recorded Program Service" with matrix numbers A-268 to A-274 and record numbers between 253 and 270. All these were issued under the pseudonym of "Flip Wallace." Note Fats Waller/Flip Wallace both FW. Note also that "Sweet Sue" has matrix number A-172 and record number 313 and is by Val Yorke (VY). Could this be Victor Young, as Frank pointed out to me?
In 1935, Associated Music Publishers recorded hundreds of hours for their "wireless wired radio" project with the company "Wired Radio, Inc." a way of sending radio via wires. Associated Music Publishers and Wired Radio, Inc. were subsidiaries of the North American Corporation, and electric light and power company ("wired radio or "wired wireless" was going to be transmitted via the power lines of North American Corporation). While the project was being developed, Associated Music Publishers provided recordings from its library as radio (regular, wireless) fillers.
I am guessing that "Sweet Sue" was part of the Associated Music Publishers Library offered to radio stations as fillers.
One caveat: I saw several radio listings in the second half of the 1930s by a Val Yorke Orch. Maybe a real person, but maybe a pseudonym for Victor Young?
This copy of Bix's solo in Sweet Sue adds to previous ones I discussed in my lectures entitled "Copying Bix" and to another example we have discussed in the forum. Frank wonders if the Bix emulator could be Bunny Berigan or Sterling Bose, both members of the Victor Young orchestra in the mid 30s and both Bix admirers.
I have also seen a reference to a recording of Sweet Sue as follows: 4/16/38 Connee Boswell with Harry Sosnik and his Orchestra, Los Angeles DLA1221 Sweet Sue, Just You 2:50 (Young-Harris) Decca 1885a, [M&R](credits Victor Young Orch.) (Not listed in Rust's Jazz Records) Supposedly, Andy Secrest pays a tribute to Bix. Does anyone know anything about this recording?
I'm willing to go along with Victor Young as the orchestra leader for this side (it's a lush and gorgeous arrangement with a full string section, a foretaste of Young's later career in Hollywood) - but as to the trumpeter taking Bix' solo, I haven't a clue. Sterling Bose was known to have played with Young in the '33 / '35 period, but that's not Bose. Maybe Russ Case (another NY studio trumpeter in 1935) but who can tell, really? I just can't place the vibrato.
Behind this copy of Bix's solo, is a copy of the celesta obbligato to Jack Fulton's vocal on the same Whiteman record. Once attributed to Bix, it's really by Lennie Hayton. So here we have a copy of Lennie Hayton copying Bix.
The label scan indicates the disc was "made for Associated Recorded Program Service by Electrical Research Products, Inc." Electrical Research Products, Inc. was a subsidiary of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) which invented the electrical recording system in general use from 1925 to the end of the 78 rpm era, and also invented the Vitaphone sound system for motion pictures.
An Oddity: An mp3 of "Ma Cherie Amour," a piano roll ....
.... by Stevie Wonder was kindly sent by Brad Kay. He writes, "Stevie Wonder and Piano Rolls go together like a Star Ship and a Model T. Right? Or so it seemed to me until this roll of "Ma Cherie Amour" turned up at a garage sale today. Check it out."
Thanks very much, Brad. I never thought I would have a posting about Stevie Wonder in the Bixography!! Has a bit of a bossa nova sound.
I noticed that there was considerable variation in the volume of this tune while it was playing. After a cursory search, I determined that volume is controlled by the amount of air flowing through the holes on the roll. In a non-foot-pedal-operated player piano, what is the mechanism that determines how much air is forced through the holes while the tune is playing?
The piano I used for this recording is a 1910 Langham-Hupfeld upright, which is powered exclusively by foot pedals. ALL the dynamic control comes from pedalling. The harder you push, the faster the air flows and the louder it is. This instrument has terrific dynamic range, and it turns on a dime. I can go from FF to pp and back instantly. It's as much a wind instrument as a string/percussion instrument. It helps me to have a mental image of the air column as I pedal, exactly the same as the air column inside one's body while blowing a horn. Every aspect of tone, attack, and volume emanates directly from how I hit those pedals.
Player rolls are an interactive medium. You do not simply "set it and forget it." Back in the day, the "pianolist" was expected to interpret a roll, imparting to the performance all the subtleties of good music. Some companies sold instruction rolls that teach you how to do that. If a player piano sounds jangly and mechanical, it simply is being misused - which, unfortunately, is MOST of the time.
Player pianos fitted with electric motors instead of pedals are an abomination. The air flows through the holes at only ONE velocity. You get NO dynamics, plus it sounds like someone is vacuuming the floor. The sophisticated, electrically-powered Duo-Art, Ampico, Welte, and other "expression" pianos are something else again - the performance subtleties are built into the instrument and the rolls it uses.
But with standard 88-note rolls, such as "Ma Cherie Amour," it's completely up to the person at the pedals and the other controls to make of it a truly musical experience.
When these instruments were most popular (1900-1930) the descriptor most often used in ads for the "software" was not "Piano Rolls," but "Music Rolls," which speaks directly to their intended use.
The "Pianist" was Walter Reddick, a QRS staffer. I put "Pianist" in quotes, because the roll probably isn't a recording of a live performance, but an arrangement punched out by Mr. Reddick. And of course the lyrics are included so one may sing along. The "Word Roll" tradition goes back to 1918. BK
You'd be surprised at the songs that have turned up on player piano rolls. In the 1980's I remember hearing a roll of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." The QRS roll company stayed in business a long time and one of the things they did was continue to supply rolls of current songs.
The Correspondence Between Richard Dean-Myatt and Nick LaRocca About Bix's Letter to Nick.
Phil Evans first book about Bix started as a collaboration with collector Robert Mantler, continued with historian William Dean-Myatt, and came to fruition with writer/historian/musician Richard Sudhalter.
Here is correspondence between Dean-Myatt and LaRocca from the Hogan archives. Bix's letter to LaRocca was published in p. 83 of "Man and Legend" by Sudhalter and Evans.
Glenda Currence was the first person in Davenport to play the piano once the piano was tuned. Below is her account of that special day.
Playing Bixs Piano by Glennda Currence
Early 70s: The first Bix Jazz Festival1971-- I was there.Wow, I thought to myself , I hope they have this every year.This music is so much fun.
Attending the festivals was a learning experience.I never missed one.My love of jazz---all kindsand admiration for what Bix gave the music world had begun its journey.
Its 1977.I have begun my career as a music teacher at Eisenhower Elementary.
Okay class, this week we are going study the Roaring 20s and a famous musician who was born in Davenport and played his music during that eraa man that changed the world of JazzBix Beiderbecke!!
I began every school year with my students immersed in the history of a Local Hometown Hero!
Now keep in mind, this was before CDs and fancy laptops, and projectors.I went every summer to the Public Library downtown and checked out records of Bix and his Music, as well as books about the 1920s.The kids were fascinated by this man called Bix---his music.the look and history of the 20s.They argued over the books.I had to keep rechecking them out.They loved it.At the end of the unit I gave them extra credit homework choices:Write a report about Bix, Go find the Bix statue on the levy and describe where it is and what it says, Go to his house on Grand Avenue and describe and/or draw it, Go to the Oakdale Cemetery where he is buried and describe what you see, Illustrate your favorite Bix song(most kids chose Mississippi Mud) .Most all of my students completed the homework!---one of them even doing a gravestone rubbing.
ALL my students knew who Bix was and what he contributed to this world of jazz music!
So when Mrs. Gerri Bowers asked me in June to be the first Hometown Girl to play Bixs piano upon its arrival at the Adler in Bixs Hometown?I was beside myself.
My response was Really?YES!!!!!!
I was honored---excited---thrilled---nervous.
In the weeks before the pianos arrival at the theatre I must have played Bixs piano compositions 100 times each.
They have to sound perfect.As I practiced I imagined Bix sitting at his baby grand piano---playing, composing, dreaming...I wondered: What was he thinking?How was he feeling?What was going on in his lifeas his compositions held such unique harmonies, diversions, rhythmic patterns, and yet at times haunting melodies.
I kept thinking: I cant believe I am going to play Bixs last piano.After all these years of admiring from a distance.
Finally.the day arrived.Gerri called me and said: Can you be at the Adler tomorrow at 1:30?.YES!
I watched the piano being taken from the truck, carefully set and assembled, tuned to precision by John Duda. .
Oh my gosh---now its my turn. Play this beautiful instrument.
As I sat down at the piano I had goosebumps.I closed my eyes---took a deep breath---everyone in the room became invisible to me. It truly felt like Bixs spirit was in that room.I started to play Flashesthen In The Darkthen Candlelights.then Davenport Blues.I didnt want to stop.Oh my gosh---I cant describe what it felt like.
Unbelievable, exciting, thrilling, surreal, are just some of the words that describe the emotions behind that unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
My sincerestthanks to Gerri Bowers and Laura Hozak for making it possible for me to play Bixs historic piano---an endeavor to honor the spirit of his music. What an unforgettable memory!
Re: Chord Production on Brass. Specially for Musicologists
by Frank van Nus
Yes, this is correct (as far as I can see). I lack sufficient technical knowledge on this subject, but as I understand it, the phenomenon is known as the Tartini tone:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartini_tone
I don't think there's any evidence of Bix using this particular technique. But I do suspect that he was able to use the notes played by the musicians surrounding him to produce these overtones.
Brass players can produce this effect as described (by singing an additional note whilst playing) but they can also produce it by playing together with others, pitching their notes very carefully against each other: one plus one equals three! Played by two or more wind players, this effect has an aura-like quality, in which the sound appears to be everywhere at once. Hard to describe, but wonderful to experience.
Helped by his highly developed perfect pitch, I believe this may have been how Bix managed to stand out from his musical surroundings without actually playing loudly.
Chet Hazlett, the King of the Subtone Clarinet. An ad in England in 1926 and Find A Grave.
Chester Hazlett was born on Nov 7, 1891 in Park County, IN. He died Apr 11, 1974 in Althol MA. Hazlett played with several bands before joining Whiteman, among them the Arthur Pryor and Paul Ash Orchestras. Hazlett joined Whiteman in May 1925 as a replacement of Ross Gorman and stayed in the orchestra until 1931.
Hazlett gave this explanation of the subtone clarinet to Down Beat. "I subdue the vibration of the red with the tongue. This intensifies the tone, giving it sort of a hollow sound. It is played so softly that the tone holes of the clarinet must be within a few inches of the mike. The trick is to get an even tone through the register of the clarinet and not just play in the low register, as most reed players do, as this will cause a blast in the mike when all the finger holes are covered."
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra spent several weeks in England in April and May 1926. The June 1926 issue of Melody Maker carried the following ad.
true, there's no real way of muting a sax....but if you put something in the bell, it will mute the sax a bit. It "kills" some of the overtones. No wonder none of these mutes survived...probably not too many were bought...musicians figured it out without buying a mute !
See what Paul Tremaine does to mute his sax @aprox 3:13...he puts a handkerchief down his bell !
In 1926-1927, Paul Tremaine was hanging around in Joplin MO. Here are two ads.
In July 1927 he was in Wisconsin. Here are two ads.
You won't be able to read the names of the musicians. They are from top to bottom left side - Charles Bagby, Ted Brewer, Morris Bramsohn, John Baldwin, Laurie Minthinton. righ side - Marion Dougherty, Wallace Kewon, Arthur Debus, Robert Tremaine (manager and Paul's brother), Eddie Kilauoski [sic; correct spelling Kilanoski].
Looking for biographical information. More in the next few days, if I find significant material. Before I leave, it turns out that Lonely Acres, composed by Willard Robison, was the theme song of Paul Tremaine's orchestra.
They do survive in some numbers. One populare one was the Crown Tone Modulator - basically a thick felt donut with a brass bracket over the hole, so you could handle it. But as you said, they aren't much use to change the sound of the sax, and you also lose the lowest few notes on the horn. I only ever used my Modulator occasionally, when having to play VERY quietly!
The attached review of the British Brunswick reissue of Bix and His Rhythm Jugglers' "Davenport Blues" was published in the April 1936 edition of "Swing Music" magazine.
The final paragraph explains why the British Brunswick of "Davenport Blues" was issued on Br 02206 while "Toddlin' Blues" was issued on Br 02501.
Bearing in mind that the reissue was a dub, one might have assumed that the original 78 would have been processed in London. However, perhaps at this date there were no decent copies of the Gennett available in the UK and so the dubbing and subsequent processing had to be carried out in the USA.
The derision of Red Nichols in the review demonstrates that even at this early date he was already something of a musical pariah, constantly judged against Bix, unfairly so in my view.
The critic was John Goldman. His review of Davenport Blues was part of a more extensive review of Brunswick's "Classic Swing" series of reissues, which included The Wolverines, The Sioux City Six and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band.
Goldman seems to have adopted a rather intransigent position as a reviewer, witness the following remark that appeared on the previous page of the magazine (which contained Goldman's review of six Wolverine Orchestra recordings):-
"Editor's Note: This review was written before we received the article on Bix by Vic Moore (published in the March issue). When I told John Goldman that Mr. Moore had said that it was Jimmy McPartland and not Bix that played in "Royal Garden Blues," he refused to believe it. In spite of the fact that Vic Moore's statement appeared to be unassailably accurate, Goldman maintained that the cornet playing in this record was the very essence of Bix and could not be McPartland."
One does not need to read too far between the lines to detect the annoyance of the editor of Swing Music magazine, Leonard Hibbs, at Goldman's somewhat stubbornly opinionated stance!
"Limehouse Blues" , 5-24-1928 , Chicago IL , Vocalion 15708
as extraneous sound, in a few spots during the first 40 seconds or so.
Sometimes the choice of playing stylus can introduce extraneous noise not present in the original recording, I understand generally from reading a little on this subject. Maybe that is entirely what I hear in this "Limehouse." But I'm curious about others' aural interpretation here.
The first two seconds of this 'Limehouse' are silent recording, with the band starting play around the 2 second point. During these couple silent seconds, does anyone else hear a higher (female?) voice exclaim something like "You ain't finished talkin' to me here..."... and as band hits it's into notes, a deeper (male?) voice further back within the sound shouts something in response to the initial voice? The sound of the initial voice flickers again, seconds 7 to 9, and seconds 13 to 15, maybe.
Does anyone else hear anything like this in this audio file? Argument in the control room, 1928, maybe? Or all my imagination - Fred's variations on extraneous surface noise?
I hear it, too! And it's not on the Sager CD. It would be good to hear from Dave Sager about what he heard and what his thinking was about its source or about cutting it out of his restoration. I'm not saying he should have left it in there, as it very much sounds like a woman, and no woman was intended to be on that recording at the time. Those unintended snatches are intriguing, though, especially one that sounds like a disgruntled girlfriend who just won't stop talking, even when the red light comes on!
Of course, Sager's issue on this and the following recording "Dear Old Southland" was his belief that the clarinetist was Teschemacher on these, not Bercov as formerly postulated.
the voice/voices you are hearing are sounds produced when the owner of this record [or mp3] attempted to "fix" this track with a modern computer music program...and ruined it !!!
folks don't realize...the pure sound of a mint 78 played with the RIGHT needle does NOT need 2013 tampering by someone who doesn't know what they are doing !
there are a good handful of [small label] commercially made cds that came out with wonderful 1920s material that were also ruined by folks who tampered to much with the original music and made it sound like you were listening via Sputnik
Granted..there are some fine folks who do some minimum sound restoration with good taste...
hese folks that I've just spoken of do not have knowledge , taste or talent to mess with this...they are clueless !.
This what I wrote in my IAJRC Journal review of David Sager's "The Complete Wolverines."
Transfers of acoustic 78 rpm records present a challenge for the audio engineer. Doug Benson is a minimalist. His approach is to start with original 78s in the best possible condition and process them as little as possible so as to allow the listeners brain to ultimately sort out the music from the noise. I favor such a philosophy. I advocate transfers that utilize the minimum amount of processing. I want to hear every bit of sound that was embedded in the grooves created on the wax by the cutting needle. I dont like over-processed restorations that sound perfectly clean. I am not impressed with the artificial (I would call it metallic, cold) sound associated with a so-called perfect digital transfer that removes every click, every bit of noise and introduces sounds that were not engraved in the grooves of the original record.
I have a copy of the original 78 of Limehouse Blues. There are no voices anywhere on the record - not in the grooves before the music, during the music or after it. The voices heard on the redhotjazz transfer must have been added on, I presume by mistake. The other transfer you give a link to must be a copy of the redhotjazz file, and has been further "processed" (very badly!).
By the way, the intro and coda of this side remind me slightly of those hot Ben Pollack Victors from 1926/1927. Compare the intro on "Limehouse Blues" with that on "He's The Last Word" and the coda with "Waitin' For Katie", for instance. Not exactly the same of course, but a similar idea.
To be fair to John Goldman, it's clear from his review that he heard Bix's recording of "Davenport Blues" after he was already familiar with the Nichols versions and he regarded Bix's superior "artistry, balance, phrasing, emphasis and tone" as a revelation. In the writing about jazz in the late 1930's and early 1940's there's quite a lot of this judgmentalism, this quasi-prophetic pronouncements about who "is" and "isn't" a jazz musician, but one doesn't have to slam Red Nichols the way Goldman did to hear that Bix was considerably more imaginative. Bix doesn't come out on top on every tune both he and Nichols recorded (the July 1930 Nichols "China Boy" is both more dynamic than the Whiteman-Bix version and has strong solos by Nichols, Benny Goodman and especially Jack Teagarden that make it my all-time favorite record of the song) but he does on "Davenport Blues."
What I find odd about the post is Swing Music editor Leonard Hibbs using Vic Moore as a source to attack his own critic and regarding it as "unassailably accurate" that Jimmy McPartland, not Bix, played on the Wolverines' "Royal Garden Blues." Now we know not only that Bix DID play on "Royal Garden Blues," but Vic Moore didn't; it was from the Wolverines session on which Vic Berton sat in on drums!
I realized my mistake as soon as I looked up the redhotjazz.com link on one of the other posts on this thread and saw the label scan for "Royal Garden Blues" by the "Original Wolverines" -- a 1927 record on which no one has ever seriously doubted the participation of either Jimmy McPartland or Vic Moore.
"The final paragraph explains why the British Brunswick of "Davenport Blues" was issued on Br 02206 while "Toddlin' Blues" was issued on Br 02501.
Bearing in mind that the reissue was a dub, one might have assumed that the original 78 would have been processed in London. However, perhaps at this date there were no decent copies of the Gennett available in the UK and so the dubbing and subsequent processing had to be carried out in the USA."
These dubs were done at the Decca Chicago studios (prefix C), and are part of a group of dubs of Wolverines, NORK, O'Hare, Bix, Hitch, Bailey's Lucky 7 and Oliver Gennetts. Matrix numbers within range C-90360 (Copenhagen; dubbed 14 Oct 1935) - C-90486 (Tiger Rag; 27 Nov 1935). Possibly these dubs had been ordered by UK Brunswick.
At the same time Decca also recorded Jess Stacy (mxs 90445-47, the 15 Nov 35 piano solos of Bix tunes) and Meade Lux Lewis (90469; Honky Tonk Train Blues recorded 21 Nov 35) for release on UK Parlophone.
And there were a lot of custom recordings (clothing commercials, a.o.).
These details from Charles Garrod, "Decca Chicago Master Numbers", Joyce Record Club Publ."
Thanks for the interesting information, Han.
Even more information and scans of record labels from Han in
A puzzle. Rust's American Dance Band Disco gives Red Nichols, c; recorded Oct 5, 1925. However, Rust in the Jazz Disco writes, "The following personnel for Lou Gold's orchestra applies to the next seven sessions (Oct 5, 1925-Jan 7, 1926). Phil Hart, t." Does the horn player in Better Get Acquainted sound like Red to you? My guess would be Red. I listened to other recordings of Phil Hart with Lou Gold: for example, Sweet and Low Down (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rajzU28MW7Q) ; he does not sound like Red Nichols to me.
At the same session, Lou Gold recorded Let's Wander Away. Lou Gold recorded the same tune earlier, on Aug 11 1925 with Roy Johnston on trumpet, according to the Dance Band disco. I could not find the Oct 5 recording, but the Aug 11 recording is available on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpslpduKcDI It sounds like Roy Johnston to me.
I was asked to post the article(s) of Red with Lou Gold that were published in Shellac Stack. Luckily they are already scanned. (With the reorganization of the house my scanner is not hooked up and I do have to go online and reload the driver.)
Albert HaimSteve, I find it interesting that you were asked to post this. Earlier today, I had a post in the bixography forum where I discussed some of these recordings. - Better Get Acquainted. Oct 5, 1925. Sounded like Red to me in agreement with the article you posted.. - Sweet and Lowdown. Jan 7, 1926. Rust gives Phil Hart on trumpet. The article you cited gives both Red and Phil There are two solos in the recording. Who plays them? I did not think it was Red. What is your opinion? - Let's Wander Away. Aug 11, 1925. Rust gives Roy Johnston. The article you cited gives Red Nichols. Sounded like Roy Johnston to me. The youtube video also assigns it to Roy Johnston. What is your opinion?
Stephen HesterLet's Wander Away and Better Get Acquainted are from the same session. Red verified his presence on all the Lou Gold records listed here. Dad and Woody sent him (and several others) tapes of thousands of records to listen to and evaluate. I remember Red does solo on Keep Your Skirts Down, Mary Ann from the Sweet And Lowdown session. Unfortunately at the moment I can not pull the record to listen to it. I still haven't been able to uncrate any of dad's records. I do not have the shelves ready, yet. I really do not know where Rust got the personnels he listed for the "dance band" records. Dad had worked up several Lou Gold lps (with and without Red) to issue, but we never issued them.
Stephen HesterOur friend, Paul Burgess, published the articles in his Shellac Stack. He published...Red Nichols On Edison, Red Nichols with Sam Lanin, and Red Nichols with Lou Gold. Dad had sent him copies of ALL the session worksheets from the 20s. They both had planned on publishing the entire output of Red's activities of the 20s. The exact date of the Gold articles, at this time I do not know until I uncrate them.
Albert HaimThanks, Steve. There were two recordings of Let's Wander Away by Lou Gold. One on Oct 5, 1925 (the same day as Better Get Acquainted) and one on Aug 11, 1925. I only heard the Aug 11, 1925 recording, the one where Rust gives Roy Johnston. In my posting to the bixography forum, I give links to all three recordings under discussion.
Stephen HesterThe personnels on the "dance band" records are very subjective and I doubt they will ever be 100% complete or accurate. Even though Red, Woody, Dad and I want that for the Nichols book...I doubt too that will happen.
Stephen HesterI did just notice that dad did not (*) solos on the Pathe/Perfect session of Let's Wander Away. I wish I could get to the session worksheets and check it out...or even the records. I told both dad and Woody that I do plan on re-evaluated everything when I prepare the book.
Albert HaimThanks for pointing out the significance of the *. The fact that there is no * in the Aug 11, 1925 recording of "Let's Wander Away" means that Red did not play the solo. So now we agree in my assignment of soloists in two of the three recordings that I cited in my forum posting.
- Better Get Acquainted. Oct 5, 1925. Solo by Red. - Let's Wander Away. Aug 11, 1925. Red does not play the solo (no * in the listing). If we accept that Rust's roster is correct, the soloist is Roy Johnston, as I suggested..
That leaves Sweet and Low Down. I assigned the solo to Phil Hart. In the article, you give the horn players as Red and Phil Hart. Since there is a * in the listing, you assign the solo to Red. I assigned it to Phil Hart. I listened to the recording again. I am somewhat uncertain. It could be Red. Maybe other members of the group would express their opinions?
Pauline Rivelli wrote an article entitled "Bix at Lake Forest Academy" in Jazz, Vol 5, issue 3, 1966. She reproduced several pages from The Caxy, 1922. Here is one of them. It will be seen that Bix did not waste any time: by Oct 29, 1921,just over a month after arriving at LFA, he had organized a dance band.