EDDIE CONDON’S FLOOR SHOW, REMEMBERED

My esteemed correspondent Mr. Jones (“Stompy” to his poker friends) writes,

You mentioned Eddie Condon’s Floor Show.  We got a TV early, in the fall of ‘49.  There were lots of little musical programs in those early, primitive days of live TV: Morton Downey, the Kirby Stone Quartet, a black pianist-singer named Bob Howard, others.  I think they were all 15 minutes.  They were filler; the stations didn’t have enough programming to fill their schedules.  (Hey, we thought it was exciting to watch a test pattern!)

I watched Eddie Condon’s Floor Show (on channel 7) before I knew anything about jazz.  I remember immediately noticing this trumpeter who played out of the side of his mouth.  They had a regular segment in which someone from the studio audience (probably 15 people dragged in off the street) requested songs for the band to play. Once somebody requested “Rag Mop”.  In those days, when a novelty like “RM” hit, it hit huge.  For a few weeks it would be everywhere, I mean everywhere – then it would disappear without a trace.  (The same thing happened with “One Meatball” and “Open the Door, Richard”.) Well, it was the fall of ‘49 and the Ames Brothers’ record of “RM” had just hit – only it hadn’t hit Condon and his cohorts, so when somebody requested it, the Condonites were incredulous and dismissive.  I remember them laughing derisively saying “There ain’t no such song” or some such.  Too bad they didn’t know it was just a blues.  Wild Bill would have played the hell out of it.

You can see our Stromberg-Carlson with 12-1/2” screen in the attached photo, taken during my Bar Mitzvah party in Jan. ‘52.  Amazing that such larger-than-life memories (Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, the Army-McCarthy hearings, Edward R. Murrow, Sugar Ray Robinson, Toscanini conducting with fire in his eyes, countless Dodger games, Jackie Gleason breaking his leg on live TV, my first encounter with Wild Bill Davison) could have come out of such a little box!

1952-frontroom-stompy-jones-tv

That one of my readers saw the Eddie Condon Floor Show on television is wonderful and startling.  For those of you who aren’t as obsessed as I am with this particular bit of jazz history, I will say briefly that Condon, who was organizing jazz events before most of us were born, had angled a few brief television programs in 1942 — when the medium’s reach was unimaginably small.  Then, in 1948, he began a series of programs that offered live hot jazz with everyone: Louis, Lips Page, Billy Butterfield, Roy Eldridge, Muggsy Spanier, Jonah Jones, Jimmy McPartland, Cootie Williams, Wild Bill Davison, Dick Cary, Jack Teagarden, Cutty Cutshall, Benny Morton, Brad Gowans, Big Chief Russell Moore, Peanuts Hucko, Ernie Caceres, Sidney Bechet, Pee Wee Russell, Willie the Lion Smith, James P. Johnson, Earl Hines, Count Basie, Gene Schroeder, Sammy Price, Ralph Sutton, Cliff Jackson, Joe Bushkin, Teddy Hale, Avon Long, Jack Lesberg, Zutty Singleton, Sid Catlett, George Wettling, Kansas Fields,Buzzy Drootin,  J. C. Heard, Buddy Rich, Lee Wiley, Rosemary Clooney, Sarah vaughan, Thelma Carpenter, June Christy, Johnny Desmond, Helen Ward, and on and on . . .

In case some of the names surprise you, Condon’s appreciation of good music was deep and never restrictive.  Ironically, his name is now associated with a blend of “Dixieland” and familiar routines on Twenties and Thirties pop songs.

Some music from the Floor Shows was preserved and eventually issued on the Italian Queen-Disc label.  To my knowledge, nothing from these recordings (and the collectors’ tapes) has made it to CD.

In addition, no one has found any kinescopes (they were films of television programs, often recorded directly from the monitor or set) of the programs.  We continue to hope.  Perhaps one of my readers has a pile of 16mm reels in the basement.  Let me know before you begin the obligatory spring cleaning!  My father was a motion picture projectionist, so such things are in my blood.

3 responses to “EDDIE CONDON’S FLOOR SHOW, REMEMBERED

  1. In reviewing my recollection, I noticed a mistake. In 1949-50 Kirby Stone led a quintet, not a quartet, on a nightly 15-minute TV show in New York. He was nominally a trumpet player, but he wouldn’t/couldn’t play much. (I remember my father complaining, “He just keeps repeating the same note!”) Kirby mainly held his horn, emcee’d and sang. The drummer was Eddie Hall, the bassist Doc Mandell. My recollection is that the best musician in the group was a tasteful pianist whose name, I think, was Gardner. The fifth wheel was a Flip Phillips-style tenor saxophonist whose nickname was Cow-Eyes, and who was constantly mentioning that he was close personal friends with Charlie Ventura. One evening Cow-Eyes proudly welcomed a surprise guest star to the program, the man himself, his close personal friend, the one and only Charlie Ventura!

    Years later the Kirby Stone Four – sans Cow-Eyes – hit the jackpot with an insipid hit record of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.”

    I realize we’re wading into the deepest thickets of musical trivia, but does anyone out there know anything about any of these guys? (Aside from Charlie Ventura; I know who he was.) Above all, who was Cow-Eyes???

    In 1949-50 the Kirby Stone Quintet’s main claim to fame was that they had written and recorded the theme song for a couple of jazz DJ’s who had a radio show in Philadelphia. It was a nothing song – called “Nine-Five-0” – that the Quintet played on the program with disturbing regularity. I forget the lyrics to the first 8 bars, but the second 8 went:

    Hey Sam! Hey Sam!
    You’ll be diggin’ all the jam-what-am!
    Right now,
    And how,
    With a smile on your dial at Nine-Five-0.

    [bridge]
    There’s lots of fun
    For anyone
    Who’s really in the know.
    We’re all goin’ steady
    With Fat Boy and Eddie,
    Please don’t stand there like a schmo! [MOP!]

    [final 8]
    Hey Max! Relax!
    You’ll be jumpin’ to the best on wax!
    Just stay
    That way
    With a smile on your dial at Nine-Five-0!

    Any Philadelphians out there remember jazz DJ’s called Fat Boy and Eddie?

  2. Yes, you are right about the Eddie Condon Floor Shows on Queen Disc LPs. I have the 2 of them and also 1 on the UK Saga LP. Lous is on 3 sets and perhaps the only person you didn’t mention, Billie on 2 also. Please, please find the film clips!!!. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog. Jim Lowe. Manchester. UK.

  3. Marc Reichertz

    Beautiful version of “Lover Man” by Billie from the August 27, 1949, broadcast – I was just listening to it…

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