THE SPIRITS OF RHYTHM

Spirits Alabamy

Spirits

Up until a few weeks ago, I would have sworn that the entire output of the Spirits of Rhythm — that gloriously hot (and sometimes silly) group — could have been contained on one CD of their 1933-41 recordings, including sessions with Ella Logan and Red McKenzie.

spirits 1Of course, there were other extras — Leo Watson’s one session for Decca, a later one for Signature (with Vic Dickenson), and a mid-Forties reunion of the group on the West Coast which resulted in four sides for the Black and White label.  Tangentially, Leo Watson appeared on a few Jubilee shows and once on a Rudy Vallee radio program, as well as recording with Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw, but I thought the musical material was unbearably finite.

Spirits SWEETHEART

That was until I found “TOM TOM, THE ELEVATOR BOY” on YouTube and got to see the Spirits in action (the clip came from the otherwise-forgotten 1941 musical SWEETHEART OF THE CAMPUS).

And some more online research has just turned up that they appeared in two other films that year: ALABAMY BOUND and YES, INDEED!  Both musicals were directed by Dudley Murphy, the second with Josef Byrne (it seems to be a short subject with Dorothy Dandridge).  Something tells me that these weren’t big-budget mass-market productions, but perhaps productions aimed at the Black market, done in a hurry and on a minimal budget.  In fact, I have no assurance that the three films have different musical numbers.  And in 1942, the Spirits appeared in PANAMA HATTIE.

Spirits DeccaBut did you know that the 6 Spirits of Rhythm (including Teddy Bunn, Wilbur and Douglas Daniels, Leo Watson, Virgil Scoggins, and Ernest “Serious” Myers) appeared on Broadway from September 1935 to March 1936 — alongside Bea Lillie, Eleanor Powell, Ethel Waters, and Eddie Foy, Jr. in the Dietz-Schwartz musical AT HOME ABROAD?  Do I have any Broadway archivists among my readers?

At the top of the page is a still of Leo Watson from ALABAMY BOUND.  The world needs more film footage of Leo and Teddy Bunn.  Or, if you think that statement’s too sweeping, I do.

7 responses to “THE SPIRITS OF RHYTHM

  1. Pingback: THE SPIRITS OF RHYTHM

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  3. Sign me up. And fire up the Time Machine!

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    The world needs more film footage of Leo and Teddy Bunn. Or, if you think that statement’s too sweeping, I do.

  4. I knew you’d approve. But Time Machines make me nervous, because in all of the science fiction I’ve read where they appear, they’re not well-calibrated. Suppose we set the dials for 1939, Fifty-Second Street, and ended up in 1969, in high school? Gives me the heebie-jeebies, not to say the whim-whams. So let’s hope one of my readers finds the film clips.

  5. Suppose we set the dials for 1939, Fifty-Second Street, and ended up in 1969, in high school?

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    I will be sure to pack a few cyanide capsules.

  6. Watson also recorded with the Washboard Rhythm Kings,
    playing bass and adding his deliriously goofy vocals to six of their best sides in 1932 (in the beautiful acoustical space of Victor’s Camden, NJ church studio).

  7. Most assuredly, Doug — including that piece of Horatian epic poetry, IKEY AND MIKEY . . . wonderfully wacky records. I also didn’t include his two efforts with the All-Star Jam Band for Commodore including Bobby Hackett, Pete Brown, Joe Marsala . . . halcyon days indeed! Thanks for reminding us!

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