I admire the Mills Brothers; I revere the Boswell Sisters.
But I have a special place in my heart for a group that has received far less attention — the aptly-named Spirits of Rhythm, featuring Douglas Daniels and his brother Wilbur on tipple (a twelve-string instrument), Teddy Bunn on guitar, and Leo Watson on vocal, occasionally drums.
Their recording career was brief: their records can fit on one compact disc (it’s worth searching for — on the Timeless / Retrieval label) and they flourished, intermittently, between the early Thirties and the mid-Forties. Electrified, Bunn went on to record into the Fifties; Watson drifted into obscurity and died in 1950. What happened to the Daniels brothers I do not know (although I just sent an email to Wilbur’s granddaughter, found on YouTube — the internet makes such deliciously odd things possible!).
I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog the two clips of the Spirits — or variant combinations — on film, and they can be found on YouTube. One is an exceedingly out-of-synch TOM TOM THE ELEVATOR BOY, from a 1941 musical SWEETHEART OF THE CAMPUS. The other features Eddie Cantor impersonatory Jackie Greene in ALABAMY BOUND.
But here’s some music. First, I GOT RHYTHM from 1933:
And DR. WATSON AND MR. HOLMES (lyrics by Johnny Mercer, 1937):
What else would anyone need?
How about some calligraphic evidence? Here’s a contract offered to the highest bidder on eBay: dating from 1942, it offers the signatures of Ramon La Rae (a singer? a bassist?), Teddy Bunn, Leo Watson, and the Daniels brothers. I never thought I’d see something like this:
Here’s a closeup:
My only question now is whether I want the image below on a sweatshirt or will content myself with the wall hanging.
Design suggestions, anyone?
The bidding ended — someone offered over $325 for this rare piece of paper.
KEEP EVERYONE’S SPIRITS HIGH: CLICK HERE (ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS)