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.


9 responses to “THE SPIRITS OF RHYTHM SIGN IN on eBay

  1. Another CD by this great group is “The Spirits of Rhythm 1933 – 1945″ on the French Classics label #1028…Also recommended listening …”The Cats & The Fiddle I Miss You So” double LP RCA/Bluebird produced by Frank Driggs a frequent guest at the Sofia’s Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks gig.

  2. Nice post! Makes me feel like I can make these old bones move and dance!! Sure can’t stop the toe tapping though! So much jazz history in the wonderful posts you send,,,It keeps the music going, and everyone that loves this, like I do, owe you a great big thank you!!

  3. Peter Vacher

    The contract is fascinating – thanks for unearthing it. Ramon ‘Jack’ LaRue was a New Orleans-born pianist who came to Los Angeles in the 1930s and appeared with Louis in ‘Pennies from Heaven’ performing ‘Skeleton in the Closet’ as one of the masked bandsmen seen on screen. He later surfaced with Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band and Joe Darensbourg in my book says ‘he wasn’t dependable – one of these guys here you don’t’ know which way he’s going to jump.” I think he played with Jack McVea for a while and sundry other small groups and was notorious as a heroin addict.
    I’m enjoying ‘Jazz Lives’ very much and hope to meet up with you again some time soon, probably at the EAR Inn!

    Best regards. Peter
    PS I sent this as an e-mail message originally but dont kniw whether it reached you. PV

  4. Douglas Daniels Jr.

    My Douglas Earl Daniels Jr. Douglas Daniels is my grandfather and my father Douglas Earl Daniels Sr is his son. My father just happened to a Goggle search his father and this article came up. We would to reach like to reach out author of this great article about my grandfather. My hope is that we could provide eachother insight to my families great past.

  5. I would like nothing better: I’ll be ready when the great day comes! Cheers, Michael

  6. Chris scoggins

    Douglas is my cousin my father is Howard scoggins virgil was my uncle never met any fam on the seals side my father talks about um all the time romey and Fred and all them im Chris scoggins @ Douglas Daniels look me up on fb

  7. A quibble, tiple is 10 strings in 4 courses, 2 -3-3-2. the odd thing is no one mentions the uke, and my ears tell me the solos on I’ve Got Rhythm and Nobody’s Sweetheart were played on uke, not tiple. I’m looking for film footage to confirm, but I don’t hear doubled strings, let alone the octave pair on second string for these lovely solos, closely miked. I’m wondering who did that solo uke work? Could it have been Bunn, switching off to guitar? Further investigation is required.

  8. Dear Slim, I don’t doubt the serious accuracy of your ears . . . . and if you say it sounds like ukulele, I have no problem with that. I am amused by your vigorous optimism: the only film footage of any Sprits of Rhythm group we have is the 1941 TOM TOM, THE ELEVATOR BOY (I am assuming the comma) from an otherwise unmemorable musical called (I think) SWEETHEART OF THE CAMPUS. But what the Spirits might have been playing in the recording studio eight years ago is of course a matter for the String Goddess to sort out. We are so fortunate that Red McKenzie thought they were remarkable and remarkably worth promotion, no?

  9. How thrilling looking at the Watsons signature! Thank you!

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