Last week, I met Leo McConville, Jr. and his wife Linda in New York City . . . they are warm, friendly people and we had a laughter-filled time.

Leo brought copies of some photographs that included his father, and I was able to identify a few more characters — Vic Berton, Miff Mole, Red Nichols, possibly Larry Binyon (these photos will emerge on JAZZ LIVES in time).  But here are several photographs that would benefit from collective explication.

What can my readers tell us?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Let’s start with a fairly straightforward one:

I’d say Miff Mole, then the pride of Ogden, Utah — Loring “Red” Nichols, and Leo.  I originally thought the mellophone player was Dudley Fosdick, but Enrico Borsetti explained that this was the brass section of Don Voorhees’ EARL CARROLL’S VANITIES orchestra and that the mellophonist (?) was Bill Trone.

Recognize anyone?  I’d place this — at the latest — 1934 — but that’s only because Leo left New York City and the music business around then.  He is standing in the middle, behind the right shoulder of the seated man (the leader?).

News flash from a friend in 2014: that’s the Paul Specht Orchestra with guitarist Roy Smeck as featured soloist.  

And something charming but more mysterious.  Who are these people?  Jimmy Dorsey is the driver.  But the ladies?

Here’s Jimmy and “Jamie” on their wedding day, Valentine’s Day, 1928:

As an experiment, here are the photographs at double the size above to aid JAZZ LIVES readers reaching for magnifying glasses.  The ratio is distorted, but the details are larger.  Here’s the Peerless Quartet:

And that mysterious band:

What car is Jimmy driving?

I couldn’t omit the happy couple — watch fob and bouquet in full splendor.

Your thoughts, fellow scholars?

18 responses to “FROM THE McCONVILLE ARCHIVES (Part One)

  1. Wow. I’m pretty sure that’s Roy Smeck, The Wizard of the Strings himself, in the band photo. That’s a very VERY unusual guitar, probably with some central or southern European pedigree in its background (even if it was made here), and I’ve seen that same guitar in a promo shot of Smeck from the 20’s. The image is a little blurry on my computer, but from what I can make out, the guitarist’s countenance bears a striking resemblance to one of Smeck’s more “Bela Lugosi-channeling” stares. That’s a very hip photo. Taking offers?

  2. I love a mystery! I think the band is Paul Specht’s . That’s Spect with the violin. Far left, standing, is Arthur Schutt (minus the flower in the lapel). I believe Sylvester Ahola is standing on McConnville’s right. That’s Roy Smeck on banjo, uke, etc. (Which led me to this, which I hadn’t seen before )

    Likely it’s around 1925-26. Lord’s discography lists Hooley in the band with Charlie Spivak but I don’t see Spivak in the photo. Others who may be in the photo: Charlie Butterfield (tb); Larry Abbott (cl, sop, as); Frank Kilduff (cl, as, bar); Henry Wade (cl, sop, ts); Billy Wolfe (tu); Ted Noyes (drums).

    Chris Tyle

  3. Oh it’s Smeck alright: Just realized he’s posing with the uke. Very super hip. Come on – lemme buy it! :-)))

  4. Jimmy Dorsey dressed as a woman? I can’t believe it. He is sitting next to the driver, isn’t he? Or else the car should be British.
    Sorry – couldn’t help it.

  5. The McConville pictures

    All I can add is that the instrument shown is NOT a mellophone. It is a French Horn. The mellophone has valves, the French Horn has keys.

  6. Maybe it’s Tommy Dorsey in women’s clothing sitting on the back seat! (Actually that might be Mom Dorsey…)

  7. Rob Rothberg

    Definitely the Paul Specht band with Arthur Schutt. Probably no later than 1924, since by 1925, Schutt went with Roger Wolfe Kahn. I don’t see Hooley in the photo, and if my hypothesis about the date is correct, he shouldn’t be there; he joined Specht in December 1925.

  8. What a cool looking guitar! Very ornate binding and love the cutaway and heart shaped sound-hole. Roy Smeck. Incredible.

  9. Ooh, jealous of the guitar!

  10. By the way, the vehicle looks like a Duesenberg Model J Convertible Roadster, 1931. That’s my best bet. Lives of the rich and famous. How is Jimmy the driver when the woman in the front has her hands on the delicate wheel? Thanks to Clive Cussler’s car collection!

  11. For any guitar nerds out there (I doubt there are any nerdier than I, who also read Michael’s blog), my very knowledgeable friend Peter Kohman ( informs me that Smeck’s unusual guitar is his “octochorda” – a one-of-a-kind 8-string Hawaiian guitar made by the Stapholpoulo brothers. For the full-on freaks out there, here’s an excellent article by Paul Fox, which includes another partial publicity shot of the Paul Specht group.

  12. It is definitely a mellophone that Bill Trone is holding, despite what Aroonie states. Those are piston valves, not rotary ones – they just happen to be set at a different angle (of 90 degrees) than the usual way. In any case, it isn’t the valve type that (strictly speaking) defines a mellophone – it is the tubing configuration, bore and fingering technique (and, to a lesser degree, the mouthpiece type); in fact, very early (19th century) mellophones had one piston valve and one rotary valve!


    First, I want to say hello to Mike and my friends Matt, Nick, Rob, (Hi Chris, we met in Ascona years ago).
    For what I see, Miff Mole has an Olds trombone, Red Nichols here with a Conn Victor with a Bach mouthpiece in the leadpipe and McConville an early Vincent Bach trumpet, I don’t see clearly if it’s an Apollo or a Stradivarius model since the instrument it’s out of focus…

  14. Leo McConville Jr.

    Good evening! I just discovered something interesting concerning the picture Michael posted for me of Jimmy & Jamie (Janice??) that was given to my dad. The date on the picture (Valentines Day of course!) is the same date listed on Bix’s Website for two of the following songs that my dad was included:
    “Mary Ann” – Dorsey Brothers. Feb 14, 1928. Vocal by Irving Kaufman.
    “Persian Rug” – Dorsey Brothers. Feb 14, 1928.
    Kind of interesting! I’m starting to gain more knowledge of my dad’s career thanks to great websites such as these. Any additional help would be much appreciated!!

    Leo McConville, Jr.

  15. Ken Andresenb

    I own the trombone Miff is holding in the picture. It is a mid-twenties Olds with heavy engraving and gold plated on the bell section. It is also engraved with a banner with the name “Miff Mole” on it.

  16. The second musician picture of the Voorhees brass section is definitely holding a mellophone, not a French horn. The piston valves are evident, and the bell would wrap to the rear, around his left side, when played. I presume this is Bill Trone, but certainly not Dudley Fosdick. You hear McConville and Trone in their prime, try Voorhees’s “Baby’s Blue.” The same date included Mole’s wonderful solo on “Clementine.”

  17. Sorry for the somewhat redundant, poorly proofread comment above. Should have read the whole thread first.

  18. IIRC, JD’s wife was Janie (not Jamie) Porter, who had been Miss Detroit before their marriage in 1927.

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