Where do the fascinating objects of the recent past end up?  Papers decay, shellac discs break, photographs crumble.  It’s either terribly sad or somewhat of a relief — if objects didn’t decay, we would be neck-deep in 1924 newsprint and cereal boxes.

John P. Cooper, my cyber-friend and vintage jazz and pop enthusiast, is wondering about a particular collection — the treasured paper ephemera of the composer and actor Henry Nemo, who died in 1999.  Most of us know Nemo as the composer of DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE FROM ME and ‘TIS AUTUMN.  And some film buffs will recall him as “the Neem” in THE SONG OF THE THIN MAN.  Below is the only photograph I have been able to find of Nemo online, authenticated by his daughter.


But until John directed me to Wikipedia, I hadn’t known of Nemo’s holdings — a veritable Alexandria of jive from the late Thirties.  I don’t usually trust Wikipedia, but this sounds enticing enough to be accurate:

Nemo’s rare collection of jazz memorabilia documents 1930s music and his days at the Cotton Club, where he wrote the lyrics with Irving Mills and John Redmond for “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” (1938), with music by Duke Ellington. In Nemo’s historical collection are original photographs which he took at the Cotton Club, plus Cotton Club memorabilia and a 1939 telegram from Ellington to Nemo, written in jive talk.

Calling Western Union!  Do any JAZZ LIVES readers know where this collection might be and if it’s open to the public?  Brush up  your jive talk, please.

4 responses to “A TELEGRAM IN JIVE TALK

  1. On an album I recorded a few years back I included two compositions by Henry Nemo; “Don’t Take Your Love FromMe” and “Tis Autumn”. In one of my live performances, maybe two or three years ago, I played “Don’t Take Your Love From Me” and spoke a little about the reclusive and somewhat bohemian Henrty Nemo. After the show, a lady sought me out and told me very excitedly that her parents had lived next door to Henry Nemo (in California if my memory serves me correctly) and that although a quiet man, the family had got to know him and become very close. She also referred to his ‘large collection of memorabilia’ . If only I’d have been aware of what you refer to above I might have made more enquiries as to what and where the memorabilia ended up! Unfortunately, as you say, because he was so reclusive and publicity shy I had no idea he had such an important collection! I now feel very frustrated that I might have been very close to knowing the answer to the mystery!

  2. Would love to know if any photos of Irving Mills, especially at Cotton Club, pop up anywhere.

    Nice site. 🙂

  3. John P. Cooper

    My one time conversation with Henry Nemo was pure luck of the draw. A neighbor/friend of his came into my shop and mentioned that he knew Henry Nemo. I said it would be great to talk to him….and a few days later, he called me, IIRC – as opposed to me calling him.

    He was a pleasure to speak with! I thanked him for his good songs and mentioned “Pass the Bounce” (as recorded by Krupa/O’Day) and he laughed in recognition – “I haven’t thought about that one in years!”

    All in all, a very nice phone call and I wish I had asked to speak with him yet another time.

  4. Kirk Silsbee

    I knew Nemo casually at the end of his life and I can honestly say that he was larger than life. Sinatra, Ellington, Basie, Ella, the Nicholas Brothers, Bunny Briggs, Red and Mildred–he had a connection to all of them. The world isn’t quite the same since The Neme left us.

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