Some twenty-first century efforts to evoke the vanished past — well-intentioned for sure — have the goofy effect of watching a child dressed up in adult clothes. You want to applaud, but the clothes are hilariously too big and the child has not grown into them. Come back in fifteen years.
Other times, the musicians have so internalized the sounds that, although you know “it’s not the original,” it is captivating, with its own energy — evoking that once-lost world. Late-night dancing, nickels in the jukebox, poignant singing to the accompaniment of a small band or a groovy pianist, hard times and deep fun.
That’s the case with this new CD (recorded in April 2020) by Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys, COOL IT IF YOU CAN. I was immediately pleased by a few things (even before playing it): a band that takes its CD title from a performance by Frankie Half-Pint Jaxon is already showing the right credentials, and the inclusion of MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT, homage to mid-Thirties Red McKenzie on Decca, was further reinforcement. Could I pass up a CD where one of musicians doubles on “trash can”?
I’ve admired the work of Miss Jubilee and her band before here — their compelling joyous authenticity that never strains to be authentic. They just are.
Their new CD has the fierce playfulness of a good loud party (not the one your neighbors are having while you are trying to sleep). There are pots of delicious food on the stove, there’s plenty of ice for the drinks, you are encouraged to have a second helping of everything. And the music is swinging. Hear for yourself:
The band is Valerie Kirchhoff, vocal; Ethan Leinwand, piano; Richard Tralles, string bass; Kenneth Cebrian, trumpet; Ryan Calloway, clarinet; Ryan Koenig, washboard, guitar, banjo, trash can; Nick Pence, guitar, washboard.
And the repertoire, which comes from the aforementioned Mr. Jaxon, Clara Smith, Victoria Spivey, Red McKenzie, the Missourians, the State Street Swingers, Big Bill Broonzy, the Modern Mountaineers, the Harlem Hamfats, Lil Johnson, the Famous Hokum Boys, and Bob Howard — runs the gamut from what I think of as deep Black Chicago to good-time barbecue music, from acoustic Columbia blues moaning to let’s-get-drunk-and-truck. You’ll figure out your own associations when you hear the songs: YOU DO ME ANY OLD WAY / MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT / MOANING THE BLUES / MISSISSIPPI SANDMAN / FAN IT / DON’T TEAR MY CLOTHES No. 2 / I’VE GOT SOMEONE / WEED SMOKER’S DREAM / PRESCRIPTION FOR THE BLUES / COME ON IN / THAT BONUS DONE COME TRUE / ANY KIND-A-MAN / No. 12 LET ME ROAM / THERE AIN’T GONNA BE NO DOGGONE AFTER AWHILE.
The disc is available here, where you can also learn more about the band and their previous — as they would say in 1940 — “waxings.”
In 2o18, I wrote, “They make the best noises.” Do they ever.
Tree sparrows, Passer montanus, on bird table in garden. Co. Durham.
Did you awake from a five-star anxiety dream? Is the news its own generator of such dreams? Are the gray days of winter not getting longer quickly enough? Are the inanimate objects ganging up on you: the banging radiators, the toilet that threatens to overflow? Can you see the bottom of the crumb supply?
Perhaps you want to insert this piece of music into your mental jukebox.
The song is by Jack Yellen and Lew Pollack and it is central to this 1936 musical, with a singularly foolish plotline. Alice Faye cheerfully delivers this song in one of the obligatory nightclub scenes. (It’s on YouTube.)
It was a small hit in 1936, if these records are any indication. And I find it cheering now.
Teddy Wilson in Los Angeles, with Chris Griffin (tp) Benny Goodman (cl) Vido Musso (ts) Lionel Hampton (vib) Teddy Wilson (p) Allan Reuss (g) Harry Goodman (b) Gene Krupa (d) Redd Harper (vcl):
Ruby Newman (an unknown recording where his band sounds very much like that of a Chicago clarinetist — Dick McDonough happily prominent! — as well as JAZZ LIVES’ hero Larry Binyon . . . Jack Lacey, Felix Giardina (tb) Alfie Evans, Sid Stoneburn (cl,as) Larry Binyon (cl,ts) Rudolph Adler (bar) Ruby Newman (vln,ldr) Sam Liner (p) Dick McDonough (g) Sam Shopnick (b) Al Lepin (d) Barry McKinley (vcl):
Putney Dandridge, with Henry “Red” Allen (tp) Joe Marsala (cl,as) Clyde Hart (p) Eddie Condon (g) John Kirby (b) Cozy Cole (d):
Bob Howard, with Marty Marsala (tp) Sid Trucker (cl) Zinky Cohn (p) Dave Barbour (g) George Yorke (b) Stan King (d):
Bob Crosby, with Zeke Zarchy, Yank Lawson (tp) Ward Silloway, Warren Smith (tb) Matty Matlock (as,cl) Gil Rodin, Noni Bernard (as) Eddie Miller (ts,cl) Deane Kincaide (ts) Bob Zurke (p) Nappy Lamare (g) Bob Haggart (b) Ray Bauduc (d) [Tom Lord actually identifies the bassist as “Bob Haggard” — those transcription dates could wear you out]:
Charlie Barnet: George Kennedy, Kermit Simmons, Irving Goodman (tp) Johnny Doyle, Sonny Lee (tb) Charlie Barnet (sax,vcl,ldr) Willard Brady, Don Morris, George Vaughn, Murray Williams (reeds) Horace Diaz, Jr. (p,arr) Scoop Thomson (g) Sid Weiss (b) Billy Flanagan (d):
Teddy Stauffer gives those crumbs some Continental seasoning, with Betty Toombs (voc), Harry Herzog, Carl Hohenberger, Max Mussigbrodt (tp) Walter Dobschinski (tb,arr) Erich Bohme, Albert Wollenhaupt (tb) Ernst Hollerhagen, Bertalan Bujka (cl,as) Helmut Friedrich, Teddy Kleindin (ts) Teddy Stauffer (ts,vln,ldr) Franz Thon (bar,as) Jack Trommer (p) Buddy Bertinat (p,vln,accor) Billy Toffel (g,vcl) Andre Schuster (b) Polly Guggisberg (d):
The Swingtimers, who may be unknown (tp) Abe Walters (tb,p) Ern Pettifer (cl,as) unknown p, g, b, d, Sam Costa (vcl):
and let us leap forward from 1936 into this century (January 2016) with a sweetly swinging version from string bassist and raconteur Bill Crow — singing the optimistic message straight to our hearts, nobly aided by Flip Peters:
There will be crumbs — and more — enough for everyone, if we keep singing.
If you asked me to give an overview of jazz and popular music in 1936, I might summon up Stuff Smith, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Putney Dandridge, Fletcher Henderson, Teddy Hill, Gene Krupa, Fifty-Second Street, Red Allen, Art Tatum, Bob Howard, Mildred Bailey, Jones-Smith, Incorporated, Teddy Wilson, and twenty others. It would be a little after THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND but just right for I’SE A-MUGGIN’, CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, and RHYTHM IN MY NURSERY RHYMES, perhaps DINNER FOR ONE, PLEASE JAMES.
But in even broader strokes, this was the early triumph of the Swing Era, dominated by well-rehearsed bands, using intricate arrangements for dancers. But art, however you define it, is never homogeneous: while Joyce and Woolf were exploding the conventions of narrative, many traditional linear novels were published and read. In jazz, we know that Max Roach and Baby Dodds were on the same radio broadcast in most congenial fashion. And in the very late Fifties, Herbie Nichols, Steve Lacy, Ed Allen, and Cecil Scott were all gigging in New York City simultaneously.
These musings come about because of Briscoe Draper’s posting on Facebook of a song I’d never heard, LITTLE SANDWICH WAGON, which delights me. It features the clarinet playing of Arnett Nelson, someone I’ve heard about from one of my other teachers, Sammut of Malta — whose expert playing has nothing to do with the elegant playing of Benny and Artie, so much in fashion in 1936. These tracks were issued under the all-inclusive but unspecific name “Chicago Rhythm Kings,” which jazz fans will recognize as a nom-de-disque for young white Chicagoans in 1928.
Here is the recording data, edited from Tom Lord. Steve Abrams suggests that Guy Kelly is the trumpeter, but I feel that the player we hear is less assured. And is the pianist Black Bob or Jimmy Blythe? I do not know, nor are such matters my focus.
Lord notes: prob. Alfred Bell (cnt) Roy Palmer (tb) Arnett Nelson (cl,vcl) prob. Black Bob (p) prob John Lindsay (b) Jimmy Bertrand (d). Chicago, March 11, 1936: YOU BATTLE-HEAD BEETLE- HEAD Vocalion 3208 / IT’S TOO BAD (WHEN THE SISTERS START TRUCKIN’ AROUND) in two takes; Voc 3208.
Same personnel but unknown (as-1) added. Chicago, April 3, 1936: SHANGHAI HONEYMOON Bluebird 6371 / LITTLE SANDWICH WAGON (same, unknown vocalist).
Because Steve Abrams has generously made available his 78 transfer of IT’S TOO BAD / YOU BATTLE-HEAD, I have included that as well as the YouTube transfers, which might be from the RST CD collection. (There are pitch and sonic differences: I would assume that the 78 transfer is a more trustworthy source, but such waters are deep and dark.)
I invite you to turn away from the news and immerse yourself in a different world, thanks to these “Hot Dance with Vocal Chorus” records. I’ll have some listening comments at the end.
and the 78 version:
Flip it over, as they used to say:
This seems the same take as the 78, unless they followed the routines closely:
If you are enamored of SHANGHAI HONEYMOON, there are many versions with vocal refrains and ostentatious “Chinese” cliches. However, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs have performed this opus — you can find it on YouTube — with its ethnic-racial tendencies tamed, and a duet by Ray and Katie Cavera (also on the Jazzology CD, GREETINGS FROM CHICAGO):
and my new favorite ditty, which I hope to hear Dave Stuckey sing when we meet again (although that is a suggestion rather than an order — greetings, Pappy!):
Depending on how deeply you have steeped yourself in the music of the period, you may hear many different things.
First, the material itself is cheerfully homemade: except for SHANGHAI, the songs are composed by the players, and they are miles away from Rodgers and Hart or Arlen and Koehler. That is not to condescend, for listeners respond strongly to campfire songs as well as poetry, but BEETLE and TOO BAD seem more enthusiastic than expert: the end-rhymes are inexact, and occasionally the lyrics and music do not fit neatly. They are set-pieces for an audience who wanted to party: the “you’re a fool for getting so drunk” song; the “let’s celebrate wild action on the dance floor” song — reminiscent of a contemporaneous Tampa Red blues — especially because the Chicago blues records of this period employed many of the same musicians. I hear echoes of MAMA DON’T ALLOW and HOW’M I DOIN’ as well as YOU RASCAL YOU.
LITTLE SANDWICH WAGON aspires to be one of those songs mingling love and the bill of fare (think WHEN LOVE DROPPED IN TO TEA) but it doesn’t get there; the composer(s) are more focused on what’s for sale than in a Billy Wilder meet-cute with someone’s hamburger being shared by thrifty lovers. (I hear echoes of ACE IN THE HOLE in the first strain.)
SHANGHAI HONEYMOON is the most “professional” song of the four, possibly going back to 1927, and whether Lester Melrose had anything to do with writing it or simply required a portion of the royalties in exchange for getting it published, played, and recorded, I do not know, but the three other songs did not have any currency outside of this record date, where HONEYMOON did. I have seen no sheet music for the other songs.
Second, these recordings are stylistically earlier than 1936 (no offense meant there either); rather than being “streamlined,” “innovative,” or “harmonically forward-looking,” they happily live in the musical world that Dick Wellstood called “grease and funk,” with TOO BAD and BEETLE sounding, to me, like Saturday-night-party music. The closest parallel in jazz is the long series of Clarence Williams recordings, but these sides are genuine crossover music before the name ever emerged, with sideways connections to blues and roots music.
And this is understandable, given the histories of the players: for most of them, this was their last recording session, and some of them had been recording since 1921 or 1923. I delight in Arnett Nelson’s wildly opinionated clarinet — “I have something to say and I have to say it loudly and right now,” and the powerful rhythm section. But we are miles away from the Benny Goodman Quartet, Toto. I also have a special affection for the rather sweetly amateurish singer on SANDWICH: was he someone’s relative or friend? (I wonder what the significance of “He didn’t serve no rice” is. An easy rhyme for “nice,” or are there deeper meanings?
Finally, I wonder how these record dates came to be. In New York, Williams made no records between 1935 and 1937, and his 1934 sides for the Decca “Sepia Series” were issued as the “Alabama Jug Band.” Did a Vocalion recording executive in Chicago perceive that this band — of known reliable musicians who were also appearing on blues records — should be given the chance to make two sides of their own compositions with the hope of a jukebox hit? Musicians recorded such sessions with little preparation; they were paid scale. It would not have cost Vocalion much, but clearly the records did not make a stir. Did Nelson or someone else in the band take the test pressings over to the Victor studios and request a date in April?
I have stayed away from discussing race in this post, but I will suggest that a 1936 record buyer would recognize these four sides as being performed and aimed at a “colored” audience, to use the description of the times. Yet I know Bluebird (by which I mean Victor) also used the “Chicago Rhythm Kings” name to issue a record or records by what I believe are white orchestras.
All this must, I think, remain mysterious. What we have is rollicking, enthusiastic hot music played by Chicago veterans. Thank goodness for records, and particularly for odd, cheerful ones like these four.
There’s a wonderful tradition that began on records in the late Twenties: sweet and hot singing — female or male — backed by a small improvising combination. To some, it reached its apex with the series of recordings done by Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson, but it continues on in this century, something I find reassuring.
Vocalion Records ceased production a long time ago, and the last time I was near a diner jukebox, it lacked Red McKenzie, Bob Howard, Mildred Bailey, Putney Dandridge, Maxine Sullivan, Nan Wynn, Tempo King, Lee Wiley, Connee Boswell, or Dick Robertson, but our friend Dawn Lambeth embodies the tradition beautifully. As do her Rascals, an ad hoc group of friends who swing.
Here’s the second half of a performance by a lovely little jam band of friends at the 2019 Jazz Bash by the Bay: Dawn Lambeth, vocal; Riley Baker, drums; Jeff Hamilton, piano; Ike Harris, string bass; Jerry Krahn, guitar; Jacob Zimmerman, alto; Clint Baker, trumpet. And here‘s the first part.
The very antidote to melancholy . . . with the verse, no less:
Again, rambling through eBay — very soothing especially if one doesn’t feel compelled to spend money — I found this wonderful artifact:
This was near the end of Annette’s career, so there are no commercial recordings of her performing the song. However, it was popular enough that three are available to us on that lopsided cosmic jukebox called YouTube. And the eBay seller took pictures of all the pages — so you can, as they used to say, try this out on your piano. Here’s an early version (late November 1934) well-played dance music by Don Bestor with Joy Lynne singing:
and page one:
and another version, this from very early January 1935, featuring Bob Howard, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, first on alto, then on trumpet, Buster Bailey, Clarence Holiday, Elmer James, Cozy Cole (incidentally, those who are delighting in the new Teddy Wilson Mosaic set will find equivalent gems under Howard and Putney Dandridge’s name):
Howard seems to be influenced by another popular pianist-singer. Who could it be? But first, more sheet music.
and page four:
then, the Master, in dewy form, with the Blessed Bill Coleman of Paris, Kentucky, alongside Gene Sedric, Charlie Turner, Al Casey, and Harry Dial — one of the best early Waller dates:
and, for the finale:
I don’t covet a time machine, but it is sweet to dream of a time and place where this was the popular music one would hear from one’s radio.
For a quarter of a century, perhaps more, Teddy Wilson was unmatched as solo pianist, accompanist, and ensemble inspiration. Consistently inventive, reliable without being stale, he seems now both traditional and forward-looking, swinging and harmonically inventive, his melodic lines clear and memorable. And it is our good fortune that he worked and recorded with three of the great star-legends of the period, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, and Mildred Bailey, in addition to recordings under his own name. To me, his great period begins with his 1933 work with Louis Armstrong and Benny Carter and gradually tapers off by the end of the Verve recordings — although he could still play magnificently.
He had many opportunities to record, not simply because of his splendid improvisations. Because Wilson was personally responsible — a quiet, businesslike man — you could count on him showing up on time, being prepared, being sober — no small collection of virtues. And he had a champion in John Hammond, who perhaps recognized not only the astonishing musician but a fellow patrician, a courtly intellectual. Thus, between 1935 and 1942, Hammond helped to get Wilson recorded often as soloist and leader for the ARC labels (Columbia, Vocalion, Okeh, Brunswick) and he was of course recording with Goodman for Victor and on Decca with Putney Dandridge and Bob Howard.
Wilson’s most famous sides are frequently reissued — think of MISS BROWN TO YOU and BODY AND SOUL with Billie and Benny, respectively, but many glorious ones are overlooked. Mosaic Records, the jazz benefactor, will be issuing a seven-CD set of Wilson’s recordings — leaving aside the ones made with Holiday — under his own name for the ARC family of labels between 1934 and 1942: details below. “Under his own name” is important here, because a few sideman sessions had to be omitted, some because they appeared on other Mosaic sets (Mildred Bailey, Chu Berry) and others because they don’t fit the premise of the set.
Two are glorious and worth searching out: I know Chick Bullock is scorned by some, but his sessions with Wilson’s band backing him are priceless, as are the sides made with Eddy Howard as the star (consider this personnel: Wilson, Bill Coleman, Bud Freeman, Benny Morton, Ed Hall, Charlie Christian . . . . ). The Bullock sides are on a Retrieval CD; the Howard ones on Neatwork or Classics. I’ve also heard the “safety” disc from the Howard session, which has the singer having trouble with WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS. It may have emerged on the Sony Charlie Christian box set.
But two sessions led by the elusive Redd Evans “and his Billy Boys” have never been reissued. JAZZ LIVES to the rescue! — although the sonic quality is flawed. (The Customer Service Department is out back; form a single line.)
Redd Evans (1912-72) was most famous as a lyricist, whose hits included “Rosie the Riveter,” “There! I’ve Said It Again.” “Let Me Off Uptown,” “No Moon at All,” “Don’t Go to Strangers,” “American Beauty Rose,” “The Frim Fram Sauce,” and “If Love Is Good to Me.” He was also a singer and he may have been a better-than-competent ocarina player, possibly at one time a member of the Horace Heidt dance orchestra. But for me, Evans is fascinating because of the rare 1939 recordings with Wilson, and, in one instance, Buster Bailey.
I know that Evans was born in Mississippi, but how deep his “hillbilly” roots went is hard to discern. On IN THE BAGGAGE COACH AHEAD, where Mother’s coffin is part of the lyric, he sounds seriously influenced by Jerry Colonna. THEY CUT DOWN THE OLD PINE TREE is yet another example of morbidity in swing, a “country” song written by people whose idea of “the country” might well have been a day trip to Long Island, Edward Eliscu and either David or Milt Raskin. “Brown” could have been a dozen people, so I leave that to you.
I am certain that John Hammond was involved in these recordings, and although their initial affect may seem strange, they are another reason to be grateful to Hammond for his limitless ambitions. For one thing, even though Wilson’s name is not on the label, Evans calls out to him on one side, and he is unmistakable. The sessions, also, were made when Wilson had left Goodman to lead his own band, which was an aesthetic success but not a financial one, so they may have been Hammond’s way of helping Wilson make money and re-establish an identity that had been subsumed with Goodman.
Too, Hammond was always looking for ways to merge his jazz stars with more popular artists — perhaps hoping for what we would now call a “crossover” hit that would give him even more freedom to record his improvisers. Think of the Glenn Hardman date with Lester Young, Freddie Green, and Jo Jones — perhaps a sideways glance at the sides Milt Herth was making for Decca with Willie “the Lion” Smith, Teddy Bunn, and O’Neil Spencer. Had Hammond known of the 1938 Pinky Tomlin Decca sides, which pair a “countrified” singer with a hot band — one of the issued sides being RED WING? Pairing Wilson — and other African-American musicians — with Evans would not only be crossing genres but also gently eroding race barriers. Perhaps the people who enjoyed Western Swing would find this side appealing, as well.
Evans made a few vocal sides with Charlie Barnet in 1945, but his 1939 sides are of most interest here, documented by Tom Lord:
Redd Evans (vcl) acc by tp, ts, g, Buster Bailey (cl) Teddy Wilson (p) unknown (b) J.C. Heard (d). New York, April 17, 1939.
W24381 They cut down the old pine tree Voc 4836
W24382 Red wing –
W24383-B Carry me back to the lone prairie 4920
W24384-A Red River Valley –
Redd Evans And His Billy Boys : Willis Kelly (tp) Floyd Brady (tb) Reggie Merrill (as) Clark Galehouse (ts) Teddy Wilson (p) Al Casey (g) Al Hall (b) Cozy Cole (d) Redd Evans, “Hot Sweet Potato” (vcl). New York, August 11, 1939.
25189-1 Milenberg joys (re vcl) Voc 5173
25190-1 In the baggage coach ahead (re vcl) –
25191-1,2 Am I blue ? (re,hsp vcl) (unissued)
25192-1,2 When it’s springtime in the Rockies (hsp vcl) –
I find the personnel above intriguing, because it mixes players from Wilson’s band — the rhythm section and Floyd Brady — with “studio” players: Galehouse shows up on a Quintones session, Merrill on an Alec Wilder date. Willis Kelly, anyone?
I’ve never seen a copy of MILENBERG / BAGGAGE, but I was delighted to find a worn copy of RED WING / OLD PINE TREE on eBay. Again, I advise that my method of getting the sounds to you is at best odd, but it will have to do until the Real Thing Comes Along.
Wilson is immediately recognizable — admire his neat modulations out and in to Evans’ vocal key, the way he shines through the ensemble also. Whoever the ocarina player is, I like his work immensely, and the unidentified trumpeter has certainly listened to Roy Eldridge. The tune — with its memorably odd lyrics — bears some small melodic resemblance to WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE. Was it written tongue-in-cheek (rather like the story told about SONNY BOY) as a collection of down-home cliches?
RED WING is more familiar — an ancient campfire favorite, with connections to Robert Schumann and Kerry Mills, eventually to Woody Guthrie — and this recording is thirty seconds shorter, but it has the pleasure of a chorus split between Wilson and Buster Bailey, which is no small gift. I’ll take it on faith that the drummer is J.C. Heard, who was part of Wilson’s orchestra, and the record pleases me, even though the subject is sad indeed, the Native American maiden weeping over her dead lover night after night:
And here are the two other sides from April 1939, in a format that may or may not work for you (if it doesn’t, I invite you to Google “Redd Evans and his Billy Boys” and find them on your own).
A few words about the Mosaic set — seven discs, expected at the end of this year. As always, the Mosaic boxes are often highlighted for the previously unknown and unheard music they contain, which leads some value-minded collectors to sniff, “Only seven unissued sides? Why, that costs $ – – – a side!” I can’t tell anyone how to apportion their money, but Mosaic issues, to me, always expose the larger picture: hearing familiar sides in a context not available previously; hearing the chronological development of an artist’s work, as far as it can be documented in visits to the recording studio. I will say that the set begins with the May 22, 1934 piano solo SOMEBODY LOVES ME and ends with the July 31, 1942 B FLAT SWING, both in two takes. In between, there are previously unheard band sides, and a 1942 trio date with Al Hall and J.C. Heard that was issued in part — but now we have the whole thing, more than two dozen performances, because Bill Savory was the recording engineer for Columbia.
I have been fascinated by Wilson since the late Sixties, and one of the thrills of my college-student life was getting his autograph at a suburban shopping center concert. Of course I sought out the Billie and Mildred sets on Columbia, and then graduated into the deep territory that only Collectors know. But I do not have all of the issued sides on this Mosaic set, and I have (or had) the Meritt Record Society lps, the three-disc French Columbia Wilson box set, the Masters of Jazz CDs . . . and so on. So this will be a set to treasure.
And this is true: in today’s mail, I received a traffic ticket from a red-light camera (the county I live in loves such things) that will cost me more than the Wilson set. And paying that fine will give much less pleasure than listening to Teddy in his prime.
Last week I left my comfortable suburban burrow to travel to what turned out to be a very rewarding city:
No, JAZZ LIVES has not gone country. Rather, I came down for a record date featuring these fellows.
Marc Caparone, cornet; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor (rear); myself (front); Derek Garten (recording engineer). Photograph by Amy Holland.
and, just because it exists, another photograph:
This session was to create a CD — their debut on disc — of the Holland-Coots Quintet, a group that had already appeared with great success at the Durango Ragtime Festival. Here — with videos captured by Judy Muldawer — is my post about this glorious band. I spent two happy days in the studio — a place of music, insights, deep feeling, and laughter, overseen by the masterful engineer / all-round whiz Derek Garten — as the band made magic happen, song after song.
The theme of the CD (which doesn’t yet have a title) was the music of Fats Waller, and the music associated with him. Experienced listeners know that people have been paying tribute to Fats for more than eighty years now, which means they were doing it at the same time HE was doing it, if that logical turn isn’t too annoying. (Think of Bob Howard and Putney Dandridge, and later Pat Flowers and Johnny Guarnieri.)
But many musicians and bands (1934 to the present!) have taken the easy way out, walking off with the most obvious superficial mannerisms: stride piano at a fast tempo, a half-dozen Waller phrases thrown in at random, AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, YOUR FEETS TOO BIG, the illusion of eyebrows moving up and down in time, ad-libs that are no longer improvised, and so on. The most studied tributes have a trumpet player who has studied Autrey, a reed player deep into Sedric, and if the budget allows, an acoustic guitarist who has done post-doctoral in Casey.
Add gestures, stir lightly, and you have a recognizable product that people who don’t know the musicians will pick up off the table, and, with luck, purchase. Microwave-Fats.
This CD is fresh, not frozen. It captures Fats’ deep soul in all its aspects.
This quintet rejected shallow caricature in favor of music that is light-hearted but full of feeling, swinging without artifice. For one thing, song choices that showed a deep understanding of Fats and his world. A few volcanic explosions (MINOR DRAG, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU), a nod to a classic Waller-Razaf standard (KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW), one to James P. Johnson (IF I COULD BE WITH YOU), some Fats songs that don’t get played (MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’, THIS IS SO NICE IT MUST BE ILLEGAL, LONESOME ME, LIVER LIP JONES), several from the early, dewy Rhythm sides (WHOSE HONEY ARE YOU, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES, I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED), and a romantic ballad — Fats was a deep romantic — composed by Russ Columbo and two people I’d not heard of, and gorgeously sung by Evan, LET’S PRETEND THAT THERE’S A MOON, which is my new favorite recording.
The music is sincere but never self-consciously so; no one is “acting” a part, but in Roswell Rudd’s words, they are playing their personalities. I will let you know more about the CD as it comes up to the surface, ready to be bought and loved.
I can’t share the music from the CD with you: that will come in due course. (I will be writing about the new Holland-Coots duet CD, SWINGIN’ FOR THE FENCES, soon.) But I have something to enthrall and delight. I’d asked Brian if he and the band would consider, when the session was over, performing something for my camera, so that I could share it with the JAZZ LIVES audience as a token of generosity (the band’s) and a hint of things to come. It’s ragtime via the DeParis Brothers’ band, RUSSIAN RAG, and it’s a wow:
Festival producers, take note!
(The sound of the video is captured by the RODE microphone on top of my camera; the CD’s sound is light-years better, but I wanted people to hear this joyous expert outburst now.)
Blessings and gratitude to Danny, Brian, Marc, Evan, Steve, Derek, Kimberly C, Bella C, Hannah C, Amy G, Amy H, Cheryl P, Rona from Waffle House, and Miss Rose from Kroger — not only for the music but for the encompassing warmth.
A nice bio of trumpeter / vocalist Taft Jordan is available here, which is also the source for the photograph.
In February 1935, “Taft Jordan And The Mob” — Taft, trumpet; Ward Silloway, trombone; Johnny Mince, clarinet; Elmer “Tone” Williams [not “Skippy” Williams as listed in Tom Lord — thanks to Mark Cantor], tenor saxophone; Teddy Wilson, piano; Bobby Johnson, guitar; John Kirby, string bass; Eddie Dougherty, drums — recorded four memorable sides that have never gotten the attention they deserve. (Incidentally, the beautiful record labels are illustrations only: the music can be found in the videos below.)
The idea was John Hammond’s, and one that we are grateful for. The usual story is that Hammond worked hard to get the music he loved on record, to make opportunities for racially mixed bands. He succeeded beautifully: most readers know this part of the story as preface to the 1933-42 Billie Holiday sides.
But other parts of the story deserve attention. There is, for one thing, the success of the coin-operated phonograph (later, the “jukebox”) that could offer people recorded music in restaurants, bars, and elsewhere for what seems to us like a bargain: a nickel would get you three minutes of new music. But a 1935 nickel was much more than the ninety-nine cents per song that iTunes charges. (A contemporary advertisement shows Easter dresses for $1.95, and a skilled worker for the W.P.A. might earn $79 a month.)
And, at the time, commercially produced records were — as it says on the label — “not licensed for radio broadcast.” I think that coin-operated phonographs served the audience’s desire for novelty (“Let’s hear that new record of ______ by Erin Morris and her Ponies!”) — songs from new movies, new songs popularized by much loved bands and singers . . . and for five cents, one could have a side played for a gathering of listeners and/or dancers. The record labels pictured above are now called “dime-store,” because one could buy these records inexpensively at, say, Woolworth’s.
Radio and recordings created a need for new material, so many songs, not all memorable, were published, with a clear financial relationship between composers / lyricists, publishing companies, artists, recording supervisors, and record companies. (A small example: IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN was written by Bernard Hanighen, Billie Holiday’s friend, also a recording director at Brunswick Records. He would have been happy — aesthetically and financially — to have his song recorded.)
Taft’s four sides run parallel to other small groups led by Fats Waller, Henry Red Allen, Bob Howard, Putney Dandridge, Stuff Smith, Adrian Rollini, Tempo King, Cleo Brown, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Frank Froeba, Bernard Addison, Louis “King”Garcia, Stew Pletcher, and others. I’ve heard writers say these sessions were “cranked out for the jukebox trade,” but these records are lovely, imperishable. That there were only four sides says more about an audience’s awareness of Taft as a star than about their quality. Some listeners might have known him from the Savoy Ballroom and radio, but not many. When the records were later reissued in the UK (the red-and-gold Vocalion issues) Teddy Wilson had become famous enough so that his name would sell discs.
The artists made little or nothing for these sessions: they were paid “scale,” although they were pleased to make the extra money. The math is fascinating, a quiet recital of economic disparity, even at the remove of eight decades. Let us say a band of eight musicians made four sides for $50 a musician. The records were pressed, distributed, and ended up in the phonographs. One could hear a side once — no limit on the number of hearers, theoretically — for a nickel. The machine could take in twenty nickels in an hour. In 1935, the profit went to the record companies and the owners of the phonographs. Later (too late, perhaps) musicians and composers received royalties, but that is another story.
Yes, mechanical reproduction of art guarantees “exposure,” but one cannot eat exposure. I am aware of this from both sides as an interloper with a video camera who can only recompense musicians in insubstantial ways.
I offer these notions, some of them quite sad or infuriating, as preface to wonderful music, and also to point out that an unstable, often exploitative relationship between the artists, “the marketplace,” technology, and lasting art is not a twenty-first century issue.
What good songs these “disposable” pop tunes are — thanks to Rothberg, Coots, Alex Hill (yes!), and Hanighen. And the players, professionals all, were used to sight-reading and creating instant arrangements — with split choruses, riffs, backgrounds. To take one example, LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE, still recognizable, is a series of thirty-two and sixteen bar solos with rhythm (and what a rhythm section!) with a jammed ensemble ending. How fine it sounds now. One could spend an afternoon listening to the glowing epigrams Wilson dispenses, the variety of timbres the horns offer, solo and in ensemble.
In my collecting history, these four sides were part of a Columbia Chick Webb lp compilation — glorious gap-fillers, but also logical because of Taft’s role in the band. Mince and Silloway were with Tommy Dorsey; Skippy Williams, Bobby Johnson, and John Kirby with Webb also; Eddie Dougherty a busy free-lancer. Wilson had not yet joined the Goodman orchestra as a member of the Trio and Quartet, but had recorded with BG in ad-hoc studio groups.
What we have here — each side is less than three minutes long — is both superior dance music and small-band swing of the highest order, pleasing to all audiences.
In my time-travel fantasy, I would like to be a silent onlooker at one of these sessions, but I doubt the musicians romanticized such work. It was another way to pay the rent, perhaps (for the lucky sideman) to get some recognition for future leader’s gigs . . . or perhaps, after creating four quiet masterpieces, the guys went out for a drink or some ribs, a nap before the night’s work. If I’d asked Taft about these sides in 1972 /3 and later — I didn’t see him at close range — I wonder what would he have said.
LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE:
DEVIL IN THE MOON:
IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN:
All four of these songs were also recorded “with vocal chorus” by Taft, a charming Louis-influenced singer (consider his work with the Washboard Rhythm Kings and Webb) but none of the vocals was issued. Mysterious. I know there is an alternate take of NIGHT WIND issued on a Jerry Valburn collectors’ compilation, but it’s instrumental.
Does anyone know more about Eddie Dougherty than is published in John Chilton’s WHO’S WHO IN JAZZ? I have learned that he recorded between 1933 and 1952 or a little later, that he lived in Brooklyn, and, according to Johnny Williams via Mike Burgevin, that he pronounced his last name as if spelled Dockerty. But no more.
The music remains. And I, for one, am truly grateful for that.
Taft as a member of the Ellington orchestra. Photograph by Charlie Mihn, courtesy of Chuck Slate.
As a postscript, here are four contemporaneous versions of DEVIL IN THE MOON — in honor of the Blessed Alex Hill. I think they are all beautiful, so this is not to make insidious comparisons.
Mills Blue Rhythm Band (with an incendiary Buster Bailey interlude that the expert dancers must have loved):
After my most recent venture into unexpected hot music (finding Lester Young and Charlie Parker 78s) Mal Sharpe told me I was a “jazz archaeologist,” which I take as a great compliment.
I have emerged from another rich unexpected dig, brushed the dust off of my khakis, taken my pith helmet off, and put down my shovels. Here is my tale.
Yesterday afternoon, while much of the world was engaged in its own pursuits, the Beloved and I were meandering around Sebastopol, California: a paradise of nurseries and antique shops. We arrived at one of our favorites, FOOD FOR THOUGHT ANTIQUES (2701 Gravenstein Highway South), a non-profit enterprise which gives the proceeds from its sales to the local food bank. In the past, I’ve found some sheet music there and the odd record or two. Nothing could have prepared me for the treasure that had arrived there four or five days ago. See for yourself:
Photograph by Lorna Sass
Yes, perhaps eight hundred ten-inch 78 RPM records in their original paper sleeves. I thought the hoard had some connection to a record store, since many of the discs were blue-label Bing Crosby from 1936 onwards, but I was told that this wasn’t the case: a woman brought them to the store, explained that they were her much-loved collection, and that she now felt it was time to pass them on. I wish I could find out her name to send her thanks, but that might never happen.
And since you’d want to know, the records were one dollar each.
The first afternoon I went through about one-half of the collection: it was a good omen that the first record I picked up was the Victor ST. JAMES INFIRMARY BLUES by Artie Shaw featuring Hot Lips Page. Yes, there were many red-label Columbias by the early-Forties Harry James band, but that’s not a terrible phenomenon.
I gravitated towards the more unusual: KING JOE by Count Basie and Paul Robeson; a Bluebird coupling by Freddy Martin of MILENBERG JOYS and WOLVERINE BLUES; several Fats Waller and his Rhythm sides; a Bob Howard Decca; many Dick Robertson sides featuring a dewy Bobby Hackett; INKA DINKA DOO by Guy Lombardo on Brunswick; BLUE PRELUDE and WE’RE A COUPLE OF SOLDIERS by Bing Crosby on the same label; Johnny Hamp and Arnold Johnson; OLD MAN MOSE by Willie Farmer; a Meade Lux Lewis album set on Disc; Joe Sullivan and his Cafe Society Orchestra on OKeh; WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME by Ted Weems on Victor; a blue wax Columbia by Ted Lewis of TEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO — with his special label; a Johnny Marvin Victor solo and duet; THE LADY WHO SWINGS THE BAND (that’s Mary Lou Williams) by Andy Kirk on Decca; Bunny Berigan’s SWANEE RIVER; a Gene Kardos Melotone; the Rhythm Wreckers’ TWELFTH STREET RAG on Vocalion; the Bluebird BODY AND SOUL by Coleman Hawkins; JEEPERS CREEPERS by Ethel Waters; Deccas by Lennie Hayton and Edgar Hayes.
(Who can tell me more about Willie Farmer?)
I returned this afternoon, and found the little flowered stool Valerie had offered me in the same place, so I resumed my inspection — many records but with far fewer surprises. Wingy, BG, Fats, Jack Leonard, Ginny Simms, Bob Howard, Dick Robertson, Milt Herth (with Teddy Bunn and the Lion) and a few oddities. FOOTBALL FREDDY and FRATERNITY BLUES by “Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys” on Columbia (with, yes, Jack Purvis as the sole trumpet); the Mills Brothers singing lyrics to Pete Johnson’s 627 STOMP. Les Brown performing two James P. Johnson songs from his 1939 POLICY KINGS: YOU, YOU, YOU and HARLEM WOOGIE. Jean Sablon singing TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE . . . and a few more.
I passed up a few country records, Julia Sanderson solos, Nat Shilkret and Charles Dornberger waltzes . . . but the collection was a rich cross-section of good popular music of the Thirties and middle Forties, with a few detours into the late Twenties. No specialist jazz labels, no country blues rarities — but the middle-of-the-road pop music of that period was rich and honest.
I feel honored to be partaking of this experience — this voyage into a time when Freddy Martin and Coleman Hawkins occupied the same space in the collective consciousness. . . . and when a purchase of a thirty-five cent Decca or Bluebird was a real commitment to art, both economic and emotional.
On the way home yesterday, the Beloved (after congratulating me on this find and rejoicing with me — she’s like that!) asked me pensively, “What do you get out of those records?”
I thought for a minute and said, “First, the music. I am trying not to buy everything just because it’s there, so I am buying discs I don’t have on CD or on my iPod. Second, there’s a kind of delight in handling artifacts from a lost time, relics that were well-loved, and imagining their original owners. Third, and perhaps it’s peculiar to me, these records are a way of visiting childhood and adolescence once again, going back to a leisurely time where I could sit next to a phonograph, listen to the music, and absorb joy in three-minute portions. I know that I won’t keep these records forever, and I hope — maybe in twenty years? — to pass them on to someone who will delight in them as I do now.”
And delight is at the heart of the experience.
To find out more about the Food For Thought antiques store and the food bank the proceeds go to (the staff is not paid; they volunteer their time and friendship) see here. The store — which has other surprises for those immune to “old records” — is at 2701 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol. Lovely people, and cookies at the cash register for the low-blood-sugar crowd (like myself: record-hunting is draining work).
I encounter a number of youthful players who have formed improvising bands. Many of these small orchestras, to my delight, attempt to bring their own personalities — ferocious or tender — to the great repertoire of the last century. But few of them succeed so consistently as a new British group, THE BASIN STREET BRAWLERS. Their debut CD, IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT, is a recent issue — a limited edition of 500 copies — and I encourage you to investigate both the band and the disc.
Here’s their “showreel,” a collection of samples from their live performances:
You’ll notice certain things from this video tasting menu: the band has a light, easy bounce; trumpeter Peter Horsfall is a concise, lyrical player and an especially fine singer. (Imagine if Bob Howard or Louis Prima had been born in London — swinging, impassioned, but never overstated.) The rest of the band is equally convincing, never trying too hard, but gently leaning into the swing winds: trombonist / vocalist Malcolm Earle-Smith and guitar master Martin Wheatley (whom I’ve seen and admired often at Whitley Bay) are the official representatives from a slightly older generation, but they fit right in with clarinetist / saxophonist Ewan Bleach, pianist Colin Good, string bassist Dave O’Brien, and drummer Mez Clough.
The repertoire on this CD — structured with a beginning, middle, and end — says a great deal about this band’s love and expertise — with small evocations of Teddy Wilson, Louis, Jack Teagarden, Goodman small groups, and more: A SMOOTH ONE (Intro) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS / IF ONLY YOU KNEW (an original hinting at Hodges and Strayhorn) / ALL MY LIFE / HOW AM I TO KNOW? / STARS FELL ON ALABAMA / ONCE IN A WHILE / IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT! / SWING THAT MUSIC / A SMOOTH ONE (Outro) / LOTUS BLOSSOM (Bonus track). There’s even two very brief but pleasing appearances by one Natty Bo as “guest M.C.”
It’s beautifully recorded at the renowned Porcupine Studios, and the CD is a consistent pleasure.
(I didn’t have to do any mind-editing: “Oh, this would be wonderful if only _____ didn’t do this,” which dogs some of the new CDs I am asked to comment on.)
If you’d like to purchase the CD — an indication of sound judgment, I think, the best place is the “SHOP” section of the band’s website. For those who can’t wait for a physical disc, they can be satisfied by a download here. Candidly, as engaging as the “showreel” is, the CD is even more rewarding.
Once I heard the music, I became both advocate and fan. But I had one quibble — with the band’s chosen appellation. I admired the alliteration, but asked Peter if he was fully aware of the connotations of “brawlers.” (Yes, Yeats referred to a sparrow making that noise in the eaves, but I somehow thought this was not an avian swing group.) Peter’s answer was charmingly candid: “Brawlers – came really from my understanding of the roots of this music. Trying to give a little light hearted reference to the bar brawls and whorehouses that hot jazz accompanied!”
I couldn’t argue with that. And I assure any timorous listeners that neither the band or the CD will ruin your furniture, behave badly, or irritate the neighbors.
And the BSB has or have a Facebook page, with a gig schedule — crucial in these busy days and nights.
This bouncy performance from October 25, 1936, owes its existence to a few fortunate coincidences.
That new invention, the jukebox, meant that record labels in the Thirties saw a market for pop music recorded inexpensively for listeners eager for danceable novelties.
So Fats Waller and Henry “Red” Allen gave encouragement to Bob Howard, Tempo King, Putney Dandridge, Teddy Wilson, Mildred Bailey, Billie Holiday, and the overlooked Lil Armstrong, whose last name and ebullience were enough to make Decca Records interested in her. (Also, a woman-pianist-singer-composer-personality was their idea of good value for one salary.)
Then, the Fletcher Henderson band was playing a long residency at the Grand Terrace in Chicago: Fletcher’s star sidemen Buster Bailey (clarinet), Chu Berry (tenor sax), Huey Long (guitar), and Joe Thomas (trumpet) were available and eager to make some easy money on their own. Teddy Cole took over the piano; John Frazier played bass. Roy Eldridge might have wanted to lead his own date; Sidney Catlett was off having fun.
And the idea of a “hi-de-ho” man leads back to the immense popularity of both Cab Calloway and his jive talk . . . all things combined to make this wonderful piece of music: meant to be ephemeral but still entertaining us more than seventy-five years later.
Now, settle in and enjoy the strong pulse of that drumless rhythm section (with Huey Long’s solo passage late in the record), Teddy Cole’s glistening piano — shades of Hines and Wilson — on top. Then, Joe Thomas — no one’s played like him yet! Careful yet soulful, taking his time, outlining the melody but offering his own embellishments. He loved upward arpeggios (shades of 1927 Louis) and repeated notes (all his own, as was that lovely tone). Thomas’s playing always combines delicacy and earnestness: he has something he wants to tell us, but it’s not going to be bold or overemphatic.
Then a key change to bring on the Star — jivey, enthusiastic, full of ginger and pep, singing lyrics that don’t make a lot of sense but we don’t care. (“I’m going to bump that ball . . . ?”) while the band gets more lively in back of her. Buster Bailey, who could sometimes sound mechanical, now bends a note or two in the hot fashion of Ed Hall — and Lil comes back for more, with Joe generating a good deal of heat behind her singing. (All this romping has been created in eighty seconds: the jazz masters of the Thirties certainly didn’t need a great deal of room to warm up the world.)
And then a sweet chorded interlude from Huey Long and John Frazier, coming through clearly even now, preparing us for the drama to follow, Chu Berry in flight, his phrases tumbling, his tone shifting and shading as he ascends and descends. Then tout ensemble, rollicking: Lil riding the rhythm wave of the band, the horns — with space and time enough for a four-bar string bass break — before the end: what Joe plays in the final fifteen selections of this disc is priceless. Yes, there’s some Eldridge-osmosis there (those phrases were the common tongue for trumpeters in 1936 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went back to Mr. Strong) but Joe is floating on top of the beat just as he seems to be urging the band on to a joyous finale.
And these recordings aren’t well known and haven’t had much existence on compact disc. Yes, there’s a Classics compilation but it’s been out of print and costly for some time. I wouldn’t take anything from Billie or Fats, but their colleagues, swinging happily for other labels in these years, deserve our attention, too.
CELEBRATE THE LIVING: CLICK HERE! ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS
There was a time — let’s say 1936 — where the pop hits of the day were getting recorded regularly in small-band jazz versions.
The songs were often paper-thin and sounded as if they’d been written in half an hour in the pastoral fields of the Brill Building, but it didn’t matter.
Who recorded them? Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Tempo King, Red Allen, Red McKenzie, Bob Howard, Putney Dandridge, Bob Howard come to mind. The records were made for the jukebox market and jazz collectors treasure them for their good-time atmosphere and the hot playing.
I haven’t ever seen a jukebox stocked with new Vocalion and Decca 78s, and don’t expect to in this century. But I did find this YouTube video of pianist-singer Jeff Barnhart and drummer Danny Coots performing A BEAUTIFUL LADY IN BLUE at the 2010 West Coast Ragtime Festival (it’s nicely recorded by my yet-unmet pal Tom Warner) and it absolutely made my day, suggesting Fats and Slick Jones and a whole era that I thought I’d only hear on records. Good for stompin’, as Lips Page would say:
Did you get up this morning feeling gloomy? Growly? Overwhelmed by things to do? Might I suggest a consult with Doctors Barnhart and Coots: this will cure many of those ills that affect modern men and women . . . or your co-pay will be refunded. Cheerfully!
My esteemed correspondent Mr. Jones (“Stompy” to his poker friends) writes,
You mentioned Eddie Condon’s Floor Show. We got a TV early, in the fall of ‘49. There were lots of little musical programs in those early, primitive days of live TV: Morton Downey, the Kirby Stone Quartet, a black pianist-singer named Bob Howard, others. I think they were all 15 minutes. They were filler; the stations didn’t have enough programming to fill their schedules. (Hey, we thought it was exciting to watch a test pattern!)
I watched Eddie Condon’s Floor Show (on channel 7) before I knew anything about jazz. I remember immediately noticing this trumpeter who played out of the side of his mouth. They had a regular segment in which someone from the studio audience (probably 15 people dragged in off the street) requested songs for the band to play. Once somebody requested “Rag Mop”. In those days, when a novelty like “RM” hit, it hit huge. For a few weeks it would be everywhere, I mean everywhere – then it would disappear without a trace. (The same thing happened with “One Meatball” and “Open the Door, Richard”.) Well, it was the fall of ‘49 and the Ames Brothers’ record of “RM” had just hit – only it hadn’t hit Condon and his cohorts, so when somebody requested it, the Condonites were incredulous and dismissive. I remember them laughing derisively saying “There ain’t no such song” or some such. Too bad they didn’t know it was just a blues. Wild Bill would have played the hell out of it.
You can see our Stromberg-Carlson with 12-1/2” screen in the attached photo, taken during my Bar Mitzvah party in Jan. ‘52. Amazing that such larger-than-life memories (Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, the Army-McCarthy hearings, Edward R. Murrow, Sugar Ray Robinson, Toscanini conducting with fire in his eyes, countless Dodger games, Jackie Gleason breaking his leg on live TV, my first encounter with Wild Bill Davison) could have come out of such a little box!
That one of my readers saw the Eddie Condon Floor Show on television is wonderful and startling. For those of you who aren’t as obsessed as I am with this particular bit of jazz history, I will say briefly that Condon, who was organizing jazz events before most of us were born, had angled a few brief television programs in 1942 — when the medium’s reach was unimaginably small. Then, in 1948, he began a series of programs that offered live hot jazz with everyone: Louis, Lips Page, Billy Butterfield, Roy Eldridge, Muggsy Spanier, Jonah Jones, Jimmy McPartland, Cootie Williams, Wild Bill Davison, Dick Cary, Jack Teagarden, Cutty Cutshall, Benny Morton, Brad Gowans, Big Chief Russell Moore, Peanuts Hucko, Ernie Caceres, Sidney Bechet, Pee Wee Russell, Willie the Lion Smith, James P. Johnson, Earl Hines, Count Basie, Gene Schroeder, Sammy Price, Ralph Sutton, Cliff Jackson, Joe Bushkin, Teddy Hale, Avon Long, Jack Lesberg, Zutty Singleton, Sid Catlett, George Wettling, Kansas Fields,Buzzy Drootin, J. C. Heard, Buddy Rich, Lee Wiley, Rosemary Clooney, Sarah vaughan, Thelma Carpenter, June Christy, Johnny Desmond, Helen Ward, and on and on . . .
In case some of the names surprise you, Condon’s appreciation of good music was deep and never restrictive. Ironically, his name is now associated with a blend of “Dixieland” and familiar routines on Twenties and Thirties pop songs.
Some music from the Floor Shows was preserved and eventually issued on the Italian Queen-Disc label. To my knowledge, nothing from these recordings (and the collectors’ tapes) has made it to CD.
In addition, no one has found any kinescopes (they were films of television programs, often recorded directly from the monitor or set) of the programs. We continue to hope. Perhaps one of my readers has a pile of 16mm reels in the basement. Let me know before you begin the obligatory spring cleaning! My father was a motion picture projectionist, so such things are in my blood.