Yes, you read that correctly. Here’s an eBay marvel, quite remarkable, showing Benny Carter in a promotional picture playing clarinet — which he did infrequently but with great style — and the picture is wittily inscribed:
The seller notes,
Photograph is inscribed and signed: “Best wishes to ‘Punk and Spunk’ which may be junk but surely no bunk with a hunk of sincerity, Benny Carter”
Photograph captioned: ” BENNY CARTER And His Orchestra”.
I’ve acquired a photo album, with over 100 photos, which comes from the Down Beat Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. These photographs are from the Swing Era. They are all original photographs. There are photographs of such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Cootie Williams, Erskine Hawkins, Count Basie, Andy Kirk, and Cab Calloway. Some of these photographs are signed and inscribed. I’ve included images of three additional items which will not be included in the sale, but help to illustrate the location, upcoming events of the time, and a couple of the illustrious musicians who played there. The photograph on the bottom right is of Erskine Hawkins and Ida James in the Down Beat Ballroom in front of some of the very photographs which are currently for sale or will be offered for sale in the days and weeks to follow. The other photograph is an amazing one of Louis Armstrong (Satchmo) playing in the Down Beat Ballroom. If you look above Louis’ head and above the word Ballroom, you’ll see a musical bar with the word Down in it. I’ve also included the back of an orange Nookie Ration Card, which was used as a calendar of upcoming events. As most of the signed photographs were inscribed to Spunk and Punk, I must assume that these were the names by which the proprietors of the club were known.
Doing research from my desk chair, I found that the “Down Beat” was in operation in July 1941 and was named for the music magazine of the time (Ella Fitzgerald and her Orchestra were appearing there). I gather that the building that once stood at 1201 North Greenwood no longer exists; I could find no photographs of the ballroom. Oklahoma State University has its main address as 700 North Greenwood, and Greenwood runs through the campus, so I hope that one or more of the Music Department’s classrooms now occupy the space where Punk and Spunk held court:
The Carter photograph is undated, but the “Nookie Ration Card” provoked a short — and possibly ethereal — investigation of historical linguistics. I submit the evidence but offer no conclusions. One: rationing in the United States began in late 1941 and continued through the Second World War. Two: “nookie” was cited as early as 1928 as a word meaning both sexual intercourse and the female sexual anatomy. I would thus love to see more photographic detail about the “Nookie Ration Card.” Did it contain stamps that one could present to receive a rationed — thus highly desirable — product?
While readers consider the implications of this, or don’t, here is the eBay link.
And here is the lovely sound of Bennett Lester Carter (“The King”) playing clarinet.
DEE BLUES (The “Chocolate Dandies,” 1930 — Bobby Stark, Jimmy Harrison, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Horace Henderson, Benny Jackson, John Kirby:
JOE TURNER BLUES (1940: Big Joe Turner, Bill Coleman, Benny Morton, Benny Carter, Georgie Auld, Sonny White, Ulysses Livingston, Wilson Myers, Yank Porter):
BEALE STREET BLUES (same):
On both tracks, Joe sang his own quite impromptu lyrics, amusing since the records were intended as a tribute to W.C. Handy.
LOVELESS LOVE (take one, Billie Holiday for Turner):
LOVELESS LOVE (take two):
ST. LOUIS BLUES (take one):
ST. LOUIS BLUES (take two):
Here you can find other photographs inscribed to Spunk and Punk or the reverse — Cootie Williams, Savannah Churchill. Here’s Ida Cox, in a rare shot:
and this person:
Thanks to the Swing Detective, Kris Bauwens. And I dedicate this post to Benny Carter’s friend, photographer, and scholar Ed Berger.
May your happiness increase!