Tag Archives: Martha Boswell

TWO NEW GLIMPSES OF THE SISTERS

First, a neatly posed tableau from the UK (via eBay):

BOSWELLS

and then we find the Sisters, circa 1930, in a Hawaiian mood:

IT'S TIME TO SAY ALOHA Boswells

The Sisters were always full of surprises, so it’s fitting that these posthumous delights should keep surfacing.  And I know there are more to come — a splendid book and a remarkable documentary film!

May your happiness increase!

YOWSAH! CONNEE, VET, and MARTHA JOIN FACEBOOK

I like this.  And I “like” it, too.  Here’s the good news from Kyla Titus — enough to make anyone want to shuffle off to Facebook.

The Boswell Sisters.com* is now on Facebook. Please like us, and please suggest your family friends like us too by forwarding this announcement!  Click here.   We are also on Twitter for those of you that tweet…please follow us there as well: https://twitter.com/thesistasdotcom.

And be sure to check out January’s featured article Remembering Vet by David W. McCain.

*Welcome! to the newest website dedicated to honoring the music, lives, and times of the world’s foremost harmonists, The Boswell Sisters!** I would be honored if you would find the time to peruse the pages, offer comments and suggestions, partake in the blog, and please do sign the guestbook or fill out the contact form at the bottom of the home page. You may also wish to subscribe to the site via a feed reader, so you can be aware of any new postings/responses to the blog. And please feel free to forward this email to your contacts! Thank you for your interest and I hope you enjoy the site, but more importantly, I hope you enjoy The Boswell Sisters timeless and extraordinary music!

You can write to Kyla here.  She knows what she’s talking about: she is Vet Boswell’s granddaughter.

**”Who were The Boswell Sisters? They were three extraordinarily gifted musicians who emerged from the wellspring of the jazz movement in New Orleans in the early part of the 20th-century. They were icons, pioneers in music and early radio with influences that extend far beyond their own time. As Maxene Andrews once said, “They took the idea of jazz and did it vocally.” And they did it with such blending and precision that it has never been equaled since. Widely imitated around the world, they are musician’s musicians, and list of those who were influenced by them and their style is very long indeed. If you enjoy vocal groups in particular, or popular music in general, then you owe a great deal of tribute to The Boswell Sisters.

“What is presented in this website is less analysis of their style and influence on the development of popular music, and more exploration of the personal lives and journey of these three pretty little musical geniuses of the South. Presented primarily by a direct descendant this site–and in far more detail the new book poised for publication–contains information on the Boswell Sisters that does not exist anywhere else, through meticulous study of their private letters, films, records, and other career and personal ephemera. This information is important because it not only gives us clues on the development of a unique musical style, but an understanding of our American heritage and culture–and therefore a better understanding of ourselves.”

And even if you’ve had enough Facebook for the moment, don’t pass this page by — it has the most beautiful (previously unseen) photographs of the Sisters . . . and more to come.

May your happiness increase.

WE LOVE CONNEE, VET, and MARTHA: DAVID McCAIN TALKS ABOUT THE BOSWELL SISTERS (Dec. 8, 2012)

It’s always delightful to meet someone animated by great knowledge, great enthusiasm, and a passion for a subject: David McCain is such a person.  He is frankly in love with three little girls from New Orleans — Connee, Vet, and Martha Boswell — the Boswell Sisters.  David is not only a great collector of their music, their photographs, and evidence of their gifts — but he is a wise enthusiast who has done so much to let the world know about the Sisters.

On December 8, 2012, I had the great good fortune to meet David and have him talk to me (and all of us) about his love for the Boswells:

We love those “savage chanters,” we do.

May your happiness increase.

I’VE GOT SIXPENCE . . .

but I’d rather hear the Boswell Sisters sing this song.  Here’s a lovely souvenir of their 1935 visit to the United Kingdom.  Thank you, eBay!

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD Boswells UK

And when I grow too old to dream — I hope this doesn’t happen — I’ll still remember Connie, Vet, and Martha.  I promise.

May your happiness increase.

WHY THE BOSWELL SISTERS MATTER: A HARMONIOUS CHAT WITH KYLA TITUS (December 8, 2012)

I had the great privilege of meeting Kyla Titus for the first time in person on December 8, 2012, at Cindy and Joel Frank’s delightful house.  Kyla is the granddaughter of Helvetia “Vet” Boswell, with whom she was deliciously close.  Also with Connie / Connee Boswell.  Martha Boswell had died before Kyla could know her, but Martha was everywhere in spirit.

I had another great privilege that day — that of asking Kyla to share her thoughts and feelings about the Sisters.  Did you know that a Boswell Sisters book and documentary are on the way?  Well, you will know a little more after this video.

But mostly you will share the rare honor of being close — through the medium of cyber-space — with a person animated by the spirits of people she loves very much, people who live through her.

More to come.  But let us be harmonious in our daily lives!

May your happiness increase.

“FINE GIRLS,” “REALLY TOO TIGHT,” “I AM GOING TO TRY SO HARD TO DREAM OF YOU”: PROFILES IN HISTORY: LOUIS and BILLIE

On one of my rare audio visits to National Public Radio, I learned of an esteemed auction house that deals in the rarest paper documents — PROFILES IN HISTORY.

They are currently auctioning off the treasures of an American collector whose specialty was “everyday life” of the greatest mortals: thus, letters written by people whom we revere for their art — but letters that show them at home, being thankful, ordering a new pair of eyeglasses, listening to the radio.  Immortals being mortal, perhaps.

The trove is astonishing and the catalogue is no less so.  Below I have copied excerpts from two pieces of paper that I know JAZZ LIVES readers will find uplifting and sad, respectively.  The first — hooray!  has Louis listening to the radio . . . writing happily about the Boswell Sisters.  (God bless the Boswell Sisters.  God bless Connee, Vet, and Martha, and their family.  And that is not a digression.)  And he delights in the 1933 Ellington Orchestra.

216. Armstrong, Louis. Autograph letter signed (“Louis Satchmo Armstrong”), 5 pages, (11 x 8 ½ in.; 279 x 216 mm.), “Chicago,” 5 April 1933 to an unidentified friend “Gate”; soiled, small splits at folds.

Excerpts:

I’ve just gotten back home from my Tour down South – we had a lovely time. Everybody was so glad to see me and- you know? – all the ‘Buh lony’ that goes along with it. Ha. Ha. But sho ‘nuff Gate I am having a grand time on my tours.

I am now sitting home in my dining room with some of the folks at home and we are listening to the Radio. A swell program is now in session. The Three Keys are now getting away ‘righteously’. Late that Cats are after the Mills Brothers own hearts. But I am still Crazy over those Boswell Sisters. Bless their hearts. They are from my home town, you know? Fine Girls.  They think I am the Last word. They played here at the Chicago Theatre the same week we played the Palace Theatre. Ol Amos ‘N’ Andy’s just comin in on the radio. They are still funny. They ‘ll soon be making another movie so you all’l get another chance to see the funny boys again. Like Em? I bet your little boy does.

Boy, you’re right, when you said we broke all records for doubling from the Trocadero – to the Hobborn Empire Theatres. Some quick connections I really mean. Ha. Ha. We was known to make time, Eh? Gizzard? Ha. Ha.

So by now it’s the wee hours in the morning – And we’re now listening to Duke Ellington’s Orchestra whom has just return ‘d to the Famous Cotton Club in New York. Boy they are raising H— no foolin’ My. My. My. What a band. Ol Duke has a new trombone player from California that’s really too tight. His name is Lawrence Brown. He was in my orchestra when I was in Hollywood the year of 1930. He’s a trombone hound…

$3,000 – $5,000 (that’s the estimate for bids)

The second letter is as tragic as the first is sunny: Billie Holiday to her then-husband Joe Guy, while they were both in different jails.  What can one say for sorrow?

226. Holiday, Billie (Eleanora Fagan). Poignant autograph letter signed (“Lady Billie Holiday”), in pencil, 2 pages (10 ¼ x 8 in.; 260 x 203 mm.), Box No. PMB A, “Alderson, West Virginia,” 12 July 1947 to her husband, Joseph Guy, 10 Reed St., County Prison, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the letter is stamped “CENSORED BY:” (and initialed) at the top of page one.

Joe Darling.

Your letter just arrived and it just makes me sick the way people set there sevls [their selves] up to be so true blue. Bama [trumpeter Carl “Bama” Warwick] has told everybody on the street he gave you money a darlor [dollar] indeed could he spare it. As for Bobby [pianist Bobby Tucker] I am sure he will send you some when he can. He said he had to wait until pay day and as you know sweetheart he has got a wife and two kids. But hasn’t he wrote to you yet. He owes me a letter also. Well hes working on 52 nd st and has to travel way over to Jersey. But I don’t think he will let us down. We are going to the Movies tonight so I will finish this when I get back.

Well baby I am back from the Movies it was called Sister Kennedy [Sister Kenny, 1946] with Rosland Russel [Rosalind Russell]. It was a very good picture but it made me kind of sad thinking about the last show we seen together odd man out [“Odd Man Out”, 1947] rember [remember] I shall never forget darling its lights out now so I will finish this in the morning. I am going to try so hard to dream of you. Don’t laugh. Sometimes I am lucky and can there goes the lights Well darling its night again. After I got thru [through] my work today I just couldn’t write. I cried for the first time. Oh darling I love you so much I am so sorry you have to stay there in Phila. It must be awfully hot. Yes baby I gained nine pounds and I am getting biger all the time gee you wont love me fat (smile) But you must look wonderful. Youer [you are] so tall and you needed some weight. So thank heavens for that and what ever happens at your trial sweetheart keep your chin up don’t let nothing get you down. It won’t be long before were together agian [again]. My lights has been out every [ever] since I last saw you. But they will go on agian for us all over the world. Write to me Joe as soon as you can. Ill always love you as ever your Lady Billie Holiday.

$ 6,000 – 8,000.

Visit PROFILES IN HISTORY even if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on holiday gifts.  The letters are frankly astonishing, and the catalogue puts Eubie Blake next to Johannes Brahms, so someone knows where One is.

May your happiness increase.

CONNIE, VET, AND MARTHA (Continued . . . .)

In case you didn’t know, there’s a wonderful new blog devoted to the Sisters and to the book that Kyla Titus (Vet’s granddaughter) is writing about them:

THE BOSWELL SISTERS.  This book is going to be more than a family memoir, more than an adoring fan’s tribute . . . it places the Sisters in their proper historical context — alongside Bing, Louis, and FDR, lighting the way.

And — if that’s not enough for the objects of our affection — there’s also a Bozzies website full of music and history and more:  BOZZIES.  The Sisters are irreplaceable but also the best tonic and panacea I know . . .

May your happiness increase.

CONNIE, VET, AND MARTHA: SOUL SISTERS!

I’ve been thinking about Connie (or Connee) Boswell for the last few days.   This was one wonderful provocation, found on eBay.

I wasn’t around in the era when a pretty girl would come up to my / our table in a night club, take a flash picture of us, and return with copies — a great momento of an evening out.  But here’s a piece of paper that evokes that experience:

LOOK PLEASANT PLEASE! is always good advice, but this charming souvenir of days gone by has an even more important flip side:

Yes, Connie Bowell in 1942.  It would be impossible to look anything but pleasant if she were on the scene.

But my thoughts wandered to the larger question.  The Boswell Sisters were the most hip singing group on the planet — with deference to the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, the Andrews Sisters, and a long line of male and female singers, as inventive as they are.  But they aren’t as well-known as they should be.  In their time, they were admired and respected by the most innovative musicians in the business, including Bing Crosby and the Dorsey Brothers.  But the Sisters didn’t stay in the limelight for decades (they would have been astonishing on television every Sunday night).  Musically, they also present a paradox.  The casual listener, only mildly attentive, can say, “Oh, that’s another vocal group with a nice beat.”  But I think that the recordings and performances the Sisters left for us are so rich with information, with textures, that listeners find themselves overwhelmed: the music is too dense to be properly ingested as a pleasant background.

Consider this:

That performance swings as hard as anything recorded up to 1932: I would put it head-to-head with the Bennie Moten band or anything else you’d like to name.  Of course, the Sisters had several other things that made them less well-regarded than they might be.  They weren’t tragic; they were Caucasian; they were popular; they were women.

Connie Boswell went on to great success in the decades after the Sisters (Helvetia, “Vet,” and Martha) decided to retire from performing in 1936.  But she, too, suffered from the curse of being apparently stable and popular.  There was a more famous singer — her name was Ella Fitzgerald — who said she owed everything to Connee.  And Ella said it over and over to anyone who would listen.

Connie was one of the most soulful singers ever.  Her opening choruses are masterpieces of deep feeling and respect for the memory; her voice a thrill.  Her second choruses show what a superb improviser she was . . . straight from New Orleans but with her own deep swinging identity.

Consider this:

I don’t want to suggest that Connie, Vet, and Martha “suffered” — but I think in a society that didn’t insist its women singers be beddable, a world that didn’t see race or gender but just heard the music, they would be heroic figures today.  They had SOUL.

May your happiness increase.

I ASK YOU. WAS IT?

The same deep moral question, asked twice:

Connie, Martha, and Vet Boswell, with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan, Dick McDonough, Stan King and other luminaries.  The annotation above is enticing but not correct: this is (I believe) recorded for Brunswick Records in 1932, but it was so “unconventional” — hear the dead march interlude — that recording supervisor Jack Kapp (who hung the WHERE’S THE MELODY? sign in the Decca studios) insisted that the Sisters remake this song:

The issued version is much more bouncy, its message slightly muted by the faster tempo — but the improvisations can’t mask the seriousness of the essential question, can they?  It’s not simply a song of romantic wounds and betrayal, I believe. 

CLICK HERE TO THANK THE LIVING MUSICIANS

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

KEEP THE HEAT IN IT!

But sweeten it . . . !

If you need something to cheer you up, or you are already cheerful, watch the Silver Shadows, male and female, strut and wiggle.  It’s not hard to see how much fun they are having, is it? 

I first met Naomi Uyama at Banjo Jim’s, when she had come up from her Washington, D.C. home to be one of Tamar Korn’s Boswell Sisters.  (I didn’t ask whether she aspired to be Vet or Martha, but perhaps that question would have been impudent.)  And now I find out that she is a champion Lindy Hop dancer as well. 

Visit www.naomiuyama.com for more delightful information.