Tag Archives: sheet music

MILDRED BAILEY: SHE ROCKS.

You don’t have to be deeply philosophical to feel that the universe is stranger than any surrealism our minds can invent; you have only to be browsing eBay with slightly heightened attentiveness.  Witness this combination of objects.

One is the sheet music for Mildred Bailey’s theme song — a cover I’d never seen before:

ROCKIN' CHAIR MildredThat would have been sufficient pleasure for one evening.  But, right below it, was this object, also for sale — another Mildred cover I’d never seen, more than a decade later:

ROCKIN' 2 MildredI find Mildred an entrancing singer, and am always saddened that she didn’t live longer.  Here’s her first recording of ROCKIN’ CHAIR — with a small group under Paul Whiteman’s name, on which Red Norvo is happily audible:

And the more famous 1937 recording, bittersweet and understated, with an introduction by Stew Pletcher and an Eddie Sauter arrangement:

A slower 1941 version with the Delta Rhythm Boys:

A duet with Teddy Wilson from November 1943 for V-Disc:

Her concert performance — from the Esquire All-American Jazz concert of January 1944, with accompaniment by Teddy Wilson, Red Norvo, Jack Teagarden:

Finally, a 1948 broadcast, new to me — even more stately:

I would gently urge those listeners and musicians who have taken little notice of Mildred to listen carefully to her subtle, often melancholy variations on a theme she must have sung a thousand times.

She has much to tell us about quietly and honestly expressing deep feeling.

May your happiness increase! 

 

NOT TO THE SENSUAL EAR

Collectors of sheet music know that famous artists allowed their portraits to be part of the cover design of songs the artists never got to record.  (I believe some artists paid for the privilege of having their portrait in the little box — as good publicity.)  In fact, one may have a dozen copies of a song sheet with a dozen different artists portrayed on the covers.

The artists may have performed the song without recording it, or may simply have negotiated something to have their portrait on the cover.  It doesn’t stop people like myself from dreaming, though.  What if there were, for instance, a recording of Louis singing and playing LIGHTS OUT, a 1936 song I saw once with his picture.  Or Bobby Hackett playing LITTLE SKIPPER?

Or these two, by these three Sisters:

OLD SPINNING WHEEL BoswellsThis could have been another record much like HAND ME DOWN MY WALKING CANE, a “folk song” (Billy Hill made a good deal of money in the rural-song line, as in THE LAST ROUNDUP).

Or this, a much better song:

I DON'T KNOW WHY BoswellsI can almost hear the collaboration now — possible but evanescent.

I also understand, in some vague way, why there aren’t a hundred more Boswell Sisters recordings (the whole story awaits it in Kyla Titus’ book and the upcoming Sisters’ documentary) . . .  but I can refuse to acknowledge their absence, can’t I?

May your happiness increase!

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!

DUSTING THE DISCS, or MILDEW BEGONE! (WITH A POSTSCRIPT)

Several times this summer, I have come back from thrift or antique stores with a small collection of vintage 78s.  The Beloved, who loves hot jazz and loves to see me happily in my element, encourages such pastimes.  But her nose is sensitive to mildew, mold, dust, and the aromas that accompany elderly objects (records, paper sleeves, albums, and sheet music) stored for decades in basements, attics, closets.

Do any readers have suggestions for de-funkifying such precious artifacts?

Because the rainy season here is not yet upon us, I have left the records and albums and sheet music outdoors at night and for part of the day (watching them carefully so that they do not bake and warp in hot sun) but I would welcome other advice. One thought is to discard the paper and purchase new 10″ heavy paper green sleeves for the discs.

For the moment, I thought some of my readership would appreciate the view of Roger Wolfe Kahn, Ray Miller, Philip Spitalny, Gene Austin, “Chester Leighton,” the Light Crust Doughboys, Buddy Rogers and his Famous Swing Band, Mildred Bailey, Fats Waller, and a few others*, lazing in the Novato sun, with the Beloved’s beautiful garden as a backdrop.

DISCS, GARDEN, LS 001

*You can’t see it, but there’s a real oddity, presumably from the late Forties, there — an RCA Victor promotional disc, with the singer Mindy Carson warbling the timeless ditty I WANT A TELEVISION CHRISTMAS.  Same song, both sides.  Could I resist such weirdness?

Several hours later.  I have disposed of all the aromatic paper sleeves and washed all the records in perhaps a rudimentary way. From top: clean, almost-entirely dry discs, rinse water, soapy water, clean, much-wetter discs, arrangement of succulents (courtesy of the Beloved);

stage 2 records 001

And for those collectors who are horrified that I would be doing this outdoors, and without a toothbrush, I understand.  But I watched the records carefully (it was cloudy) so they didn’t bake and warp, and my sole toothbrush is right now used for dental purposes. The result is several piles of clean — or less dirty — records, so with luck Hooley and Helen Rowland, Lee Wiley and Ray Miller, Helen Rowland and Dale Wimbrow, Bob Howard and Stirling Bose . . . will be happier and sound better.

May your happiness increase!

IT’S THE “Y” THAT MAKES IT

We tend to believe that artists perform only the repertoire we know from studio recordings — and when we find out otherwise, it is always a pleasant shock.  Thus, the concert program that shows Louis in Europe with HOW AM I TO KNOW? as one of his songs; the airshot from the Famous Door (1938) with the Basie band beginning — unfortunately not completing — a riotous EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY . . . and more.  One never knows if the “featured by” on Thirties and Forties sheet music means that the artist pictured on the cover actually performed the song.  I doubt that Bobby Hackett often played LITTLE SKIPPER or TINKLE TIME, but anything is possible.

Here are Connie, Vet, and Martha — pictured on the cover of a song by Bud Green and Sam H. Stept . . .

SWINGY LITTLE THINGY

Although the Sisters look quite serious — a Greek statue? — the song is a light-hearted Thirties trifle.  Perhaps, deep in the Boswell family archives, there are airshots of this?  We can hope.  Here is a 1933 recording of the song — music by Joe Robichaux, vocal by Chick Bullock — so we can imagine what the Sisters would have done with it:

May your happiness increase.

THAT PRINCESS OF RHYTHM and THE INVISIBLE MAN

This particular piece of sheet music must have sold well when the song was new in 1931 — if the number of copies that have surfaced in this century is evidence: THAT PRINCESS OF RHYTHM sang WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra:

Incidentally, the song takes on new shadings of meaning when you hear the verse: the speaker is dreaming of going back to Virginia, hardly the Deep South.

This sheet music cover is new to me: I note that Mildred was no longer a Princess, although she Featured songs With Great Success.  (I wouldn’t argue with that.)  And the original publishers seem to have been delicately consumed by Mills Music.  I have no idea of the date of this second issue, but the picture suggests the mid-to-late Thirties.

Here’s a small mystery.

A man — you’d know him once I mention his name — recorded this song first, almost six months before the Whiteman record.  He sang and played it every night onstage for forty years.  Why is there no sheet music with him on the cover?  In the period before his great popularity in the Fifties, I’ve seen him on the cover of one song — LIGHTS OUT, circa 1936.  He was anything but invisible in all other media: you could see him in theatres, in concerts, at dances here and abroad; he broadcast on the radio and had his own program; he stole the show in films. But no WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH.

I wonder why.

P.S.  I don’t see his invisibility as a racial issue: other African-Americans got their bands or their pictures on sheet music.  The only hypothesis I can invent is that Mr. Collins and then Mr. Glaser wanted too much money for Our Hero’s visage to be Visible. May your happiness increase.

FACES, VOICES, PAGES

The first song is famous — and someone loved and played this sheet music:

Mildred even autographed another copy:

I couldn’t find any evidence that Mildred had ever recorded this song, but for those of you who don’t know it, here’s a sultry 2011 version by Tamar Korn with Mona’s Hot Four: Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Gordon Webster, piano; Nick Russo, guitar; Rob Adkins, bass:

A Young-Washington-Wiley team effort, new to me:

A little online research led to Ted FioRito’s recording of this song (vocal chorus by Muzzy Marcelino) — http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9ywcs_ted-fiorito-his-orchestra-i-d-be-te_music — not the most distinguished Victor Young creation.

But now, as you go through your errands, you might be able to hear / imagine Mildred singing DELTA and Lee assure us of her essential honesty.

May your happiness increase.

BILL WOOD, SELMA HERALDO, PAUL BLAIR: “NO-ONE CAN TAKE YOUR PLACE”

There are people, memorably important in the Land of Jazz, who never pick up instruments or sing a hot chorus.  Three of them, dear to me in their own ways, have died in the past weeks.  This posting is by no means the full-scale memorial or obituary each one deserves.  It’s just something I have to write so that JAZZ LIVES readers will know.

Between 2004 and 2010, whenever I went to Jazz at Chautauqua, I inevitably ended up spending time and money at a table where a large quantity of sheet music was laid out enticingly — to admire and to purchase.  Bill Wood and his younger partner Greg Laird came to greet me, to be amused by my comments on the sheets I bought and refused to buy, and I expected to see them there year after year.

Bill looked as if he would have fit in perfectly as a small-town druggist or the wise fellow behind the hardware counter in a small-town store that had refused to be bought up by a chain.

He wasn’t there in 2011, and I missed his quiet, amiable presence, overseeing the coming and going of people and pages of Thirties pop songs.  In mid-November, Greg told me Bill had died: “Bill loved going to Chautauqua and providing his great collection of sheet music.  He loved the music and the people.  He was truly one of the nicest men I have ever known.  Even when he couldn’t use the computer any more, I still read to him what everyone was doing through your blog.”

Now, whenever I go through the stack of sheet music on the piano, I will think of Bill Wood with even more gratitude: someone who made it possible for me to bring home new music to learn, to admire, to enjoy.

Selma Heraldo, who died a few days ago at 88, received less attention than she deserved.  She was a fixture at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, because she had been Louis and Lucille’s next-door neighbor for decades.  Although she was the size and shape of an old-fashioned elementary school pointer, it would have been a mistake to underestimate her.

Had Selma lived in Hollywood, she would have been a renowned character actress, and that’s no stage joke.

She had a lovely wry grin, a nearly theatrical forwardness, and no tolerance for inaccuracy or self-promotion in anyone.  If someone else in the room claimed an unmerited glory, Selma would set the person — and everyone else within hearing — straight.  She was a delightful storyteller, and I will cherish forever the tales she told of her mother making Louis a fried-egg sandwich in the Heraldo kitchen when he came home from the road, wanting something plain to eat.

Selma was a shameless vaudevillian, incomparable in the art of mock-serious flirtation.  On September 22, 2011, she was seated at our table in the pleasant garden of the LAHM, eating dinner al fresco before Ricky Riccardi did his presentation on the Gosta Hagglof collection.

In an instant Selma decided I was both her comic foil and male door prize, leaning forward to ask if I would go home with her. “Not later, today.  I live next door,” she winked at me.  When I demurred, saying (as is my habit) that I was so sorry to turn her down, that I was already in a relationship, that perhaps I would disappoint her, she kept the game at a high level.  “Your wife better keep a close eye on you, handsome,” she said.

I did my best to keep the level of things high by asking Selma where she had been seven years ago when I had been at liberty and would have taken her up on her offer, and she giggled happily.

Being the object of Selma’s attention, even for a minute, was like hearing Louis launch into a second chorus of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING: she was a master improviser, able to negotiate any turn with comic timing that would have pleased Jack Benny.

Paul Blair, the dear editor at HOT HOUSE — the great New York jazz magazine, died of a sudden heart attack.  He would have been 70 in January 2012.  I met him through the Beloved, who had gone on several of his jazz walking tours, and he welcomed me to the magazine.

Although I sometimes chafe against editing, cherishing my own peculiarities, working with Paul was a writer’s dream.  He was careful, witty, tactful — but his suggested changes were so good that I took them without a word of fuss.  Reading my prose, he quickly saw what it might be and moved speedily yet gently to make that ideal possible.  I also enjoyed the witty emails he sent me — often with information I hadn’t known.

I only met him once in person: I had been urging him to come to The Ear Inn to hear The EarRegulars, and one night he did.  I didn’t recognize him in person, but he found me and we had a conversation that began in laughter and ended in an deep friendly empathy.  A casually-dressed man who easily made himself comfortable, he sat near the band and I could see him enjoying the sounds of the music: his face clearly reflected what was being played.  I could see that he was a perfectly intuitive listener, which is why  he was such a fine editor.

Paul was also master of the unexpected sweet generosity.  Once, with no prelude (after he had come to know my taste) he told me of some cassettes he had, recorded at a jazz party in the Seventies, featuring jazz pianists, some of whom are now dead.  Would I like these cassettes?  I was enthusiastic; they arrived a week later; he wanted nothing in return.

With the deaths of Bill, Selma, and Paul, my circle of people I love and admire has constricted, and my world is a little smaller.  I will do them the only honor I can — remembering them with love and hoping that others do so also.

And although I hope to make new friendships with other people memorable for their generosity, their style, these three will not be replaced or forgotten.

“FULL OF ORIGINALITY,” or HOT SHEETS

More from the eBay treasure chest:

How many LATEST JAZZ SONG CRAZES were there?

A different variety of blues, perhaps.

The AFRICANA Souvenir Edition – – – very good marketing tie-in for 1927.

One for our very own Sister Katie Cavera.

Obviously a later edition — note the connection to Dick Hyman — with the “original” cover.  What’s intriguing to me is not the racial stereotyping, but that the banjoist doesn’t feel at all threatened by the presence of a woman improviser.  Obviously a musician enlightened before his time!

THE LATEST JAZZ NUMBERS

I don’t have a garage anymore, but I am thinking of buying this folio (starting bid $45 on eBay) and getting together with the other kids on the block and having a garage band that plays BLUIN’ THE BLUES:

I’ll talk to the neighbors when they complain . . . .

NEW OLD TREASURES!

Here are the very exciting results of our trip to an antique store in Vallejo and a community thrift store in Benicia — both less famous towns in California.

I know this isn’t a terribly rare piece of sheet music: it was a hit in 1920 and people still request it today.  But I love the Art Deco cover, and I had never heard anyone sing the verse.  That verse intrigues me because of its indirection.  The singer doesn’t say, “I’ve got a girl named Margie, and she’s great,” etc.  No, there’s a little story:

One: You can talk about your love affairs,

Here’s one I must tell to you;

All night long they sit on the stairs,

He holds her close and starts to coo:

Two: You can picture me most ev’ry night,

I can’t wait until they start;

Ev’ry thing he says just seems all right,

I want to learn that stuff by heart:

Thus the setup for the chorus is coming from an eager but less-sophisticated young man who wants to take Lessons in Love.  Who would have guessed it?

Not jazz by any means, but captivating.

I hadn’t known that Russ Columbo was RADIO’S REVELATION.  Having bought the sheet music for YOU CALL IT MADNESS, BUT I CALL IT LOVE, I’ve learned something both new and essential.

I had never heard or heard of this 1929 song (lyrics by Charles Tobias and Sidney Clare, music by Peter DeRose).  By no means is it an unknown classic, but here are the lyrics to the bridge: “He plays most everything the masters wrote / He plays them heavenly and doesn’t read a note.”  Hot enough for me.

This one is a treasure for obvious reasons and more.  I knew this lovely song from Bing’s 1931 recording, but had no idea that it has been associated with Miss Connie Boswell.  And it has a personal meaning for me.  My father was born in 1915, and the songs of his childhood became the songs of mine, even though I didn’t exactly know the titles or the complete versions.  He is dead almost thirty years, and I can still hear him singing, “Leaves come tumbling down / ‘Round my head / Some of them are brown / Some are red,” although I don’t think he ever got as far as the bridge.  I think he also sang it to his granddaughters, several of whom might remember the tune.

Since I mentioned Harry Lillis Crosby, I shall bring forward one of the real gems of my paddling through cardboard boxes of shredding sheet music (invariably on my hands and knees).  I have only the cover of this song, but I think it’s a worthwhile find:

Handsome young fellow, isn’t he?  (Even with that hairpiece.)  I think he has a real future, than Bing.  With or without the other Two Rhythm Boys.  (Incidentally, if you haven’t heard John Gill’s Bing tribute — with his Sentimental Serenaders — recorded for Stomp Off — you’re denying yourself pleasure.)

And since nothing beats an unusual 78 rpm record in mint condition, let me share this one with you.  It looks anything but interesting, but I have hopes:

Now, John Conte was not a pseudonym for Red McKenzie or Boyce Brown, and the other side looks just as far away from hot jazz as the first.  But the TEEN TIMER label stopped me from going on to the next record.  Perhaps twenty-five years ago, the musician and scholar Loren Schoenberg (who now heads the Jazz Museum in Harlem) had a weekly radio program on Columbia University’s WKCR-FM, and one of his august guests was the tenor saxophonist Jerry Jerome.  Jerry brought along a number of rarities, and one of them sprang from a radio program (circa 1944) for which he led the house band.  The TEEN TIMERS orchestra was an astonishing collection of the best New York City studio players / hot soloists.  I remember Chris Griffin and Will Bradley, Hymie Schertzer, Johnny Guarneri, Eddie Safranski, and Dave Tough were in the band — identifiable not only by their sound, but because that day the program might have run short, so the players were allowed to stretch out on a ONE O’CLOCK JUMP where they were identified by name.  (I learned online that it was a Saturday morning show on NBC; the singing star was Eileen Barton — later to have a big hit with IF I KNEW YOU WERE COMING, I’D A BAKED A CAKE) and the announcer was Art Ford — late 1944, early 1945.  So TEEN TIMERS — perhaps a hopeful effort by Apollo Records (for whom Jerry did some producing of sessions) to attract the bobby-soxers — has the possibility of a hot obbligato or a lovely ballad interlude on this disc.  Or perhaps a Dave Tough cymbal accent.  We live in hope.

Are there any JAZZ LIVES readers who recall this radio program?

Finally, you might be able to intuit how pleased I am with my finds.  They didn’t cost much; they don’t weigh a great deal; they are filled with sentiment.  But perhaps I should let Stuff Smith indicate the state of my emotions?

P.S.  A note on what some folks call “provenance”: most of the music above (and some I didn’t photograph — a Frank Crumit comedy song called I MARRIED THE BOOTLEGGER’S DAUGHTER) came from the collection of one musical young woman.  I could trace some parts of her life: in one phase, she was Stella Carberry (in block capitals); in another, she signed in lovely cursive Stella Maria Pisani.  The copy of MARGIE belonged to Stella’s sister or even sister-in law (I am assuming) Tessie M. Pisani.  Objects have their own lives and they reflect the people who once owned and loved them.

BETWEEN THE SHEETS (in Fayetteville, New York)

Some months back, my friend — jazz photographer John Herr — told me about an invaluable resource for people trying to track down sheet music. 

You remember sheet music, don’t you?

Sheet music (individual publications for specific songs, often with beautiful Art Deco cover illustrations and portraits of the artists — famous or obscure — who performed the songs) was once a predictable part of any even mildly musical household.  Before the iPod, when people relied on records and the radio for the hits of the day, they more than not played those hits on the piano, guitar, ukulele, or sang them together.  When the newest Astaire-Rogers film came out, or Bing Crosby sang something pretty on the radio, the sheet music was right there.

Those of us who love jazz and pop music are fascinated by these sheets, and readers have seen a good number of them here: James P. Johnson, Fud Livingston, Ben Pollack, Louis, and many others.  But sheet music was inexpensive and printed on fragile paper, so the years have often not treated the pages well. 

So if you have a deep need to find the sheet music (words, music for verse and chorus, ukulele chords) for NEVER SWAT A FLY or IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN IN CHERRY BLOSSOM LANE or even I’VE GOT ELGIN MOVEMENTS IN MY HIPS (WITH A TWENTY-YEAR GUARANTEE), you could go on eBay and you might find the sheet music for sale; some is even available at Amazon.  But here’s a better way — intelligent, reliable, and inexpensive. 

It’s the MOTTO COLLECTION at the FAYETTEVILLE FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY in Fayetteville, New York.  But please don’t panic at the unfamiliar name.  You don’t have to find Fayetteville on the map to get ready to make an automobile pilgrimage.  It’s easier than that. 

But first: the collection contains 35,000 sheets of popular American songs from the last 150 years.  It also includes 900 music and reference books which circulate.  The sheet music presents a chronological picture of American life and popular culture from the Civil War through the 1980s.

The Collection was donated to the library by the late Lucy Motto in memory of her husband, Vincent, who died in 1995.  Vincent was an amateur collector who pursued his interest for thirty years (he had sung with bands in Utica and Syracuse).  Rod Hampson, a long-time community volunteer, became the collection’s first curator in 1996.  It is now taken care of by Roberta Hampson (who won’t mind overmuch if you call her “Bobbi”: she is very friendly) who knows a great deal — she is a wonderful resource in herself.

To reach Mrs. Hampson, you may call the library at 315-637-6374 or leave a message for her at extension 328.  Or you may email her at mottomusic@fayettevillefreelibrary.org.

The collection is meticulously indexed with extensive cross-references; if you are searching for a particular song, for a theme, for personal entertainment or scholarship on a larger scale.  It continues to grow through donations and subscriptions.  About those donations: if you can’t sleep at night because you need the music for IF YOU’RE A VIPER, check with Bobbi Hampson to see if the collection has it.  The library requests a donation of at least $3.00 for a song, plus postage if it’s mailed to you — a pittance compared to eBay. 

And soon you can be playing and singing MAKE MY COT WHERE THE COT-COT-COTTON GROWS at home.  Amaze your friends and delight your neighbors!

THE THREE FACES OF CONNEE (or CONNIE)

and even more romantic:

and more informally, for Decca, with some singer:

AND she sang like an angel . . .

O RARE JAMES P. JOHNSON!

The world still hasn’t quite caught up to James Price Johnson, ambitious composer, eminent pianist, generous mentor and teacher. 

How about CHARLESTON or ONE HOUR, MULE WALK  or YAMEKRAW? 

He  lifted up every band he played in, and as a stride progenitor, he lived up to his announcement that he could create “a trick a minute” at the keyboard.  And through his loving paternal care of one Thomas Waller, we have generations of pianists who thank him and sing his praises. 

James P. doesn’t get the attention his works or his playing merit.  But eBay has a few more exhibits for sale and for delighted contemplation.  Printed music, not records — harking back to a time when every household had a piano and someone reasonably competent to make it sing and shout.

Early in his career, James P. (who studied the classical repertoire and took many of his “tricks” from it) had ambitions — always frustrated — to write and perform longer works.  Many have been unearthed and recorded after his death, but EBONY DREAMS (1928) is new to me.  I’d love to hear what a real pianist could do with this music: if I bought it, it would simply reproach me, unplayed, from the piano:

And here’s something more popular and less intimidating — a song from a 1932 musical.  I’ve heard Marty Grosz sing it (as THERE GOES MY HEADACHE) and it’s entertaining although not hugely memorable.  But I’d never seen the sheet music for this show before:

And just to keep this post from being too dry a trip into the world of paper ephemera, here’s something for the ears.  Here’s James P. with Sidney DeParis, Vic Dickenson, Ben Webster, Jimmy Arthur Shirley, John Simmons, and Sidney Catlett, performing AFTER YOU’VE GONE for Blue Note.  Listen to his ringing solo chorus and the fine, spare comping he gives the soloists:

You see I don’t mean my title to be taken lightly!

STRIDE INTO GENEROSITY: EVERY DOLLAR GOES TO THE MUSICIANS

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

LIGHTS OUT (CLOSE YOUR EYES AND DREAM OF ME)

In the name of accuracy, I must report that other copies of the sheet music for this song (circa 1935-6) have Kate Smith on the cover, so I don’t know if Louis ever performed it.  But he did record Hill’s THERE’S A CABIN IN THE PINES, and he would have known his friend Bing’s recording of THE LAST ROUNDUP.  The song seems to have been more popular with sweet bands — the lyrics below are connected in cyberspace to Eddy Duchin — but that doesn’t rule out Louis hearing or performing it, given his deep affinity for the Lombardo brothers. 

A tangential Louis-connection is that LIGHTS OUT was recorded by a jazz combo — with a vocal by Chick Bullock — under tenorist Art Karle’s nominal leadership (January 1936, Brunswick) with Mezz Mezzrow on clarinet, Joe Bushkin on piano and legendary drummer George Stafford as well as Frank Newton!

Beyond that, we have to imagine Louis tenderly asking the Beloved to close her eyes and dream of him.  I can hear the 1935 Decca band — think of THANKS A MILLION — doing this perfectly.  

The lyrics aren’t complex or striving for cleverness, but they’re very touching in their simplicity:

Lights out, sweetheart,
One more perfect day is through.
Lights out, sweetheart,
One more perfect dream come true.
We’ve reached the hour of parting,
So kiss me tenderly.
Lights out, sweetheart,
Close your eyes and dream of me.

Here’s a simple version of the melody, played sweetly by someone who may answer to “djweth”:

And a cover portrait of Billy Hill:

Let’s all sing!

And a postscript, sent to me from the invaluable Jack Rothstein, who knew “Arthur” Karle in Boston in the late Forties, about the LIGHTS OUT record date: “Arthur Karle told me they needed a piano player so he called Bushkin.  His father answered the phone and told him Joey was at the movies.  Arthur persuaded him to go get him.  He went but they wouldn”t page him so he bought a ticket and from the balcony yelled for Joey to go home.  And that’s how Bushkin got his first recording date.  It was the little Loews on 86th St. between Lexington and Third, directly across the street from the Loews Orpheum (the big Loews).”

TEDDI KING / CONNEE BOSWELL

Two of the finest singers of the twentieth century, remembered on paper.

Miss Teddi King, “cute and pert,” ready to be the “Queen of Rush Street” in Chicago, 1959:

And the reverse: this photo may have been printed in the Chicago Tribune:

A publicity photograph of Teddi for a 1966 stint at the Playboy Club:

Connee Boswell, looking lovely and wistful:

A later autograph, when she’d changed from “Connie” to “Connee”:

And a few mysteries.  Did Connee ever perform this song on the radio?  Its composers are entirely unknown to me:

And two Fifties sides — presumably early rock ‘n’ roll, compositions by Connee herself?  Does anyone know what these sound like?

Was this Connee’s version of HOUND DOG?

Or was someone masquerading as our Connee?  Can anyone explain?

“OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT?” REDUX

First, generous archivist / trumpeter / clarinetist / bandleader / drummer Chris Tyle offered me a photograph of the front cover of the sheet music:

I note with some amusement that the title lacks any punctuation — exclamation or interrogation — and that the cover illustration is fairly sedate, well-behaved, although the young woman’s limbs (as they might have said) are more explicit than implicit under her dress.  The dancers are Caucasian, too. 

And (just to show that I have transcended mere print) here is another YouTube performance of this song — by the French ONE MORE TIME band:

Recorded in 2004 at Le Petit Journal St Michel, Paris, this band features Sébastien Gillot, cornet; Guy Champême, clarinet;  Lou Lauprète, piano; Alain Marcheteau, banjo; Michel Marcheteau, tuba.

And here’s LES RED HOT REEDWARMERS, romping on the same tune:

This was recorded on “Doctor Jazz Day” in Wageningen, the Netherlands.  The personnel is Stephane Gillot, leader, reeds; Aurelie Tropez, reeds; Martin Seck, piano; Henry Lamaire, banjo;  Jean Philippe Palma, brass bass; Julien Richard, drums and percussion.  

My sole question — and it might be a naive one — is whether the Gillot boys are related.  Can anyone explain?

BOBBY HACKETT, 1939

I paid a visit to eBay not long ago to search for my usual favorites, among them Bobby Hackett.  The expected records and compact discs were all there, but this was new:

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Stops you cold, doesn’t it?

Reader, I bid on it.  And now it’s MINE!  (Awaiting delivery, mind you, but I am a patient fellow.)  I could ruminate here about the practice of musicians, singers, and vaudevillians paying to have their portraits put on the covers of sheet music, and wonder if Feist paid Hackett or Hackett actually agreed to have his big band play THE TINKLE SONG in hopes that it would be a hit.  Harry Woods (of TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS and many others) had been successful, although THE TINKLE SONG seems to have perished without so much as a . . . trace.  On that subject, Paul Riseman, seller-extraordinaire of sheet music, has offered a copy of STAIRWAY TO THE STARS, presumably the same vintage, with the same youthful Hackett photograph, and I once saw a sheet of the song LITTLE SKIPPER with the same photo. Aside from STAIRWAY, the other two songs offer sad evidence of just how low the Hackett band was in the eyes of song-pluggers, don’t they? 

I will report on the lyrical-musical content of the song when I get the sheet music and peruse the lyrics.

IMAGINE THIS!

This was one prize — of several — acquired yesterday at the Coxsackie Antique Center, a multi-dealer showplace near Albany, New York, with a hundred dealers.  Walking up and down the aisles, although the large store was clean and well-lit, which isn’t always the case, I began to be grateful that there were so many things I had no desire whatsoever to collect. 

But this piece of sheet music — new to me! — suggests that hipness didn’t restrict itself to major urban centers in 1927 or after — or perhaps someone brought this from New York City to play on the piano at the summer house?  My photographs of the score might be too small to play from, but perhaps my readers can solve this for themselves. 

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IMAGINATION is an unusually modern piece for 1927, harmonically sophisticated — but unless you can sight-read, you might not know what it sounds like. 

Voila!  The Bix Beiderbecke Discussion Group (http://www,bixbeiderbecke.com.) once again came to the rescue.  There I found a good deal of information about Fud Livingston — composer, arranger, reedman — as well as audio versions of IMAGINATION by bands including Red Nichols, Miff Mole, Vic Berton, and other Twenties hot stars.  (I hope that Professor Al Haim agrees that my petty larceny was done for a good purpose.)   

IMAGINATION by Miff Mole and his Molers, August 30, 1927

IMAGINATION by the Charleston Chasers, Sept. 8, 1927

IMAGINATION by Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, June 1, 1928

Note: these files occasionally take some time to load; sometimes they stall; they require Real Player.  But they do reward the patient and diligent. 

To repay the Bixophiles for my borrowing these recordings from their site, here’s another piece of sheet music, also new to me, with distinct ties to Bix and Tram.  More to come! 

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BETWEEN THE SHEETS

Yesterday the Beloved and I visited what we call “Mrs. Rodgers’ Book Barn,” although its official name is “Rodgers Book Barn” — a fine old-fashioned used bookstore (467 Rodman Road, Hillsadle, New York, 518-325-3610).  Mrs. Rodgers herself is a pleasure to talk to and deal with.  The Beloved ended up with four or five new gardening books . . . but her clever eye had spotted a stack of sheet music, and Mrs. Rodgers, seeing me clutch my purchases ardently, told me that more awited in the barn. 

Aside from the one late-Thirties ringer (which you will spot easily) this is a hot collection circa 1931, with photos of musicians and bandleaders I had not seen before.  The original owner or owners had an ear for lively pop music. 

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I had never seen the music for this song before and was dismayed to find it has a truly uninspired verse, but any song made immortal by Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, and Django Reinhardt in 1937 and later by Dick Sudhalter and Marty Grosz is worth celebrating.

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Signs of the times — the reverse of one of the music sheets (which, in other cases, show the industry at a crossroads, with ads for music, phonograph records, and piano rolls — anything to keep people from sitting in front of their radios and listening for free).

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In her sweet little Alice Blue gown — a pretty waltz before the jazz players got to it!

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I never heard of Walter Doyle, but was captivated by this because of the hot recording by Rube Bloom and his Bayou Boys in 1930 — and a hot performance of the song done by Spats Langham at, you guessed it, Whitley Bay.  It’s one of those period songs that threatens to terrify the listener.  Is it the Ur-text for OL’ MAN MOSE, I wonder?

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In honor of Bix, Whiteman, and that Movietone News clip (1928).

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One of my heroes, looking skeptically off into the distance.  (I gather there’s never been a biography written of Cliff Edwards?)

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Nice publicity still of Bing — although I have never heard him sing this song.

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Then again, I never heard Gene Krupa sing this one, either.

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A lively cover for a hot Twenties tune — again, in my memory because of Spats Langham’s performance.

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I bought this one for the cherubic Whiteman portrait.  All of the sheet music I’ve encountered here and on other vacations tends to wander far from its original source (some sheets were originally purchased in Missouri, one in a Maine music store that billed itself TEMPLE OF MUSIC) but this song must have been well-loved here or elsewhere, if the number of copies unearthed here is any indication.  “Why Wyoming?” I ask myself, with no particular hopes of an insightful answer.

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This is a real oddity — a 1913 folio of original compositions.  At first, I thought it was music for those pianists who improvised to fit what they saw onscreen (the big love scene, the terrible storm) but now I think it’s something even more subversive: music implicitly connected with those pictures and perhaps the fantasy of being the pianist in the pit . . . to make Junior put down his bat and ball and practice that piano. 

Only diehard jazz fanciers will understand why I got terribly excited about the last two sheets, below:

Lorna plus Sheets 013I know that that portrait finds Husk O’Hare perhaps a little past his fame as a bandleader in whose organization hot players could find work, but I’d never seen a picture of him.

Lorna plus Sheets 006I knew Pollack was famous, and that this 1929 engagement brought him fame, but I never expected to see him on the cover of this sheet music.  Of course, in an ideal world, Jack Teagarden’s picture would replace Pollack’s, but you can’t have everything. 

And (speaking of crass commerce) these pieces of irreplaceable jazz ephemera cost less than an entree at the local Mexican restaurant, so I am in the unusual position of being rich in possessions and positively thrifty at the same time — thanks to the unknown Benefactors and gracious Mrs. Rodgers.

BIX, BING, and FRIENDS IN THE BERKSHIRES

The Beloved and I are fond of a certain kind of antique store — not too expensive, devoted to fine French furniture costing thousands, and not specializing in rusted tools and old newspapers.  She is currently entranced by certain kinds of McCoy pottery (planters, not the terrifying cookie jars); I, predictably, look for sheet music and old records.  I might gaze longingly at a Victrola but have no intention of making a commitment to one. 

Sheet music is often in terrible shape if it’s been stored in the barn, and if it’s been well-cared for, the prices rise.  Today we were in Sheffield and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and I was directed in one store to a fine small collection of music.  Someone had taste: there were Cole Porter songs I’d never heard of, a Swing Era-vintage STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, and a batch of early African-Americana: IF THE MAN IN THE MOON WAS A COON and BY THE WATERMELON VINE, MAH LINDY LOU.  But these nicely-preserved artifacts were out of my price range.

Records, too, are usually disappointing: the great days of junking for Paramounts and Gennetts are long, long gone.  More typically I face Bobby Vinton and Frankie Carle, Donna Summer and Christmas songs.  Now and then a popular Goodman or Glenn Miller collection emerges, or a Jazztone from the Fifties, but such appearances are not the rule. 

Today, which happened to be the first Monday in August, before we turned for our temporary country home, the Beloved said, “Let’s cross the street and go into that shop, the one advertising farm tables.”  The shop was somewhat disorderly, and the owner was surprised, he said, that he could direct me to some sheet music (which turned out to be in bad shape).  On the way there, my vigilant eye was caught by a pile of records — microgroove issues without cardboard jackets scraping against one another mingled with 78s. 

When looking through records, one tends to make judgments on what one finds most often: too many Sammy Kaye and Eddie Fisher records and I begin to droop.  78s from the Fifties, obviously, are newer and have had fewer chances to crack and break.  All was reasonably dull until I came to two records, almost adjacent to one another.  I asked the owner, as innocently as I could, what he was charging, and he said, “Oh, a dollar apiece.”

When I took my two finds to him, he said, “Oh!  These are more valuable.  I thought that pile was only Sinatra and Tony Bennett.”  I stood there quietly and said, “Yes, they are more valuable.  What do you want for them?”  And he smiled at me, rather resignedly, and said, “Oh, a dollar apiece,” which I happily paid him.  It was an odd moment: he knew they were worth more but was being generous and perhaps feeling relieved of the burden of two more objects that threatened to overwhelm him.  

Neither record is in splendid condition.  But they both have been played over and over again, which makes them more valuable emotionally even if some eagle-eyed grader would rate them somewhere between V- and G.  Who knew that Bix and Bing got to Massachusetts, and that they had been preceded by the Original Memphis Five?  Someone in the Twenties had, as they say, an ear.  And you can now see the results.

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 The photographs are slightly blurry, but my pleasure in these discoveries and the casual generosity of the shop owner is sharp and clear.  “From Monday on, we’ll be in clover . . . !”

PLAYING THE FOOL OUT OF “UKULELE LADY”

I read Whitney Balliet’s New Yorker Profile of King Oliver, “For the Comfort of the People,” perhaps twenty-five years ago, and this passage stuck in my head: Jess Stacy describing the first time he heard Oliver play, around 1926, in Chicago:

The first time I ever went to hear Oliver he was playing “Ukulele Lady,” and he was playing the fool out of it, and he took five or six choruses in a row.  He played sitting down, and he didn’t play loud.  He knew his instrument.  He wasn’t spearing for high notes; he stayed right in the middle register.  His chord changes were pretty and his vibrato just right — none of the Italian belly vibrato.

When, last year, I became interested in the ukulele,  I wondered what that pop tune — supposedly inspired by May Singhi Breen — sounded like, but that question faded into the disorganized repository of unanswered questions I carry around with me.  Last summer, though, when the Beloved and I visited Maine, I found stacks and piles of sheet music*.  And one of the songs I found was UKULELE LADY.  So the pieces of the puzzle began to come together.  It was a simple, bouncy song — and if I tried quite hard, I could imagine a Joe Oliver solo on its melody.  But how to convey this to my readers?

Nothing simpler.  Sheet music cover and lyrics, presto change-o!

Ukulele Lady cover

UKULELE LADY© 1925

Lyrics & Music: Lyrics: Gus Kahn, Music: Richard A. Whiting

Verse: I saw the splendor of the moonlight

On Honolulu bay

There’s something tender in the moonlight

On Honolulu

And all the beaches

Are full of peaches

Who bring their ukes along

And in the glimmer of the moonlight

They like to sing this song

Chorus: If you like ukulele lady

Ukulele lady like-a you

If you like to linger where it’s shady

Ukulele lady linger too

If you kiss ukulele lady

And you promise ever to be true

And she finds another ukulele

Lady fooling ’round with you

Maybe she’ll sigh (and maybe not)

Maybe she’ll cry

Maybe she’ll find somebody else

By and by

To sing to where it’s cool and shady

Where the tricky wicki wacki woo

If you like ukulele lady

Ukulele lady like-a you

She used to sing to me by moonlight

On Honolulu Bay

Fond memories cling to me by moonlight

Although I’m far away

Someday I’m going

Where eyes are glowing

And lips are made to kiss

To meet somebody in the moonlight

To hear that song I miss

But how to provide the music — short of bringing Bent Persson into a studio to become Papa Joe Oliver?  This isn’t an adequate substitute, but it made me laugh hysterically this morning, so I hope it will do the same for you — a musical extravaganza by the Fred and Ginger of hand puppets . . . . Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.*  Now everyone can hear what the song sounds like, including the verse:

*Go ahead.  Find another blog that has Jess Stacy and the Muppets in the same posting.  I dare you.  I am also so fond of the phrase “playing the fool out of ______,” perhaps a polite Midwestern euphemism, that I keep trying to find a context in which it fits, which isn’t easy.

**Subject for another blog: the near ubiquity of music for painfully forgettable songs in certain regions — CHONG, HE CAME FROM HONG KONG must have been a huge hit in Maine in 1930.