Two Songs Commemorating Charles Lindbergh’s Transatlantic Flight – 1927

Victor 20861 label image

“Lucky Lindy!”
Nat Shilkret And The Victor Orchestra;
Richard Crooks, Lambert Murphy, Frank Luther, Frederic Baer, Fred Patton, vocal
(Victor 20681-A)              May 26, 1927

 

“America Did It Again”
Nat Shilkret And The Victor Orchestra;
Billy Murray, Charles Harrison, James Stanley, Stanley Baughman, Carl Mathieu, vocal
(Victor 20681-B)         May 31, 1927

 

Charles A. Lindbergh’s pioneering solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris on May 20-21, 1927 was not only that year’s top news story; it also sparked on both sides of the Atlantic a mass cultural celebration of human and technological achievement on a scale not seen again until 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

In 1927, the sale of sheet music for the pianos ubiquitous to middle-class parlors was still a driving force and major source of revenue for the music industry. The large Tin Pan Alley music publishing companies were always quick to crank out songs about any topic that captured the public’s imagination.

The Lindbergh flight was no exception; songs commemorating the event were quickly composed and rushed to press. Eventually, over 300 songs related to Lindbergh were submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office.

“Lucky Lindy!” composed by Abel Baer with lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert is reported to have been the first of the Lindbergh songs with a copyright date of May 25, 1927, just four days after Lindbergh touched down in Paris. The recording here by Victor’s in-house orchestra, directed by Nat Shilkret, was made the day after the song was copyrighted.

My hunch is that the music publishers and the record labels were probably communicating about forthcoming Lindbergh songs before the composers were even finished writing them.

“America Did It Again,” with words and music by Ted Koehler and Marty Bloom, was recorded by the Shilkret orchestra on May 31, 1927.  The fact that the song was not formally copyrighted until June 7 also suggests early collaboration between the publishers and the record labels.

Lindbergh’s flight was definitely a trailblazing achievement.  But the same cannot be said for the lyrics of many of the songs that commemorated it.

For whatever reason, there seems to have been a fascination for Charles Lindbergh’s mother.  Both of these songs make mention of her as does another famous Lindbergh song, “Lindbergh (The Eagle of the U.S.A.).”   

Indeed, the top of the first page of the sheet music for “Lucky Lindy” even features a dedication: “Dedicated to the mother of ‘Lucky Lindy'”

Gee – did they even know much about her?  Why not dedicate it to the guy who actually risked his life in a rickety airplane?

The lyrics to “America Did It Again” contain the following passage:

I battled the sky, to do or to die
‘Till I saw that old River Seine
“Hello, Mother” this is your boy
I’m calling from Paris, to tell you with joy
I flew for you, and the Red White and Blue

When I first played the record, I immediately wondered if transatlantic phone calls were even possible at that time.  A quick search revealed that the very first transatlantic phone call occurred less than five months earlier, on January 7, 1927, between London and New York.

I don’t know if things would have been set up by late May for such a call to be patched through between London and Paris. But even if they had, it would have been enormously expensive.

Even domestic long-distance calls within the USA at that time were expensive and typically required many minutes for a team of people in multiple cities to patch a call through to its final destination.  Occasionally, in early sound films, one will see a scene showing how long-distance calls were placed.  The person calling would provide the operator with the name, city, and number of the person they wished to speak with and then disconnect.  Once the call was successfully put through – which could take as much as 20 minutes, depending on where the call needed to be routed – the operator would ring the caller back and advise that the other party was on the line.

Presumably, given the apparent fascination with his mother, if Lindbergh had placed such a call using a still novel and extremely expensive technology, that, too, would have made headlines.  But, the day after Lindbergh landed, the New York Times ran an article about Mrs. Lindbergh waiting at her home in Detroit for word as to whether or son had successfully landed or perished.  No mention at all was made of such a phone call.

I wonder how many people back in 1927 were as skeptical of those lyrics as I was. And I wonder if, when the publishers commissioned such songs, they told the composers, “With so many young people buying records and listening to the radio these days, mothers of grown children have become an increasing percentage of our sheet music buyers—so make sure you mention Lindbergh’s mother!”

While these songs are hardly the best examples of the wonderful music that the era had to offer,  I do think recordings about then-current and now-historical events are fun to come across.

 

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June Pursell – 1929

Brunswick 4635 label image

 

“Never Say Die”
June Pursell, vocal
(Brunswick 4635)           November 8, 1929

 

“The Album Of My Dreams”
June Pursell, vocal
(Brunswick 4635)           November 8, 1929

 

Here are two recordings by a mostly forgotten vocalist who was briefly famous from the mid-1920s until she disappeared from public view in 1934.

June Pursell rose to prominence on the West Coast through regular radio broadcasts over station KNX Los Angeles.  Her radio fame enabled her to get a contract on a vaudeville circuit that toured the West and Midwest.  In 1925, she made two trial recordings for Victor, which were not issued.  Between 1928 and 1930 she recorded several sides for Brunswick, some as the featured artist and others as a vocalist for the Roy Fox and Earl Burtnett bands.

In 1927 Pursell starred in an early Vitaphone musical short feature, June Pursell – Hollywood’s Radio Girl.  She appeared in two subsequent films,  The Hollywood Review in 1929 and Viennese Nights in 1930.

In early 1932, Pursell moved to New York City after receiving a contract for her own five-day-a-week radio program over the NBC Red Network from station WEAF New York. That same year she recorded four sides on Victor as vocalist with Jack Denny And His Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra.

For reasons apparently unknown,  Pursell stopped appearing in newspaper radio listings in 1933.

In February 1934, several local newspaper articles reported Pursell returning to her hometown of Indianapolis for the first time in ten years to appear in a show at that city’s Lyric Theater. After that, she seems to have disappeared from public mention, and I was not able to find any source that provided the date she passed away.

Her Wikipedia entry states that she married a man named Thomas H. Culkin in January 1952, citing a Scranton, Pennsylvania newspaper.   But that is incorrect.  The June Pursell mentioned in that newspaper article was born in 1929.

The Wikipedia article also states that she composed two songs that were copyrighted in 1956 and credit her as the author of both the music and the lyrics: “I Couldn’t Love You More If I Tried” and “What Good Am I Without You.”  The latter song is not related to either the 1930 Milton Ager or the 1964  Kim Weston and Marvin Gaye compositions that have the same title.   I was not able to find any information that was able to confirm whether or not the June Pursell who copyrighted the two songs in 1956 was the same person as the 1920s – early 1930s singer and radio star.

The song “Never Say Die” comes from the 1930 film Behind The Make-Up.  While this recording was made in November 1929,  the record did not appear in stores until February 1930, the same month the film debuted in theaters.    The uncredited band backing Pursell up on both of these recordings was Earl Burtnett’s Los Angeles Biltmore Orchestra.

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Hans Söhnker & Metropol-Vokalisten – 1937

Odeon O-25913a label image.

“Für wen macht eine Frau sich schön”
Hans Söhnker und die Metropol-Vokalisten, vocal; with Robert Renard Tanzorch
(Odeon 0-25913 a mx 11734)                           June 23, 1937

 

Here is a very catchy tune from the 1937 German film Der Unwiderstehliche (The Irresistible Man), which starred Hans Söhnker, who also performs the vocal on this recording.  The song’s title translates to “Who Does A Woman Make Herself Beautiful For?”

Hans Söhnker was a well-known actor who appeared in over 100 films between 1933 and 1980.  During World War II, Söhnker lived a double life, obediently appearing in propaganda films while, at the same time, using his summer house to hide Jews from the authorities.  He was one of a small group of actors and actresses who were part of a network that smuggled Jews out of Nazi German to the safety of Switzerland.  Had he been caught, it would almost certainly have cost him his life.

The Metropol-Vokalisten was a vocal quartet that patterned itself after the Comedian Harmonists (who, in turn, patterned themselves after imported recordings by the American harmony group The Revelers).

Robert Renard was one of many recording pseudonyms used by Otto Dobrindt’s in-house orchestra for various record labels produced by the Carl Lindström Company, such as Odeon, Parlophon, Gloria, and others.

This recording was made in the Lindström recording studios in Berlin at
26 Schlesische Straße.  The huge complex, which included a record pressing plant, printing plant, and company offices, survived the war and is still in use by a variety of tenants.

 

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Six Overlooked Recordings 1927-1931

Life Magazine cover July 1, 1926

 

“Just Blues”
Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra
(Brunswick 80037 B mx E 36456)           April 10, 1931

 

“The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise”
Ted Lewis And His Band
(Columbia 2246 D mx 150460)       April 14, 1930

 

“Time Alone Will Tell”
Layton And Johnstone; piano and vocal
(UK Columbia DB 654 mx CA 12039)    October 1931

 

“One More Time”
Roy Carroll & His Sands Point Orchestra; Dick Robertson, vocal
(Velvet Tone 2402 V mx 351025)    May 28, 1931

 

“Like You”
The Columbians; Franklyn Baur, vocal
(Columbia 968 D mx 143990)   April 19, 1927

 

“Dear Eyes That Haunt Me”
The Columbians; Lewis James, vocal
(Columbia 968 D mx 143991)         April 19, 1927

 

Because I can transfer recordings to my hard drive much faster than I am able to do the subsequent cleanup/audio restoration work on them, it is common for me to have, at any given time,  a large backlog of transfers awaiting restoration.

I recently went through an archived copy of an old hard drive and found dozens of recordings from my personal collection that I transferred several years ago but never restored. When I upgraded to a larger hard drive, the particular folder they were in was somehow overlooked when I transferred my work-in-progress to the new drive.  Once I backed up the old drive as an archive, the folder and the recordings in it fell off my radar.

Here are six recordings from that overlooked folder that I thought were very nice.  These and a number of others were recently added to Radio Dismuke’s playlist.   The remainder are now visible in my backlog for me to select from when I get opportunities to do audio restoration.

A few notes about the recordings:

Fletcher Henderson’s recording of “Just Blues” was originally issued on Melotone  (Melotone 12239), a budget-priced subsidiary label of Brunswick, under the pseudonym of the Connie’s Inn Orchestra.   At the time, Henderson’s primary recording affiliation was with Columbia. Thus, all recordings issued under his name were on that label.  But, as was common with recording contracts in those days, he remained free to record for other labels so long as they were not issued under his name.

Unlike a lot of recording pseudonyms, Connie’s Inn Orchestra had a basis, in fact, as Henderson’s orchestra became the house band of Harlem’s famous Connie’s Inn nightclub in late 1930.  One of the perks of that engagement was live network radio broadcasts from the club over CBS.  Thus the public was already aware that the house band at Connie’s Inn was Henderson’s.

My copy is from a 1944 Brunswick 78 rpm.  By that time, Decca had purchased the Brunswick trademark, which the label’s previous owner stopped using in 1940, as well as Brunswick’s pre-December 1931 catalog.  Decca revived Brunswick as a reissue label which made available many excellent 1920s and early 1930s jazz recordings that were long out of print and had become rare.

Given that Connie’s Inn closed in 1934 and that there was no longer a need to issue the recording under a pseudonym,  the artist credit on my copy is Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra.

Records on the 1940s Brunswick 8000 series made by Decca can often be picked up inexpensively and are usually worth getting. They aren’t as collectible as the original recordings. But if one collects records primarily to listen to them, they can be a great bargain as many of the originals can be difficult and expensive to acquire in nice condition.

“The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise,” composed by Ernest Seitz and first published in 1919, was already an “oldie” when Ted Lewis recorded it in 1930.  Isham Jones had the best-selling early 1920s recording of the song.  It also enjoyed a highly successful 1951 revival by Les Paul and Mary Ford.  The song was also included in the 1944 Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie.

Turner Layton and Clarence Johnstone were an American vocal and piano duo that moved to England in 1924, where they soon achieved enormous success and became one of the top-selling British recording artists of the era.   They were among a number of American black artists who found success in the less racially unfriendly climate that existed in the UK and Europe.

The song “Time Alone Will Tell” was written by American composer Archie Gottler and Horatio Nicholls, a pen name for the British music publisher Lawrence Wright.  While recordings of the song were made by several artists in the UK,  I was not able to quickly find mention of any American recordings of it.

Roy Carroll & His Sands Point Orchestra and The Columbians were pseudonyms for Columbia’s in-house band led by Ben Selvin.

My copy of  “One More Time” is on the Velvet Tone label, but the recording was also simultaneously issued on Columbia’s other bargain-priced labels, Harmony and Clarion, which were sold through different retail outlets.  A dubbed recording was also issued on the OKeh label, also owned by Columbia, under the pseudonym of Buddy Campbell and His Orchestra.  OKeh had previously been allowed to operate and make recordings independently from its parent.  However, due to the impact of the Depression on record sales, to cut costs, OKeh increasingly started issuing Columbia recordings under different pseudonyms.  To better obscure this fact, rather than make pressings from the original masters, which would have revealed the Columbia matrix numbers,  OKeh dubbed the recordings so that they could be pressed from masters that showed matrix numbers consistent with OKeh’s numbering scheme.

“Dear Eyes That Haunt Me” and “Like You” are both Emmerich Kálmán compositions from his Die Zirkusprinzessin, which opened in Vienna in 1926 and made its way to the New York stage in 1927 as The Circus Princess.   The lyrics on both recordings from Harry B. Smith’s adaption for the New York production.

 

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Missouri Jazz Band/Sam Lanin’s Dance Orchestra – 1925

Domino 3610-B label image

 

“I’m Gonna Charleston Back To Charleston”
Missouri Jazz Band
(Domino 3610 B mx 16095)    July 9, 1925

 

“I’m Sitting On Top Of The World”
Sam Lanin’s Dance Orchestra; Arthur Hall, vocal
(Domino 3610 A mx 16243)      October 17, 1925

 

Here are two recordings from the Edward Mitchell collection made during the height of the mid-1920s Charleston dance craze.

Both of these songs were recorded by a variety of bands in 1925

“The Missouri Jazz Band” was a pseudonym used for recordings by multiple bands on labels distributed by the Plaza Music company such as Regal, Banner and Domino.  After those labels merged into the American Record Corporation the name was used on additional labels such as Romeo and Cameo.  In this recording the actual band was Lou Gold and His Orchestra.

Al Jolson also made a 1925 recording of “I’m Sitting On Top Of The World” and later performed it in the 1928 film The Singing Fool, made during the period when theaters were making the transition from silent to sound films.  Most of the film was produced as a silent film.  But, for theaters that were equipped with the Vitaphone sound-on-disc technology, it featured a synchronized musical score as well as a few scenes that included dialog and singing.

Though both Victor and Columbia were using microphones by the time these sides were recorded, recordings on Domino and its affiliated labels still utilized acoustical recording horns.

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Ian House 1961 – 2024

 

image of Ian House

 

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Ian House, a long-time friend of Radio Dismuke and myself dating back to the very early days of the station.

Ian never appeared on any of our broadcasts, though listeners might recall either the late Eddie The Collector or myself giving a shoutout to Ian, who almost always tuned into our broadcasts.

Those who remember the old “Dismuke’s Message Board,” where anything related to vintage music and recordings of the early 1900s was discussed, might recall Ian, as he was a very active and prolific participant.

Others might recall or have heard of Ian through his work researching and bringing attention to the 1920s and 1930s female jazz and blues vocalist Lee Morse of whom Ian was a huge fan.

I got to know Ian a month or two after I started Radio Dismuke in early 2002 on a now-defunct platform known as Live365.  Shortly after I started the station, I noticed another station had appeared in Live365’s directory that mentioned playing music from the 1920s and 1930s. I tuned in and noticed its playlist was similar in scope to mine. I reached out through the station’s contact info and extended my greetings and received a reply back from Ian House, who grew up in Canada and worked in Northern California for Electronic Arts developing video games. Thus began the first of many exchanges I had with Ian over the years through email, message boards, in person, and, eventually, Facebook.

I can’t recall how long Ian kept his station going, nor do I recall him ever mentioning that he had shut it down or why. I am quite sure that he spent far more time actively participating in my station’s message board than he did updating or promoting his own station. My guess is that Ian got enjoyment out of creating the station. But Ian had so many other talents and passions that, once he got it up and running, I suspect he had other things he preferred to spend his time on than expanding its playlist and audience and the various headaches involved in keeping a station going.

Dismuke’s Message Board was an online forum that was originally part of a vintage music website I operated before I started Radio Dismuke. For several years the board had a very active and growing membership of ’20s/’30s era music fans. Many of the posters were highly knowledgeable and sometimes would share information not available elsewhere. In a certain sense, however, it would have been accurate to have called it Ian’s Message Board, as much of the board’s success was due to Ian’s participation, though he was never an administrator nor had any role in operating it.

Ian was a natural when it came to online engagement. He would start new threads and respond to existing ones with postings that made people want to jump in and reply. His postings were informative, conversational, entertaining, and sometimes funny. I did not have the time to be as active on the message board as I would have liked. I mostly kept an eye on it in case there were any moderation concerns I needed to address – which, thankfully, were rare.  Ian was the one who welcomed new members and would devise conversation-starting new threads when participation began to slow down.

One posting of his that I remember mentioned that he had just discovered a new website he found to be impressive and promising that allowed people to publish short videos, including those with music. The name of that website: YouTube. That was how I and probably a number of others on that message board first learned of YouTube’s existence!

Ian forged friendships with multiple members of the message board that endured well after I closed the message board. One of those friends was the late Edward Mitchell, a.k.a. “Eddie The Collector,” who participated in our broadcasts and, later on, became a board member of Early 1900s Music Preservation.

Sadly, I eventually had to close the message board after the constant need to contend with automated spam bots had become too time-consuming and burdensome. It got to the point the board was receiving hundreds of new user registrations daily, all from would-be spammers. By that time, Facebook was already starting to suck the oxygen out of a lot of independent message boards.

So I decided to lock the message board down but keep it online so that people could still discover and read its content. Unlike discussions of current events, discussions of vintage music rarely become outdated. The message board continued to enjoy traffic in view-only mode. There have even been a few instances when I was researching a topic only to find a posting from the message board in my search results.

Unfortunately, the message board suddenly stopped working a few weeks ago – I suspect because an update to the web server broke compatibility with the forum hosting software which, by now, is no longer supported. If it were still accessible, I would provide links to threads that would introduce Ian to those who have never encountered him.

Since I still have the database with all of the postings, I should, in theory, be able to find a way to get it up and running again. It is my intention to find a way to restore it. Not only does it contain a lot of information about vintage recordings, there was a lot of entertaining interaction between participants, several of whom, like Ian, are sadly no longer with us. I don’t know how long that will take, but once it is back up and running, I will put up an announcement on this blog.

One of Ian’s contributions to the vintage music world was his work on researching and promoting awareness of the ’20s/’30s era female vocalist Lee Morse. Ian did not consider himself to be a big 78 rpm collector, but he spent several years seeking and buying Lee Morse’s records. This effort culminated in a 2005 two-volume CD set, Lee Morse: Echoes of a Songbird, issued by Jasmine Records, a jazz label based in London. That CD set remains in print and can be found on both Amazon.com and Jasmine Record’s websites.

The only aspect of the CD that was not Ian’s work was the audio restoration, which was done by professionals hired by Jasmine. But it was Ian who compiled the records and provided the raw transfers. He also wrote the liner notes and did all of the graphic design for the CD cover and booklet.

Ian also had a website devoted to Lee Morse where he documented much of his research into her life: http://www.leemorse.com/. As of this writing, the website is still active. However, since much of it was written to utilize Adobe Flash, which is no longer supported by modern browsers, most of the site’s content will be inaccessible without a Flash replacement. One such replacement is Ruffle, an open-source Flash emulator. If all one wishes to do is view old Flash websites, the easiest way to use it is to add the Chrome extension. Once I installed the Chrome extension, I was able to get the site to work.

Ian created another Lee Morse-related website as part of an effort to preserve the old Opera House in Kooskia, Idaho, where Morse had performed when she was a teenager. On that site, Ian shares details and photos about the period that Morse and her family spent in Idaho. He also shares videos he made while doing his reserch in the area. That site does not use Flash and remains fully functional: http://www.savetheoperahouse.com/index.htm

Ian also created a virtual museum he called The American Package Museum from his collection of vintage product packaging: http://www.packagemuseum.com/index.htm

I finally got to meet Ian in person during the summer of 2006, when he was in the process of moving from California to Noblesville, Indiana, where he intended to start his own business. He used the move as an opportunity to visit different parts of the US, including places relevant to his research on Lee Morse.

One of his stops was Fort Worth and North Texas, where Lee Morse had family ties and where she lived and performed between 1934 and 1939. I spent several days showing Ian various locations in and around Dallas/Fort Worth that had historical connections with Lee Morse. Ian and I also drove down to Waco, Texas, so that he could finally meet Eddie The Collector and Matt From College Station, who drove up from that city, both of whom he had interacted with on the message board and had listened to on our broadcasts. We spent an entire day with Eddie taking us to various historical sites in Waco, watching vintage musical short features, and listening to old records.

One of the highlights of Ian’s time in North Texas was getting to visit the old Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. I gave Ian a tour of Mineral Wells on our way back from seeing an old wooden church building that once belonged to a congregation founded by Lee Morse’s grandfather, who was one of the early white settlers in what is now Palo Pinto County. Mineral Wells had been a nationally famous health resort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but went into a steep decline after World War II. It is a small town dominated by the 14-story Baker Hotel, a once-luxurious resort hotel that opened in 1929 and had been abandoned and left to decay since 1972.

When I took Ian up the stairs to the hotel’s front porch so he could peer through the front door into its once-grand lobby, we discovered that one of the hotel’s local key holders was quitely offering anyone who passed by an informal, unofficial tour of the hotel’s lobby, mezzanine, and third-floor mineral baths for a few dollars per person.

Ian fell for the old hotel the moment he saw it. During our tour, Ian kept mentioning how much he would like to be able to see the rest of the hotel. The key holder said that it might be possible and provided me with his phone number so we could work out the details. When I called him back, we agreed to a price that would provide me and whoever else I wished to invite complete access to the entire hotel, with the keyholder accompanying us so he could point out interesting details and answer any questions.

Upon Ian’s return from his visit to other Texas cities, he, Eddie, and I met up in Mineral Wells.  We were able to explore the entire building, from the decorative bell tower high above the 14th floor to the mechanical rooms in the hotel’s sub-basements.

Thirteen years later, in 2019, I shared a news story on my Facebook page about how a serious deal to restore the hotel had finally been put together. Ian was thrilled to hear the news and, in his reply to my posting, he mentioned getting to tour the hotel and described it as being among “the most exhilarating experience[es] of my life.”

The next and final time I met up with Ian was the following summer. He and Eddie had both heard me talk about the remarkable art-deco-era architecture in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that resulted from the enormous wealth in that city during its 1920s oil boom years. The three of us decided to meet there so I could show them the sights.

We spent an entire day visiting grand old skyscrapers and other buildings in Tulsa. The next day, we took to the road, and I showed them Pawhuska, an old oil boom town that is the capital of the Osage Nation and whose 1920s downtown remained remarkably intact, with its facades having mostly been spared the uglification of 1950s-1970s “modernization.” More recently, that town was where much of the movie Killers of The Flower Moon was filmed – a movie I recommend both for its story and its 1920s period setting.

We then visited Guthrie, Oklahoma’s old territorial capital and first state capital, which has one of the country’s largest intact Victorian-era downtowns. Then we visited Oklahoma City and dined in the 1911 Skirvin Hotel, which had just been restored and reopened after two decades of abandonment.

At the end of the trip, when we set off to return to our respective cities, it never occurred to me that it would be the last time I would ever see Ian. We talked about the three of us meeting up again sometime, but that never happened.

In the months since Eddie passed away last August, I have thought a lot about and shared a number of stories about the visits that Eddie, Ian, and I made to the Baker Hotel and to Oklahoma. It seems so odd to be revisiting those memories once again so very soon, this time because of Ian’s passing.

In many respects, Ian and I did not know each other all that well. I knew very little about his day-to-day life, and he knew little about mine. Our interactions were almost always limited to our shared passion for the music and aesthetics of the early decades of the 20th century.

But he was absolutely a great friend in terms of his encouragement and enthusiastic support of my efforts with Radio Dismuke. And I have no doubt that there are many people who consider themselves to be fans of Lee Morse who might not otherwise have heard of her had it not been for Ian’s efforts to bring attention to her music and career.

I do not know the circumstances surrounding Ian’s passing, but for the past couple of weeks, I had a feeling that something was amiss.

Earlier in the month, I learned at the very last moment that the great 1920s/1930s band based out of Germany, Max Raabe and Palast Orchester, was on tour in the United States and that one of the cities they would be stopping at was Indianapolis, close to where Ian lived. I sent him a quick message through Facebook about it in case he had not been aware of it.

A couple of days later, it occurred to me that Ian had not responded back, which struck me as odd as Ian was one of those people who tended to be quick to respond on Facebook. When I visited his profile and saw that his last posting had been in late February, I had a sad feeling that something was likely wrong. Some people, myself included at times, will go months without logging into social media. But such a lengthy absence in posting was not typical of Ian.

When I learned of Ian’s passing, I went back and looked at some of his old Facebook postings. One of them, which I vaguely remembered him putting up in May 2019, caught my eye and struck me as a bit haunting, given current circumstances. In it, he talks about the passing of the well-known musician Leon Redbone, who, it turned out, had been friends with Ian due to their mutual interest in Lee Morse.

Here is what Ian wrote in that posting:

RIP, Redbone :~(

I lost a close, personal friend today and the world has lost one of Lee Morse’s most devoted fans, … and one of her most dedicated researchers.

I first met Leon Redbone through my LeeMorse website. He reached out to me by email and eventually we began a series of long, marathon conversations by phone every month or so for a couple of years. He was an eccentric and intensely private night owl type. My phone would typically ring at about 11 pm, always with the same simple greeting: “Redbone!” … and then we’d chat about Lee until about 3 or 4 am. He was Lee obsessed. We listened to her recordings together, exchanged research stories and photographs … and many laughs as we speculated about our own theories in regard to Lee’s biography. She left us with a LOT of missing details that needed to be creatively filled in :~)

Lee was Redbone’s favorite female vocalist. On his website today, there is an announcement of his death in which he mentions wanting to share a couple of shots of whiskey with her now that they are in the same realm together. Don’t empty that bottle! Save some for me :~)

At the height of our time together, I was prodding Leon to host a tribute concert dedicated to Lee at the Kooskia Opera House in Kooskia, Idaho. Although I had his attention and his initial enthusiasm, unfortunately he was winding down his career. He had a fear of flying and always traveled around the country by car … and he was about a year away from the end of his travels.

The Kooskia concert would have been GRAND. I regret that we had not met just a few years earlier ::sigh::

Happy Trails, Redbone! Thank you for your warm friendship. Give Lee a kiss on the cheek for me ❤

And keep that whiskey bottle handy :~)”

Wouldn’t it be great if it were somehow possible for Ian to be with Lee and Redbone, enjoying some whiskey that they saved for him?

 

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Broadway Players – 1924

Silvertone 2423-A label image

“Me And The Boyfriend”
Broadway Players
(Silvertone 2423-A)            September 9, 1924

 

“My Best Girl”
Broadway Players
(Silvertone 2423-B)      September 7, 1924

 

 

Here is a Silvertone record from the Edward Michell collection with two songs that were popular in 1924.

Both songs were recorded by a number of artists for various record labels. Nick Lucas, in particular, had great success with “My Best Girl,” which was the first of several hit recordings he made for Brunswick.

Silvertone was an in-house brand introduced by Sears, Roebuck & Company in 1916 for its line of phonographs and records.  Sears stopped using the Silvertone name on records in 1928 in favor of its other in-house labels, such as Supertone, Challenge, and Conqueror.  But the Silvertone name continued to appear on phonographs, radios, musical instruments and eventually television sets through 1972.  (Sears briefly revived the Silvertone label in 1940).

When these recordings were made in late 1924, Sears was still strictly a mail-order house.  But the following year, the company opened the first of its retail stores, which would become the company’s dominant and, eventually, only sales channel.

Sears did not record or manufacture any of its records and sourced them from various record labels. The two sides for this record were recorded by the Regal Record Company. But Sears also, at different times, used material from Columbia, Brunswick, Emerson, Gennett, New York Recording Laboratories, and others.

This record is also a great example of the often convoluted recording pseudonyms that record labels commonly used between 1920 and 1935.

Both of these recordings were credited on Silvertone as being by the “Broadway Players.” But there was no such actual band.  Nor was that pseudonym consistently used for recordings by any particular band.

On one side of this record, the actual band is Ben Selvin And His Orchestra, with the other side being by Sam Lanin and His Orchestra.  But other recordings issued on Silvertone as the Broadway Players were made by the Nathan Glantz and Fred Rich orchestras.

To add an extra level of complexity, because there was no arrangement for the recordings that Sears contracted from other companies for use on its in-house labels to be exclusive to Sears, virtually every recording that was issued on the Silvertone label was also issued on one or more other record labels, often under a completely different pseudonym for the artists’ credit.

This September 9, 1924 recording of “Me And The Boyfriend” was made by Ben Selvin And His Orchestra. However, it was issued on Regal credited as Bar Harbor Society Orchestra. On Banner it was credited as Newport Society Orchestra, on Domino as Clarence Sherman’s Orchestra, on Oriole as Imperial Dance Band and on the Pathe Actuelle and Perfect labels as Southampton Society Orchestra.

“My Best Girl” was recorded two days earlier by Sam Lanin and His Orchestra.  On Regal, it is credited as being by the Lanin orchestra. But on Banner it was credited as Roseland Dance Orchestra, on Bell as Golden Gate Orchestra, on Domino as Rialto Dance Orchestra, and on Oriole as Billy James’ Dance Orchestra.

Needless to say, this can make things a bit confusing when sorting through a stack of records for sale to know whether a recording of a particular song one is fond of is or is not identical to a recording one already has of that song on a different label. I have more than once come home excited about a 78 rpm I acquired, only to discover upon listening to it that I already had one or both sides of it on a different label.

 

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Johnny Walker & His Rollickers – 1930

Columbia 2247-D label image

 

“Kitty From Kansas City”
Johnny Walker & His Rollickers; The Rondoliers, vocal
(Columbia 2247-D mx 150618)                       July 3, 1930

 

“Betty Co-ed”
Johnny Walker & His Rollickers; The Rondoliers, vocal
(Columbia 2247-D mx 150617)                   July 3, 1930

 

Here is a record from the Edward Mitchell collection featuring two novelty songs.  Both were big hits for Rudy Vallee who also wrote the words to “Betty Co-ed.”

These recordings are by Ben Selvin’s in-house Columbia band issued under the pseudonym of Johnny Walker & His Rollickers.  The vocals are provided by The Rondoliers, a male quartet that was well-known on radio during the early 1930s.  Between 1930 and 1933 they recorded over 50 sides with Columbia, some as the featured artists and others, such as this, as vocal accompaniment to the label’s various dance bands.

In 1931 Fleischer Studios made both of the songs the subject of their own Talkartoons animated “follow the bouncing ball” musical short features.  Each featured a cameo appearance of Rudy Vallee as well as the still-evolving cartoon character patterned after Helen Kane that emerged as Betty Boop.  It is said that “Betty Co-Ed” was what inspired the Fleischers to name the character Betty.

Both cartoons, as of the date of this posting, can be viewed on YouTube and are entertaining.  Betty Co-ed can be viewed at this link and Kitty From Kansas City at this link.

Over the years, I have had a number of people tell me that their first exposure to Jazz Age popular music was through reruns of 1930s cartoons they saw on television decades later as children.  While the television broadcasts were mostly aimed at children, when the cartoons first appeared, they were shown to audiences of all ages ahead of the featured film in cinemas and included popular tunes of the day, albeit in novelty-type arrangements that matched the animation.

By the time such cartoons were being broadcast on television, the musical styles of the 1920s and 1930s had all but disappeared from the popular culture landscape and reruns of old cartoons and movies were one of the few sources that still provided a glimpse of it to sizeable audiences.  Some of the songs from the era still endured, but the style in which they were performed was very different. Even the handful of bands from the era that managed to continue into the 1960s and 1970s had also changed to “keep up with the times.”

Most of the people who have told me about discovering the music through cartoon reruns mentioned that they did not realize that there had once been an entire wildly popular genre of such music in non-cartoon form until they were well into adulthood when the advent of the Internet finally made it easier for most people to access and discover.

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Jack Payne And His Band – 1935

Rex 8437-A label image

 

“Back To Those Happy Days”
Jack Payne And His Band; Billy Scott-Coomber, vocal
(Rex 8437-B mx F 1195)          February, 1935

 

“Maybe I’m Wrong Again”
Jack Payne And His Band; Ronnie Genarder, vocal
(Rex 8437-A mx F 1194-2)    February, 1935

 

Here are two songs that, a few months after these recordings were made, were featured in the 1935 version of the annual musical revue On With The Show produced by music publisher Lawrence Wright. The show was produced every summer between 1925 and 1956 at the North Pier in Blackpool, England.  And, by convenient coincidence, the songs featured in each year’s production were all published by Wright’s publishing company.

On both sides of the record one can see the royalty stamp for Wright’s publishing house already pre-printed on the label.  Royalty stamps weren’t always pre-printed on British labels; sometimes, an actual stamp bearing the name of the publishing company was affixed to indicate that royalties for that copy had been paid.  (American labels had to pay publishers’ royalties on each record sold as well.  But, for whatever reason, American record companies weren’t required to indicate so on the label the way that British companies were.)

“Back To Those Happy Days” was composed by Lawrence Wright himself but under a pen name he often used, Horatio Nicholls.  The song is a typical Depression-era “cheer up” piece – though in this instance, the lyrics suggest that the Depression is already over.

The song’s success was mostly limited to Britain.  Several British bands besides Jack Payne’s recorded it, including Bertini and His Tower Blackpool Dance Orchestra, Ambrose And His Orchestra, the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra and others.  But I can find no mention of recordings made by any American bands.  However, the Decca label in the USA did issue the British recording made by Ambrose and His Orchestra.

“Maybe I’m Wrong Again” was recorded by multiple artists on both sides of the Atlantic.  American recordings of it were made in October and November 1934 by Bing Crosby, Jan Garber and His Orchestra, and the Casa Loma Orchestra.  Several British recordings were made in early 1935 by Roy Fox And His Band, Lew Stone And His Band, Jack Jackson And His Orchestra, and others.

The song was composed by Jack Bennett with lyrics by Jo Trent, whose full name was Joseph Hannibal Trent.

Trent was a black lyricist who worked for music publishers and motion picture companies. He wrote the lyrics to several Broadway productions and well-known songs such as “Muddy Water, ” “My Kinda Love,” “Gotta Feelin’ For You,” and “Georgia Pines.” Duke Ellington later credited Trent with helping him become a composer in his own right.

I have not been able to find any information about Jack Bennett other than he was listed as co-composer, along with Richard A. Whiting and Walter Bullock, of a 1935 song called  “My Foolish Heart.” The only recording of that song I can find any mention of was made by Richard Himber and His Ritz-Carlton Hotel Orchestra. (There was an unrelated and better-known song from 1949 also called “My Foolish Heart”)

Jack Payne was one of the more prominent bandleaders in Great Britain during the 1930s. I featured two of his recordings from 1933 in a recent posting.

The Rex label was introduced in late 1933 by the Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co. Ltd.   By early 1934, all of the artists whose recordings had previously been issued on the company’s Imperial label had been migrated to Rex and Imperial was discontinued.   Decca purchased Crystalate in March 1937 but continued to issue Rex as a subsidiary label until 1948.

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Ben Pollack And His Park Central Orchestra/The High Hatters 1929 & 1930

Victor 22267-A label image

 

“Keep Your Undershirt On”
Ben Pollack And His Park Central Orchestra; Burt Lorin, vocal
(Victor 22267-A)                       November 29, 1929

 

“What Would I Care?”
The High Hatters; Frank Luther, vocal
(Victor 22267-B)                     January 3, 1930

 

Here are two dance band recordings of very catchy songs that, through circumstances, quickly faded into obscurity.

Both songs are from the 1929 musical Top Speed – a production that was the Broadway debut of the then-rising star Ginger Rogers.

“Keep Your Undershirt On” was recorded on November 29, 1929, almost a month before the show’s Christmas Day premiere.   It was not uncommon for record labels to record songs ahead of their formal debut on stage so that the record could be available in stores while the show was still running.

“What Would I Care?” was recorded on January 3, 1930.  Here, too, it was not uncommon for labels to record songs shortly after their stage debut.  But the record did not make its way to stores until March, less than a month before the Broadway production closed on March 22 after a run of 104 shows.

First National Pictures subsequently made a film version of the show, which was released to theaters on August 24, 1930.  The movie was originally planned and filmed as a musical. However, by the time filming had been completed, musical films were being punished at the box office as audiences became weary of the glut of such films that the Hollywood studios had been releasing.  Therefore, a decision was made to cut out most of the film’s musical numbers for its American release – including the ones featuring the songs here.

The film was also released in various foreign markets, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Brazil.  In those markets, the musical numbers were not cut and were seen in their entirety.  Unfortunately, the only copy of the film known to still exist is the cut-down American release and the footage of the omitted musical numbers is believed to be lost. However, the soundtrack to the missing scenes still survives on Vitaphone discs.

I am not able to find mention of any other recording of “Keep Your Undershirt On” having been made in the United States or Britain other than the one here by Ben Pollack and His Park Central Orchestra.  And the only recording of “What Would I Care?” I can find mention of having been made in either country was by Fred Rich and His Orchestra on Columbia 2099-D, which was coupled with a Cole Porter composition unrelated to the film.

Had the songs not been cut from the film, there is a chance that additional recordings might have been made.

I have read that the lyrics to “Keep Your Undershirt On” were regarded as scandalous enough to have been banned on radio broadcasts.  However, I was not able to find any definitive source for that claim, nor was there any mention as to whether such a ban was by the networks or by individual stations.

What is known is that, at the time, radio was far more sensitive to content that might cause scandal than were the record labels and film studios.  Some music publishers even published versions of certain songs with alternative, sanitized lyrics that were considered safe for broadcast performance.   Such concerns became a factor for film producers in  1934 when the studios began self-censoring under the Hays Code.

“Keep Your Undershirt On” was cut from Top Speed in 1930 due to the public’s lack of interest in musical numbers.  But, after the Hays Code came into effect, it is highly unlikely that the song would have been permitted in any American film.

Ben Pollack’s band was enjoying an extended engagement at New York’s Park Central Hotel when it recorded “Keep Your Undershirt On.”  Happily, the hotel is still standing, though, unfortunately, its once-grand interior has long since been destroyed and uglified.

Pollack was able to attract top-rate musicians to his band but often had difficulty keeping them. There are numerous mentions that, in his later years, Pollack became bitter over the fact that many of his former sidemen had eclipsed him in fame and success.

Pollack’s was one of the more successful bands of the 1920s.  But, in the early 1930s, to the frustration of his musicians, his focus was increasingly on promoting the career of his vocalist and future wife, Doris Robbins.   In 1934 most of his musicians quit and formed their own band, which eventually hired Bing Crosby’s younger brother, Bob Crosby, to become its frontman.

The vocal credit on the Pollack recording is listed as Burt Lorin. But that was merely a recording pseudonym for Harold “Scrappy” Lambert, one of several studio vocalists that record labels of the era retained to be available for recording sessions by both their in-house bands and their roster of name bands.

The only recordings during this period issued under Lambert’s own name seem to have all been on Brunswick, which leads me to suspect he probably had an exclusive contract with that label. But in those days, many recording contracts only granted the labels the exclusive use of an artist’s name and did not prohibit recording for other labels so long as it was done under a different name.

Recording sessions were quite lucrative for artists as they paid a flat, upfront fee per recording regardless of whether the record was successful or not.  Replacing the income that would be lost by a prohibition on recording for other companies was something that the labels were usually not willing or able to do.

One will sometimes see commentary expressing disapproval over the fact that recording artists usually did not receive royalties.  However, it is highly doubtful that most artists would have been interested in accepting a lower up-front fee in exchange for royalties based on sales.  Most 78 rpms quickly went out of print and, even after the advent of the LP record decades later made reissues of older recordings more feasible, only a small percentage ever were reissued.

The High Hatters was a pseudonym for a Victor in-house band directed by Leonard Joy. The band typically recorded songs from current stage and film productions, and almost all of their recordings featured upbeat and happy arrangements.  Frank Luther provides the vocal for the recording here.

I do not know the story behind why someone placed a sticker advertising the Missouri Pacific Lines on the copy of the record from which I made these transfers.  Sometimes, individual retailers would place a sticker with their shop’s name on the records they sold. But I seriously doubt that phonograph records would have been an item likely to have been sold in train stations. Books – yes. Phonograph records – doubtful.  An online search suggests that the sicker was most likely a luggage label provided to passengers.

Two lines of writing are on the sticker. The second line seems to begin with Miss R…, followed by letters I can’t make out. The first line is hard to make out – but my best guess is that it says 4-4-70.  So one guess is that, in April 1970, the record might have been a gift from or to a lady whose last name started with R.  Why a sticker advertising Missouri Pacific would have been used is beyond me.  Perhaps it was a gift from a child and, since black ink would not have been visible against the black label, the sticker was used as the one thing handy that could be attached for the inscription to be written on.

Vintage advertisements for Victor Records and The Park Central Hotel

 

 

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