Four Dusty Travelers With Ted Lewis And His Band – 1930

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Columbia 2181-D label image


Ted Lewis And His Band;  Ted Lewis & Four Dusty Travelers, vocal
(Columbia 2181-D mx 149911)                            January 24, 1930


“The Lonesome Road”
Ted Lewis And His Band; Ted Lewis & Dixie Four, vocal
(Columbia 2181 D-mx 149758)                        January 10, 1930


Here are two recordings by Ted Lewis And His Band being added to Radio Dismuke’s playlist.

I played the recording of “Dinah” during the station’s recent New Year’s broadcast as it is my favorite version of the song I have come across to date.  One of the things that impressed me about the arrangement was the vocal by a group listed as the “Four Dusty Travelers” – a group I had not previously heard of.  Since the broadcast, I have been able to learn more about them.

The Four Dusty Travelers was a black vocal quartet comprised of members of the larger Dixie Jubilee Singers led by Eva Jessye who was the first black woman to achieve international fame as a choral conductor.  The quartet was well-known in the New York City area thanks to local performances as well as a weekly broadcast over the radio station WOR that aired from August 1929 to April 1930.   They also recorded an additional four sides for Columbia by themselves in October and November 1929, all of which were issued.

The same vocal quartet appears on the flip side “The Lonesome Road” but, for whatever reason, was credited as the Dixie Four.

According to the Discography of American Historical Recordings, the Four Dusty Travelers on these and these other Columbia recordings was comprised of Charles Emmett, William Emmett, Herbert Benson and Junior Dean.   However, according to
Encyclopedia of Black Radio in the United States, 1921–1955, the group consisted of Ray Yeates. Jester Hairston. James Waters and Viviande Carr.

I cannot explain the discrepancy other than to guess that the group’s membership might have changed over time or that a different subset of Dixie Jubilee Singers members might have been used on different occasions.

“Dinah” is a Harry Akst composition with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young and was introduced by Ethel Waters in 1925.   The song has been recorded many times by a variety of artists in the decades since and remains well-known.

“The Lonesome Road” was composed in 1927 by Nat Shilkret with lyrics by Gene Austin.  Both recorded for Victor and, together, made a recording of it in September of that year issued on Victor 21098.  Shilkret also recorded it with Willard Robison in 1929.   The song achieved greater recognition when it was included in the 1929 film version of Showboat, a hybrid silent film with added sound scenes for theaters capable of playing them.

My copy of the record is not in the best of condition.  As the included image shows, the label on both sides has significant damage.  Columbia records from this period have a lead-out groove that was designed to trigger a stop mechanism to turn off the motor of wind-up phonographs or to trigger the record changer on players equipped with them.  When played on a modern turntable, the stylus remains in that groove in an endless loop until the tonearm is removed.

But, as was the case when I played both sides of this record, sometimes the lead-out groove has a defect and the tonearm continues its forward motion and ventures onto the label.  The damage on the labels leads me to suspect that the record was played on a wind-up machine and the stop mechanism wasn’t triggered until after the heavy steel needle had already gone into the label area.

The record’s playing surface also has quite a lot of scuffs.  But, because of their laminated surface, records made by Columbia during the 1929s and 1930s often play better than their visual condition would suggest and I was pleasantly surprised that my software was able to clean these recordings up as well as it did.


– Dismuke

If you enjoy these recordings help us spread the word that this wonderful, forgotten music exists by sharing this page with your friends.
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