Sam Lanin & His Famous Players – 1927

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OKeh 41079 label image


“Too Busy”
Benny Meroff And His Orchestra; Dick Robertson, Ed Smalle, vocal
(OKeh 41079 mx 400820)                              June 25, 1927


Sam Lanin & His Famous Players;  Ed Smalle, vocal
(OKeh 41079 mx 400821)                              June 25, 1927


Both sides of this record from the Edward Mitchell collection feature Sam Lanin and His Famous Players.  However, the “Too Busy” side is credited as Benny Meroff And His Orchestra.

Benny Meroff was an actual bandleader who recorded with OKeh during this period and was not one of the many made-up pseudonyms that record labels commonly used during the 1920s and 1930s to mask the identity of the artists performing.

Why would OKeh have credited one of Sam Lanin’s recordings to another of its recording artists?

Here is some speculation on my part – and I stress that speculation is all it is.

Benny Meroff’s band was physically present for two recording sessions with OKeh, both of which were part of field trips OKeh made with its mobile recording equipment to Chicago.  The first occurred on May 14, 1927, and the last on December 9, 1927.

Between those two recording sessions, OKeh made two additional field trips to Chicago: June 7 – 24 and September 1 – 6.

During Meroff’s May 14 recording session in Chicago, his band recorded two songs, one of which, “That’s Dolly,” was not issued.

The record here of “Too Busy” by Sam Lanin’s band, but credited to Meroff, was made in OKeh’s New York City studio on June 25, the day after the company’s June field trip to Chicago ended.

Three days earlier in New York, on June 23,  Justin Ring’s Orchestra recorded “That’s Dolly.”   When that recording was issued, it was also credited to Benny Meroff and appeared on the flip side of the recording of “There’s A Trick In Pickin’ A Chick-Chick-Chicken” that the actual Meroff band made in its May 14 Chicago session.

Presumably, concern with the band’s June 23 take of “That’s Dolly” prevented it from being issued.  Was the band scheduled to record another take of it during OKeh’s return trip to Chicago in June and perhaps to record “Too Busy” as well?  If so, were there circumstances that prevented the band from attending?  Or perhaps the band did arrive at its appointed time and could not record due to either equipment issues or recording sessions scheduled earlier in the day going long?

Under either circumstance, I can see OKeh having other bands record the selections on behalf of Meroff so that they could be brought to market under Merhoff’s name.

There were other instances in 1927 where OKeh issued sides recorded by other bands but issued them under Merhoff’s name.

Both sides of OKeh 40912, “Just An Hour Of Love” and “I’m Wonderin’ Who,” were credited as Benny Meroff And His Orchestra but were, in fact,  recorded by Frankie Trumbaur’s band on September 30, 1927.   That date happens to be at the end of the same month that OKeh made its September 1 – 6 field trip to Chicago.

Was the original plan for Meroff to record the two songs during OKeh’s September visit to Chicago and, for some reason, was unable to?

Here, too, I can see reasons why OKeh would have still wanted the songs to be issued under Merhoff’s name.

Finally, there was another instance of two Sam Lanin recordings being issued under Merhoff’s name: “Lonely Melody,” recorded on November 29, 1927, and “When You’re With Somebody Else,” recorded on December 5, 1927.

Both were recorded slightly before or during another OKeh field trip to Chicago from December 2 – 19, where Meroff recorded “Smiling Skies” and “Me And The Man In The Moon on December 15, which were issued on OKeh 41171.

Were there plans for Meroff to record two additional sides during the December Chicago recording session that fell through?

Again, I can see why OKeh would have wanted to bring the originally planned number of Merhoff records to market, even if it meant using substitute recordings.

One reason OKeh made field trips across the country was because many local bands, while not well-known nationally, had strong regional followings, particularly if they broadcast over radio stations with strong signals that could be picked up across multiple states.

OKeh would certainly not have wanted to miss out on potential sales such an artist would generate – especially if they were highly anticipated by local OKeh retailers, whom the company had every motive to keep happy.

It is also conceivable that Merhoff’s contract with OKeh required them to issue a certain number of recordings under his name.

Regardless, both are nice, enjoyable recordings.

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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