The Black Pirates – 1928

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Broadway 1218-B label image

“Just A Sweetheart”
The Black Pirates; Frank Wells, vocal
(Broadway 1218-A mx 20870)                      circa October 1928


“Some Of These Days”
The Black Pirates; Diana Dell, vocal
(Broadway 1218-B mx 20822)                    circa August 1928


Here’s a hard-to-find record from the Edward Mitchell collection that I thought was interesting despite the sub-par homegrown electrical recording system used by the company that made it.

Broadway was a low-priced label whose largest retailer was the Mongomery Ward mail-order company, which, by this time, was also rapidly opening retail stores throughout the USA.  The label had multiple owners during its existence from the early 1920s to mid-1930s.

When this record was made, Broadway was owned by the New York Recording Laboratories, based not in New York but in Port Washington, Wisconsin, and owned by the Wisconsin Chair Company, which also manufactured Paramount records.

Most recordings on Broadway also appear on other labels. Many of its recordings during this period were leased from the manufacturer of the Banner and Regal labels.  But, others, such as the two on this record, were made for an issued by Paramount.

Paramount was an important label because it recorded many obscure and famous jazz and blues artists. However, the fidelity of its recordings was usually below that of other labels, which continued to be true after it switched to electrical recording.  Like Paramount, issues on Broadway that were pressed in-house were made of poor-quality materials that tended to make them noisy and wear out quickly.

Though the recording pseudonym The Black Pirates suggests (perhaps intentionally) that it might be an all-black band,  it was, in fact, a Chicago-based studio ensemble of white musicians led by Bill Haid, who was also the banjo player with the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra.

Diana Dell and Frank Wells, who provide the vocals on these sides, were apparently the performers’ real names and not recording pseudonyms.  However, I was not able to quickly locate any information about either of them beyond references to these and other 1928 recordings they made for Paramount.

What I enjoy most about this record is the peppy arrangement of “Just A Sweetheart” immediately following Frank Wells’ vocal featuring Harry Reser/Clicquot Club Eskimos style banjo playing by Bill Haid and a brief whistling passage.

Despite the less-than-optimal recording equipment/audio engineering, I think the performances on these recordings are excellent.   Too bad they couldn’t have been recorded by Columbia or OKeh whose late 1920s recordings were on the opposite end of the quality spectrum.

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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