Savoy Havana Band – 1923

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Columbia 3340 label image


“The Cat’s Whiskers”
Savoy Havana Band;  Ramon Newton, vocal
(Columbia 3340 mx A 350)                            October 17, 1923


Savoy Havana Band
(Columbia 3340 mx A 349)                           October 17, 1923


From the Edward Mitchell collection, here is a 1923 record by the Savoy Havana Band. The band was famous in Britain during the 1920s and took its name from London’s Savoy Hotel, where it was the hotel’s house band from 1921 to 1927.

“The Cat’s Whiskers” was also recorded in the USA by the Benson Orchestra of Chicago on Victor and by the Jazz-O-Harmonists on Edison.  But neither of those two American recordings included a vocal, which is provided on the recording here by Ramon Newton. In addition to being a vocalist, Cyril Ramon Newton was a violinist and composer and led his own band.  In the late 1920s, he made several vocal recordings for the Broadcast label, for which he was given solo credit.

What caught my eye about this particular record was the foxtrot version of “Panamericana” on the flip side. I have always enjoyed this Victor Herbert composition, which is usually performed by a concert orchestra, not a dance band.

The song was written for and was the official theme of the Pan-American Exposition, the 1901 World’s Fair, held in Buffalo, New York.  Sadly, the fair is best remembered as the site of the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley, to whom Herbert had dedicated the song.

Victor Herbert described the song as:

“…a morceau characteristique of the more popular order. The first part is supposed to be ‘Indian,’ the second part ‘ragtime’ (modern America), and the third ‘Cuban’ or of Spanish character.”

I don’t know why the Savoy Havana Band decided to revive a song that was already a couple of decades old with a dance-tempo arrangement but, at the time, Victor Herbert was still alive (he died the following year) and was still widely known.

I discovered the song when I came across a copy of a 1984 LP Victor Herbert: Sovenir by the Eastman-Dryden Orchestra, directed by Donald Hunsberger.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire LP, but my favorite selection was, by far, “Panamericana” and I loved the way they performed it.  Happily, a copy of that recording has been made available on YouTube at this link.

If you enjoyed the Savoy Havana Band version, definitely check out the YouTube link.  Not only is it without the limitations of 1923’s pre-microphone recording technology,  the arrangement is likely similar to that heard by those attending the 1901 World Fair.

1901 Pan American Exposition poster image

"The Cat's Whiskers" 1923 sheet music cover

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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