Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra – 1929

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Columbia 1913-D label image


“The Wang Wang Blues”
Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra
(Columbia 1913-D mx 148541)      May 16, 1929


Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra
(Columbia 1913-D mx 148540)      May 16, 1929


Here are two very “hot” recordings from the Edward Mitchell collection by Fletcher Henderson And His Orchestra.

I think the recording of “Wang Wang Blues” is especially interesting. The song dates back to 1920, and its first recording by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra was a big seller.  It was co-composed by three members of the Paul Whiteman band, Henry Busse, Gussie Mueller, and Theron E. “Buster” Johnson. The song’s lyrics were written by Leo Wood.

This will be the fourth version of “Wang Wang Blues” to be added to Radio Dismuke’s playlist. The others include a 1928 Hawaiian guitar version by the Sam Ku West Harmony Boys and a 1934 recording by Henry Busse’s Orchestra.

You will also hear on the station a never-issued recording of the song made a few months after Fletcher Henderson’s on October 2 by Mal Hallett and His Orchestra for Edison. The intention was for the recording to be issued on Edison’s new “needle type” line of conventional 78 rpm records (as opposed to Edison’s thick, vertical grooved Diamond Discs, which had lost most of their market share). But, before the month ended, Edison closed down his record and phonograph business and never issued the recording.

Mal Hallett’s band recorded multiple takes of the song, one of which was issued a few years ago on a Jazz Oracle CD. The version heard on Radio Dismuke is from an extremely rare test pressing donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation of a different take than the one that was issued on the Jazz Oracle CD.

We do know that another test pressing of the take we have exists at the Edison National Historic Park. But we do not know if any other copies exist besides the one that was donated to us. It is undoubtedly the rarest recording in Radio Dismuke’s playlist, and I am not aware of any other place where one can hear that particular take.

In my opinion, the Mal Hallett version of “Wang Wang Blues” is not only the rarest but also the best.  But that does not take away from the fact that this version by Fletcher Henderson is simply outstanding.  I am very excited about adding it to Radio Dismuke’s playlist.

The song on the flip side, “Blazin’,” was composed by Joe Sanders, of Coon-Sanders Nighthawks fame.

During the opening four seconds of “Blazin'” one can hear what sounds to me like electrical hum.  While cleaning up the recording, I was concerned that it might have somehow been added by an issue with my transfer equipment.  But when I placed the record back on the turntable to confirm, it was clear that the sound is inherent in the record.

It occurs to me that it might be electrical hum introduced by an issue with Columbia’s recording equipment. Or perhaps it was generated by a musical instrument I cannot identify.

It would be very easy to edit out that hum-like sound without impacting the rest of the audio during those four seconds.  But, even if I knew for certain it was an error with Columbia’s equipment, I would still leave it in as such a defect would be part of the recording’s history.

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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