“Signs Of The Highway”
Eddie Deas and the Boston Brownies; Eddie Deas, vocal
October 22, 1931 (Victor 22841-A)
Eddie Deas and the Boston Brownies; Eddie Deas, vocal
October 22, 1931 (Victor 22841-B)
Eddie Deas was a drummer who led an all-black territory band based out of New England. The band only recorded four sides, all of them in this October 22, 1931 recording session for Victor. The other two sides from the session were “(Everyone In Town Loves)Little Mary Brown” and “All I Care About Is You” – both of which can be heard on Radio Dismuke.
“Signs of the Highway” cleverly weaves advertising slogans from the era’s billboards into song lyrics. The song was composed Texas-based bandleader Sunny Clapp in 1929. Sunny Clapp and His Band O’ Sunshine made a recording of the song in a June, 1929 San Antonio field recording session for the Okeh label – but, unfortunately, it was never issued.
“Jes Shufflin'” is nice and jazzy – and makes one wish that additional recording sessions could have been possible for the band. But given the hard times and slow sales faced by the record industry in 1931, we should probably be grateful for the two records that they did make.
“Ooh! Hoo! You-Hoo!”
Johnny Hamp And His Orchestra; Andrew Freeman, vocal
June 5, 1931 (Victor 22730-B)
Here’s a catchy tune from the Great Depression that didn’t seem to have enjoyed much commercial success despite having been written by Harry M. Woods, a prolific composer who was responsible for many well-known songs of the 1920s and 1930s.
Indeed, this recording by the Johnny Hamp Orchestra is the only one that I was able to find reference to in either the USA or the UK – a bit surprising for a song by a famous composer of songs as well-known as “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along),” “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” and Rudy Vallee’s theme song “Heigh-Ho, Everybody, Heigh-Ho” which was performed weekly on his top rated network radio program.
“Love For Sale”
Jack Payne And His BBC Dance Orchestra
June 27, 1931 (Columbia CB 318 mx CA 11779)
Here is an instrumental recording of a Cole Porter song that, today, is regarded as a “standard” but whose lyrics were regarded as so risque and controversial when it debuted in 1930 that they were banned from radio air play in both the United States and Great Britain.
“Love For Sale” debuted in the Broadway musical production The New Yorkers and describes prostitution from the perspective of a prostitute. The critical response was so harsh that the show’s producers replaced the original performer, Kathryn Crawford, with Elisabeth Welch on the premise that white audiences and critics would be less offended if the role of the prostitute was performed by a black actress.
At this link you can read Elisabeth Welch’s account of how she came into the part and watch an amazing video of her performing the song’s full lyrics 50 years later at the age of 76.
In Great Britain the lyrics were banned from play on the BBC. I am not sure if there was a formal ban of them being performed on records. But there might as well have been as the closest thing to a vocal version by a British band I could find was Al Bowlly performing with the Roy Fox band in which Bowlly quietly scatted “la-la la” sounds instead of words. The other British recordings of the song besides the Jack Payne version featured here included the Eddie Grossbart, Howard Goodfrey, Nat Star and Jack Hylton bands- and all of them are listed as instrumentals.
In the United States, however, several vocal recordings were issued, the most famous of which was by Libby Holman. Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians made a recording with a vocal by the Three Waring Girls – which was appropriate as the Waring band appeared in the original Broadway production. Fred Rich’s band also made a recording with a vocal by Bill Cody.
In response to the controversy surrounding the song’s lyrics, Cole Porter was quoted as saying: “I can’t understand it. You can write a novel about a harlot, paint a picture of a harlot, but you can’t write a song about a harlot.”
Boots And His Buddies
Bluebird B-6063-B August 14, 1935
Boots and his Buddies was a San Antonio based jazz band led by drummer Clifford “Boots” Douglas. This selection is from the band’s first recording session which was held at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio. San Antonio was a regular stop for the major record labels’ field trips to record regional artists and genres. In addition to jazz and country talent from Texas and the Southwest, many artists from northern Mexico also participated in the San Antonio field sessions.
In addition to the August 14, 1935 recording session, Boots and his Buddies recorded additional sides in San Antonio for RCA Victor/Bluebird in 1936 and in two sessions in 1937.
The song “Rose Room,” composed by bandleader Art Hickman, was already an old standard by the time of this recording dating back to 1917. It was named after the Rose Room of the St Francis Hotel in San Francisco where Hickman regularly performed
“A Good Man Is Hard To Find”
Julia Garity And Her Boys
Victor 22812-A September 11,1931
Here is one of only four recordings made by Julia Garity who performed mostly in night clubs and cabarets from the 1910s through the 1950s. The excellent but unaccredited band that accompanies her here was Snooks And His Memphis Ramblers.
In 1933 Victor reissued this recording under the pseudonym of Williams’ Cotton Club Orchestra on its new budget priced Bluebird and Sunrise labels. Victor soon discontinued the Sunrise label but kept Bluebird. The reissue was a dubbed transfer rather than a repressing. But while the original Victor issue had the benefit of being pressed from the original master, it is likely that the reissue, especially the one on the Sunrise label, would fetch a premium due to its rarity.
Luigi Romanelli And His King Edward Hotel Orchestra
(Edison 14077-R mx N-1136-C) September 18, 1929
Luigi Romanelli And His King Edward Hotel Orchestra
(Edison 14077-L mx N-1137-C) September 18, 1929
This enjoyable but extremely rare Edison “Needle Type Electric” record, recently donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation for digitization and airplay on Radio Dismuke, was the last record (i.e, the highest catalog number) officially issued by Thomas Edison who had invented the phonograph in 1877. It was one of a handful of issues that were part of Edison’s last shipment of records on October 22, 1929 for a November 1 release date in stores. Our last posting featured another donated Needle Type Electric that had a higher catalog number – but that was to have been part of a planned October 29 shipment that never took place due to the closure of Edison’s record and phonograph division after years of declining sales.
Luigi Romanelli was a prominent Canadian bandleader who, at the time of these recordings, regularly appeared at Toronto’s King Edwards Hotel. Some collectors have speculated that it was unlikely that Romanelli’s band was in New York City where Edison’s recording studios were located on the day of the recording session and that the actual band was the Piccadilly Players, an Edison in-house ensemble led by Mel Morris. Regardless, this recording of “Perhaps” is delightful – it is filled with the sort of happy, upbeat charm that makes so much of the music from that era special.
Edison’s Needle Type Electric records were part of an an effort, led by Thomas Edison’s son Theodore, to turn around the fortunes of the company’s record and phonograph division and were only issued between July and October 1929. They were conventional “thin” 78 rpm records – as opposed to the half-inch thick Edison Diamond Discs which had been the company’s main format since 1913 and could only be played on Edison machines or a phonograph equipped with a special conversion device. Unfortunately, the attempt to market records in a more widely accepted format was too little too late to make up for Edison’s significantly reduced market share and years of financial losses. Within a couple of weeks after the decision to cease operations, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression, which had a devastating effect on Edison’s rival record labels, began. By 1932 record sales had fallen over 90 percent from their high point in the late 1920s. And, by 1934, all of the 1920s era United States record labels besides Victor had either closed their doors or had been absorbed by The American Record Corporation.
Mal Hallett And His Orchestra
(Edison 14080-L mx N-1177-C) October 3, 1929
Here is an extremely rare recording that was very generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation for digitization and airplay on Radio Dismuke.
All Edison “Needle Type” Electric records are rare – but what makes this issue special is that the company suspended operations before any copies were shipped. This release was one one of several scheduled to ship on October 29, 1929 in order to be at stores by November 15. But when Edison executives made the decision in mid-October to close the company’s record and phonograph division, its final shipment of records was on October 22. The remaining inventory, including records such as this that were still awaiting release, were made available to employees at a low cost before being sent off to liquidators.
Mal Hallett’s band was based in the Boston area. “The Boomerang” is a mostly forgotten song composed by Lee David with lyrics by Billy Rose. The version here is instrumental with a nice jazzy solo about two minutes into the recording. The Colonial Club Orchestra recorded a vocal version for Brunswick which can regularly be heard on Radio Dismuke.
On Saturday Dustin Ellis and Dismuke made an out of town trip to pick up a rare 1928 Edison C-2 Radio-Phonograph that is being very generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation. Here is a video of Dustin trying the machine out after we got it to its temporary home (with Dismuke, once again, forgetting that he has to turn his phone sideways to correctly record video).
This machine was very high end – in 1928 it sold new for $495 (about $7,300 in today’s currency) and that price did NOT include the vacuum tubes which also had to be purchased and were not cheap.
What is special about the machine is it reproduces the records through a speaker rather than an internal horn as was still standard at the time. Not just that, it is able to play both Edison Diamond Discs as well as conventional 78 rpm records. By default the pickup head features a diamond styli for playing the vertical grooved Diamond Disc records. But one can twist it to the side and insert a single-play steel needle to play conventional lateral grooved 78 rpms.
Edison introduced this machine at a time when sales of its Diamond Disc records had fallen to very low levels and was planning on releasing its own line of conventional “needle type” 78 rpms. But those did not hit the market until July 1929 and were in production only for a few months before Edison abandoned the phonograph and record business altogether in October of that year. Those “needle type” Edison records are rare and we have a number of them that were given by the same donor, including some additional records we brought back with the machine and which will soon be regularly aired on Radio Dismuke. On the turntable in the video is an electrically recorded Diamond Disc from April 1928. Electrically recorded Diamond Discs are also quite rare due to the degree that Edison sales had fallen by the time they began to record electrically.
And the machine features a high-end radio set. By 1928 the popularity of radio was hurting sales of phonographs and records. Why buy expensive records when one could hear the top dance bands playing the popular tunes of the day for free through live broadcasts from glamorous big city hotels and nightclubs? These radio phonograph combinations were an attempt by the record/phonograph manufacturers to cash in on the radio boom and revive record sales.
The sound quality of this machine is simply breathtaking – the audio capture here by the dot size microphone on Dismuke’s phone simply does not do it justice.
Our long-term hope is for Early 1900s to have its own physical facility where the machine can be displayed. In the meanwhile, we are working to place it on loan to a museum so that other people can have an opportunity to see a rare example of musical and technological history and where we can hold occasional vintage record “concerts” that will be open to the public. And, for those who are unable to come to Texas to see it in person, our plan is to find a way to improve the audio quality of our videos so that audiences around the world will be able to enjoy the machine through its own YouTube channel.
“Come Easy, Go Easy, Love”
Carolina Dandies (Sunny Clapp & His Band O’ Sunshine); Hoagy Carmichael, vocal
(Victor 2276-A) July 1, 1931
“When I Can’t Be With You”
Carolina Dandies (Sunny Clapp & His Band O’ Sunshine); George Marks, vocal
(Victor 2276-B) July 1, 1931
The credit on the label might say “Carolina Dandies” but the band was a Texas-based ensemble with a somewhat odd name – Sunny Clapp And His Band O’ Sunshine. The band only made a handful of recordings, but all of them are excellent.
Clapp (his real name was Charles Clapp) co-composed with Hoagy Carmichael one of the songs featured on this record, “Come Easy, Go Easy, Love.” Carmichael himself performs the vocal but, as was common in that period, was not credited on the label.
The Clapp band had recorded previous takes of the song, none of which were ever issued. The first attempt was in July 1929 with band member Bob Hutchingson doing the vocal. The band recorded an additional two takes in an April 16, 1931 recording session with the vocal performed by the elusive Jeanne Geddies. It is too bad that neither of the Geddies takes were issued. Little seems to be known about Geddies besides the fact that she only made two recordings, both during that same recording session and both very memorable: “Treat Me Like A Baby” and “Learn To Croon” (both regularly played on Radio Dismuke). It would have been nice for history, as well as fans such as myself, to have another recording by her. One can perhaps hope that a master or a test pressing of one of those unissued takes has managed to survive in a vault somewhere and will perhaps someday be made public.
The unaccredited vocal on the “When I Can’t Be With You” side is by George Marks who was also the band’s pianist. Prior to joining the band, Marks had worked for the infamous Blue Steele, a bandleader, usually based out of Dallas, who was notorious for physically assaulting band members who resigned to work elsewhere. No word on what happened when Marks left for the Sunny Clapp band. But in the 1940s Steele spent time in prison after a victim of one of his attacks died as a result of his injuries.
Some years ago I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with a musician who, in the 1920s and 1930s, performed with various bands in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago areas. He told me that, during the Depression, the Sunny Clapp band became stranded in Fort Worth after the musicians’ union learned that it had accepted a gig at less than union rate. Every member of the band was fined $100 (about $1,900 in today’s currency) and forbidden from performing for an entire month – they were essentially left with no money and no way of earning any for several weeks. Given that the Depression was likely what enticed them to perform at the lower rate in the first place, that was indeed a stiff punishment.
“Laffin’ At The Funnies”
Ruby Newman And His Ritz-Carleton Hotel Orchestra
(Victor 22934-B) February 15, 1932
See how many Great Depression era newspaper comic strips mentioned in the lyrics of this happy, up tempo recording you recognize – a few of the names you will hear are still around today.
The vocal on this is by The Funnyboners, a trio that consisted of Dave Grant, Gordon Graham and Bunny Coughlin who had their own network radio program in which they often spoofed the songs and performers of the period.
The Ruby Newman Orchestra was a Boston based society band that had a long-term engagement at that city’s Ritz-Carleton Hotel. The hotel still exists and is the last survivor of the original 1920s era Ritz Carleton chain.
This recording demonstrates that even the sophisticated high-society bands were not above making novelty recordings.