“It’s An Old Spanish Custom In The Moonlight”
Milt Shaw And His Detroiters
(Melotone M-12020) October 1930
Here is a recording of a catchy but mostly forgotten tune. It is one of a number of recordings from the Depression era Melotone label that are in the process of being digitized for inclusion in the Radio Dismuke. The song appears to have enjoyed more success in Great Britain than it did in the USA. Indeed, the British pressing of this same recording was on the very first record issued by the Panachord label which was affiliated with Melotone and its parent label, Brunswick.
Milt Shaw led a popular band in the Detroit era that was formed in 1927 when Shaw took over a Philadelphia based band led by Frank Winegar and moved it to Michigan.
“Is There Anything Wrong In That?”
(Edison 52519-R) January 19,1929
“Good Little Bad Little You”
(Edison 52519 L) January 19,1929
Here is a rare electrically recorded Edison Diamond Disc that was generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation for digitization and airplay on Radio Dismuke.
Ermine Calloway (pronounced er-minny) was briefly famous for her “baby vamp” vocals patterned after Helen Kane whose stage persona was later used (against her wishes) as the prototype for the cartoon character Betty Boop. Both sides of this record are fun – and Calloway is backed up on both by a top-notch hot jazz combo.
For most of the late 1920s, Calloway was a Dallas area singer mostly known for her performances of Negro spirituals over local radio stations WRR and WFAA. As a result of the radio exposure she caught the attention of multiple New York based record labels.
Based on Thomas Edison’s prestige as the brilliant inventor who created the recording industry, Calloway’s friends encouraged her to sign up with Edison Records. This turned out to be a very poor advice for Calloway’s budding career. By the late 1920s Edison Records had been losing money for years with sales of its records declining to extremely low levels. The only thing that had kept the label going was Edison’s name and deep pockets.
When Calloway arrived at Edison’s New York studios in January 1929 to make her first recordings, the company was in the middle of a last-ditch effort to save its record business. With great fanfare Edison publicists promoted Calloway as “The Tomboy From Texas” and had her record “boop-oop-a-doop” style vocals as Edison’s answer to Helen Kane’s successful recordings on Victor.
Calloway cut records for Edison into the fall of 1929 with releases on Diamond Discs (which could not be played on a non-Edison phonograph without a special conversion kit) as well as on Edison’s new Needle Type Electric records that could be played on standard phonographs. The Needle Type Electric records were Edison’s attempt to sell records to a wider market. But, once the new records made their debut in July, sales were poor. By late October, a few days before the stock market crashed, Edison executives determined that their record division was no longer viable and suspended operations.
The timing could not have been worse for Calloway. With the onset of the Great Depression, obtaining a new recording contract became extremely difficult. By 1932, between the popularity of radio and the impact of the Depression, sales of phonograph records had fallen by over 90 percent from their late 1920s high. News articles indicate that Calloway continued to perform on radio as late as 1931. But around that time she gave up show business and took a job at a New York City advertising agency where she worked until moving back to Dallas in 1941.
Listening to both sides, it is readily apparent that Calloway was a talented vocalist. And while her records for Edison are fun to listen to, it is a shame that the collapse of Edison Records and the onset of the Great Depression deprived us of the opportunity to hear how she might have sounded on more straightforward vocals minus the hayseed novelty act.
“Happy Days Are Here Again”
(Brunswick 4615) September 24,1929
Here is a recording that will soon be added to the Radio Dismuke playlist. It is one of the few songs played on the station that is still well-known to modern audiences thanks in large part to its revival as FDR’s campaign theme song in the 1932 presidential election. It is still performed at political campaign events and in commercial advertising spots. Several versions of the song play on Radio Dismuke – but this one is interesting in that it was recorded by the same artist who performed it in the song’s motion picture debut.
The song dates to 1929 when it was composed by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen for an M.G.M. musical film Road Show. After M.G.M. cancelled work on the film, Ager and Yellen had the song published and it subsequently caught the attention of prominent bandleaders such as Ben Bernie and George Olsen who performed it during their network radio broadcasts. The song’s enthusiastic public reception motivated M.G.M. to revive work on the film which was edited to showcase the song. It was eventually released to theaters in February 1930 under a new title, Chasing Rainbows.
Besides “Happy Days Are Here Again” Chasing Rainbows is best remembered as one of Jack Benny’s early film appearances. Its other star was Charles King, a Broadway and vaudeville veteran who performed the song in the film and who cut this recording for Brunswick in Los Angeles on September 24 1929 (though some sources have put the date at November 29, 1929, which, if true, was one month to the day after the infamous Black Tuesday stock market crash). If you look closely at the label image below you can see that the record was issued prior to the film’s name being changed from Road Show to Chasing Rainbows.
The song also made its way to Germany where it was popularized in late 1930 by the Comedian Harmonists with entirely different lyrics under the title “Wochenend und Sonnenschein”(“Weekend and Sunshine.”)
“You’ll Do It Someday (So Why Not Now)”
(Edison 52108-L) September 26, 1927
Rudy Vallee’s First Recording 1927 – A very rare electrically recorded Edison Diamond Disc that was generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation to be digitized for airplay on Radio Dismuke.
This is Rudy Vallee’s first ever commercial recording performing with Les Laden’s Yale Collegians, a college band that Vallee was part of while a student at Yale University. On this record he plays the clarinet and alto saxophone and is part of the vocal trio in which his unique voice can be clearly made out. In 1929 Vallee would record this song again, singing solo, with his own band, The Connecticut Yankees. You can also find on YouTube a nice film clip of Vallee performing this with the Yale Collegians.
Not only is this record historic – it is VERY cool with a great jazzy tempo.
“Will O’ The Wisp”
Otto Dobrindt & His Piano Symphonists
(Parlophone F 492) November 30, 1935
“Rouge Et Noir”
Otto Dobrindt & His Piano Symphonists
(Parlophone F 492) November 1935
Excellent 1935 Novelty Ragtime Foxtrots From Germany – Here are two selections that will begin airing on Radio Dismuke this week – from a 78 rpm I have been seeking for years and finally found for sale in Australia.
This was recorded in Berlin by Otto Dobrindt’s Piano Symphonists on November 30, 1935. This copy is the British issue on Parlophone.
“Will O’ The Wisp” was published under the title “Irrlicht.” The composer was Herbert Küster who, at the time, arranged operettas at the Plaza Theater in Berlin. Küster had his own recording orchestra and appeared on radio as well. To the best of my knowledge this was the only recording made of the song. It has never been reissued and, until I uploaded it to YouTube a few minutes ago, it was not available on the Internet.
“In The Park – March”
Victor Military Band
(Victor 18017-B) March 21, 1916
Happy July 4th! What is Independence Day without a nice march? Here’s a recording from 1916 of a mostly forgotten march that was composed in 1903 by Boston area guitar player and composer Charles J. Dorn who published his non-guitar compositions under the name of Carl Dorn. An appropriate recording on a festive day when many will find themselves in a park to watch fireworks. Happy birthday, America!
“It’s Gonna Be You”
George Olsen And His Music, Fran Frey vocal
(Victor 24139-A) September 24, 1932
George Olsen And His Music, Bob Borger, vocal
(Victor 24139-B) September 24, 1932
1932 High Fidelity – Here’s a really nice record that is part of a collection generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation for digitization and airplay on Radio Dismuke The Great Depression hit the record business especially hard – so much so that by 1932 annual sales of Victor Records had fallen by a devastating 92 percent from their 1928 peak. Nevertheless, Victor engineers continued to press forward experimenting with new microphones and disc cutters. By 1932 Victor began issuing recordings with remarkably improved fidelity, including the two sides here recorded in New York on September 24, 1932.
The improved fidelity is most apparent on the “A” side featuring an upbeat version of “It’s Gonna Be You” with Fran Frey on the vocal.
This version of “Please” will be joining several others currently in the Radio Dismuke playlist. The song was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1932 film “The Big Broadcast” and was recorded by a number of American and British artists that same year.
Unfortunately, the new higher fidelity records became a casualty of the Depression. The improved fidelity came at the price of the records wearing out more quickly on most phonographs still in use at the time. Since few people could afford records to begin with, let alone an upgraded phonograph, a decision was made around 1934 to cut back on the fidelity. During the same period Victor had also issued its first commercial long-playing records that played at 33 rpm for about 12 minutes per side on a ten inch record. Here, too, because of the need for an upgraded phonograph, they were not commercially successful and were soon discontinued. It wouldn’t be until 1948 that long-playing records would once again become available to the general public.
“Doin’ The Racoon”
(Columbia 1596-D) October 8, 1928
“Happy Days And Lonely Nights”
(Columbia 1596-D) October 8, 1928
From 1928 – Two nice recordings being added to the Radio Dismuke playlist from a collection of 78 rpm records that was very generously donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation for the purpose of being digitized so that they can be discovered and enjoyed by a modern audience.
On both sides is the Ben Selvin Orchestra performing under the pseudonym of The Knickerbockers. “Doin’ The Racoon” was recorded by a number of bands. The song brings to mind two big 1920s fads: collegiate themed songs and racoon coats. “Happy Days And Lonely Nights” was also recorded by a number of artists in 1928 and is a rather catchy tune.
Golden Gate Orchestra
(Edison 51542 R) April 2, 1925
From 1925 – The iconic song that people still associate with the 1920s decade. This recording is from an Edison Diamond Disc that is among a number of hard to find vintage records that were recently donated to Early 1900s Music Preservation for play on Radio Dismuke