Monthly Archives: March 2013

78: “I’m Wild About Horns on Automobiles (That Go Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta)” b/w “Come On, Baby” by Fred “Sugar” Hall and his Sugar Babies. Okeh 41152. Recorded in New York City, November 12, 1928.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

This little number was recorded by one of at least half a dozen bands that were led by Fred Hall. He seemed to change the name each time he switched to a different label—Fred Hall and His Roseland Orchestra was used for the Bell Label, for example, and Fred “Sugar” Hall and his Sugar Babies was used for the Okeh label. Hall—a pianist, band leader and composer from New York City—worked with singer Arthur Fields throughout most of his recording career, which spanned from 1925 to 1932.

Like George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Lil Hardin Armstrong before him, Fred Hall started out as a song-plugger. In the early days of the recording industry, when music stores were still selling more sheet music than actual recordings, customers would hand the desired piece to in-house piano players called “song-pluggers,” who would then play a portion of the song for all to hear. One imagines that doing this every workday would be a great help in learning what makes the listener part with their cash and what makes them move on to the next song.

This song, to my ear, would have been worth the money. Continue reading

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45: “Leader of the Laundromat” b/w “Ulcers” by The Detergents. Roulette R-4590. Recorded in New York City, 1964.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

The Detergents were comprised of three Aldon Music session singers and staff writers; not bad for three eighteen year-olds. In 1964, Producer Paul Vance pulled them together as The Detergents specifically to record this parody of the Shangri-La’s “The Leader of the Pack,” though they had already recorded some decent surf music as the Cabin Kids. Member Danny Jordan (Vance’s nephew) even had some parody experience already, having recorded “Just Couldn’t Resist Her With Her Pocket Transistor,” a poppin’ retake of “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” back in 1960.

Leader of the Laundromat was pretty faithful to the musical style of the original, and it peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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78: “The Wild Dog” b/w “Dinah” by Joe Venuti’s Blue Four. Okeh 41025. Recorded in New York City, March 28, 1928.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Considered the father of jazz violin, Joe Venuti pioneered the use of string instruments in jazz, with considerable help from childhood friend, guitarist Eddie Lang. The two of them met in their school orchestra’s violin section and would reconnect in 1925 while they were both pursuing gigs in dance bands and broadway orchestra pits. Only now Lang, having changed his name from Salvatore Massaro, had also changed his primary instrument to that of guitar. None other than Django Reinhardt would later claim Lang as a big influence on his own playing, so changing things up clearly paid off.

Joe and Eddie would soon play with such luminaries as Red Nichols, Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer, and by 1927 they were leading their own bands, including Joe Venuti’s Blue Four, which created the little number featured here.

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45: No Reservations: “Drunk With Love/Summertime/I Can’t Give You Anything But Love/A Hundred Years From Today” by Frances Faye. Capitol EAP 1-512. Recorded in Hollywood, 1954.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 1912, Frances Faye quit school at the age of 15 and was playing piano in speakeasies for the likes of Al Capone by the age of 20. She sang cabaret standards in a rough, expressive style that had no room for reverence to the original versions, and she was known to play with such force that any piano she sat at would need to be tuned sooner rather than later.

Faye’s big break out of the club scene was a little number called “After You” with Martha Raye (…denture wearer. Sorry, I grew up in the 70’s. Can’t help it.) and Bing Crosby in 1937’s Double or Nothing.

By the time we get to this Capitol EP, it’s 1954. These are four songs that were on the LP of No Reservations; the other eight were also available on two other EPs. So the listener had the option of paying for the LP all at once or getting all 12 songs in three easy installments—this was a pretty common practice at the time.

Back cover. New Yorkers: Note the Colony Records stamp. Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Back cover. New Yorkers: Note the Colony Records stamp. Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

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78: “Do Your Duty” b/w “Down In the Dumps” by Bessie Smith. Okeh 8945. Recorded November 24, 1933 in New York City.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

 

Born in Chattanooga, TN in the 1890‘s (the exact date is a point of some debate), Bessie Smith was hugely popular and influential in the 1920’s. She recorded 160 songs for Columbia Records, with her debut single (“Gulf Coast Blues” paired with “Downhearted Blues”) selling 750,000 copies in 1923. She would work with such future legends as Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, and Louis Armstrong, and she defied racial segregation by traveling with her band in their own private railroad car years before Duke Ellington could afford to do so himself. The woman was a star, rightly dubbed “Empress of the Blues.”

 

But the public’s taste can be fickle, and the depression hurt the public’s willingness to spend money on records, so Bessie was dropped from Columbia, cutting her final sides with them in 1931. Continue reading

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45: “That Old Black Magic”/”Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”/”Gentleman Friend”/ “What Is There to Say” by Peggy Connelly. Bethlehem BEP 128. Recorded January 16-18, 1956 in Hollywood.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Peggy Connelly was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1931 and soon after raised in Fort Worth Texas.  Her debut album, Peggy Connelly with Russ Garcia—That Old Black Magic, would be her only solo recording for Bethlehem Records. This EP featured songs taken from that album and also featured the exact same cover that was used for the album. But one can’t really blame the higher-ups at Bethlehem for using it twice because it is a keeper—a dynamic mix of sex appeal, photographic trickery and post-Gigi styling that was on point for its time and is wonderfully kitschy today. Continue reading

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45: “This Guy’s In Love With You” b/w “A Lonely Tear” by Herb Alpert. A&M 210 029. Recorded in Hollywood, 1968.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Anyone who has ever flipped through a box of LP’s at a thrift store has seen it: a gorgeous woman in a pile of whipped cream, licking a bit of it off of her finger. If you got past the image and to the words on the cover, you saw that the album was called Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. It was symbolic of the decadent, swinging lifestyle espoused in Playboy magazine; you get the impression that every bachelor worth his single malt scotch would have this cued up on his Hi-Fi, ready to set the mood for seduction.

This may all be true. And discovering this 45 in the Archive certainly did little to dispel that impression. But Herb Alpert was also the A in A&M Records, a label that introduced the world to artists as varied as Sergio Mendes, The Carpenters, Styx, and The Police. Continue reading

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78: “Basin Street Blues” b/w “No” by Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra. Okeh 41241. Recorded in Chicago, December 4, 1928.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

The casual fan of jazz could be forgiven for thinking that Louis Armstrong invented the musical form. His early recordings were so influential and his later recordings so popular that it just seems a given. While it’s difficult to be absolutely certain who invented jazz—though most historians give credit to Buddy Bolden, a fellow son of New Orleans whose band started playing the music in 1895—it is certain that Louis Armstrong’s combination of musical innovation and likability made him an ambassador for the music.

Armstrong’s earliest recordings were made with King Oliver’s band in Chicago, in the early 1920’s. This song was recorded in 1928, just before the now-divorced Armstrong had moved to New York City. Continue reading

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