Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Borneo” b/w “My Pet” by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra. Okeh 41039. Recorded in New York City, April 10, 1928.

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

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

Frankie Trumbauer was born in 1901 to a musically-inclined mother who directed theater orchestras. His St. Louis childhood saw Frankie learning a number of instruments, including the cornet, clarinet, and bassoon. But he is perhaps best known for popularizing the C-melody saxophone, which is somewhere between an alto and tenor saxophone in size. His twenties were spent playing with groups like the Mound City Blowers, who gave “Tram” his first recording experience with some songs for Brunswick Records.

Frankie was the musical director for Jean Goldkette’s Victor Recording Orchestra when he first recruited Bix Biederbecke to play cornet.

They had a solid rapport, and kept it going through collaborations with Paul Whiteman and, by 1927, Frankie’s own recordings for Okeh. The first single was a cover of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s “Singin’ The Blues.”

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45: “In the Evenin’ Mama” b/w “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” by Harry Belafonte. RCA Victor 61-8513. Taken from the album “Belafonte Sings the Blues,” recorded in New York City, January 29 and March 29, 1958 and Hollywood, June 5 and 7 1958.

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

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

Harry Belafonte started his life in Harlem, but was sent to live with his grandmother in Jamaica at the age of 5. He returned to New York in time to start high school, and then served in the Navy during the Second World War. After the war, a night at the American Negro Theater inspired Harry to try his hand at acting. He and fellow starving artist Sidney Poitier would buy one ticket to a play and share it, the first friend coming out during intermission to pass the ticket on to the other friend, filling him in on the story up to that point.

Belafonte first started singing in clubs just to make money for acting lessons. In a Forrest Gump-sized coincidence, his 1949 singing debut was backed by Charlie Parker and his band, which included Max Roach and Miles Davis at the time. Stage and club work continued apace, until his first album—Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites—was recorded in 1954. It was a collection of American folk songs, including this rendition of “John Henry.”

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78: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” b/w “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” by Big Maybelle. Okeh 7060. Recorded 3/21/55 in New York City.

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

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

Mabel Louise Smith was born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1924. She started singing and playing piano professionally as a teenager, working with Dave Clark’s Memphis Band, the all female International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra. Her solo career began in 1947, when she recorded a few sides for King Records with Oran “Hot Lips” Page, but it didn’t really take off until she signed with Okeh in 1952. Producer Fred Mendehlson convinced Mabel to take the stage name of Big Maybelle.

Maybelle’s debut single featured the B side “Gabbin’ Blues,” co-written and co-performed by Rose Marie McCoy. Radio play for that song pushed it up to #3 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

1954’s “My Country Man” extolled the virtues of the simple pleasures offered by country life with the right man—especially when

He’s strong as a Hick’ry tree

And he’s the right kind of man for me.

Because I need a man

With a whole lot of energy.

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45: “Destination Moon”/”It’s Only a Paper Moon” b/w “I’m Shooting High”/Music From Out of Space” by the Ames Brothers. RCA Victor EPA-4227. Recorded in 1958.

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

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

The four Ames Brothers—Joe, Gene, Vic, and Ed—were born in 1920’s Malden, Massachusetts. They were the youngest of 13 children. Their parents, David and Sarah Urick, were Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who encouraged the boys’ musical interests and read Shakespeare to them.

In the mid-1940’s, a one week engagement at Boston’s The Fox and Hounds nightclub was so successful that it turned into a six month run. The brothers’ unexpected success convinced Milt Gabler of Decca Records to give them a chance to record for the first time, in late 1947. But the American Federation of Musician’s 1948 strike meant that the songs would never be released. Fortunately, new label Coral Records gave them another chance in 1950, with a version of the old standard “Rag Mop.” It was a fun number, one that really showed off the singing group’s dexterity, but it was the B side that really took off. Here it is: “Sentimental Me.”

Soon enough the group was featured on Toast of the Town. Never heard of that show? Well, it would later be renamed The Ed Sullivan Show. Here they are with the ever-charming McQuire Sisters, singing “Side By Side.”

I’ve always found it a bit creepy when four or five singers confess their love for the same lady, so it’s nice to not only see one group express their admiration for another, but also see them candidly address the 4 boys/3 girls problem.  Continue reading

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78: “Look What You’ve Done With Your Dangerous Eyes” b/w “What Cha Gonna Do When There Ain’t No Jazz” by Aileen Stanley. Okeh 4221. Recorded in New York City, 10/01/20.

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

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

 

Aileen Stanley was actually born Maude Elsie Aileen Muggeridge in 1897, in Chicago. She and her brother Stanley had a successful vaudeville routine for a few years but he fell in love with a chorus girl and quit the act. Thus, “Stanley and Aileen” became solo act Aileen Stanley, thereby creating the most practical invention of a stage name ever recorded.

Aileen performed in a number of different vaudeville and cabaret acts, but it was her New York City appearance in broadway revue Silks and Satins that led to her first shot as a recording artist. Here she is in 1920 for Pathe records—“I’m a Jazz Vampire.”

In October of 1920 she went to Okeh and recorded the number that I found in the archive: “What Cha Gonna Do When There Ain’t No Jazz.”

Clearly, Prohibition had folks worried about what else might be banned in the name of public decency. Continue reading

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45: “Ask Me What You Want” b/w “I Just Can’t Stand It’ by Millie Jackson. Polydor 2066 187. German re-release. Recorded in New York City in 1972.

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

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

Millie Jackson was born in Thomson, Georgia in 1944. Her mother died when Millie was very young, and her father started over in Newark, New Jersey. By her mid-teens, Millie was living with an aunt in Brooklyn. Her singing career started when she was twenty years old; some friends dared Millie to enter a talent contest in a Harlem nightclub, and she won. Club dates followed, and by 1971, Millie had a hit on the R&B charts with her first single, “A Child of God (Hard to Believe).”

Powerful stuff, very critical of people and the doubt in the almighty that they inspire. But this was kind of a misleading start to Millie’s career.

1972’s “Ask Me What You Want” is a little closer to what she’s known for—straight talk between lovers, open communication for the betterment of the couple. But we aren’t quite there yet.

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