Monthly Archives: November 2013

78: “Hambone” b/w “Boot ‘Em Up” by Red Saunders and His Orchestra with Dolores Hawkins and the Hambone Kids/Red Saunders and His Orchestra. Okeh 6862. Recorded 1/18/52 and 8/24/51 in Chicago.

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

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

Theodore “Red” Saunders was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1912. His mother died in 1913, so his sister brought him up to Chicago to live with her. At the age of 13, Red took his first drum lesson while attending school at St. Benedict’s. Three years later he’d get his first gig, playing with Stomp King. A few years later he was drumming for Ira Coffey’s Walkathonians. What’s a Walkathonian? Why, that’s a musician who plays for walkathons, which in the thirties was not a way to raise money for charities, but rather a contest in which the last couple standing won a prize after walking a loop ad nauseum. The events used to draw big crowds, believe it or not. A 1933 gig in Atlantic City was disrupted by the all-white Musicians Union local, who did not want a black orchestra supporting white walkers. Red found a gig with Curtis Mosby’s Harlem Scandals revue and did not look back.

Red continued to tour with different acts for the next couple of years, until he found himself back home and in the orchestra for the Delisa Club, a happening venue that billed itself as “The Harlem of Chicago.” By July, the leader had left and Red filled the vacancy. With the exception of a couple of short periods away, he stayed there until the club closed in 1958.

Red recorded with a number of labels and acts throughout the 1940’s, including many sides with his own orchestra. These are pretty hard to track down online, but one of his early songs on Okeh was available, and it’s a hoot. Here’s “Boot ‘Em Up.”

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45: Moods, Vol. 5. “Lullaby In Rhythm,” “There’ll Never Be Another You” b/w “All the Things You Are,” “Moonlight In Vermont” by Marian McPartland. Savoy XP 8108. Recorded in New York City, 12/22/52 (Side B) and 4/27/53 (Side A).

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

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

Born in a small town in Southeastern England in 1918, Marian McPartland started playing piano at the age of three. She was encouraged to learn the violin at the age of eight—perhaps because her parents weren’t thrilled about her love of Jazz and they hadn’t heard of jazz violinist Joe Venuti—but she continued to spend all of her free time at the keys. Marian studied classical music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, but quit in 1938 to join a four piano vaudeville act run by Billy Mayerl.

The piano quartet was a hit and continued to perform over the course of the war, entertaining both British and American troops, courtesy of the USO. She met her husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland, in a show in Belgium in 1944. They were soon wed, and moved to Jimmy’s native Chicago. Marion continued to play, and the couple’s move to New York City in 1949 would soon prove to be a good career choice. Jimmy encouraged Marian to form her own trio, which played at clubs like The Embers and Hickory House. A recording contract with Savoy Records came in 1951.

This extended play 45 shows Marian at a bit of a crossroads, at least in terms of personnel. “Moonlight In Vermont” features the rhythm section of Eddie Safranski (bass) and Don Lamond (drums).  Continue reading

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78: “At the Jazz Band Ball” b/w “The Jazz Me Blues” by Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang. Okeh 40923. Recorded in New York City, October 5, 1927.

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

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

 

Born in 1903 to a well-off German American couple in Davenport, Iowa, Leon Bismark Biederbecke was the youngest of three children. He was playing the piano by ear at the age of three; according to his sister, he would play it standing up with his arms up over his head to reach the keys. His ability to mimic almost any melody he heard was noted in the local paper when he was just seven years old, and he would often go to the cinema as a child not to enjoy the films, but rather to dash home afterwards to see if he could accurately play what he had just heard from the silent films’ piano accompaniment. His older brother had returned home from military service in 1918 with a Victrola in tow, thus giving Leon—now known by all by his nickname “Bix”—the opportunity to hear his first jazz records. Supposedly, he taught himself to play Cornet by copying The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s recordings of “Tiger Rag” and “Skeleton Jangle.”

Bix was not the best student, and his parents sent him off to the Lake Forest Academy in hopes that he would be taught discipline and direction. They didn’t account for the fact that the Academy was a short train ride away from Chicago, where Bix would escape to listen to bands like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. For reasons both academic and alcoholic, Bix was expelled from the academy. He returned to Davenport to work for his father in 1923, but soon enough jumped at the opportunity to join The Wolverine Orchestra. Here he is with his recording debut, playing cornet on a beautifully restored recording of “Fidgety Feet.”

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45: “Try It Baby” b/w “If My Heart Could Sing” by Marvin Gaye. Tamla 54095. Recorded in Detroit, May 21,1964.

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

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

 

Marvin Gay Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. His father was a minister in the House of God branch of the Pentecostal church. It was a faith that demanded strict obedience to the Bible and conservative behavior at all times. Unfortunately, Marvin Sr. took this to mean that he had the right to beat his children—but Marvin in particular—as often as he saw fit. Without music (and a compassionate mother) to get him through, Marvin said, he might have committed suicide as a youth. Fortunately, for him and for us, he left home as soon as he could, doing a brief stint in the Air Force and then returning to D.C. to join a four man vocal group called The Marquees. They drew the attention of Moonglows co-founder Harvey Fuqua, who took them on as his backing vocalists. Now called Harvey and the Moonglows, the group let Marvin take his first recorded lead vocal in 1959 with “Mama Loocie.”

The Moonglows broke up in 1960, and Harvey and Marvin relocated to Detroit, where they did some session work. Berry Gordy first heard Marvin sing at a Christmas party he was hosting. He was impressed, and signed Marvin to Motown subsidiary Tamla. The two labels were, for all intents and purposes, one company. But having two names meant D.J.’s wouldn’t be accused of playing too many songs from the same label; if they did, payola accusations would mean trouble for everyone. Continue reading

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45: “Et même”/” Tout Me Ramène à Toi” b/w “C’est la Passé”/” Apprends-le Moi” by Francoise Hardy. Vogue EPL-8222. Recorded in Paris, 1964.

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

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

Françoise Hardy was born in 1944 and grew up in the 9th arrondissment of Paris. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her father spent little time with Françoise and her younger sister, Michèle. Still, he did play a critical part in her career: Françoise was given a guitar as a gift both for her birthday and for passing the baccalaurèat, the French equivalent of graduating from high school. She’d been raised on a musical diet of both French (Charles Trenet, Cora Voiucaire) and Anglophone (Cliff Richard, Connie Francis) singers and wanted to try her hand at writing songs of her own.

Hardy’s chance came at the end of her first year at the Sorbonne, when she answered a newspaper ad looking for fresh young singers. It soon lead to her being signed with Vogue records, who decided that a song penned by the writers behind pop star Johnny Hallyday would be the best introduction to the masses. 1962’s “Oh Oh Cheri” did not do so well, but the B side, written by Hardy herself, would lead to the disc selling 700,000 copies in France alone. Here it is: “Tous Les Garçons et les Filles.”

The success of the song spawned an English language version called “Find Me a Boy,” which sounds pretty shallow. Bilingual Youtube commenters swear that it is an awful translation, and that the lyrics of the original can be compared to the lyrics of “As Tears Go By.”

The disc I found in the archive is from 1964, and at this point in her career, Hardy was really hitting her stride. Mickey Baker’s arrangements are bigger, fuller, almost like something Phil Spector would have put together. “Et même” is a great example of this, right down to the handclaps.

This, too, spawned an English version. Even if the translation is off, it’s clear that Hardy was taking a more mature look at love and its vagaries. Continue reading

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78: “Black Woman Swing” b/w “Cabbage Greens No. 1” by Champion Jack Dupree. Okeh 05713. Recorded in Chicago, June 13, 1940.

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

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

William Thomas Dupree’s date of birth is debatable—sometime in July of either 1909 or 1910. And the cause of the fire that left him an orphan at the age of two is also sketchy—sometimes he said it had been an accident, and sometimes he said that it had been set by the Ku Klux Klan. What is known is that from then on, Dupree grew up in the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where Louis Armstrong had also spent his childhood. He taught himself to play piano and was later apprenticed by Tuts Washington and Willie Hall. As if that wasn’t enough New Orleans childhood cred, Dupree was also Spy Boy for the Yellow Pocahantas tribe of Mardi Gras Indians.

The 1930’s were spent traveling around the midwest, living in Chicago, Indianapolis and Detroit, where he met Joe Louis. Joe encouraged him to pursue professional boxing, which Dupree did, with gusto—he fought in 107 bouts and won the Golden Gloves. He earned the nickname “Champion Jack” and kept it for the rest of his life.

Dupree moved back to Chicago in 1940, where he was introduced to Okeh record producer Lester Melrose. He liked Dupree’s boogie-woogie take on the blues, and set him up to record eight songs in one day. The disc I found in the archive was the second release from that session. With able, at times percussive, accompaniment from Wilson Swain on bass, here’s “Black Woman Swing,” a story of being down on your luck, being taken in by a good woman, and then finding out maybe she isn’t so good after all.

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