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“She Loves You” b/w “I’ll Get You” by The Beatles. Swan S-4152. Recorded July 1, 1963 in London, UK.

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

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

In the summer of 1963, The Beatles were huge in Britain. But this was not the case in America. Two earlier singles that had done well in their home country—”Please Please Me” and “From Me to You”—flopped when released in the States on the Vee-Jay label. Del Shannon’s cover of the latter song far outsold the original.

So was the release of “She Loves You” a guarantee of American success? Capitol, who was offered the chance to release it, didn’t think so. Even little Vee-Jay passed, having not gotten much back on their earlier investment. Fortunately, The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, found a Philadelphia label called Swan (home of Freddy Cannon, Link Wray and His Ray Men, and The Rockin’ Rebels) that was willing to take a chance on the group.

It’s said that “She Loves You” was the song that created Beatlemania, the song that took the band from being extremely popular to being the cause of girls screaming so loudly that the music couldn’t be heard. And only half of the audience would be screaming at their shows—the other half would have fainted. So was it huge here? Not at first. The single was released on September 16, 1963 and received a positive review in Billboard. But it failed to chart, and only sold about 1,000 copies. But by January of 1964, an appearance on The Jack Paar Show coincided with the release of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and America was finally paying attention. The Ed Sullivan Show appearance a month later sealed the deal, and Beatlemania was then firmly in place in America.

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78: “No Wine, No Women” b/w “Rough and Rocky Road” by Mr. Google-Eyes. Okeh 6820. Recorded in New Orleans, 11/21/49.

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

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

 

Joe “Mr. Google Eyes” August was born on September 13, 1931, in New Orleans. He cut his musical teeth as a member of the First Emmanuel Baptist Church choir, but it was the blues that really called to him. As a teenager, Joe worked as a delivery boy for Dooky Chase’s restaurant.  According to Dr. John’s autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of The Night Tripper, “…he loved to eye the ladies; one night a waiter called him “the googlest-eyed motherfucker” he’d ever seen, and the name stuck.” Mr. Google Eyes it was.

Joe would sometimes sit in with bands that played at Dooky Chase’s, and he used the money he earned to buy his own P.A. system, which proved to be a great way to get seasoned vets to give him a shot.  He soon got a steady gig at the Downbeat Club, playing with Roy Brown, who proved to be an influence on his vocal style. August made his debut for the black-owned Coleman Records with 1946’s “Poppa Stoppa’s Be-Bop Blues,” a song paying homage to New Orleans DJ Poppa Stoppa, aka Vernon Winslow. Louisiana wouldn’t allow black DJ’s on the air at that time, so it was Vernon’s job to teach the white DJ’s how to sound more hip; it must have worked, because three different white DJ’s at the same station would use the name Poppa Stoppa over the years. Also: apparently, Poppa Stoppa was a slang term for condoms. Makes sense to me.

He sounds a lot older than fifteen years old here, doesn’t he? Coleman capitalized on the novelty of Joe’s youth by proclaiming him “Mr. Google Eyes — the world’s youngest blues singer.”  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: “Moonstruck,” “Limehouse Blues” b/w “As Time Goes By,” “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” by Lee Wiley. RCA Victor EPA 3-1408. Recorded in 1956.

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

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

Lee Wiley was born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma in 1908. Her early career was spent singing with Leo Reisman’s orchestra, eventually moving up to Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra and then on to radio orchestras fronted by Victor Young and Johnny Green. Lee wasn’t known for having a big voice, but rather for having an exceptional sensitivity when it came to interpreting the lyrics. Here’s an early example, with her version of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Stay with it—she doesn’t come in until halfway through the song.

Lee’s big break came in 1939, when prestigious New York label Liberty Records tapped her to devote an entire album (an album at this time meaning a portfolio of 78s) to the songs of the Gershwin Brothers. It was the very first time an artist had devoted a whole album to the work of one songwriter or songwriting team, and it was a hit. Lee would later give the same in-depth treatment to the work of Rodgers and Hart and Irving Berlin. Here’s “I’ve Got a Crush On You,” featuring Fats Waller on piano.

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