Tag Archives: 78

78: “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again” b/w “Feudin’ and Fightin’” by Dorothy Shay. Columbia 37189. Recorded in New York City, 1947.

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This week’s 78 comes from a brief detour from the Archive. I was recently visiting with my wife’s family in southern California, and her parents were kind enough to let me dig through a big, heavy (shellac weighs a lot more than vinyl) box of 78’s. Some of the treasures found within were by Dorothy Shay.

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Dorothy Shay started singing in 1925, at the age of four. She used to entertain prisoners at the county jail—how she ended up there at such a tender age is anyone’s guess. As she got older, her style changed from blues to comedic songs, and this was reflected by who chose to sing with—first with the Morton Gould Orchestra and then with Spike Jones and the City Slickers. Dorothy developed a curious persona, that of “The Park Avenue Hillbillie” (Yes, it is spelled “Hillbilly” on the record label, but in promotional materials it was spelled “Hillbillie” because Dorothy was a lady. Those marketing people at Columbia thought of everything.) As glamorous and beautiful as any of her contemporaries, Shay skipped the sentimental tunes for songs that poked fun at all kinds of things, like the often messy pursuit of love in 1947’s “Say that We’re Sweethearts Again.”

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78: “Makin’ Frien’s” b/w “I’m Sorry I Made You Cry” by Eddie Condon and his Footwarmers. Okeh 41142. Recorded in New York City, October 30, 1928.

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

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

Born in 1905 in Indiana but raised in the Chicagoland area, Eddie Condon cut his musical teeth on the ukulele. He soon switched to banjo and had turned pro by the age of sixteen. Guitar, piano and singing were soon added to his repertoire, and it wasn’t long until Condon found himself playing alongside such greats as Jack Teagarden and Bix Beiderbecke.

We hear Jack Teagarden singing and playing trombone on “Makin’ Frien’s,” with Condon providing able support on banjo.

Teagarden was black and Condon was white, and in 1928 it was still pretty unusual to have a “mixed” band. Continue reading

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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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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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