Tag Archives: Lionel Hampton

“Last Mile Blues” b/w “I Can’t Quit That Man” by Ida Cox and her All-Star Orchestra. Okeh 6405. Recorded in New York City, 12/20/40.

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

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

 

Ida Cox didn’t run away and join the circus as a teenager. Instead, the small-town Georgia girl ran away and joined a traveling minstrel tent show at the age of fourteen. Experience in that field lead to the better-paying vaudeville circuit as a singer and comedienne. She had her Paramount Records debut in 1923, with fellow female musician Lovie Austin accompanying her on piano. This is her very first record, “Graveyard Dream Blues.”

 

Ida was especially good at bringing songs about death to life. 1925’s “Coffin Blues” is an excellent example. This song features future husband Jesse Crump on harmonium, adding an especially funereal element to the sound.

 

 

Ida was able to parlay her touring experience into managing her own road show, which was pretty unusual for a woman at that time. And she either wrote or co-wrote most of the songs she recorded, including this number that, had she lived long enough, would have earned her a fortune in bumper sticker royalties. This is “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues.”

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78: “Gotta Go Baby” b/w “Swingin’ The Cat,” “Cats Boogie” and “For Jumpers Only” by Cat Anderson. Apollo 771. Recorded in New York City, May 14, 1947.

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

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

 

William Alonzo Anderson was born in 1916 in Greenville, South Carolina. The tragic death of his parents saw him moved to a Charleston orphanage at the age of four. While growing up there, he learned to play the trumpet and picked up his nickname of “Cat,” which was given to him by friends because of his fighting style. He played with a number of smaller groups throughout the Thirties and early Forties, eventually landing a spot in Lionel Hampton’s band. But his career really began in 1944, when he joined Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Ellington—who was unusually willing to share the spotlight with his sidemen—saw a lot of potential in this young man with a five octave range and delighted in writing songs that showed off Anderson’s ability to play higher than anyone else could. In 1944, Benny Goodman’s or Glenn Miller’s Orchestras might have sold more tickets, but Ellington’s band was the place to be if you wanted to musically shine.

So it might seem surprising that Cat left the band in 1947 to pursue his own interests. We’re lucky he did, because “Gotta Go Baby,” the one song I was able to find from this EP, swings hard and well. Check it out.

That was fellow trumpeter Joe Straud on vocals. Anderson employed a full orchestra, but the spare arrangement brings to mind the work of Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five, to these ears, anyway. Continue reading

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