Tag Archives: New York City

45: “Jelly Belly” b/w “The Seventh Veil” by Nai Bonet. Karate Records 532. Recorded in New York City, 1966.

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

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

Not much is known about Nai Bonet’s early life. She was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother and a French Father, in 1944. At some point her family moved to New York City, moving from Brooklyn to the Bronx to Yonkers. While visiting a friend who was practicing the craft, Nai Bonet tried belly dancing for the first time. She was a natural, as later evidenced by her debut headlining gig at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. She was only 13 years old.

Fast forward to 1966. Now 22 years old, with a few small theater and TV parts under her belt, Nai tries her hand at singing. Still known primarily known for her dancing ability, she wisely chooses a silly little tune called Jelly Belly. And the Karate Records graphic designer wisely uses the back of the sleeve to break the dance down step by step.

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

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

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78: “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine” b/w “Tip Toe Through the Tulips With Me” by Smith Ballew and his Orchestra. Okeh 41299. Recorded in New York City, 9/11/29.

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

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

Smith Ballew was born in Palestine, Texas in 1902—the youngest of five children. He studied music at the University of Texas, and while there he and his brother Charlie joined Jimmy’s Joys, a jazz group led by their friend Jimmy Maloney. They recorded some songs for Golden Records in California; the songs sold well, but Smith decided to form his own group, The Texajazzers. When that proved to be only a regional success, he joined forces with pianist Dick Voynow to form the Wolverines Orchestra. Ben Pollack, a more successful band leader, invited Ballew to join his group after seeing the Wolverines play in Chicago. It was only at this point that Smith Ballew was encouraged to sing; he had only played banjo until then.

An unfulfilled offer to play in Ted Fio Rito’s new group in New York City found Ballew stuck in a new town with no job and no money. While busking in 1928, he was discovered by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, who introduced him to other notables like Joe Venuti, and soon Smith was on his way to singing with Fred Rich’s orchestra at the Astor Hotel, followed by radio appearances and, by 1929, recording with his own orchestra for Okeh Records.

“Painting the Clouds With Sunshine” is a perfect example of the popular culture’s urge to always look on the bright side, of faking happiness until you make it. Continue reading

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45: “Princess” b/w “The Last Bus Left at Midnight” by Frank Gari. Crusade Records 1022. Recorded in New York City, 1961.

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

Born in 1942 in Paramus, NJ, Frank Gari got into the business early—he had three top 40 hits before reaching the age of 20. Those were the days of the teen idol—Elvis was in the army, Little Richard had found Jesus, Jerry Lee Lewis had run off with his 13 year old cousin and a plane crash had taken Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper from us. So the record executives got busy and gave the world the likes of Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and yes, Frank Gari—teenage boys with smoldering good looks and lyrics that spoke of perfect, idealized, undying, fairy tale love.

Don’t believe me? Well, just listen to “Princess.” Continue reading

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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: “Do Your Duty” b/w “Down In the Dumps” by Bessie Smith. Okeh 8945. Recorded November 24, 1933 in New York City.

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

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

 

Born in Chattanooga, TN in the 1890‘s (the exact date is a point of some debate), Bessie Smith was hugely popular and influential in the 1920’s. She recorded 160 songs for Columbia Records, with her debut single (“Gulf Coast Blues” paired with “Downhearted Blues”) selling 750,000 copies in 1923. She would work with such future legends as Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, and Louis Armstrong, and she defied racial segregation by traveling with her band in their own private railroad car years before Duke Ellington could afford to do so himself. The woman was a star, rightly dubbed “Empress of the Blues.”

 

But the public’s taste can be fickle, and the depression hurt the public’s willingness to spend money on records, so Bessie was dropped from Columbia, cutting her final sides with them in 1931. Continue reading

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