Tag Archives: Rochester

45: “Orphans” b/w “Less of Me” by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Migraine Records~Lust/Unlust CC-333. Recorded February, 1978 in New York City.

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

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

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

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

Folks from Rochester take a lot of pride in our ability to deal with winter weather. This has been an unusually harsh winter here in New York City, but compared to storms in which two feet of snow fall over the course of a day, it hasn’t been that bad. Something else that defines Rochestarians is a desire to get the hell out, which is what Lydia Lunch did at the age of sixteen, in 1976. She moved to New York City in part because she was a big fan of The New York Dolls: “I felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body, and here were men trapped in women’s clothing.” Her confrontational attitude served her well in her new home of late-70’s downtown Manhattan. She fell in with some like-minded creative types—like Alan Vega and Martin Rev of Suicide—and it didn’t take long for her to start making music. This recording of “My Eyes” is from 1977, though it wasn’t released until 1980:

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78: “Are You Hep to the Jive?” b/w “Sunset” by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra. Okeh 5804. Recorded in New York City, 08/05/40

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

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

 

Cab Calloway was born in 1907, in my hometown of Rochester, NY. We also gave the world Lou Gramm, Wendy O. Williams and Lydia Lunch. You’re welcome, world.

Cab’s mother was a teacher and his father a lawyer. They relocated to Baltimore in 1918, and it was there that Cab’s interest in music began. His parents encouraged this interest, though they weren’t thrilled with the idea of their son playing jazz. Blanche, Cab’s older sister, was also musically inclined and was the first woman to lead an all-male orchestra. She was a big influence on her little brother, and even got him his first break with the show Plantation Days, in 1925. While attending college, Cab went out to hear and perform music as much as he could. Supposedly Louis Armstrong taught him how to scat at one of those early shows.

By 1930, Cab had put together an orchestra and was gaining such prominence in New York City that his group became one of two house bands at The Cotton Club. The other group? Duke Ellington’s band. Calloway’s reputation for putting on dazzling, flamboyant shows might have been seen as a commercially viable way to balance Duke’s more ambitious sophistication. When one group was on tour, the other stayed home; apparently Cab adopted Duke’s plan to get past racist Jim Crow laws when traveling: just buy a railroad car for the whole band.

Calloway’s biggest hit was also his first: 1931’s “Minnie the Moocher.” The song told the  comically grandiose tale of a good-time girl doing what she could to keep living the high life. And I do mean high—the song made reference to “kick(ing) the gong around,” slang for smoking opium. Most listeners had no idea.

Minnie is being saved for the big finish. In the meantime, here is one of three Betty Boop cartoons Cab made with the Fleischer brothers. This one features three songs, and like the other two cartoons, has a character whose motion is provided by Cab himself, via the magic of rotoscoping. Here he is, as “The Old Man of the Mountain.”

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