Tag Archives: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,