The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 234

Legends Mix

This transcript of the radio show is an approximation of what I said in the show. The real spoken parts may differ slightly.

And off we go again, here, on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman with another set of exciting Rhythm & Blues from the roaring twenties to the rocking fifties - when times were hard and the music was great. And today's show starts with a '28 recording of the the greatest trumpeter ever, for the Okeh label. A composition of Fats Waller, here is Louis Armstrong with his Hot Five and Squeeze Me.

01 - Louis Armstrong - Squeeze Me.mp3
02 - Ethel Waters - Shake That Thing.mp3

On the Columbia label from as far back as 1925 you heard Shake That Thing of Ethel Waters. 1925 is the year of the breakthrough of electrical recording, and this take done in December of that year sounds pretty good, when you compare them to the acoustical recordings that were done just a year ago.

Just imaginge how the acoustical recording technology put challenges on the musicians. They crowded around a huge horn, that had a mechanical connection to the needle that wrote the sound into wax. They had to play and sing as loud as possible, and brass instruments were just much better to record than guitars or violins. The upright bass was replaced by the tuba and for percussion they used wooden blocks, simply because the sound of the drums got below the horrible frequency range of the acoustical system - somewhere between 250 and 2500 hertz.

It all didn't sound too sophisticated, and that's an understatement. You can imagine that after General Electric introduced a complete system of microphones, amplifiers, mixers and electro-mechanical recorders to write the sound into wax, well, within a year all major labels had thrown out their acoustical equipment and they adopted this system, with a sound fidelity that suddenly was much better than on radio.

And instead of having to shout while singing - the crooning style of singing went into fashion, especially for pop music. We still have blues shouters until into the fifties, but they had developed this singing style not for recording, but to sing unamplified in the juke joints and to get over the noise of the crowd and the louder instruments, such as saxophones or trumpets.

The electrical recording era also brought the profession of the sound engineer - optimizing and balancing the volumes from the microphones capturing the instruments and the vocalist.

I don't play acoustical recordings that often. It's not so much because of the sound quality. You all know I don't set too high standards for that - simply because I often play rare music that's only to be found on, say... used shellac. But the years 1920-25, from the first recorded blues until the introduction of electrical sound recording, is only a small part of the years of interest for this program. Also, the years '27-29 and from the mid-thirties saw a rise of productivity and huge amount of very interesting records. And you know, if it's from before and it's interesting - I will play it.

Here's an acoustic recording - from 1921 on the Phonola label this is Mamie Smith with her Fare Thee Honey Blues - blues almost a century old.

03 - Mamie Smith - Fare Thee Honey Blues
04 - Williams Washboard Band - Kelsey's Hot Nuts


05 - Sam Collins - It Won't Be Long.mp3
06 - Henry Red Allen & his Rhythmakers - Someone Stole Gabriel's Horn.mp3

Someone Stole Gabriel's Horn - and that'll bring troubles for judgement day. This was a pretty popular song in the thirties, and this version was done by Henry Red Allen & his Rhythmakers for the ARC labels in 1932 - the deepest of the Great Depression.

ARC - the American Record Company - issued records for on a lot of labels, many of them store brand labels, but also the Brunswick and Columbia labels at some point belonged to this company, that existed from 1929 to '38 when it was sold to CBS. The years 1930-33 were very hard years for the recording industry with sales of records plummeting and ARC is one of the very few companies that survived and that was able to issue a catalog of importance.

Before Henry Red Allen you got Sam Collins, on the label credited as Bunny Carter, and you heard It Won't Be Long on the Conquerer label, the store brand label for Sears, Roebuck and Company, the mail order company and department store that we still know as Sears. The label also was produced by this ARC company that I just told you about. This was recorded in 1927 and released two years later.

And then I have to account for what was before the jingle - that was Kelsey's Hot Nuts of the Williams Washboard Band, one of the names for what nowadays mostly is called the Washboard Rhythm Kings, a loose group of studio musicians playing popular hot jazz in the first half of the thirties. This was released on Victor in 1933.

The next band is pretty obscure - their only recording session was done in Hot Springs, AK for the Vocalion label. From 1937, here are Cody Fox and his Original Yellow Jackets with the Business After Midnight.

07 - Original Yellow Jackets - Business After Midnight.mp3
08 - Memphis Minnie - I'm A Bad Luck Woman.mp3

Also on Vocalion, I'm A Bad Luck Woman of Memphis Minnie. She wrote the song herself - songwriter credits on the label go to Minnie McCoy, after the name of her husband. Not that her real name was Minnie - she got that name from the A&R man of Columbia where she did her first session with Joe McCoy. She was born Lizzie Douglas and she always hated the name.

Next a cover on the famous song I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water - history of this song goes back to 1927 as the Muddy Water blues based on traditional lyrics. Here is the version from 1939 of the Cats & the Fiddle, on the Vocalion label.

09 - Cats & the Fiddle - I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water.wav
10 - Ink Spots - Your Feet's Too Big.mp3

Started with their signature 'Yeeeah', that were the Ink Spots and you heard Your Feet's Too Big recorded for the Victor label. These were the very early beginnings for the group - they'd formed two years before under the name of King, Jack, and Jester and changed their name to the Four Ink Spots when they got a booking at the Apollo with the band of Tiny Bradshaw. In '34 they'd also done their first overseas appearance, in London with the band of Jack Hylton.

And well the records didn't sell that good, but the group soon got popular with their jive numbers - the successful pop ballads with their typical interaction between the singing tenor and the reciting bass voice came later, after 1938.

Well it's often that I like the early stuff the most, and yes, that also counts for the Ink Spots.

And for the next one we make a jump of 10 years, to 1945 with one of the earliest releases of the Philo label, the forerunner of Aladdin. Here is Illinois Jacquet with Throw It Out Your Mind Baby.

11 - Illinois Jacquet - Throw It Out Your Mind Baby.mp3
12 - Hadda Brooks - I Can't Get Started.mp3

The Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin composition I can't get started done by Hadda Brooks for the Modern label, but at the time, together with a lot of other recordings, they were never released. I found it on a CD on the Ace label and that put together a whole bunch of these takes - mostly Tin Pan Alley standards, often written over a decade back. This was composed in '36 with lyrics that quoted the news headlines for the era, but still they didn't sound outdated later.

This is the kinda work that Brooks did rather than the boogie-woogies that made her famous. But the producers saw more hit potenital in these uptempo songs.

Next from 1947 on the Black & White label, Jack McVea and his Door Openers - his band was credited like that after his huge hit Open The Door Richard. Here he is with the Basses Boogie.

13 - Jack McVea - Basses Boogie.mp3
14 - Milt Buckner - Milt's Boogie.mp3

On the MGM label, straight from the 78, that was Milt Buckner with Milt's Boogie and that was also recorded in 1947. The MGM label that was an offspin from the Hollywood movies studio with the same name, it didn't produce much Rhythm & Blues, but this is just a great party record.

Next a blues from 1953 on the Decca label, in the typical style for Delta blues players who moved to Chicago pretty late, for Tony Hollins that's been somewhere around 1950. He's born and raised near Clarksdale, MS - a place iconic for the Southern blues. Here he is with I'll Get A Break.

15 - Tony Hollins - I'll Get A Break.mp3
16 - Goree Carter - Serenade.wav
17 - Ruth Brown - I'll Wait For You.mp3

From 1950 on the Atlantic label Ruth Brown ended this show with I'll Wait For You and before that the Serenade of Goree Carter on the Freedom label. And with that I hardly have time to close this show - time's up.

Feedback from you, listeners, is greatly appreciated and you can let me know what you think of the show on Then all of today's stories, you can find them back on this program's website, search the web for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman to get there. This show is number 234 - you're gonna need the number to find it in the list.

Next week more, so I hope to see you then, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!