The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 258

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.

So glad to have you around again, listeners, and I promise I won't let you down, there's some real hot Rhythm & Blues, hot jazz and old time blues waiting for you today, as usual from the rocking fifties all back to the roaring twenties - the days when music was great and times were hard.

And the music will be somewhat getting older through the hour, so I start in the fifties with a Chicago jive group named the Four Blazes. They'd been around from the late thirties, but they got their fame and success when lead tenor Tommy Braden joined the group and they signed for the United label. Their blues Mary Jo made it to number one on the hit list in '51, and in the same style they done more, actually it sounded so much the same, it was carved out of one melody and their subsequent records never made it like their first hit. But among their sessions were also some true gems unlike Mary Jo. This was the flip of that number one hit - a tight vocal arrangement on Duke Ellington's classic Mood Indigo. So here are the Four Blazes.

01 - Four Blazes - Mood Indigo
02 - J.B. Lenoir - The Mountain

Also from 1951 on the J.O.B. Label, the Mountain of J.B. Lenoir. Lenoir had moved to Chicago in '49 after some years of working with Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson II. It was Big Bill Broonzy who got him in the local blues scene, and he recorded for the J.O.B, Chess, and Parrot labels. Later in the fifties his gigs got more and more of an extravagant show, dressing in zebra-striped costumes and singing in a high pitched voice.

And we stay in the windy city with a recording of Buster Bennett, a saxophonist originally from Pensacola, FL, but there's little known of his early life. When he arrived in Chicago in '38, he played soprano saxophone, and his style had a lot of twenties influences, so it's likely he started playing in his teenage years. His pre-war recordings were as a sideman for Monkey Joe, Bill Broonzy, Merline Johnson and Washboard Sam. After the war he switched to the alto and tenor saxophone and he got picked up by Columbia, that had started a Rhythm & Blues series on their flagship label - their Okeh imprint still remained inactive for years. This session was from October of 1945. Here is Buster Bennett with Let Me Love You, Baby.

03 - Buster Bennett - Let Me Love You, Baby
04 - Andrew Tibbs - Going Down Fast


05 - Walter 'Fats' Pichon - Deep South Boogie
06 - Savannah Churchill - He's Commander-In-Chief Of My Heart

Four in a row - after Buster Bennet you got Andrew Tibbs with Going Down Fast, a composition of Sax Mallard and this saxophonist also was present in the studio as a part of an ensemble led by Tom Archia, also a sax player, originally from Texas but in 1942 he made the move to Chicago as part of the band of Milt Larkin for a nine-month stay at the legendary Rhumboogie club, backing T-Bone Walker and they definitely played the roof off the joint. For the Aristocrat label, that this Going Down Fast was cut for in '47, Tom Archia was one of the house bands.

Andrew Tibbs is best known for his Bilbo is dead - a crocodilic lamentation on the death of a notorious Democrat racist governor and senator, and the flip Union Man Blues where the musician's union gets some critical notes - both with a band led by someone else, that Tom Archia may or may not have been part of.

Now you got more - after the jingle came the piano solo the Deep South Boogie of Walter Fats Pichon on the obscure New Orleans based Raymac label. Fats Pichon by then played the piano of The Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. In the thirties he led what was considered the best big band of New Orleans - but they never recorded so I'm afraid their qualities have been lost to history.

And then the last one was from 1945, on the Beacon label the band of Jimmy Lytell fronted by Savannah Churchill with He's Commander-In-Chief Of My Heart. Beacon was one of the labels of Joe Davis.

For the next one a goodie of Erskine Butterfield and his Blue Boys - the Boogie De Concerto, written by Butterfield based on Tchaikovsky's Concerto in B Flat Minor - from 1942 on the Decca label.

07 - Erskine Butterfield & His Blue Boys - Boogie De Concerto
08 - Bill Samuels - Ghost Of A Chance

From 1946 on the Mercury label that was Bill Samuels and his Cats 'n Jammer Three with Ghost Of A Chance - a popular song written and first performed by Bing Crosby in 1932 and with numerous covers since.

And the next one definitely is a classic - with a long story. Duke Ellington found himself forced to go and use compositions of others, since the licensing company Ascap that Ellington was member of, they raised the licensing fees for radio broadcast - by 1940 a very important way to have your music heard all over the nation. To avoid these high fees, Ellington hired Billy Strayhorn and his son Mercer Ellington, they both were registered with competitor BMI.

Mercer had written Take The A Train after directions Ellington had given him how to get to Harlem, and it was the new subway train from Brooklyn to Harlem. It was much inspired by the style of Fletcher Henderson and originally an instrumental - that is, Mercer claimed he had written lyrics for it but they were never used nor published. The famous version of the Delta Rhythm Boys were with lyrics written for them - in a typical vocalese style, that is using the exact melody lines of the instruments, which often, and I must say also in this case, leads to somewhat unnaturally sounding melodies for singing.

Ellington later adapted lyrics written by Joya Sherill, a young admirer of the Duke's band from Detroit, and a talented singer. Ellington hired her at age seventeen and she was the first to record the vocal version with the Duke. Later it was trumpeter Ray Nance who done vocal versions of the song - and like many of Ellington's greatest hits, the A-Train has been recorded several times.

Here is the instrumental from 1941 on the Victor label, the band of Duke Ellington with Take The A Train,

09 - Duke Ellington - Take The A Train
10 - Al Cooper - Sophisticated Jump

The band of Al Cooper, the Savoy Sultans, with the Sophisticated Jump on the Decca label. According to many critics the Decca recordings don't justify the band's qualities - Dizzie Gillespie and other musicians praised the group, that were one of the regulars of the famous Savoy ballroom in Harlem.

Next an obscure blueswoman named St. Louis Bessie Mae Smith - and her name seems one source for confusion with that other Bessie Smith. The St. Louis blueswoman also recorded as Streamline Mae, Mary Belle Smith and Bessie Martin, and for a long time she lived with Big Joe Williams. Smith was known for being obessed with recording, and she's not among the top recording blueswomen, but she done her share. Chicago was easy to get to by train, and so recording was much more within reach than for blues musicians in farther cities.

Here is from 1941 on the Okeh label, Bessie Mae Smith as Streamline Mae with the Blues Blues.

11 - Streamline Mae (St. Louis Bessie Mae Smith) - Blues Blues
12 - Alice Moore - Hand In Hand Women

From 1937 on Decca the Hand In Hand Women of Alice Moore and with her we stay in the St. Louis blues scene. Moore recorded in two sessions for Paramount in '29 with trombonist Ike Rodgers, and when Decca started out in 1934, she done several sessions for this label.

And for the next one we dive into the twenties with the combo of Clarence Williams, backing Anna Bell. This was released on the QRS label that I spotlighted a few weeks ago. Here is Shake It Black Bottom.

13 - Anna Bell - Shake It, Black Bottom
14 - Original Yellow Jackets - My Blue Heaven

From Hot Springs, AK a mostly obscure territory band named the Original Yellow Jackets. In a short time, Vocalion recorded several of the musicians in town, and the Yellow Jackets cut eight sides. This goodie didn't make it to a release back in '37. The band members all have been listed but none of them made it to the major orchestras.

They must have had a hunch that their name would be used later, using the word Original in their name. And that happened - in the early eighties a jazz fusion quarted started with the name of the Yellow Jackets.

And for the next one we dive real deep into the twenties - with a recording on the Black Swan label. Black Swan was the first black-owned record label, started by music publisher Harry Pace. He saw the blues he published as sheet music, in a partnership with W.C. Handy, being performed by white musicians who were keen on novelties and wanted try something new, while urban African-American stuck to the popular tunes to be on the safe side. On his Black Swan label, he recorded black musicians doing blues, and that proved to be succesful, and within a few years all labels had a series for race music - as it got named.

W.C. Handy himself led a band that also recorded for that Black Swan label. This is one of the outcomes, one of the absolute classics from Handy's publishing business. From 1923 this is the Yellow Dog Blues.

15 - W.C. Handy - Yellow Dog Blues
16 - Jelly Roll Morton - Dr. Jazz

The self-proclaimed inventor of jazz Jelly Roll Morton was that with Dr. Jazz. Morton was one of the first arrangers in the style, that up to then had relied on improvisation only, and not on notated music. With that, and with his twenties recordings, his influence on jazz was enormous, but so was his ego and with no friends, the economic hardships of the thirties made him sink in obscurity. One of the classics of the swing era, the King Porter Stomp, was his composition but he never got royalties out of it. His attempt for a comeback in 1939 was unsuccesful, and he died in '41, just too early to see the forties revival of interest for old-time New Orleans jazz.

And with Jelly Roll Morton we end today's show - like always full of stories and music. Did you like it? You can let me know and send e-mail to Feedback is greatly appreciated.

And all of today's information you can find on the website of this program and easiest way to find that is with a web search for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - they know me there. Once in, this is show number 258 and you're gonna need the number to find this episode.

For now I'm done - I hope to see you next time, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!