“Red Wing” / “Rainbow” The Shannon Quartet 1926


“Red Wing”
Shannon Quartet
June 24, 1926 (Victor 20173-B)
Red Wing

Shannon Quartet
June 24, 1926 (Victor 20173-A)


Here is a record that belongs to a friend who listeners to Radio Dismuke special broadcasts know as “Leslie From Dallas.”  “Red Wing” is one of her favorites and she wanted to have a digital copy.

Both of these selections are examples of Indian intermezzos – a fad during the ragtime era of songs with an American Indian theme.

“Red Wing,” composed in 1907 by Kerry Mills with lyrics by Thurland Chattaway, is one of the more famous of the Indian intermezzos.    My first exposure to the song was a doo wop era 45 rpm I had as a child of Sammy Masters performing it under the title of “Rockin’ Redwing.”  Years later I was a bit surprised when I stumbled across the same song on a 1910s era acoustic record. (The Sammy Masters version can be found by doing a YouTube search).

“Rainbow” was composed in 1908 by Percy Wenrich with lyrics by Alfred Bryan.  I was unfamiliar with this song until I digitized the record.  As much as I enjoy “Red Wing,” of the two, “Rainbow” is my favorite.

The Shannon Quartet was an influential vocal harmony group that later changed its name to The Revelers.   78 rpm records of The Revelers that made their way to Europe inspired the  formation of the better remembered German vocal group The Comedian Harmonists.  (The story of the Comedian Harmonists was made into a 1997 film that I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys music of the 1920s and 1930s).

Posted in 1900s Popular Music, 1920s, Electrical Recordings, Ragtime | 1 Comment

Frankie Masters & His Orchestra – 1939


“I Wanna Wrap You Up (And Take You Home With Me)”
Frankie Masters And His Orchestra, Frankie Masters, vocal
December 15, 1939 (Vocalion 5352 mx W 26349)
I Wanna Wrap You Up

“I’ve Got My Eyes On You”
Frankie Masters And His Orchestra; Marion Francis, vocal
December 28, 1939 (Vocalion 5352 mx 25624)
I’ve Got My Eyes On You


Here is a 1939 record by Frankie Masters And His Orchestra.  During this period the band employed a musical gimmick which it billed as “bell toll rhythm” of which “I Wanna Wrap You Up (And Take You Home With Me)” provides some excellent examples.

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Léon Jessel / Whilhelm Aletter Intermezzos – 1913


“The Wedding Of The Rose”
Conway’s Band
July 9, 1913 (Victor 17476-B)
The Wedding Of The Rose

Victor Concert Orchestra
December 23, 1913 (Victor 17476 A)


Here are two recordings of “intermezzo” songs that were well-known on both sides of the Atlantic .

“The Wedding Of The Rose” (“Der Rose Hochzeitszug“) was published in 1911 by German operetta composer Léon Jessel, best remembered for the song “The Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers.”  Jessel was born Jewish but converted to Christianity in 1894.  Despite having views sympathetic toward German nationalism and a wife who joined the National Socialist Party in 1932,  Jessel’s works were banned in Nazi Germany.  He died in 1942 after having been tortured by the Gestapo.

“Rendez-vous” was published in 1894 and is the most famous work of German composer Wilhelm Aletter.   Regular listeners to Radio Dismuke might find themselves wondering, as I did, where they had heard this song before: Herb Wiedoeft’s band recorded a version of it in dance tempo in 1928 that is in the station’s playlist.

Also note that in the opening second of “Rendez-vous” one can hear some sort of extraneous sound in the recording studio .

Posted in 1910s, Acoustic Recordings, American Recordings, Salon Music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Harry Roy Stage Show (Recorded at Empire Theatre, Leeds) 1936


“Harry Roy Stage Show” Parts 1 & 2
Harry Roy & His Orchestra
October 8, 1936 (Parolophone F 609 mx CE 7927, mx CE 7936)
Harry Roy Stage Show Part 1 & 2


Here is a recording of the Harry Roy Orchestra performing before a live audience at the Empire Theatre in Leeds, England on October 8, 1936.  Such performances were rare on records at the time due, in part, to the extreme limitations of how much material could fit on a 78 rpm disc.  In this instance they accomplished it by editing together a montage of excerpts of the program including audience reaction as well as the audience providing the vocal for the song “Alone.”

To preserve continuity I merged both sides of the record into a single audio file.  The songs featured in part one include “Bugle Call Rag,” “Tiger Rag,” “Knock Knock Who’s There?” and “Alone.”  Part two features “Sarawaki,” “St Louis Blues,” “Piano Madness” and “Somebody Stole My Gal.”

Because the popular music from this period survives mostly through 78 rpm discs, it can be easy to forget that what we hear today on old records accounted for only a portion of the period’s music consumption.  The majority of the dance bands of the 1910s through the 1940s earned their living mostly through live performances at hotels, dance halls and theaters.  With the exception of the occasional radio transcription that has managed to survive, very little remains that provides much of an indication as to what those live performances were like beyond the songs.  For that reason, I think this is an interesting record – it provides a glimpse, albeit extremely brief, of what what it might have been like to hear one of the bands in person at a theater.

Posted in 1930s, 1930s Popular Music, British Recordings, Electrical Recordings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quick Status Update

Since this blog has an on-again, off-again history and a number of occasions where it was months between postings, I just thought I would put up a quick note to say that the recent lack of activity over the past couple of weeks is not the start of another prolonged dormant period.  I have just hit a bit of a busy period.   But I do have a pipeline of material that I plan on posting when things slow down a bit.

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Riccardo Stracciari “Barcarolle From La Gioconda” 1921

“Barcarolle From La Gioconda
Riccardo Stracciari, vocal
November 1, 1921 (Columbia 79636)
Bacarolle From La Gioconda


It has been awhile since I have featured any grand opera recordings.   To remedy that, here is Italian baritone Riccardo Stracciari performing the barcarolle from Amilcare Ponchielli’s 1876 opera La Gioconda.

This recording is from a single sided record.  While double sided discs became standard for most records in 1908, classical and operatic recordings continued to be issued on single sided discs into the early 1920s.  Such records were marketed as a premium product – and they certainly were not cheap.  Using this handy cost of living calculator, the $1 price tag on the record in 1921 would have been worth approximately $13.82 in today’s currency. And for that the buyer got exactly what I present here – a single two and a half minute recording.

Posted in 1920s, Acoustic Recordings, American Recordings, Opera, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ray Noble And His Orchestra 1932 & 1935


“The Younger Generation”
Ray Noble And His Orchestra; Al Bowlly, vocal
September 1, 1932 (Victor 25020-B)
The Younger Generation

“Mad About The Boy”
Ray Noble And His Orchestra
September 1, 1932 (Victor 25020-A)
Mad About The Boy

“Let’s Swing It”
Ray Noble And His Orchestra; The Freshmen, vocal
June 8, 1935 (Victor 25070-A)
Let’s Swing It

“Chinatown My Chinatown”
Ray Noble And His Orchestra
June 10, 1935 (Victor 25070-B)
Chinatown My Chinatown


Here are two records by Ray Noble and his Orchestra that were issued on Victor in 1935 after Noble had relocated from England to the USA where he spent the rest of his career.

The first record features two songs from the Noël Coward musical review Words and Music.   Both recordings were originally issued in the UK in 1932 on the HMV label.  Al Bowlly provides the vocal on “The Younger Generation.  This recording of “Mad About The Boy” is an instrumental.   Later in September, 1932 the Noble band made another recording of the song with Noël Coward himself providing the vocal.  That recording, however, was not issued at the time – though it has subsequently been made available in CD collections.

The second record features the American band that Glenn Miller recruited for Noble after he moved to the USA in 1934.  The only carry over from Noble’s British band was Bill Harty, Noble’s drummer and manager.

Posted in 1930s, 1930s Popular Music, American Recordings, British Recordings, Electrical Recordings, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

4th of July Music


“Stars And Stripes Forever March”
Hurtado Bros. Royal Marimba Band of Guatemala
April 26, 1916 (Victor 18092 A)
Stars And Stripes Forever March

“The Invincible Eagle”
American Regimental Band
1917 (Pathe 20273 B)
The Invincible Eagle

“Liberty Loan March”
American Regimental Band
1917 (Pathe 20273)
Liberty Loan March


Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays – and July 4th is not quite the same without festive marches by John Philip Sousa.  So here are three recorded in 1916 and 1917.

If you enjoy these selections you might want to check out my July 4th postings from 2014 and from 2013.  Those postings are just as timely today as when they were first put up.   One nice thing about the recordings I feature:  they are so “out of date” that they never go out of date!

The first selection is “Stars And Stripes Forever” which is Sousa’s most famous work.  He composed it in 1896.  Since 1987 it has been the official National March of the United States.  It has long been a staple of Independence Day concerts  – but you don’t very often hear it performed by a marimba band as you do here courtesy of the Hurtado Brothers Royal Marimba Band of Guatemala in 1916.   Personally, I think a marimba band is perfect for this kind of music – it makes such marches even more festive and cheerful.

About fifteen seconds from the end of this recording you will notice that the volume suddenly drops and then quickly comes back up.  I first noticed this when I was doing audio restoration work on the digital audio file.  I actually pulled the record back out and played it again on the turntable just to verify that there had not been some sort of equipment malfunction when I was transferring the audio to digital.  Sure enough, the temporary drop in volume was part of the record and not my equipment.  I have no idea what might have caused it.  It doesn’t sound to me like it was intentional on the part of the musicians.  And, since it was 1916, this recording was made through an acoustic recording horn and things such as mixers and volume control knobs had not yet been invented.

The next two selections come from a “hill and dale” grooved Pathe disc.  Pathe was a pioneering French record company that opened its USA branch in 1914.  As was the case with Edison Records, because Pathe did not have rights to the patents for the lateral grooves used in conventional 78 rpm records, they had to continue using the vertical or “hill and dale” grooves that had previously been used on cylinder records.  Pathe records require specialized playback equipment and cannot be played on conventional steel needle phonographs without ruining the record. (One can play Pathe-Actuelle records on steel needle phonographs).

Sousa composed “The Invincible Eagle” for the 1901 Pan American Exposition, a world’s fair held in Buffalo, New York.  The fair is best remembered as the scene of the assassination of president William McKinley.  Sousa contemplated naming the march “The Spirit of Niagara” in honor of the famous waterfall not far from the exposition.   But, since he thought that it was good enough to potentially rival “Stars And Stripes Forever,” he decided to give it a name with a grander scale.

“Liberty Loan March” was composed in 1917 as part of Sousa’s effort to promote the purchase of Liberty Loan certificates used to finance the World War I war effort.

Posted in 1910s, Acoustic Recordings, American Recordings, Military Band | Leave a comment

Layton & Johnston – 1929



“If I Had You”
Layton And Johnstone; vocal and piano
1929 (Columbia 1768 D mx A8293)
If I Had You

“When The World Is At Rest”
Layton And Johnstone; vocal and piano
1929 (Columbia 1768 D mx A8366)
When The World Is At Rest


As with a number of other black American entertainers in the 1920s  the piano duo of Turner Layton and Clarence Johnstone found it easier to achieve career success overseas than at home.  They performed throughout Europe but were especially popular in England where their fans included the Prince of Wales and members of British nobility.  Between 1928 and 1935 each had earned around £64,000 – and amount that would be worth over $5 million today.

In 1934 it came out in divorce court that Clarence Johnstone had an affair with Raymonde Sandler, a white woman who was the wife of the well-known salon orchestra leader Albert Sandler.   The resulting scandal led to Layton and Johnstone going their separate ways.  Layton continued to have a successful career in British show business until his retirement in the mid-1950s.  Johnstone eventually married Raymonde Sandler.  After being declared bankrupt, he returned to America where his attempts to resume his career were unsuccessful.  He eventually found work as a janitor.

According to the Columbia Records advertisement reproduced above, this particular record was the duo’s first to be issued in the United States.  The ad is from the June 1, 1929 edition of the Afro-American a newspaper aimed at a black readership that was founded in 1892 and remains in publication. Black record buyers were a lucrative and important niche market for the American record industry in the 1920s.

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Harry C. Browne – 1916


“Kingdom Come”
Harry C Browne, vocal and banjo
October 13, 1916 (Columbia A2135 mx 470014)
Kingdom Come

“When I Used To Work Upon The Levee”
Harry C Browne, vocal and banjo
December 21, 1916 (Columbia A2135 mx 47009)
When I Used To Work Upon The Levee


Note:  The recordings in this posting contain lyrics with language and stereotypes that reflect historical attitudes and mindsets that decent people today find offensive.  I made the decision to post them because I consider such recordings to be important historical documents – not only of the past but also of the progress our culture has made in the decades since.

I recently found these recordings in a box of unsorted records I acquired some time ago.  The note on the label indicating “orchestra accompaniment with banjo effect” caught my attention and I pulled this record out thinking that it might contain some banjo ragtime.  Instead, both sides turned out to be songs from the Civil War era.

Of the two, I find “Kingdom Come” to be the most interesting.  The song’s actual title is “Kingdom Coming” (I am not sure why Columbia records changed it slightly).  It was composed by Henry Clay Work in 1862 prior to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  The lyrics describe the celebration of liberated slaves whose master has fled as a result of approaching Union troops – and how the overseer was locked in a cellar with the key thrown down a well.

The words of certain passages in the recording are a bit difficult to make out.  You can read more about the history of the song and see the lyrics at this link.

“When I Used To Work Upon The Levee” is a title that Columbia records gave the second song which was composed by Edward Warden and published as “Tapioca: A Minstrel Melody.”  The original sheet music does not provide a publication date – but I found the lyrics listed in a digitized copy of an 1863 edition of Beadle’s Dime Song Book.

The lyrics are almost impossible to make out when listening to the recording – they are sung so fast and include lots of period slang and dialect. You can view the original published lyrics at this page on the Library of Congress website.  Browne does not sing the lyrics in the original order and he also sings a passage that was apparently added at a later date.

I have not been able to figure out what the word “tapioca” in the original title refers to.  Whatever it meant, perhaps by 1916 it was obscure enough to have inspired Columbia records to come up with a different name for the song.

Actor and banjoist Harry C Browne appeared in vaudeville and early silent pictures and eventually became an announcer and production director for CBS radio, a position he resigned in 1931.


Posted in 1910s, Acoustic Recordings, American Recordings | 2 Comments