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Dismuke's Hit Of The Week
Previous Selections
October 2002

October 31, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Philco Refrigerator
(from 1941 ad)


Audio file updated 10/26/2005
A Clarinet In A Haunted HouseClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Johnny Messner and His Orchestra            1941
(Decca 4040-B mx 69759)

Here is an interesting selection that I thought would be appropriate to feature on Halloween.

Johnny Messner was a scholarship student at New York's Julliard School of Music.  During the early 1930s,  he played along side his four brothers in the Dick Messner Orchestra.  When the brothers decided to leave the music business in 1937, Johnny decided to form his own band and successfully landed an engagement at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City that lasted six years.

October 24, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Overland Six Motor Cars
(from 1925 ad)



The Paul Whiteman Orchestra circa 1921
The Paul Whiteman Orchestra circa 1921
Image from 1921 Victor Talking Machine Co. cataloge

Oriental (Original Acoustical Version)Click on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra         1922
(Victor 18940-B)

Oriental (Electrically Recorded Remake)Click on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra         1928
(Victor 21599-B )

I thought it might be fun to do an exercise in compare and contrast.  Here are two different recordings by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra of the same composition. 

The first recording was made acoustically (i.e. pre-microphone) in 1922 and appeared on the flip side of the band's version of "Three O'Clock in the Morning."    "Oriental" is a fox trot tempo adaptation by Whiteman and his staff arranger Ferde Grofé of a work written in 1893 by Russian composer  César Cui (1835-1918).   The record was very successful and sold over a million copies.

When  Whiteman's contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company came up for renewal in 1928, he decided to instead jump ship and sign with arch-rival Columbia.   Faced with the loss of their most popular band, Victor executives decided to make the most of the last few months of Whiteman's contract and ordered the band into the recording studio.  Among the dozens of sides recorded during the band's final months at Victor were remakes of several of Whiteman's early hits using the vastly superior electrical recording technology that had been introduced in 1925.  As with the original version, the remake of "Oriental" was paired with a new recording of "Three O'Clock In The Morning."

The arrangement used in each recording is, as far as I can tell, nearly identical.  But observe that the 1928 remake was played significantly faster thereby reducing the playing time by about 36 seconds.   Perhaps the intent was to appeal to the faster paced "Jazz Age" tastes of the late '20s.   The side by side comparison certainly  illustrates just how much of a dramatic step forward the electrical recording process was.

Paul Whiteman Potato Head Columbia label.

When the Paul Whiteman left Victor for Columbia in 1928,  Columbia introduced a special label  for his band's recordings.  Collectors refer to it as the "Potato Head" label because of its Whiteman caricature. Ted Lewis was another Columbia star who eventually was given his own unique label. 


After You've GoneClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
Bing Crosby, vocal                             1929
(Columbia 2098-D mx 149159)

For those who prefer something somewhat jazzier, here is a Whiteman recording that I am rather fond of.   My copy is in moderately worn condition - but my audio restoration software did a decent job of cleaning it up.   Near the end of the recording, you will hear the famous team of jazz violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang with a nice solo by Venuti.  No - that's not Bix Beiderbecke on the cornet but rather Andy Secrest who replaced him.   When this recording was made, Bing was still just a rank and file member of Whiteman's "Rhythm Boys" vocal trio.  If  you look at the above photo, you will see that Bing's performance was not even credited on the label and was noted only by the words "vocal refrain."  Two years later he was one of the Brunswick label's biggest stars.

October 17, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by

The Biltmore Hotel
(from circa 1930s postcard)

Let A Smile Be Your UmbrellaClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
On A Rainy Day
Broadway Bell-Hops 
Lewis James, vocal                          1928
(Diva 2564-G mx 145390)

"Broadway Bell-Hops" was a recording pseudonym used by the Sam Lanin Orchestra on Columbia's bargain Harmony, Velvet Tone and Diva labels.   The band made a number of enjoyable sides under the Bell-Hops name - but, unfortunately for us, they were all recorded acoustically, despite the fact that electrical recording had been the industry standard since 1925.  The continued use of the inferior method of recording was due to the fact that, in 1923, Columbia made a sizable investment in upgrading its acoustical recording facilities.  When the advent of electrical recording made the technology obsolete just two years later, Columbia executives were reluctant to see that investment go to waste and decided to continue using it for recordings destined for release on its new bargain label,  Harmony.   About a year or so later, another bargain label called Velvet Tone was launched.  The Diva label came along in 1927 and was sold through the W.T.Grant dime store chain.   The labels had an identical output of recordings - the only difference other than the label art being the fact that Velvet Tones had a catalogue number 1000 higher than the identical release on Harmony and Divas had a catalogue number that was 2000 higher.  There were occasional exceptions  (most notably the recordings of Annette Hanshaw )  where an electrical recording was released on the three Columbia bargain labels - but for the most part, their offerings continued to be acoustical until 1930.   Certainly it makes one wonder about the slogan "Made To Rival The Best" which appeared on the top of all Diva labels.

October 10, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by

(from 1931 promotional recipe book)

(Photo from 1934 sheet music cover)

Back In Your Own Back YardClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Ruth Etting, vocal; 
Phil Schwartz, piano                          1928
(Columbia 1288-D  mx 145465)

Ruth Etting (1896-1978) was a pioneer female jazz vocalist who was enormously popular during the 1920s and 1930s.  Today, she is best remembered as the inspiration of the 1955 Doris Day-James Cagney movie biography about her turbulent life, Love Me Or Leave Me

At the age of 17, Etting left her hometown of David City, Nebraska to study costume design at Chicago's Academy of Fine Arts.   To pay her bills, Etting accepted a part time job as a milliner in a hat shop.  The shop's owners had show business connections and arranged for her to audition for the chorus in Chicago's Rainbow Gardens.   Etting landed the job and began performing as a dancer and singer in various Chicago nightclubs and hotels. 

The Jazz Age, of course, coincided with Prohibition.  During this period in Chicago, the nightclub scene, as well as many other aspects of the city, were firmly under the control of various mobsters.   Etting became friendly with one such mobster, Chicago "businessman"  Martin  Snyder -  who was more commonly known as "Moe the Gimp" because of his lame left leg.  Etting married  Snyder  in 1922 and he assumed management of her career.  Through his connections, he landed her a regular broadcast with Abe Lyman's orchestra over radio station WSL.  This in turn led to a recording contract with Columbia Records where she had her first recording session in February, 1926.   Her records sold well and she was eventually dubbed by the Columbia marketing department as "The Recording Sweetheart" and "The Sweetheart of Columbia Records."

Her biggest break came in 1927 when Florenz Ziegfield cast her in the Ziegfield Follies of 1927 at New York's New Amsterdam Theatre in which she had a show stopping performance of  the Irving Berlin song "Shaking The Blues Away."  A year later, Ziegfield gave her the lead female role opposite Eddie Cantor in another highly successful Broadway show, Whoopee! 

Between 1928 and 1936, Etting appeared in 43 movies and musical short features - including Roman Scandals (1933) and Hips Hips Hooray (1934).  She appeared as a guest on numerous network  radio programs during the early 1930s and had her own show from 1933-1936.  She also wrote several songs, including "When You're With Somebody Else" -  her performance of which occupies  the flip side of this week's featured recording.   Between 1926 and 1937, Etting recorded over 200 sides - 62 of which became hits. 

Despite Etting's spectacular career success during the 1920s and 1930s,  her private life was hell. Snyder was an abusive and jealous husband and an overall repulsive person. Etting has been quoted as saying that she married him "nine-tenths out of fear and one-tenth out of pity."   Their relationship finally came to an end in 1937 when Etting divorced him and became engaged to pianist Mryl Alderman.  In 1938, consumed by jealousy, Snyder shot Alderman in cold blood.   Alderman survived and a sensationalized trial followed.  Snyder was convicted of attempted murder.  When he later appealed the verdict, Etting and Alderman chose not to appear in court and he was released after spending a year in prison.    Etting married Alderman after the end of the trial in December 1938 and retired from show business.  By that time, her popularity was already beginning to wane as her style of singing was increasingly regarded as old fashioned.  She made occasional broadcast appearances during World War II and embarked on an unsuccessful come back attempt during the late 1940s.  In 1948, she retired from show business for good and spent the rest of her life at her and her husband's ranch in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

October 3, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Allis Hotel - Wichita, Kansas
"A Friendly Hotel"
Wichita, Kansas
- - - -
· Tallest Building In Kansas
· 350 Rooms with Tub and Shower
· Circulating Ice Water and Radio
- - - -
(from 1933 postcard)

Doing The Boom BoomClick on song title to stream or right clock on folder to download
Leo Reisman and His Orchestra             1929
(Victor 22115-B)

Leo Reisman's band was popular with the New York high society crowd and had lengthy engagements at the Hotel Brunswick, the Central Park Casino and the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel.  Before entering the dance band business,  Reisman was a scholarship violin student at the New England Conservatory of Music and First Violinist with the Baltimore Symphony.  He formed his first band in the 1910s and remained active through at least the 1940s.  On radio, the band was featured on the Ponds Program (which, in addition to music, featured talks by First Lady Elanore Roosevelt) as well as on Lucky Strike's Your Hit Parade.  The height of the band's popularity on records was during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The rather unusual song in this week's update comes from the William Fox talking picture "Why Leave Home?"  a musical comedy which starred Dixie Lee (the future Mrs. Bing Crosby).  The film also contained an uncredited bit appearance by a sax player and occasional vocalist from the George Olsen band.  That sax player would later become one of Hollywood's biggest stars - Fred MacMurray.


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