Friday, May 23, 2014

1920 Victor Catalog

 Here are some pictures of Victor's complete catalog for 1920.  The major labels issued annual catalogs like this, which were supplemented by monthly booklets listing new releases.  (Check out the Vocalion monthly supplement reproduced in full in my March 30, 2014 post.)  This is a thick book; the pages aren't numbered, but I would guess that it's at least 300 pages long. The paper is thin, but tough; Victor designed this catalog to stand up to a lot of use, and it's still in pretty good shape 94 years later.

I love thumbing through these old record catalogs - seeing what's in print, finding records I have, and getting a feel for musical tastes of the time.  Of course, I'm particularly interested in listings for records and styles of music that I like.

By 1920, changing tastes meant that the 1913-1914 recordings of James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, once the standard for African-American dance/popular music, were out of print.  But there was an exciting new style of music called jazz - so new, at least as far as the
record-buying public knew, that there only nine jazz records listed.  And they were given their own special listing; when I looked for the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the catalog directed me to "See 'Jazz Band.'"  If it looks like more than nine records were listed, look again - each side is listed separately.

The Victor label represented "class," and they were extremely proud of their Red Seal records.  This was their classical line, with an emphasis on opera.  At this time Red Seals were more expensive than Victor's regular black-label records, and were still only one-sided.  The Victor catalogs of this period all had a special section near the back, printed on pink paper, with the Red Seal listings.  This section is more elaborate that the rest of the catalog, with pictures and biographies (sometimes somewhat fanciful) of the artists.  Victor didn't get the full benefit of its contract with Enrico Caruso, which "does not expire until 1933," since Caruso himself unfortunately expired the next year.

And thanks to other insane 78 collectors on the web, I now know where the G.F. Johnson Piano Co. was in Portland.  They were the Victor Records dealer who distributed this copy of the 1920 catalog, as shown by the sticker on the cover.  It looks like there's a nice little park with an interesting sculpture there now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Curtis Mosby - 1928

Here's some excellent, obscure early jazz by Curtis Mosby and his Dixieland Blue Blowers.  Mosby, born in Kansas City in 1895, was a drummer, bandleader, promoter, and club owner who was based in Los Angeles in the 1920s.  There his band recorded three sessions for Columbia between 1927 and 1929, resulting in four 78 RPM discs.  Columbia 1442-D represents the sole issued result of the second session, from March 28, 1928.

None of the members of the Blue Blowers are big names, but several of them should be familiar to early jazz aficianados.  Les Hite is in the saxophone section; he later led his own band, which backed up Louis Armstrong for a time in the early 1930s.  Tenor saxophonist Bumps Myers is heard near the beginning of his career, which was a long one; he later played and recorded with Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Louis Bellson, and many others.  And he's on two of the greatest West Coast blues records ever: "Call It Stormy Monday" by T-Bone Walker and "Memory Pain" by Percy Mayfield.

But back to Curtis Mosby.  These are two fine examples examples of late-20s jazz; I particularly like the moody "Blue Blowers Blues."  The main soloists are trumpeter James "King" Porter and Ashford Hardee on trombone.  Porter also had a long career, including some R & B-flavored singles in the 1940s, but Hardee appears to have recorded only with Mosby.

Shortly after recording his final session for Columbia, Mosby's band appeared in the movie Hallelujah!, one of the first films featuring an all-black cast.  At the time I posted this, the nightclub segment featuring Mosby's band can be seen here.  The last selection his band plays is a speeded-up "Blue Blowers Blues."

Blue Blowers Blues

Hardee Stomp

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lillian Glinn - Texas Blues

Lillian Glinn, a tough Texas blueswoman, was born in Hillsboro, Texas in 1902.  She recorded four sides for Columbia in December, 1927, when one of that company's field recording units stopped in Dallas to record local talent.  The results of that session were good enough, and presumably sold well enough, that she was invited to record 18 more sides for Columbia over the next two years.

I found her first issued record in a box of 78s in Chattanooga, Tennessee a few years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite blues records.  Like many old blues records found "in the wild," it is well-worn.  (Blues and old-time country 78s tend to be very worn, while early classical records are often found in near-pristine condition.  Folks who bought classical records could afford to change needles frequently; rural record buyers often couldn't.)  In any case, I used more noise reduction than usual in my transfer of this disc.

Part of what I love about this record is the connection to the earliest days of jazz in New Orleans, via the presence of Octave Gaspard on tuba on "Doggin' Me Blues."  "Oak" Gaspard was born in New Orleans around 1870, and played bass and tuba with bands such as John Robichaux's at the time jazz was being born.  He moved to Texas during the depression, and showed up on several blues records made there in the 1920s.  He is thought to have died in Texas, but nobody seems to know when.

Gaspard is replaced on the other side, "Brown Skin Blues," by an anonymous guitarist, playing a twelve-string guitar, it sounds like.  Oddly, this side ends not with a vocal chorus or any kind of big finish, but with two fairly low-key instrumental choruses.  Pianist Willie Tyson plays on both sides.

At some point, probably in the 1930s, Lillian Glinn moved to California, married a preacher, and turned her back on the blues, performing only spiritual music thereafter.  But here is her first record, recorded on December 2, 1927 in Dallas.

Doggin' Me Blues

Brown Skin Blues