Thursday

MARCH 27TH


HAPPY  BIRTHDAY  PEE  WEE  RUSSELL !

BIRTHDAYS


1906
"Pee Wee" Russell, Clarinet
b. St.Louis, MO, USA
d. Feb. 15, 1969, Alexandria, VA, USA.
One of the great Chicago Style Dixieland Clarinetists.
~by Scott Yanow




Pee Wee Russell, although never a virtuoso, was one of the giants of jazz. A highly expressive and unpredictable clarinetist, Russell was usually grouped in Dixieland-type groups throughout his career, but his advanced and spontaneous solos (which often sounded as if he were thinking aloud) defied classification. A professional by the time he was 15, Pee Wee Russell played in Texas with Peck Kelley's group (meeting Jack Teagarden) and then in 1925 he was in St. Louis jamming with Bix Beiderbecke. Russell moved to New York in 1927 and gained some attention for his playing with Red Nichols' Five Pennies. Russell freelanced during the era, making some notable records with Billy Banks in 1932 that matched him with Red Allen. He played clarinet and tenor with Louis Prima during 1935-1937, appearing on many records and enjoying the association.
After leaving Prima, he started working with Eddie Condon's freewheeling groups and would remain in Condon's orbit on and off for the next 30 years. Pee Wee Russell's recordings with Condon in 1938 made him a star in the trad Chicago jazz world.
Russell was featured (but often the butt of jokes) on Condon's Town Hall Concerts. Heavy drinking almost killed him in 1950, but Russell made an unlikely comeback and became more assertive in running his career. He started leading his own groups (which were more swing- than Dixieland-oriented), was a star on the 1957 television special The Sound of Jazz, and by the early '60s was playing in a piano-less quartet with valve trombonist Marshall Brown whose repertoire included tunes by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman; he even sat in with Thelonious Monk at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival and took up abstract painting. But after the death of his wife in 1967, Pee Wee Russell accelerated his drinking and went quickly downhill, passing away less than two years later.


1912
Bill Callahan
Singer/Yodeler/Guitar/Bass Fiddle/Mandolin
b. Madison County, NC, USA.
né: Homer C. Callahan
Member: 'The Callahan Brothers', a duo of Bill and his brother Joe Callahan.
Callahan Brothers


1905
Leroy Carr
Pianist/vocals
b. Nashville, TN, USA.
d. April 29, 1935, Indianapolis, IN, USA. (alcoholism).
One of the top blues stars of his day.
The term "urban blues" is usually applied to post-World War II blues-band music, but one of the forefathers of the genre in its pre-electric format was pianist Leroy Carr. Teamed with the exemplary guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis, Carr became one of the top blues stars of his day, composing and recording almost 200 sides during his short lifetime, including such classics as "How Long, How Long," "Prison Bound Blues," "When the Sun Goes Down," and "Blues Before Sunrise." His blues were expressive and evocative, recorded only with piano and guitar, yet as author Sam Charters has noted, Carr was "a city man" whose singing was never as rough or intense as the country bluesmen's; and as reissue producer Francis Smith put it, "He, perhaps more than any other single artist, was responsible for transforming the rural blues patterns of the '20s into the more city-oriented blues of the '30s."
Born in Nashville, Leroy Carr moved to Indianapolis as a child. While he was still in his teens, he taught himself how to play piano. Carr quit school in his mid-teens, heading out for a life on the road. For the next few years, he would play piano at various parties and dances in the midwest and south. During this time, he held a number of odd jobs -- he joined a circus, he was in the army for a while, and he was briefly a bootlegger. In addition to his string of jobs, he was married for a short time.
Carr wandered back toward Indianapolis, where he met guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in 1928. The duo began performing and shortly afterward they were recording for Vocalion, releasing "How Long How Long Blues" before the year was finished. The song was an instant, surprise hit.
For the next seven years, Carr and Blackwell would record a number of classic songs for Vocalion, including "Midnight Hour Blues," "Blues Before Sunrise," "Hurry Down Sunshine," "Shady Lane Blues" and many others.
Throughout the early '30s, Carr was one of the most popular bluesmen in America. While his professional career was successful, his personal life was spinning out of control, as he sunk deeper and deeper into alcoholism. His addiction eventually cut his life short -- he died in April 1935.
Carr left behind a enormous catalog of blues and his influence could be heard throughout successive generation of blues musicians, as evidenced by artists like T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann, and Champion Jack Dupree.
~ Jim O'Neal

1916
Albert T. Frisch
sax/songwriter
b. New York, NY, USA.

1892
Ferde Grofe Sr.
Arranger/Composer/Piano
b. New York, NY, USA.
d. April 3, 1972, Santa Monica, CA, USA.
Ferde (Ferdie) Grofé (27 March 1892 – 3 April 1972) was an American pianist, arranger and composer. During the 1920s and 1930s, he was sometimes billed as Ferdie Grofe.
Born Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofé, in New York City, Grofe came by his extensive musical interests naturally. Of French Huguenot extraction, his family had four generations of classical musicians. His father, Emil von Grofé, was a baritone who sang mainly light opera; his mother, Elsa Johanna Bierlich von Grofé, a professional cellist, was also a versatile music teacher who taught Ferde to play the violin and piano. Elsa's father, Bernardt Bierlich, was a cellist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York and Elsa's brother, Julius Bierlich, was first violinist and concertmaster of the Los Angeles Symphony.

1868
Patty Smith Hill
Educator/Songwriter
b. Anchorage KY, USA.
Most folks do not know who Patty Hill was, but most everyone knows the song she wrote for her Kindergarten classes, - "Happy Birthday To You".
1905
Hal Kemp
Leader/Clarinet/alto sax
b. Marion, AL, USA
d. Dec. 21, 1940, Madera, CA, USA. (Auto Accident)
né: James Harold Kemp.
Hal Kemp was among the most popular bandleaders of the '30s, scoring a long string of dance band hits. He was also an extremely lucky, and extremely talented musician, in the right place at the right time across his career, until a night in December of 1940 when his luck ran out. Kemp was the leader of what was generally identified as a "sweet" (or pop) band, as opposed to a "hot" (or jazz) band -- he was a rival to Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kaye, among others, and for a time was one of the top dance band leaders in the country. That was in the '30s, but Kemp had started a decade earlier playing hot jazz, and only switched out of economic necessity. Born in Alabama in 1905, he became focused on music early in life and put together his first band in 1919, at around the same time he entered high school.
An alto sax player and clarinetist, he ended up leading the Carolina Club Orchestra -- the band of the University of North Carolina -- as a student, all of 19-years-old. A booking on a transatlantic ocean cruise led them to make their recording bow in London (where visiting American bands were a hot commodity, even then). The cruise itself was as much a lark as a professional stepping stone for the student band, whose members all figured to be doing something else professionally. But then fate played a hand: on the return trip, they were lucky enough to have the Prince of Wales (later the abdicated Edward VIII) as a fellow passenger who was a music enthusiast and drummer, and he sat in with them; in those days, the United States had such an inferiority complex that anything the British "royals" did was news -- the Carolina Club Orchestra didn't know it, but every day they were at sea they were getting mentioned in the press in every major city in America, and the capper was when the prince (who may have understood jazz better than he did politics -- he was later an admirer of Hitler and an embarrassment to the nation) praised their music.
Upon docking, Kemp and company found offers waiting for them, and agents eager to represent them. Once the little matter of finishing his education was completed in 1926, he formed Hal Kemp & His Orchestra, whose ranks included Skinnay Ennis, Bunny Berigan, and John Scott Trotter. The group was a jazz outfit plain and simple during the second half of the '20s, and earned a good living at it.
Only with the advent of the '30s, and the accompanying economic upheaval of the Great Depression did they move into more subdued, directly dance-oriented work. It suited the mood of the public which, between the wrecked economy and the uncertain politics -- a detached, inept president and a divided Congress -- and Prohibition making much entertainment a criminal enterprise, started buying less challenging, more soothing dance records; jazz still sold, but sweet sounds were easier to put over, and Kemp & His Orchestra proved every bit as adept at that as they'd been at the hotter music of the prior decade. An engagement at the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago from 1932 through 1934, coupled with eight hours of radio broadcasts each week, turned them into a national phenomenon and opened their way to the best night spots in the country, at the very time when they landed a recording contract with Brunswick.
Hal Kemp & His Orchestra might have been a sweet band, but they had superb soloists who could play hot when needed -- so they cut sides like the ballad "Alone" (written for the Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera), sung by Maxine Gray, but they could turn around two months later and deliver "The Music Goes 'Round and 'Round" sung in a hotter style by Saxie Dowell and featuring just enough virtuosity to remind listeners what superb jazz players they were. Mostly the vocals were by Skinnay Ennis whose style and limitations dictated the group's sound: he couldn't hold a note very long, which meant that the trumpets covered for him with staccato fills, and the reeds massed their sound within megaphones, giving their records a very distinctive sound. The group thrived in the second half of the '30s, until the departure of Trotter -- who became Bing Crosby's music director -- deprived them of his arrangements, and Ennis' exit took away a popular vocalist.
Trotter was succeeded by Hal Mooney as their arranger, and they hung on, but the rise of swing music also began squeezing them, as the groups led by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw, among others, soon started capturing most of the press and the imagination of the public. Kemp made some film appearances that helped sustain his following, and the addition of the singing group the Smoothies added new variety to their sound, but inevitably the tide ran against the group. Kemp saw his bookings and record sales decline, and by the end of '40s was in the process of trying to decide whether to adopt a swing sound during the approaching new year, At 35, he was still a young man and had a long future to look forward to, and he'd almost completely altered the band's lineup between 1938 and 1940.
While driving to a gig in San Francisco on the night of December 19, 1940 in a thick fog, his car was hit head-on by a truck, and he died two days later. Ironically, the Kemp Orchestra charted three hits in the first half of 1941, "It All Comes Back to Me Now," "So You're the One," and "Walkin' by the River," and singer Bob Allen held the band together for part of this period. By 1942, however, the Kemp Orchestra, like its late leader, were part of history, though their sound was never totally forgotten -- their records were too good for that, even 60 years later. In 2000, Collectors' Choice Records released The Best of Hal Kemp and His Orchestra, a 24-song collection of the group's best sides from their peak years, 1934 though 1937. Right up through the last number, Rodgers & Hart's "Where or When," they have those unique brass and reed timbres, and the flourishes on the reeds at the end of the verses -- sweet or hot -- it's still great music a century after its leader's birth.
~ Bruce Eder & Ron Wynn

1915
Robert 'Junior' Lockwood Jr.
(Blues) 12-string electric guitar/vocals
b. Turkey Scratch (near Helena), AR, USA
d. Nov. 21, 2006, Cleveland, OH, USA.
Lockwood learned his Blues first-hand from Robert Johnson (b. May 8, 1911, Hazlehurst, MS, USA, d. August 16, 1938, Greenwood, MS, USA (pneumonia, due to poison in his whiskey).

1903
"Chummy" MacGregor, piano
b. Saginaw, MI, USA
d. 1973.
né: John Chalmers MacGregor.
Chummy Macgregor was more important as a friend and longtime associate of Glenn Miller than he was as a member of Miller's band. He and Miller first met as members of Smith Ballew's band, which Miller joined in 1932 as a trombonist. Macgregor came in on piano a little later, and the two developed a friendship that endured for more than a decade. Macgregor was only a fair pianist and a not-very-inspired arranger, but he was, according to author George T. Simon in his biography of Miller, a dedicated member of the band and a loyal friend to Miller.
Indeed, most Miller fans and movie buffs in the 21st century probably know MacGregor best for his screen incarnation, in the guise of actor Harry Morgan, in The Glenn Miller Story, in which he is depicted as a close partner to Miller from his earliest days. In reality, he was a marginal musical presence, whose dragging tempos drove various members of the band to distraction, and whose main virtues were personal; in fairness, he can be heard on literally hundreds of sides, . Almost fittingly, MacGregor was never able to extend his professional career past the point of Miller's death in late 1944. He was a consultant on The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart, however, which seems to have been a major reason for the prominence of his character in the first half of the movie.
~ Bruce Eder
1908
"Skip" Morr
trumpet, trombone, piano
b. Chicago, IL, USA.
né: Charles Coolidge. Charles "Skip Morr".
Even as a youngster, Morr growing up in a musical family, exhibited a vocal talent as well as abilities as both a percussionist and brass player. Coolidge originally studied drums while in high school, but soon switched to the trombone. In the early 1930s. Morr, then recently graduated from Northwestern University, worked with the Henry Busse orchestra (who featured Morr's singing on a 78RPM recording of "Rainbow 'Round the Moon"), and also worked with the Ted Weems and Bill Hogan bands. Subsequently, after relocating to the West Coast, Morr worked with Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet, Ray Conniff, and others. In the 1950s, he became more and more associated with the "Dixieland" style. One of his best performances as a Dixieland trombonist was a 1953 live recording from San Francisco, in which soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet fronted the band.
Charles Coolidge


1909
Moon Mullican, piano
b. Corrigan, TX, USA.
Aubrey Wilson Mullican (March 29, 1909 – January 1, 1967), known as Moon Mullican, was an American country and western singer, songwriter, and pianist. However, he also sang and played jazz, rock 'n' roll and the blues. He was associated with the hillbilly boogie style which greatly influenced rockabilly; Jerry Lee Lewis cited him as a major influence on his own singing and piano playing.



Al Starita, Band Leader, Reeds
Born Armand 'Al' Starita
Born: 3/27, 1897, Naples, Italy
Died: 1961

Photos from Peter Wallace's post in The Golden Age of British Dance Bands


Al Starita was a loving father, a very gifted musician, an expert horseman, businessman, loved boating, entrupreneur, extremely funny, caring and very generous with his time and money to the needy. He loved all kinds of music and could play several instruments.



He owned and operated the Bedford Grove in Manchester, NH from 1936 until his death in 1967. Included at this property was the Carousel Ballroom, with an outdoor dance floor and shell, "Chat & Chew" Restaurant, Bowling Alley, Bedford Grove Drive-In, Rollerskating Rink, two barns full of horses and several smaller businesses. He also owned a summer home in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee at the Weirs, where he had his 33 foot Chris Craft boat called "The Carousel", a bowling alley, along with a boat yard.

From: the Starita family published by John Wright

1924
Sarah Vaughan, Vocal
b. Newark, NJ
d. April 3, 1990, Hidden Hills, CA, USA.
Age 66. (Lung Cancer) Had only one daughter, Paris Vaughan. née: Lois Vaughn, the daughter of Asbury (a carpenter) and Ada (a laundress).
Tags: "Sassy" and "The Divine One". "Sassy" had a truly lovely contralto voice with a great range and vibrato. One can only speculate on what her career might have been had she also studied voice for an Operatic career.
At just age seven, she began the study of Piano and later the Organ also. While still a child she sang in the choir at the MT Zion. Baptist church in her home town of Newark, New Jersey, and also played the piano and organ in her high school's shows. She won a $10.00 prize and a week's engagement for singing "Body and Soul", - in an amateur contest at New York's famed Apollo Theater in Harlem.
From 1944 to 1945, she sang with Billy Eckstein and orchestra. In 1947, she married her manager (and trumpeter) George Treadwell. The marriage ended in divorce. Later husbands included pro football player Clyde Atkins, trumpeter Waymon Reed, and Marshall Fisher - all ending in divorce. Her "Emmy" in 1981 for a tribute to George Gershwin and a 1983 "grammy" are just two of her many awards.

1909
Ben Webster, Tenor Sax
b. Kansas City, MO, USA.
d. Sept. 20, 1973, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
né: Benjamin Francis Webster.
During the Big Bands Swing era, the "big three" tenorsax men were Ben, Coleman Hawkins (Ben's main influence) and Lester Young. Webster first studied violin and piano, and even began his career playing the piano. Ca. 1930, he began playing the tenor sax, and within a year was playing with Benny Moten's band, and later with the Andy Kirk and Fletcher Henderson bands. The mid-1930s found him playing with bands mostly in and around New York city, including a brief stint with Duke Ellington.
From 1940 to 1942, he was a permanent member of the Ellington band, becoming one of the most popular and imitated soloists. In the late 1940s, he briefly rejoined Ellington, after which he played with 'Jazz At The Philharmonic'. Starting in the 1950s, and throughout the rest of his life, he worked mostly as a single, touring extensively, especially to Europe ,and to Scandinavia where he was very popular. He was briefly resident in Holland before moving to Denmark, living there for the rest of his life.
In Europe, he recorded prolifically often with just a local rhythm section, and occasionally with other American Jazz musicians, including Bill Coleman and Don Byas. Although he was with Ellington's band for only three years, his influence upon it was enormous. Webster's distinctive playing style was characterized by a "breathy" sound and emotional vibrato. The extrovert side of his nature was best displayed by his fast Blues solos, yet he may have been at his best with slow, languorous ballads, which he played with deeply introspective feeling and astonishing sensuality. This musical dichotomy was reflected in his personality. Many of the men who worked with him have described Webster's personality as alternating between a Dr. Jekylle and a Mr Hyde.
As the years passed, he favored ballads over the "flag-wavers" of his younger days. From his early work with Ellington, through the 1940s small group sides, a quite interesting set of ballad duets with Coleman Hawkins, to his late work in Europe, Webster has left a wonderful Jazz legacy. He was a true giant of Jazz.
Notable Events Occurring 
On This Date Include:

1945.
Ella Fitzgerald and the Delta Rhythm Boys
recorded "Its Only a Paper Moon" (Decca).

1972.
Joe "Sharkey" Bonano, trumpet
died in New Orleans, LA, USA.
Age: 72

1975.
Billy Gray
Western Swing singer-songwriter/guitarist
died during heart surgery.
(b. Dec. 29, 1924, Paris, Texas, USA)

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:

1923


Viola McCoy - If  You Want To Keep Your Daddy Home

Whitey Kaufman's Original Pennsylvania Serenaders

1924

Jean Goldkette and his Orchestra

The Georgians - Big Boy! - Vocal Refrain by Dolly Kay

1925


Clara Smith - The L & N Blues

1928

Louisiana Sugar Babes - Persian Rug

Sol Hoopii's Novelty Trio
1929

Carolina Club Orchestra

  • Some Sweet Day

The Cotton Pickers - Kansas City Kitty

1930

Lee Morse and her Bluegrass Boys - Cooking Breakfast For The One I Love
- Talkie Hit from United Artists Production "Be Yourself!"
Lee Morse and her Bluegrass Boys - Sing You Sinners *(see lyrics & video below) - (Talkie Hit from Paramount Picture's Lasky Production "Honey")


Bessie Smith - Keep It To Yourself

The California Ramblers
  • Reminiscing
  • Telling It To The Daisies

Harry Reser and his Orchestra
  • The Free And Easy

1931


Lee Morse and her Bluegrass Boys - By My Side



1935


Zutty and his Band - Bugle Call Rag


Wilbur Sweatman and His Orchestra
Battleship Kate - Vocal Chorus by Corky Williams
  • The Florida Blues

1936

Fletcher Henderson Orchestra - Blue Lou

LYRICS:
*Sing You Sinners
~Songwriters: Coslow, Sam; Harling, W Franke


All you sinners drop everything
Everything
Let the melody and the harmony ring
Let it ring
Lift arms up to Heaven and sing
Ring-a-ding
Sing you sinners woncha sway n' swing
What a thing
Start with clappin' y'hands all about
All about
Don't be silent - Let the Lord hear y'shout
Shout it out
And jus' let the music come out
Of yr snout
Sing you sinners woncha sway n' swing
Check it out
(Dig the drift of what I mean)
In a world where there's no music
(Old Scratch)
Satan gets his kicks
(He's up to his tricks)
He'll be laughing up and down the banks
(Hee, hee, hee)
Of that river Styx
You're so wicked baby, and you're depraved
You can rave
It's apparent that you have misbehaved
To your grave
But if you should wanna be saved
Jus' behave
Take a listen now to the bird...
Stop all that chewin' yer cud - and all that standin' in the mud there
Swing people! Swing every chortle from yer mortal portal
I dig that everyone believes that all cattle prodigies
Are like a sneeze
Hard blowin'-missin one lick of blowin' talent to show
(If y'sing - y' gotta swing!)
But remember that the day will come when you
Will be just steak on a plate
(Folks, y'know it's fate)
So dig the music of the swing-o-sphere -
(before your swing arrives too late)
That's a little too dark
Still, it's true - we've got breath for such a limited time
What are ya, stupid, ya cows?? - you'd think to sing was a crime
In defense now; hence now; Here's comes Adele McCluck:
Mrs. Mockingbird, I must say you haven't heard
The friendly bellowing swing of our friends the cows -
As they shed their way from Teagarden to Fuller
Instead of spendin' ev'ry day jus' sneakin' around
To life another lick -
These cats work on their cow-tone, so when they get up to blow
They blow a fatter bone-tone into the ozone
(And furthermore...)
You tweety-birds are always singin' away
Never givin' up thought of what you say
We cows do - shedding takes up most of our day
So when we start and settle in to play - we can say
A moo is an array of what we've always known to be
The best and only way to play
(What we mean to say is...)
Before the band will letcha sing
(Sing with Fletcher Henderson)
You've got to get y'self to swing
(Like the Bean or Satch)
So your horn can blow - a single note or two
Of deeper thinking
(That's the way to swing)
So set your mind upon a tone
(When you're shedding all alone)
And you will have a cornerstone
(Like the bass trombone)
Blow your horn and take a bow
So that you're swinging like the cows
Pythagoras would be so proud of us
brought to you by... 
~confetta
TubaGirlFin



Special Thanks To:
The Red Hot Jazz Archives,
The Big Band Database, Scott Yanow,
and all those who have provided content,
images and sound files for this site.