May 15TH



Sonny Clay
d. ca. 1972 
Sonny Clay was born in Texas in 1899 and moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1908. As a teenager he played in bands around Phoenix, before hitting the road in 1918. Clay traveled around the Southwest, playing drums or piano with various small groups in California, Arizona and Tijuana, Mexico. In Tijuana he played drums in Jelly Roll Morton's band. Sometime around 1921 he moved to Los Angeles and played with Reb Spikes' and Kid Ory's Original Creole Jazz Band. In the mid-1920s he put together his own band and landed a gig at the Plantation Club.
This group recorded as Sonny Clay's Plantation Orchestra and continued on at the club until 1927. In January of 1928 Clay took his band to Australia to tour with an African-American vaudeville production called "Sonny Clay and the Colored Idea". The troupe included dancers, vocals groups and a young singer named Ivie Anderson who would later became famous as a singer in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The troupe got into trouble when African-American band members were accused of having inter-racial relationships with Australian women. All of the remaining Australian shows were cancelled after this incident and several members of "Sonny Clay and the Colored Idea" were deported.
The Colored Idea Band of Sonny Clay arrives in Sydney, 1928.  Sam Hood.
Clay's band broke up right after the ill-fated Australian tour and returned to Los Angeles. Sonny rebounded and put together a ten piece band that he called The Dixie Serenaders. This band played around the Los Angeles area for a few years before breaking up in the early 1930s. Clay continued to perform as a solo pianist in clubs around Los Angeles up until World War II. During the war he enlisted in the army and was a bandleader in the Special Services Division. After the war he returned to solo club work. Clay left show business in the late 1940s to work at the Post Office. In the late 1950s he once again returned to solo club work. Sonny Clay died sometime around 1972.
Sonny Clay's Plantation Orchestra
Is Clay of vital importance of to the development of jazz in Australia? What sounds like a surrealist trivia question makes sense only when it is revealed that the Clay in question is pianist Sonny Clay, a bandleader of some reknown who can righteously claim to have had Ivie Anderson vocalizing in front of his big band years before the great Duke Ellington discovered her. Clay led a batch of different bands in the '20s, including the California Poppies, the Stomping Six, Sonny Clay's Plantation Orchestra, Sonny Clay & His Orchestra, and Sonny Clay's Hartford Ballroom Orchestra. All well in good, but what does it have to do with the land down under where the kangaroos hop? This will be revealed following a bit more of the sometimes longwinded background of the man named William Rogers Campbell "Sonny" Clay.
He was born near the close of the 19th century and by 1908 had relocated to Phoenix, AZ, where he began his study of music on the piano, drums, xylophone, and C-melody saxophone. He began playing professionally in bands around the Phoenix area after leaving school, including a position with a small group that played for students at an Arthur Murray dance studio. He was the classic wandering minstrel by 1918, working in one small instrumental group after another on whichever instrument was most needed, drums or piano. He played up and down the West Coast, even hitting Tijuana, Mexico, where legend is he jammed with Jelly Roll Morton. In the early '20s, Clay was based in Los Angeles, gigging with groups such as Reb Spikes' Famous Syncopated Orchestra and on drums with the celebrated Kid Ory's Sunshine Orchestra. Clay began recording shortly thereafter, beginning with some work as a piano accompanist to the young blues singer Camille Allen and continuing with two sides of his own on the Sunset label.
He continued recording for Sunset, including piano solos, as well as new group projects, and then began cutting sides for Vocalion from 1925 onwards. His group had a regular stint at the Los Angeles Plantation Club, getting a chance to polish many of Clay's own compositions and refine the personnel until he arrived at the group that he brought to Australia on tour at the outset of 1928. Jazz audiences down under were literally reeling from these shows, as nothing remotely resembling the band had ever been heard live there before. The white Australian jazz bands of the period couldn't even come close to creating such an atmosphere of New Orleans jazz. The Australian tour was a package event that also included gospel groups, as well as the then 23-year old singer Anderson, but it was Clay's band that seemed to be getting the most attention, not all of it welcome. A shift in bookings from vaudeville stages to dance band halls turned out to be entrapment, pushing the band into violating union regulations for their work permits as well as boundaries on venues that could be entered by so called "colored races" -spelling, and concept, courtesy of the British Commonwealth.
There were worse problems. The boys in the band were getting lots of attention from local girls and rumors were flying about drug use. Police reports from the period indicate that Clay's bandmembers were under surveillance by an initiative of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. Cops were busy checking out the nighttime scene at the musicians' Sydney flats in Darlinghurst, where the jazzmen were engaging in the shocking activity of entertaining white girls. Reporters would join the cops in the googling until a raid was finally conducted of two apartments occupied by six of Clay's sidemen. In the ensuing fracas, several nearly naked girls were run out of the apartment, one of them leaping from a window. Other visitors and musicians ignored the police, continuing to indulge in the sleazy pastimes of necking, drinking, and smoking. No drugs were ever found on the premises and an ensuing charge that there were was never proven.
The musicians are said to have pleaded with police and reporters to keep the goings-on hushed, especially the ones wearing wedding rings. Attempts were made to bribe reporters. Clay was not there and was not involved in any of the behavior that former Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes said would have gotten the band a lynching in the Southern states of their home country. When he called the band "the scum of America," it was decades too early to be useful in a punk publicity campaign and definitely balanced out some of the rave reviews in the band's Australian press kit. Cabinet voted to deport the men and Saturday papers brandished the headline "Federal cabinet to bar entry of all colored artists." The resulting roadblock was run by only a handful of black performers and it was not until 1954, some 26 years later, that Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars toured Australia.
The effect on the Australian jazz scene was truly mind boggling, with any and all stylistic innovations during this period handed down to public scrutiny only after being mangled by white Australian jazz bands. Clay broke up his band in the early '30s and mainly played solo piano in Los Angeles night clubs until his World War II Army induction. In uniform, his music-making continued, as he was set up as a bandleader in the Special Services Division. After the war, he returned to solo club gigs until declining health led him to go to work for the post office with some piano tuning work on the side. In the late '50s, interest in his work forced him out of retirement and was he back as a club pianist. In 1960, he recorded a session for producer John Bentley that was finally released 25 years later on the Harlequin label.
by Eugene Chadbourne 

Pippo Barzizza
Giuseppe Pippo Barzizza (Italian pronunciation 'pippo dʒu'zeppe bar'tsitsa; Genova, 15 May 1902 – Sanremo 4 April 1994) was an Italian composer, arranger, conductor and music director.

Giuseppe Barzizza, called Pippo, was born in Genova on 15 May 1902, and died in Sanremo in 4 April 1994. He became famous in the 1930s and '40s, at the beginning with Blue Star Orchestra and then with Orchestra Cetra. He composed songs and film soundtracks. His treatise, "Barzizza's method" was printed in 1952. His basics and exercises "are so clear that's it's enough to read this little book to overcome any doubts or exhitation!” Franco Franchi said ,"Barzizza was among the first to be interested in jazz music and swing and he became for many years, together with his friend and rival Cinico Angelini, a great example for his fellows, both for his extraordinary compositions and his skills to find out new talents and songs, and for his attempt to give a modern mark to Italian music".

Edmond Hall
b. New Orleans, LA, USA.
d. 1967
~by Scott Yanow 
It took Edmond Hall a long period to develop his own musical individuality, but by the early '40s he had a very distinctive and dirty sound on the clarinet that was immediately recognizable within one note. One of four clarinet playing brothers (including Herbie Hall) who were the sons of early clarinetist Edward Hall, Edmond worked in many bands in New Orleans (including Buddy Petit's during 1921-1923) before going to New York in 1928 with Alonzo Ross. He was with Claude Hopkins' orchestra (1929-1935), doubling on baritone and only occasionally sounding like his future self on clarinet. Hall played with Lucky Millinder, Zutty Singleton, and Joe Sullivan, and had his style together by the time he joined Red Allen in 1940.
He was with Teddy Wilson's sextet (1941-1944) and turned down an opportunity to be Barney Bigard's successor with Duke Ellington's Orchestra in 1942. In 1944, Hall began working with Eddie Condon (including appearances on his Town Hall Concert radio series), led his own group at Cafe Society, spent a few years based in Boston, and then during 1950-1955 was in the house band at Condon's club.

Edmond Hall toured the world as a member of Louis Armstrong's All-Stars (1955-1958), worked in the 1960s now and then with Condon, and made his final recording (before his death from a heart attack) at John Hammond's 1967 Spirituals to Swing concert. He recorded as a leader for Blue Note (1941-1944), Commodore, Savoy, Storyville, United Artists, and some smaller labels.
Bobby Martin, Trumpet
b. Long Branch, NJ, USA.
d. Aug. 28, 2001, Detroit, MI, USA.
~by Eugene Chadbourne 
Trumpeter Bobby Martin's birthday in 1903 is duly noted in a variety of jazz references, establishing him as the eldest of many performers with this name or variations thereof. As for his probable passing, his decision to leave music and run a family business in the mid-'40s seemingly led to a complete lack of public notoriety in his senior years, if indeed he made it that far. His career thus consists of roughly two decades, a good chunk of which was spent in Europe in the bands of expatriate jazzmen Sam Wooding and Willie Lewis.
Martin's school chums as a child included trumpeter June Clark (male) and drummer Sonny Greer, a genius. Martin began giggling with Wooding in New York City in 1925, sailing off to Europe with this bandleader in May of the following year. The trumpeter was back and forth between America and Europe in company of Wooding through 1931; between 1932 and 1936 Martin worked abroad with Lewis. Upon returning home in the summer of 1937, Martin began pushing his own skills as a bandleader, including a run at The Place in Greenwich Village in a quartet that included pianist Richard Edwards, drummer Ural Dean and guitarist Samuel Steede. Jazz fans can blame other problems besides the usual commercial apathy for an overwhelming lack of information regarding the music of this group, mainly a fire that turned Martin's entire book of arrangements into ashes and soot. The fact that this happened at a Rotterdam club called The Mephisto is worth mentioning, especially if spine-tingling music can be brought up in the background.
The trumpeter didn't let this stop him, carrying on with the European tour in progress and keeping his group busy in the late '30s and early '40s at New York City and New Jersey venues such as the purring Kit Kat and the sweetly scented Rose Room. He also ran his own club where he was able to feature his group without arguing with booking agents. He married vocalist Thelma Minor, one of very few vocalists whose surname hints at a key signature. Martin quit music in 1944, convincing proof that he is not the same Bobby Martin who used to sing "Whipping Post" for Frank Zappa. Bobby Martin (musician) - Wikipedia

Jimmy O'Bryant, Clarinet
b. Arkansas
d. 1928 
by Scott Yanow 
Of all the clarinetists in the 1920s, Jimmy O'Bryant probably came closest to duplicating the sound (if not the genius) of Johnny Dodds. O'Bryant worked with the Tennessee Ten (1920-1921), in a group co-led by Jelly Roll Morton and W.C. Handy (1923), and briefly with King Oliver (1924), but he is best remembered for his recordings with Lovie Austin's Blues Serenaders and his own Washboard Band; all of the latter have been reissued on two RST CDs.

Jimmy O'Bryant's early death robbed him of any chance of gaining lasting fame, but his fine (if sometimes primitively recorded) performances as a leader give one a good idea as to his abilities.
Gus Viseur, Accordion
b. Lessines, Belgium
d. 1974
The French accordion master Gus Viseur began performing on the streets of Paris in fairs and markets and eventually worked his way into the cabaret and nightclubs. During his influential career he ended up backing "the Sparrow" Edith Piaf and performing with the legendary Hot Club of France Quintet. He helped create the accordion-jazz style known as manouche.
~ Zac Johnson

Notable Events Occurring 
On This Date Include: 

First album chart introduced in the USA.
Back then, albums were several 78rpm discs
in a book-like binder.

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


Orchestre Syncopated Six
  • Lovin' Sam (The Shiek Of Alabam')


Bessie Smith - Dixie Flyer Blues


Irving Aaronson and his Commanders - Hi-Ho The Merrio (As Long As She Loves Me)


Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra - My Melancholy Baby


Mason Dixon Orchestra - Alabammy Snow
Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra

Blind Willie Dunn and his Gin Bottle Four

Bessie Smith - I've Got What It Takes


Blue Steele and his Orchestra - All Muggled Up - Vocal refrain by Frank Myers

Blue Steele and his Orchestra Shooin' Flies - Vocal refrain by Kay Austin

Harry Dial's Bluesicians - Don't Give It Away


Waring's Pennsylvanians
  • Sing A Little Jingle


Ted Weems and his Orchestra


Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra
  • Alexander's Ragtime Band
  • The June Bugs' Dance
  • The Shoemaker's Holiday


Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
Bessie Smith - 1929

Once I lived the life of a millionaire
Spending my money, I didn't care
I carried my friends out for a good time
Bying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine

Then I began to fall so low
I didn't have a friend, and no place to go
So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again
I'm gonna hold on to it till them eagle's green

Nobody knows you when you down and out
In my pocket not one penny
And my friends I haven't any
But If I ever get on my feet again
Then I'll meet my long lost friend
It's mighty strange, without a doubt
Nobody knows you when you down and out
I mean when you down and out

Mmmmmmmm.... when you're down and out
Mmmmmmmm... not one penny
And my friends I haven't any
Mmmmmmmm... Well I felt so low
Nobody wants me round their door
Mmmmmmmm... Without a doubt,
No man can use you wen you down and out
I mean when you down and out

brought to you by... 

Special Thanks To: 
The Red Hot Jazz Archives, 
The Big Band DatabaseScott Yanow

and all those who have provided content,
images and sound files for this site.

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