A Daily Blog Featuring Jazz Age Music from the 20's and 30's and More!
The Texas Troubadour
Date of Birth: 21 January 1902, Palestine, Texas
Date of Death: 2 May 1984, Longview, Texas
One of the finest singers of the Crooner era, Smith Ballew was nicknamed the Texas Troubadour. Born in Palestine, Texas, Ballew made his way to New York City and worked with many of the great bandleaders and musicians of the time. His voice had a distinctive relaxed smoothness setting him apart from many other singers of the era.
One of the best as well as one of the only real cowboy jazz singers, Smith Ballew is sometimes said to be the fellow who started the Glenn Miller band, only to have it hijacked away from him.
The native Texan was much more interested in art than music all the way until his university days. Hanging out in the evenings at the University of Texas, he and his brother Charles Robert Ballew became part of the cultish society known as jazz fans.
Smith Ballew decided to learn guitar and banjo, and while he did study music formally at the college, an important part of his musical upbringing seems to be the informal knowledge he picked up hanging out with black musicians on the outskirts of town. The brothers became good enough players to join Jimmy's Joys, a combo led by Jimmy Maloney. The band can be said to have gotten the career of either Ballew off to a good start, as by 1923 the group already had the opportunity to head to California and record for the illustrious-sounding Golden record label. He began working with Fred Rich 's band at the Astor Hotel as well as with Meyer Davis in the recording studio and radio. After cutting the musical question "Was It A Dream?" in a concert arrangement with the brothers Dorsey, the Okeh label offered the vocalist a contract. The resulting band that was assembled, including a cotingent of Texas music buddies, combined southern and urban rhythms in the manner of western swing. Golden turned out to be at the very least silver, the records selling quite well. These sides, however, do not feature Smith Ballew's vocal talents--at this point, he was still just an instrumentalist, sticking mostly to the banjo or "five-banger." He started up his own band, the Texajazzers, which in the solid tradition of territory bands gigged in its home state and those in immediate vicinity. In 1927 Smith Ballew dissolved the band and began collaborating with pianist Dick Voynow in the Wolverines Orchestra, attracting the attention of bandleader and talent hunter Ben Pollack at a Chicago show. Pollack came up with a job offer, and it was in this band that Ballew began singing as balancing a banjo on his knee. In the late '20s he headed to New York City with bandleader Ted Fio Rito, but wound up busking just to survive. Of course, the New York streets can be a darn good place to make new contacts, and he did. Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey heard him on the street, introduced him to violinist Joe Venuti and a ball began rolling for Ballew's talent that made a healthy Texas tumbleweed patch look like a golf ball. He began working with Fred Rich 's band at the Astor Hotel as well as with Meyer Davis in the recording studio and radio. After cutting the musical question "Was It A Dream?" in a concert arrangement with the brothers Dorsey , the Okeh label offered the vocalist a contract. The resulting band that was assembled, including a cotingent of Texas music buddies, combined southern and urban rhythms in the manner of western swing. Ballew continued working with New York's cream of the crop players, including trumpeter Red Nichols, Venuti, guitarist Eddie Lang, trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, and saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer. At one point, if biographical legend can be believed, Ballew had accomplished the goal of every New York musician: total domination. He was said to have been recording for every label in town, and working with every bandleader of any notoriety whatsoever. Ballew was one of many performers from this period who were wiped out by the Depression, losing much moolah in investment debacles and the stockmarket crashes of the late '20s and early '30s. The owner of one venue where the singer worked regularly suffered similar losses and committed suicide, erasing a slew of dates off the calender. The Ballew Orchestra perservered, still packed with talent such as Venuti, Lang and brothers George and Bobby Van Eps. A 1932 version of the group was assembled by ex-Pollack band sidekick Glenn Miller, and featured Bunny Berigan on trumpet and the friendly Chummy MacGregor on piano. As the decade wound on, Ballew began to lose control of his orchestra, Miller and other new associates such as Ray Noble rising from the pit to take power like the musicians in Frederico Fellini's controversial film Orchestra Rehearsal. By the early spring of 1935 his ouster was complete, his final session for Columbia released under the name of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. Ballew fled to Los Angeles, where Victor Young, then the musical director of both the Decca label and NBC radio, arranged a role for him in a Hollywood radio show. Ballew was also offered a chance to act in a series of 'B' westerns for 20th Century Fox, and he warmed to the idea of becoming a singing cowboy. His acting career then dominated his career, his last role being his most serious, in John Huston's powerful 1951 adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage. After this he embarked on a non-performing career in public relations, retiring in 1967. Biography ~by Eugene Chadbourne
A supporter and propagandist for New Orleans jazz and ragtime, Rudi Blesh made an impact on the world of trad jazz. He attended Dartmouth College and then worked as a jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early '40s and for the New York Herald Tribune starting in 1944. Blesh, who promoted jazz concerts early on, hosted the important jazz radio series This Is Jazz in 1947 (the broadcasts are being reissued by the Jazzology label). Although his narration comes across as a bit wooden and is full of cliches, it is due to his work that top New Orleans jazz artists were featured on the air on a regular basis.
Blesh's 1946 history of jazz book Shining Trumpets was flawed and biased if well-intentioned but his 1950 survey They All Played Ragtime is a classic. Written with Harriet Janis, They All Played Ragtime was the first thorough study of ragtime and it helped start a mini-revival of the music. Around that time Blesh formed the short-lived but valuable Circle label (whose music has since been acquired by Jazzology) which recorded new dates by vintage players and released Jelly Roll Morton's Library of Congress performances. Rudi Blesh, who in later years taught jazz history at various colleges, helped rediscover Joseph Lamb and Eubie Blake and contributed occasional liner notes into the 1980s.
1917 Billy Maxted, Piano b. Racine, WI, USA.
A fine pianist and a skillful arranger, Billy Maxted is largely forgotten today because his recordings were mostly for tiny labels. Maxted started out playing and arranging for the Red Nichols big band during 1937-1940.
He worked briefly with Ben Pollack and Teddy Powell, and played with Will Bradley (1941-1942), sitting in the chair formerly held by Freddie Slack. After serving in the Navy, he provided arrangements for Benny Goodman and Claude Thornhill and co-led a band with Ray Eberle (1947-1948).
In the late '40s Maxted put together his own Dixieland group (the Manhattan Jazz Band) featuring his Bob Zurke-inspired stride and boogie-woogie piano and his inventive arrangements. Maxted worked frequently as the resident pianist at Nick's during 1949-1960. In the 1950s he recorded for MGM, Brunswick (a rare trio date), Cadence, and Seeco. His sidemen included trumpeter Chuck Forsyth, trombonist Lee Gifford, either Sol Pace or Dan Tracey on clarinet, and (by 1958) bass saxophonist Johnny Dengler. During 1961-1963, Maxted recorded three albums for the forgotten K&H label, but his best-known albums are two rather uncharacteristically commercial sets for Liberty in 1966. In addition, he appeared on records by Pee Wee Erwin, Bob Crosby, and Red Nichols. Not much was heard from the pianist after the late '60s; Maxted had moved to Florida earlier in the decade, and he died in Fort Lauderdale on October 11, 2001.
~Scott Yanow JazzHouse Billy Maxted - Wikipedia Billy Maxted
1914 Frank Orchard trombone/valve trombone b. New York, NY, USA.
This fine Dixieland Jazz trombonist originally played violin, then banjo and tuba, before switching to trombone. During 1932-'33, he studied at New York's famed Juilliard School of Music (and also performed for a year with Stanley Melba's band) after which he worked as a salesman, outside of music. In the 1940s, while living in New York city, he began to work with such Dixielanders as Wingy Manone, Bobby Hackett, Jimmy McPartland, Joe Marsala and the Eddie Condon group. In the mid-1950s, he moved first to Dayton, OH and later to St. Louis, still playing trombone. In the 1960s, Orchard, returned to New York. From 1970-71, he worked regularly at Jimmy Ryan's jazz club on 54th Street, and in 1979, worked with Billy Butterfield. Orchard never led a group on record date. Frank Orchard | Biography & History | AllMusic
1906 Hank Wayland, Bass b. Fall River, MA, USA
Biography ~by Chris Kelsey
Swing--era bassist. While based in New York during the 1930s Wayland played with a number of top bandleaders, including Benny Goodman, Red Norvo, Artie Shaw, Bunny Berigan, and Larry Clinton. He moved to the West Coast around 1943, working in the studios and freelancing with such musicians as Eddie Miller and Wingy Manone. Hank Wayland - Wikipedia
1904 Robert "Juice" Wilson Clarinet/violin b. St. Louis, MO, USA. One of the only jazzmen whose nickname commonly shows up on backstage riders, Robert "Juice" Wilson was at 14 years old already performing with bandleaders such as trumpeter Freddie Keppard. He had been orphaned 11 years earlier, an uncle in Chicago stepping in to raise the lad in a suitably swinging environment. Musically, Wilson's first move was to play drums in the intimidating-sounding Chicago Militia Boys Band. He picked up violin at the age of eight; gigs with a band led by Jimmy Wade even predate the aforementioned Keppard capers by at least two years. The precocious violinist carried on working in whatever venues were available, from steamboats in perpetual motion on the Great Lakes to a long residency with Jimmy Harrison, beginning in Toledo and then carrying on in Columbus, OH. From there Wilson bowed his way to Erie and an ensemble fronted by Hersal Brassfield. Buffalo became Wilson's new home base at the outset of the Roaring Twenties. In this period, he collaborated consistently with Eugene Primus as well as working with the Buffalo Junior Symphony Orchestra. By 1928 he headed for the Big Apple itself, joining up with Lloyd W. Scott's Symphonic Syncopaters at venues such as the Savoy Ballroom.
The violinist soon sailed to Europe with Noble Sissle, setting off a whole series of continental gig adventures. He summered in Holland in 1930, playing with Ed Swayzee. Leon Abbey, the Utica Jubilee Singers, the Louis Douglass Revue, Little Mike McKendrick's International Band, and pianist Tom Chase were all employers within subsequent years, Wilson traveling to Spain and North Africa before finally settling on the unique island of Malta. Holding forth at the attractively named Cairo Bar, Wilson became a legend in Malta with a virtuoso act that included playing as many as five different instruments. In the second half of the '50s he spread himself a little further around the Mediterranean, finally returning to the U.S.A. in the '60s. He does not seem to have enjoyed the boost in career status sometimes experienced by returning expatriate players in their senior years, and in fact there is some speculation that he died a few years after his return.Best recalled for his work with the Noble Sissle's orchestra. Juice Wilson | AllMusic Juice Wilson - Wikipedia
Notable Events Occurring
On This Date Include:
George Gershwin and singer Eva Gauthier play a concert together in Derby, Connecticut, USA.
Bud Freeman's Summa Cum Laude Orchestra opens for an indefinite stay at Kelly's Stable, New York City, USA. Also on the bill are Kenny Watts and his Killerwatts, described in Jazz Information newsletter as a ''colored novelty band formerly at the Dickie Wells Club in Harlem''.
The Melody Sheiks, directed by Sam Lanin - Behind The Clouds [There's Crowds And Crowds Of Sunbeams]
Why Couldn't It Be Poor Little Me?
Pretty Little Baby
The Original Memphis Five
My Castle In Spain
Smile A Little Bit
1928 Emmett Miller accompanied by his Georgia Crackers (The Georgia Crackers include Eddie Lang, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey and Gene Krupa).
Sam And His Family
The DeBroy Somers Band - Happy Days And Lonely Nights
Count Basie Orch - "One O'Clock Jump", Recorded for Okeh Records. LYRICS:
Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, good time Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie now This way, join the party I say, meet McCarty Hey, hey, Charlie take a bow Ginger ale and white rock for his table Grab a chair, move over there And let him sit right next to Mabel Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, good time Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie now Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, good time Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie now This way, meet The Dollies I say, Zeigfield Follies Hey Charlie, take a bow See the smile on all those hungry faces They can tell that he's a buyer From those wide and open spaces Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, good time Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie now Clap hands, here comes Charlie now Clap hands, here comes Charlie now See the smile on all those hungry faces They can tell that he's a buyer From those wide and open spaces Clap hands, here comes Charlie now Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie, oh boy, yeah Ginger ale and white rock for his table Grab a chair, move over there And let him wait Clap hands, here comes Charlie now Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, good time Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie now This way, join the party I say, meet McCarty Hey, hey, Charlie take a bow See the smile on all those hungry faces They can tell that he's a buyer From those wide and open spaces Clap hands, here comes Charlie Clap hands, here comes Charlie now He's a big man with the ladies And sail her with his doubt When he starts to wail and holler, 'Go man go' Oh boy, there was Charlie What joy, swingin' Charlie Clap hands, there goes Charlie now