Friday, July 29, 2022

Paul Whiteman, Part 8 (1922-1945)--Ross Gorman and the Virginians, Ramona, Roy Bargy!


We'll be hearing (eight times, no less!) from Paul Whiteman's more jazz oriented "satellite" band, the Virginians (led by Ross Gorman), and we have two terrific helpings of the amazing singer/pianist Ramona, aka Ramona Davies, aka Estrild Raymona Myers.  "Estrild Raymona Myers" sort of lacks the direct simple and direct appeal of "Ramona" or "Romana Davies," so I can see why she shortened it.  Born in Lockland, Ohio (in the southwestern corner of that state), Estrild/Raymona/Ramona was playing piano professionally at the age of 12.  I can easily believe it.  We'll hear Ramona accompanying herself on the 1933 "Paul Whiteman presents" Victor recording of Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and tickling the ivories with Roy Bargy on the flip, Irving Berlin's Not for All the Tea in China.  Back to the Virginians--imagine all the jazzy moments in Whiteman's 1920-1924 happening, not in select spots, but throughout the entire recordings, and you've got the Virginians.  As far as I know, Ferde Grofe did the arranging for this group, and a good part of Grofe's genius as an arranger lay in his ability to put the Dixieland sound on paper; and so we have tightly structured but nevertheless "hot" jazz which sounds like the regular orchestra having a blast.

Other highlights include Grofe's riotous arrangement of Countess Maritza (1926), the flip side of PW's #1 hit, Birth of the Blues, which precedes it in our playlist.  It goes without saying, given its nonstop quotations from Rhapsody in Blue, that Birth was also scored by Ferde.  The quotations are so ingenious that what could have been a rather turgid treatment instead delights the listener.  (Well, I think so, anyway.)  And we have 1945 recreations of the classic early-1928 Bill Challis arrangement of San and the number one (in 1921) Grofe arrangement of Wang Wang Blues, recorded for the Capitol Records History of Jazz series.  The former fares way better, and in fact outdoes the original (imo), while Wang Wang Blues lacks the brilliance of the 1920 recording, more or less taking an "Isn't this early stuff hokey?" approach to the project.  I guess the plan was to demonstrate how far the Whiteman sound had evolved in eight years (don't have the Capitol liner notes handy, but I'm guessing that was the intention).  Anyway, these were the first two recordings I heard by Whiteman, so they hold a special place in my musical memory.  And... we have two fabulous concert orchestra performances from 1934, most likely scored by Roy Bargy: Peter De Rose's Deep Purple (in its pre-song form as a "symphonic jazz" gem) and the equally cool Park Avenue Fantasy, from which came Stairway to the Stars (with lyrics by Mitchell Parish).

A huge hit, and a showcase for cornetist Henry Busse, 1922's Hot Lips begins with a comical borrowing from Rachmaninoff, proceeding to a superb solo spot by Henry.  Because jazz critics have tended to be 1) unkind to Whiteman's orchestra, and 2) often dismissive of the pop and jazz sounds of the late 1910s and early 1920s, Busse has gotten a rather raw deal, critically.  That is, he's typically characterized as the anti-Bix Beiderbecke, a player with a corny and sweet sound who failed to fit in during the Challis/Satterfield/Malneck Whiteman period of the late 1920s.  That he was a more than capable jazz blower (to use the jazz slang) seems like a fact lost to time, but we have the audio proof before us.  It's a shame that nearly all "Did Paul Whiteman play real jazz or a faint facsimile of?" queries focus on the Beiderbecke period, since much of the jazziest happenings on PW 78s occurred prior to 1927.  

Singer Jack Fulton shows up at least four times, most memorably on the slightly weird but delightful Cuban Love Song (1931), from the movie of the same title, and on the lovely Villa (1931), which sounds very much like a Grofe chart, though the Williams College site doesn't list it.  Apologies to Bing Crosby fans, as Bing doesn't show up today, and mainly because the selections mostly occur outside of the Bing/Whiteman window.  Ironically, Bing's firing from the band (due to his drinking and tendency to not show up on schedule) proved to be quite a solo career boost.  Or a prelude to same.

Interesting note: Charles Wolcott, arranger of Straight from the Shoulder (1934), is credited with "bringing rock 'n' roll to the screen" in this 1987 AP obit.  He had insisted on using Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock in the 1955 Blackboard Jungle, which he also scored.  How about that?

And we have vocalist Johnny Hauser expertly handling the lyrics to 1934's There's Nothing Else to Do in Ma-La-Ka-Mo-Ka-Lu (Hope I got that right).  Expertly is the only way such lyrics can be handled, really.  Last time, I described such numbers and arrangements as "pop Hawaii," and so I guess I'll stand by that.  No idea on who supplied the charts.

To the Whiteman, Ramona, Roy, and Virginians (but no Bing).  All tracks ripped from 78s in my overflowing collection.

DOWNLOAD: Paul Whiteman, Part 8 (1922-1945)

All by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, unless otherwise noted

Park Avenue Fantasy (A: Roy Bargy)--Concert Orchestra, 1934.

Memphis Blues (W.C. Handy)--The Virginians, Dir. by Ross Gorman, 1922

The Yankee Doodle Blues (Gershwin)--Same.

Nobody Lied--Same.

Villa (Lehar, A: Grofe?)--V: Jack Fulton, 1931.

Who Did You Fool After All?--The Virginians, Dir. by Ross Gorman, 1922.

Rose of the Rio Grande--Same.

There's Nothing Else to Do in Ma-La-Ka-Mo-Ka-Lu (But Love)--V: Johnny Hauser; 1934.

Bees Knees--The Virginians, Dir. by Ross Gorman, 1922.

San (A: Bill Challis)--1945 (Capitol 10026).

Wang Wang Blues (A: Grofe)--Same.

Birth of the Blues (A: Guess Who?)--V: Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, Austin Young, 1926.

Countess Maritza (A: Grofe)--Same.


By the Sapphire Sea--1922.

Love in Bloom (A: Adolph Deutsch)--V: Jack Fulton, 1934.

Hot Lips (He's Got Hot Lips When He Plays Jazz)--Solo: Henry Busse, 1922.

Straight from the Shoulder (A: Charles Wolcott)--V: Joey Nash, 1934.

I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate--The Virginians, Dir. by Ross Gorman, 1922.

Lonesome Mama Blues--Same.

Deep Purple (Peter De Rose, A: Roy Bargy)--Concert Orchestra, 1934.

Cuban Love Song--Waltz (A: D. Savino)--V: Jack Fulton and the Romancers, 1931.

Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore--Ramona and Her Piano (Paul Whiteman Presents), 1933.

Not for All the Tea in China--Roy Bargy and Ramona (Paul Whiteman Presents), 1933.


Monday, July 25, 2022

Paul Whiteman is back! Part 7 (1920-1934)


So, by sheer luck, I found (in my piles and piles of CD-Rs) the disc containing my Paul Whiteman folders, all populated by mp3s exported from my MAGIX sound-editing program.  A big relief--I was home free.  Then I discovered that everything was out of order, the tracks strewn about in a way that didn't correspond to the previous six posts.

Then I remembered that I had shuffled the tracks, that they hadn't been posted in the same order that I ripped them.  Hence, the disorder.  But what to do?  Then I clicked on a sub-folder (sub-sub-folder?) titled "Playlists," and suddenly things fell into place.  Folders 1 through 6 were in the posted order, and there were three more folders (Pts. 7, 8, and 9) with enough material for three new entries.  

And the moral of this story is, um... to stop confusing myself like that.  I only have society to blame.  Er, I mean, only myself.

So, after a mere three-year delay, the superb "Pops" is back at the blog. Today's selections (following from Pts. 1-6) span fourteen years--1920 to 1934--and they're kind of a sped-up survey of Paul's "Ambassador Orchestra" beginnings at Victor, through his 1928-1930 departure to Columbia, and to his return to Victor (which, though its labels still read "Victor," was now the Radio Corporation of America, RCA).  

Speaking of Whiteman's return to Victor (RCA), we start with 1934's Beach Boy, arranged by Adolph Deutsch and featuring Bob Lawrence, singing way up in his range (with periods of falsetto).  This selection sounds like 1934 pop-Hawaii (you've heard of "pop-Hawaii," no?), and that's exactly what it is.  Very pleasant, with a little touch of exotica.  Just a pinch.  Next, the Ferde Grofe-arranged Ukulele Lady--one of the all-time "King of Jazz" classics, and, last time I checked, there was nothing known about the highly skilled Southern Fall Colored Quartet, who provide a memorable vocal refrain.  As you can see, the label gave them one of the standard anonymous vocal-refrain designations--"male quartet."

Then, another Grofe chart: The charming Learn to Smile by Louis (The Love Nest) Hirsch, 1921, followed by the superb My Road (1924, and sounding very Grofe-ish), whose flip side shows up near the end of this list.  Next, the jazzy, strong 4/4 (as opposed to the 2/4 or 2/2 meters which still prevailed in the early '20s) If I Can't Get the Sweetie I Want (I Pity the Sweetie I Get), from 1923.  Once again, the arrangement is almost certainly Grofe's, and, in addition to a number of cool sound effects, there are Rhapsody in Blue-sounding phrases interspersed throughout--except, Gershwin didn't pen Rhapsody until 1924!  No arranger credits at the Williams College website for the lively Rosie or Dearest, either, though as before I suspect Grofe (the antiphonal character of Rosie is highly Grofe).  And Ferde is mostly likely the excellent pianist on the latter, 1920 masterpiece, which comes complete with a fine Dixieland closing (a standard early-PW feature).

Your Land Is My Land, a fairly famous Sigmund Romberg number, is Grofe in a lovably hokey mode--there's nothing quite like the four bars following the vocal section, during which The Star-Spangled Banner, Dixieland, and Yankee Doodle all happen at the same time.  Corn, maybe, but brilliant corn.  (Brilliant corn?)  Then, two memorable 1924 Grofe charts, Love Has a Way, and the Isham Jones classic, I'll See You in My Dreams, whose melody sounds fresh as ever after 98 years.

On to Columbia, with Jack Fulton's falsetto (which you either love or laugh at) gracing the 1928 Blue Night, lushly arranged, as usual, by Tom Satterfield.  Then, back to Victor and 1922 with You Won't Be Sorry, then half a decade's jump to 1927, with the Grofe-arranged gem, Just Once Again, featuring a vocal by Austin Young (whose vocal stylings I also love).  Sorry about the moderate surface crackle.  Then, we're back to post-Columbia Whiteman with Jack Fulton crooning Oley Speak's Sylvia in a lovely Roy Bargy treatment.

Boom!  And we're back to the early 1920s with the Nacio Herb Brown-George Gershwin medley When Buddha Smiles ("introducing" George's Drifting Along with the Tide), The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else, and the twelve-incher My Wonder Girl-Coral Sea by Paul's "Ambassador" Orchestra, 1920.

Then, two more Grofe charts--the corny but fun Roses of Yesterday, and Rudolf Friml's highly famous Rose-Marie.  Back to 1935, with the King's Men singing the comical chorus to Cole Porter's Me and Marie, a German-style waltz which sounds like a warmup for Lawrence Welk's TV show.

To the Whiteman...

DOWNLOAD: Paul Whiteman, Part 7 (1920-1934)

Beach Boy (A: Adolph Deutsch)--Vocal, Bob Lawrence, 1934.

Ukulele Lady (A: Grofe)--Vocal by Southern Fall Colored Quartet, 1925

Learn to Smile (A: Grofe)--1921

My Road--1924

If I Can't Get the Sweetie I Want--1923



Your Land and My Land (A: Grofe)--Vocal by Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylord, Austin Young, 1927

Love Has a Way (A: Grofe)--1924

I'll See You in My Dreams (A: Grofe)--1924

Blue Night (A: Tom Satterfield)--1928 (Columbia 1553-D)

You Won't Be Sorry--1922

Just Once Again (A: Grofe)--Vocal by Austin Young, 1927

Sylvia (A: Roy Bargy)--Vocal by Jack Fulton, 1931

When Buddha Smiles--Medley--1921 (HMV B 1332, U.K.)

The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else--1924

My Wonder Girl--Coral Sea--1920

Roses of Yesterday (A: Grofe)--Vocal by Austin Young, 1928 (Columbia 1553-D)

Rose-Marie (A: Grofe)--1924

Me and Marie--Waltz (Porter)--Vocal by The King's Men, 1935.


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Back at the blog: Paul Whiteman and "Television Moon"!


I just revived all six of my Paul Whiteman posts from 2018 and 2019.  They've been residing too long in the Zippyshare "File has expired" zone, and I lucked out and found the original zips on CD-R (they were missing from my hard drive).  So, one by one, I resurrected Pts. 1-6, all featuring fabulous Whiteman 78s from 1920-1930s, and all restored by me from my collection.  Here are the post links (the posts, in turn, contain the zipfile links, of course):

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Meanwhile, a Part Seven and Part Eight had been planned, but for some reason I stopped after the sixth installment.  Not sure why.  The tracks have been sitting in the PW folder for three years (!), and I'll need to get those on the blog, once I've traded off a sufficient number to even out the two playlists.  The excellent Paul Whiteman subgroup The Virginians are liberally featured in Pts. 7 and 8.

I also revived my 2017 Television Moon post ("Music to Perk up Your Day"), and Television Moon is something which has to be experienced--it cannot be explained.

Television Moon, and more



Thursday, July 14, 2022

Great Band Themes and Songs That Made Them Famous (Bravo! K 133)

If you ask me, this is a masterpiece of budget label deception.  Even an experienced "junk" label thrifter like myself was fooled--almost--for a few moments.  My first reaction was, "How did Pickwick (Bravo) get tracks by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berrigan, etc.?"  Answer: It didn't.  This is basically a list of band themes and songs which made "them" (the bands) famous.  Which, in fact, is the only way to make grammatical sense of the title.  You have to process the heading in two parts: 1) Great Band Themes and Songs 2) That Made Them (the orchestras listed below the title) Famous.  In short, none of these orchestras actually appear on the LP.  They're listed, yes (in big font, naturally), but they're not present.  Ironically, there's no orchestra credit whatsoever, though I suspect it's our old friend Bobby Krane.  Or maybe Stanley Applewaite.  These are all excellent recreations, by the way.

Meanwhile, at Discogs, the various editions of this LP (International Award, Grand Prix, Design) are listed as if the big-font names were actually performing.  Like I said, an ingenious ruse by Pickwick.

And, since the music is very well done, I think this nine-track rack-jobber deserves a post.  Now, the one bandleader not listed--Cyril Stapleton--is represented by his 1956 hit, Italian Theme (aka The Italian Theme).  Cyril, of course (along with Mitch Miller), also made a hit of The Children's Marching Song (1959), one of the great gifts (not) to the Top 40.  Anyway, sit back and enjoy these fine recreations by... whoever.  All in "True Monophonic High Fidelity."  To quote the liner notes, "Listen...and have music fill your home with pleasure."  Or your headphones--whichever.

DOWNLOAD: Great Band Themes and Songs That Made Them Famous (Bravo! K 133)

I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You

Moonlight Serenade

Artistry in Rhythm


Let's Dance

When It's Sleepy Time Down South

I Can't Get Started

Lisbon Antigua

Italian Theme


Sunday, July 10, 2022

Sunday morning gospel: The Country Gentlemen--One Wide River to Cross (1971)

Excellent bluegrass gospel from the famous Country Gentlemen, who happened to show up for me in one of the local Goodwill store bins.  Excellent musicians, all, but I nevertheless couldn't stand by and let them take the author and composer credits for One Wide River to Cross, I Am a PilgrimLittle White Church, and definitely not Elisha A. Hoffman's 1878 Are You Washed in the Blood?  I'm fussy about such things, you know.  The first title is, in fact, a black spiritual, the second a famous folk hymn, the third a composition and text by one Charles Pleasant, and we've already discussed the fourth.  I don't know why gospel LPs so often play such games with the song credits.  Oh, and speaking of, I have no idea who "LaRue" might be--his or her name was placed behind Albert E. Brumley's Rank Stranger and H.W. Ballew and Mrs. L.L. Brackett's mega-classic He Will Set Your Fields on Fire.  I didn't check out Sunny Side of Life, which is credited to the group--we'll just assume it's theirs.  It's not Keep on the Sunny Side of Life (Ada Blenkhorn and J. Howard Entwisle), anyway. 

The seven numbers attributed to the group or to "LaRue" are all followed by asterisks, the function of which the back jacket does not make clear.  Maybe it means "arranged by"?

The Rebel label of Mt. Rainier, Maryland obviously issued this LP in so-called compatible stereo--"This record will play on stereo or hi-fi phonographs," says the cover.  This, of course, meant that listeners of 1971 who still had monaural pickups didn't have to switch out to a stereo model.  Very nice stereo in these grooves, as far as the dual-pickup variety goes, and the music has the typical drive of bluegrass gospel--it faithfully chugs along in the best top-tapping fashion, even if the vocals don't have quite the mountain sound of Carl Story, Bill Monroe, or Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper.  The vocalists try, however.

According to Wikipedia, the Country Gentlemen were a progressive bluegrass band.  I'll take Wiki's word for it, though the Gentlemen seem to be covering the same stylistic ground as Story, Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, and other famous "traditional" bluegrass names.  I didn't have to time to study up on the distinction(s) between conventional and "progressive" bluegrass, so I'll get back to you on that.  It's possible that the Gentlemen's less rural sound is the reason for the progressive label, because otherwise they sound to me like the real deal.

To the bluegrass:

DOWNLOAD: The Country Gentlemen: One Wide River to Cross (Rebel SLP-1479; 1971)

One Wide River to Cross

Born Again


Sunny Side of Life

Gone Home

Little White Church

I Am a Pilgrim

Rank Stranger

He Will Set Your Fields on Fire

Weapon of Prayer

Using My Bible for a Road Map

Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb


Thursday, July 07, 2022

Happy birthday, Merv!


Well, actually, Merv Griffin's birthday was yesterday, but I didn't have this post quite ready last night--it needed a blog essay, is all.  I almost got it to the blog on time, but... that'll happen.  It's the thought that counts.

The late Merv Griffin was known for any number of accomplishments, though people chiefly remember him as a talk show host.  And the funny thing is, Merv's show comes across (in today's entertainment-culture environment) as something we would expect from PBS.  There was a serious tone to the pre-tied-in-to-the-latest-Hollywood-movie talk shows, and an almost unplanned texture which seems, in the face of today's rushed, carefully prepared talk show segments, almost surreal.  At any rate, Merv had a CBS show for a while, but he got in trouble for booking guests who were anti-war (namely, the Vietnam war).  I believe that Merv's response to CBS was to find some pro-Vietnam celebs, and he'd be happy to put them on.  I wonder if there was a note of sarcasm there.  The guy, even though he portrayed himself as semi-naive, had a sharp sense of humor.  An exceptionally bright man.

And he was a fine singer, as we'll hear in today's examples, all ripped by me from 78s in my collection--examples which date back to his mid-1940s period as a radio singer headquartered at/in San Francisco's KFRC, to his very successful stint as chief vocalist for the Freddy Martin Orchestra (roughly, 1948-1952) and continuing into his early solo career at RCA and Columbia.  The special features include two selections (Falling in Love With Love, Lullaby of the Leaves) from the 1946 set Songs by Merv Griffin (pictured above), which was released on Merv's own Panda Records label.  My copy of same has a Merv autograph--not to me, but to one Mrs. Hawkins.  According to Wikipedia, this two-78 set was "the first U.S. album ever recorded on magnetic tape."  I've encountered the same claim elsewhere, too.  Merv is wonderful on these cuts.

Plus, three other pre-Freddy Martin sides, all very possibly demo sides--Goodnight to the Night (whose mp3 tag I misspelled), Love Is on a Holiday, and I Don't Want a Thing to Remind Me of You.  There is also a circa-1953 privately-recorded "blue side" titled Ain't Got a Hit (and sung to the tune of Wish You Were Here).  A "language" warning is in order--you might want to skip it, though it's hilarious, and not simply as a chance to hear Mr. Jeopardy curse.

Oh, and a great radio-period Merv link: Merv Griffin KFRC Circa 1945

Included in the Merv-with-Freddy sides (all terrific) is 1949's You Was, a copy given to me by the great R&B expert Pete Grendysa, who died last year at the age of 82.  (Here's his daughter Becky's beautifully written remembrance.)  I had carried on a fairly long (but not long enough) email friendship with Pete, discovering along the way that, in addition to his deep love for R&B (whose history he knew down to the last groove), he had (like me) an equal respect for pop.  As in, post-WWII pop music.  There's no contradiction when it comes to loving both Howlin' Wolf, the Clovers, LaVern Baker, plus Perry Como and Andre Kostelanetz.  Anyway, though we never met in person, I miss Pete.  We traded many a CD-R.

Back to Merv, shortly before I became a blogger, I got to know (through email) Merv's publicist, Stace Bass.  When she learned that I had most of Merv's recordings (and he had quite a large discography, between RCA, Columbia, Decca, Mercury, Dot, Carlton, Cameo, etc.), she asked me to make a cassette tape for the famous TV host.  I did, and he loved it, sending Stace an email about how much he enjoyed hearing "the old songs."  Made my day.  I felt like I was giving back, as Pete put it.

I confess that I initially collected Merv's sides for (what I presumed to be) their camp value; I thought a Merv Griffin collection would be kind of a snarky, hip thing.  Of course, in no time, I came to love his recordings, especially his no-holds-barred novelties, which included the Halloween mega-classic, House of Horrors (1962).  Anyway, thanks to Diane for alerting me to the date, which I had spaced out (I'm good at that), and apologies for some typos in the mp3 tagging, owing to the rush-job nature of this post.  It was, nonetheless, a labor of love.  And a long overdue Merv return to the blog.

Again, sorry for the typos on the tags!  (That almost sounds like a Danny Kaye novelty...)

DOWNLOAD: Merv Griffin's Birthday--July 6, 2022

Love Is Such a Cheat (The Gypsy Song)--Merv and the Martin Men With Freddy Martin Orch., 1949

My One, My Only, My All--Same

1400 Dream Street--Same

You Was--Merv With Freddy Martin Orch., 1949

Love Me, Love Me, Love Me (Steve Allen-Bob Carroll)--With Normal Leyden Orch. and Chorus, 1952.

Mama's Gone, Goodbye--Same

If You Don't Hug'Er by Nine O'Clock--Merv and Ensemble, Freddy Martin Orch., 1952

Mambo Jambo--Merv Griffin and the Martin Men With Freddy Martin Orch., 1950

Twenty-Three Starlets (And Me)--WIth Hugo Winterhalter's Orchestra, 1951

The Lord's Ridin' With Me Tonight--Same

I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts--Merv and Ensemble, Freddy Martin Orch., 1949

The Other Side of the Hill--Merv With Freddy Martin Orchestra, 1950

Ain't Got a Hit (To the tune of Wish You Were Here)--Circa 1953 (Warning: "Blue" lyrics.)

All the Livelong Day--With Paul Weston and His Orch., (Columbia 40141; 1953)

Goodnight to the Night--With Jack Ross, His Trumpet and Orch.  (Music-Mart 508; pre-Freddy Martin)

Love Is on a Holiday--With Tom Spinosa and His Orch. (Cavalier CAV 803; per-FM but released 1951)

I Kiss Your Hand, Madame--With Percy Faith and His Orch. (Columbia 40026; 1953)

Falling in Love With Love--With Lyle Bardo Orchestra (Panda Records, 1946)

Lullaby of the Leaves--Same

I Don't Want a Thing to Remind Me of You--With Art McCue, Rex Kelly, Al Burns (Fulton Record SSR-1043; pre-Freddy Martin)