Any 78 record collector has seen the name of Ben Selvin, who might have been the most prolific band leader of the 78 RPM record era. He also voiced early opposition to radio. This song “Don’t Say Aloha, When I Go” is early jazz at its best. This song has been recorded by many. This version by The Columbians is by far the most noteworthy. There is so much I don’t know about this version, but it’s great.
Hot Lips, baby! Bill Brown and his Brownies really put something together on this side, recorded for the Brunswick label in 1927. This full combo performance featuring brass, reeds, banjo, tuba, piano, washboard and percussion is as air-tight as it is humorous and fun. Note, the record label states plainly: “For Dancing.” They weren’t kidding! This is so hot, you’re gonna need some lip balm.
Born in Canada in 1900, keyboardist and composer Hartzel “Tiny” Parham grew up mostly in Kansas City. As a young man, Parham relocated to Chicago where he established himself as a bandleader and also worked as an arranger and talent scout for Paramount Records. He cut numerous sides for Victor Records, under the name Tiny Parham and His Musicians. Here is one of those classic sides, the ebullient and musically very advanced “Washboard Wiggles.” You had to be on your toes to keep up with this cat, and they were, and they did! Enjoy.
This uptempo instrumental romp from Syd Valentine’s Patent Leather Kids features some expert piano, banjo, and trumpet work. The players perform solo and together in a tightly arrangement they called “Rock And Gravel.” Hailing from Indianpolis, Indiana, the group’s main personnel were Syd Valentine, James Helm and Paul George. When the trio played live however, they often had as many as ten pieces in their orchestra. They recorded six songs accompanying Blues singer Hattie Snow, and a few more instrumentals on their own, on the same day that this number was recorded. Enjoy!
Another important figure in early Jug Music, Clifford Hayes was born in 1895 in Glasgow, Kentucky. Hayes played fiddle with the Earl McDonald Jug Band in nearby Louisville, the birthplace of Jug music. He later started his own band, and recorded with Sarah Martin and other notables. Jug music was a huge social and musical phenomenon in the late 19th and early 20th century, which happened to coincide with the dawn of recorded music. We are fortunate to have these clear audio glimpses into the past, and “Dance Hall Shuffle” more than lives up to its name. Such a great ensemble performance of piano, guitar, banjo, washboard, fiddle and the kitchen sink.
Named after the Quality Cafe in Los Angeles, Harvey Brooks Quality Four was one of several bands formed by pianist Harvey Brooks with clarinet and sax man, Paul Howard. Here is their instrumental version of the classic American murder ballad, “Frankie and Johnny.” This song has been recorded and released both vocally and instrumentally a whopping 256 times at least, by a who’s-who of music greats from America and around the world. This was one of the first.
Sligo is a form of lively folk music which takes its name from the county and town of Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. Paddy Killoran, one of the biggest names in Sligo, was born there in 1904. He emigrated to the United States in the 1920’s and embarked upon a prolific recording and performing career. “Sligo Maid’s Lament” was one of his popular 78 RPM sides. Sligo music is alive and well today, and if you like it as much as we do, have a look at sligomusic.ie for more info on the history of Sligo, and about contemporary and early Sligo artists.
Guitarist Napoleon “Nap” Hayes and mandolinist Matthew Prater recorded this instrumental gem in Memphis, Tennessee in February of 1928. “Easy Winner” combined elements of ragtime and blues into a string band format, borrowing freely from Scott Joplin’s most famous piece, “The Entertainer.” Though biographical information about Hayes and Prater is scarce, we do know they performed as the Blue Boys and also as the Johnson Boys, leaving behind a handful of brilliant instrumental recordings on the Document Records label for us to enjoy.
Here’s some blistering harmonica boogie from “blues harp” masters Dutch Coleman and Red Whitehead. Expertly shaping the tone with their breath and their mouths, this duo of innovators created a trance-inducing sound way back when, and lucky us, they recorded it. Pure instrumental music goodness with two guys jamming full-on and stompin’ they feet.
Country blues fiddle pioneer Jim Booker recorded with Taylor’s Kentucky Boys, as well as his own Booker Orchestra. This track called “Forked Deer” showcases his nimble finger technique and energetic, highly melodic musical style. This was definitely dance music at the time of its creation, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself tapping your feet or doing a spontaneous hoe-down! Pure instrumental early bluegrass fun.