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THE ROARING TWENTIES: HITS OF Ď21
AINíT WE GOT FUN?

25 original mono recordings
Compilation and transfers by Larry Tedder
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5521 [77.48]

 

 

Crotchet Budget price


  1. Wabash Blues (Isham Jones and his Orchestra)
  2. Ma! Heís Making Eyes At Me (Isham Jones and his Orchestra)
  3. Down By The O-HI-O (Al Jolson)
  4. The Wang Wang Blues (Paul Whiteman)
  5. Feather Your Nest (Henry Burr and Albert Campbell)
  6. The Shiekh Of Araby (Sam Lanin)
  7. When Buddah Smiles (Rudy Wiedoeft)
  8. Look For The Silver Lining (Marion Harris)
  9. Palesteena (The Original Dixieland Jazz Band)
  10. Bright Eyes (Leo Reisman and his Orchestra)
  11. Make Believe (Nora Bayes)
  12. My Mammy (The Peerless Quartet)
  13. Say It With Music (Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra)
  14. Ainít We Got Fun? (Van and Schenck)
  15. Kismet (The Yerkes Jazarimba Orchestra)
  16. All By Myself (Ted Lewis)
  17. Cherie (Paul Whiteman)
  18. Margie (Eddie Cantor)
  19. Home Again Blues (Aileen Stanley)
  20. Song of India (Paul Whiteman)
  21. Crazy Blues (Maimie Smith and her Jazz Hounds)
  22. Yoo-Hoo! (Al Jolson)
  23. Tuck Me To Sleep In My Old ĎTucky Home (Vernon Dalhart)
  24. And Her Mother Came Too (Jack Buchanan)
  25. My Man (Mon Homme) (Fanny Brice)

I wonder how many people today realise that it is less than one hundred years ago that the words "Jazz Age" were whispered, something not to be discussed in "polite" circles. Only people who should know better played Jazz, it was said. With The Great War over many "ordinary people" were hoping to get back to their neo-Victorian way of living. Hadnít there been a public ceremony of the tomb on the "unknown soldier" in 1921 to remind everyone of the past and be thankful war was over? There was even a feeling of prosperity on the horizon. Wasnít that enough? But in spite of all this there was a new age emerging, a carefree era just beginning in 1921. News began to trickle through to Britain of happenings in America. A scandal-ridden Presidency, riots, and news of an actor called Rudolph Valentine, the film worldís first sex symbol. Of course "sex" was not a word to be used at that time either. Of course it was, as ever, the younger generation who were influenced by what we now call the Jazz Age.

In late 1919 Paul Whiteman formed his first band and in August 1920 in New Jersey recorded "The Wang Wang Blues". I like this, particularly the trumpet virtuoso Henry Bussie who features throughout. To me he enhances the recording into what is reported to have been a real "hit". The next recording is "Crazy Blues" with Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, recorded in New York in August 1920. Smith was the first to record a blues song and it was a winner in America too. Buy I didnít care for this version even after listening to this recording several times. Again in New Jersey in September 1920 Vernon Dalhart recorded "Tuck Me To Sleep In My Old ĎTucky Home". Dalhart made this with the Criterion Quartet accompanied by Roasario Bourdon and his orchestra. If you listen carefully you will hear every word, even the slight pauses when Dalhart talk/sings his way through. This is how many of the comics of the time performed. Their songs were like listening to a story. So listen and I think you will agree that this is one of those unique recordings of long ago.

The New York orchestra under the direction of Harry Yerkes on this CD recorded prolifically for just about every label in the 1920s under a variety of names. The most popular being the Happy Six and the Yerkes Jazarimba Orchestra. It is with his Jazarimba Orchestra that he recorded "Kismet" in New York in October 1920. I liked this number. It reminds me of Wilson, Kepple and Betty doing their Egyptian sand dance. There is that strain of the same exotic melody running through it. The trombonist, Tom Brown, does an excellent job too and together with the rest of the Orchestra you have a number to cherish.

A pleasant recording of "Feather Your Nest" was made in Camden, New Jersey in November 1920 with Roasario Bourdon and His Orchestra. It was during that year The Victor Talking Machine was featuring a group of best selling performers just called "Eight Famous Victor Artists". They consisted of several different performers all well known at the time. It was Albert Campbell and Henry Burr who combined their singing talents in "Feather your Nest" and an excellent song they make of it as they harmonise together, accompanied by the orchestra quietly in the background and finish the song in the same melodic way.

By 1921 Jazz had become more popular in England and the group who made a big mark here was The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. They recorded "Palesteena " in New York in December 1920. I love this contrasting type of music and this number also has just a touch of the East about it. A pleasure to listen to and with a little imagination you can get a picture in your mind of an exotic place somewhere in the East.

The recording of "Margie" with the great Eddie Cantor and a studio orchestra in New York in December 1920 really delighted me. Here was a recording I was very familiar with and I am sure many of you will be too. With this recording Eddie became one of the most popular personalities on radio and records of the day and if by any chance you havenít heard this before number, try humming along with it, and the tune will linger.

"Down By The O-HI-O" was a hit for a number of people at this time but here we have the one and only Al Jolson with Charles Prince and His Orchestra recorded in New York in December 1920. This is a very young Jolson, but how good he sounds singing right from his heart. The orchestra play the introduction superbly then quietly accompanies never interfering with Jolsonís distinctive delivery of a song you can believe is directed straight to you. While at the height of his success as star of the Winter Gardens productions Jolson was also at work for Columbia and a product of that association is "Yoo-Hoo" from 1921 again with Charles Prince. Again not the later Jolson we became accustomed to. Itís a good song but not a song you could expect to hear him sing on his much later records. .

From New York in January 1921 we have "My Mammy". Al Jolson again, I can hear you saying. Not so. Itís only a legend that that as far back as 1918 Jolson used this as his signature. But the liner notes tell us this song didnít get copyrighted until 1921 and there was no recording of it by Jolson until 1928. It seems the first performance was in vaudeville by one William Frawley. This 1921 collaboration by Fred Van Eps and the Peerless Quarter (both members of the Eight Famous Victor Artists team) is among one of the first recording and of the many Iíve heard over the years I think this arrangement one of the best.

When Leo Frank Reisman began training on a violin at the age of ten, and as a young man played in several orchestras in Boston, I wonder if he ever imagined having his own orchestra. But by 1919 he did and "Bright Eyes" was his first hit which he recorded this in New York in January 1921. Along the way Reismanís Orchestra backed Fred Astaire on many recordings in the early 1930s as well as introducing us to such eminent people as Eddy Duchin and Johnny Green. "Bright Eyes" is a good musical number but not one for me, not as played here anyway. For one thing I found the clarinet comes over too shrill to listen to in comfort.

I found it difficult to decide about "Make Believe" recorded in New York in January 1921 by Charles Prince and his Orchestra with Nora Bayes on vocals. Itís a pleasant enough song and Nora Bayes, unknown to me, sings clearly, making sure you understand her every word. But her voice isnít great. However, itís a catchy tune that doesnít jar. I didnít find it difficult to decide over the next recording, though. Indeed I could listen to "Song of India" time after time. This arrangement with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra is heard often and it was recorded in New York in March 1921. Its interesting to note that Whiteman was classically trained in the viola but his idea for "jazzing" up the classics, as he does here with this Rimsky-Korsakov melody, had been born early in his career. "Song of India" horrified some critics of the day but in spite of this he was drawing record crowds nightly at the Palais Royal in Manhattan. I love this version.

What a terrific year 1921 was for Paul Whiteman. "Say It With Music" was recorded in New York in August that year and was another record breaking hit causing a sensation with its colossal sales figures. Written by Irving Berlin it was a best-seller for five weeks and I remember a few bars of this number was used by our own Henry Hall and his orchestra to introduce his BBC programme. Good to hear the whole number played and Whiteman certainly deserved all the credit he had when it was first recorded. I found myself beating time with the different instrumentalists; itís the kind of music that can really get you going. Finally from Whiteman on this disc is "Cherie". I guessed that I would hear some pleasant harmonious music again and I was right. I havenít heard this before, but nevertheless it is catchy and bright and comes over as an excellent, spirited arrangement of a tuneful number.

"Home Again Blues" was recorded in New Jersey in April 1921 with Rosario Bourdon and Orchestra and Aileen Stanley on vocals. She started out playing in nickelodeons in the mid-west with her brother. I donít care for her type of singing, but the occasional "clack" of the nickelodeons add effect to the song. Frank Crumitís version of this was the bigger seller.

Introduced in vaudeville by the now forgotten George Watts we have "Ainít We Got Fun?" from the comedy duo Van and Schenck. This was recorded by Columbia in New York in April 1921 and soon became a hit. I remember this well and was soon humming away with it again. Although I canít recall exactly when I first heard it Iím certain it must have been back in the mists of time because "Aint We Got Fun" was once what we would call the "in" catch phrase amongst the young. After this I was delighted to hear "All By Myself" with Ted Lewis and his band. This dynamic and lively arrangement was recorded in New York in June 1921. Lewis, whose career spanned sixty years, was a hit in both America and England and his trade mark call was "Is everybody happy?" The instrumentalists in this number are particularly good and appear to come alive as they play this pulsating music. A number to be enjoyed, and although normally I abhor loud music I loved the vibrancy of this.

The next two songs were what were known in 1921 as "double-sided hits". Brunswick, who built an experimental studio specifically to accommodate the recording of the Isham Jones Orchestra, recorded them in Chicago in October. The gamble must have paid off as these two recordings prove. The first is "Wabash Blues" with Louis Panico on trumpet and recorded in the October. I wondered as I looked at the odd sounding title what I was about to hear, but to my surprise I can only say here was a first class record with music I could really enjoy. Panico is excellent. He keeps the sound of his instrument down just enough to stay on a level with the band yet loud enough to make it sound just right. "Ma! Heís Making Eyes At Me" was on the other side of this record and this number has lasted even better. A popular number even then and here it is sung by some well-known names. This record was a hit at the time it was made, and Iím not surprised as both these numbers are lively and jolly and this release certainly put Brunswick into the big name recording companies.

Normally known for glorifying the all-American girl, the singer who eventually became associated with The Ziegfeld Follies was certainly not known for her beauty. In fact she was lanky and gawky. Her name was Fanny Brice, primarily a comedienne who mostly sang novelties and dialect songs but she was also known for Torch numbers. That is until fate intervened and after Flo Ziegfeld himself had imported the French chanteuse Mistinguette to sing the song "Mon Homme". For some reason Ziegfeld changed his mind after hearing her perform, and Fanny Brice immediately stepped in and asked Ziegfeld to let her do it and he agreed. Fanny sang the English lyrics written by Channing Pollock in rags whilst leaning against a lamppost and it was exactly what Ziegfeld had been looking for. So the song became hers for the rest of her life. It was recorded in November 1921 with Rosario Bourdon and His Orchestra. Normally this wouldnít be a song I would particularly care for but there is something different about this and the way Fanny Brice sings it. I listened several times and became fascinated by Fanny Brice and her way of singing. Using my imagination I could see this not particularly attractive young girl dressed in rags and leaning on a lamppost. Try and visualise it. I think you will be agreeably surprised.

It was with great pleasure I listened to our own Jack Buchanan, the debonair song and dance man about town, singing in that so distinctive way of his "And Her Mother Came Too" by Novello and Titherage and recorded in Hayes in November 1921. This classic is from one of Jackís earliest London revues. I have heard many of his songs and I donít think his type of singing would be accepted in this day and age but back then he was a household name and a great star. Perhaps better known by those living close to London and the theatres, though. I was very much aware of these people and would always listen avidly to the grown-ups that went to any new shows. I often think about those days when I was very young would pretend to be an actress. Well I did marry an actor in the end.

"When Buddah Smiles" with Rudy Wiedoeft on saxophone with his Californians was recorded in New York in November 1921. This is lively, bold and jaunty. On the other side of this record was that all-time favourite "The Sheikh of Araby" with Sam Lanin and his Roseland Dance Orchestra. 1921 was the year Rudolph Valentino caused a furore of hysterics and adulation with the female population when he performed a sensual Tango across the screen in "The Sheikhí. The music of the film was a sensation too with its Middle-Eastern feel and this tune certainly fitted that mood. At the time I was still at an age when I wondered what the adults were speaking about when they referred to the film. When I eventually saw a picture of Valentino even I saw he was certainly all everyone said.

I have enjoyed listening to this hotchpotch of musical numbers from 1921 and can congratulate Living Era for once again successfully transferring very old 78rpm records to CD. I highly recommend this, as here you will hear many old performers who in their heyday were as well known as their equivalents today.

Joan Duggan

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