Just like The Original Memphis Five, and most of the New York-based dance bands of the 20’s with names refering to regions outside of the New York area, the California Ramblers were not from California at all. Some members came from Ohio or Pennsylvania though, but the band worked and evolved strictly in the Big Apple. These kind of names were a good selling point, giving the record buyer an enticing impression of adventures. Also, in this very case, California was a new evocation of happiness and sunny days, as Hollywood was florishing at that time.

The California Ramblers name appeared in 1921, with the short lived first incanartion of the band. Because of some ego issues between violonist Oscar Adler and manager Ed Kirkeby, the band broke up quickly, in early 1922.
Under the impulse of the band’s banjoist Ray Kitchingman, Kirkeby agreed to form a new band, and hired men from the band of violonist Arthur Hand, who will then be director of the new version of the Ramblers. Clarinestist Jimmy Duff returned as well. This second incarnation also included Bill Moore, “Ole” Olsen and Adrian Rollini, at least for a while.
The newly formed band went in the studio as early as April 1922, starting a long ride of successful recordings and live appearances.
However, personnel – always top musicians – will change frequently during the years, some will go and some will come back, depending on the recording sessions or the periods. Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Smith Ballew will pass by. The rhythm section won’t change much though.

The band recorded for as much recording companies as possible, in the New York area, beside its long term contract with Columbia. They are known to appear under a myriad of pseudonyms everywhere else. Some were recurrent though, and associated with specific companies: “Palace Garden Orchestra” was used on Pathé and subsidiaries. “Golden Gate Orchestra” was exclusive to Edison by contract. However, the band also used it many labels such as Pathé (!) or on Velvet Tone and Harmony – the later being…Columbia subsidiaries (!).
Appearing under pseudonym on a label doesn’t forbid the use of the original name either. Thus, on the Puritan record below, the band appears as “St Louis Low Downs”, but “California Ramblers” has been used on other sides as well. Rules definitively didn’t really applied when it comes to the Ramblers…

The band knew how to adapt itself to the different demands of the labels, so that its discography offers many sides very different from one to another, from some impersonal and flabby dance sides to its glorious jazz-oriented electric Columbia recordings.
I have selected the hottest of the sides I own, released under uncommon pseudonyms, that have most likely not been reissued.

Rec. 09/1924
The California Ramblers “Doo Wacka Doo” (Mx 1930-1)
Rec. 09/1924
The California Ramblers “Toodles” (Mx 1931-1)

You will also find these sides under the names “Golden Gate Orchestra” or “Cotton Blossom Orchestra” on Nadsco and Radiex, or “Regent Orchestra” on Edison Bell Winner in the UK.

Rec. 07/1926
The California Ramblers “Me Too” (Mx 107008)

Interestingly, the band recorded “Me too” for Columbia the day before the Pathé session. The Columbia side, offered here as comparison, is an instrumental version of the song, recorded with the beautiful Viva-tonal technology, making it very different from the Pathé side.

Rec. 07/1926
The California Ramblers “Me Too” (Mx 142463-1)

These Viva-tonal Columbias represent the band in its full glory, and are the most documented and reissued sessions of the Ramblers, along with the Edison’s.

Rec. 05/1927
The California Ramblers “Zulu Wail” (Mx 7277-2)

“The Californians” was also used for this side on Corwn, and as “Golden Gate Orchestra” on Banner, Domino, Regal and Imperial in the UK, “Gorman’s Sundowners” on Challenge, “Riviera Palace Orchestra” on Perfectaphone in France, “Arcadians” on Domino as well…

Lastly, a Van Dyke issue of “Puttin’ On The Ritz” unlisted on the Brian Rust’s American Dance Band Discography.

Rec. 02/1930
The California Ramblers “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (Mx 3913-B)

This side also appears on Goodson under the same alias, but as “White Star Syncopators” on Picadilly in the UK.

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