On a very personnal level, the King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and this song in particular changed everything for me, it is a milestone of my jazz life; and obviously a cornerstone of Jazz in general. This makes it very desirable on its original pressing, Gennett 5132 with “Weather Bird Rag” on the flip side – that doesn’t appear that often. After years of collecting 78 rpm records in general and hunting this song in particular, I finally bought myself a copy. Though, a VG- copy, with horrible rough starts…still at high price – or at least, a price that is high for me, but actually far from the prices that an E copy could reach. On the bright side, I really like the idea that this very record has been loved and played a lot by its previous owner(s).
That was a bit of a disapointment to not own a better copy of such record, but that is all I could afford. Living in the south of France, there is no chance I’ll find one in the wild ! So I have to deal with it. Though, that was some kind of an accomplishment too: I finally got one for myself and then, I knew by some means that I had most of the records I wanted to own when I started collecting 78s. Not that I’m done with 78s – far from it ! – but the hunt is now more relaxed, more and more open.

I’ve decieded to share my copy anyway, as an introduction to the subject, even if the recording is very well known. Sorry for the poor listening experience then.

Rec. 04/1923
Kiing Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band “Dipper Mouth Blues” (Mx 11389)

I quietly collected several versions over the years, but not obsessionally.
When I started gathering the different versions I own, I realized the credits were varying from one record to another. Firstly credited to King Oliver and Louis Armstrong on the original Gennett release, credits changed from the sole Oliver to Arsmstrong alone, depending on the record. That tickled me.
The lead sheet of Dipper Mouth Blues send to the US Patent Office was handwritten by Lilian Hardin and signed by Joe Oliver alone, but Louis Armstrong is also credited as co-composer on the Gennett label. Did they shared the royalties coming from sales of the music sheets nevertheless ?

Lead sheet of “Dipper Mouth Blues” (source: Library Of Congress)

Though, it seems obvious nowadays that the song was written by Armstrong alone, not by Oliver that signed the lead sheet to hold the copyright and have his share of royalties, as the mentor of Armstrong.
“Dipper Mouth” was Armstrong’s nickname.

1923, again: in June, the band records for Okeh in Chicago and re-records some songs they recorded for Gennett a couple of months earlier. Dipper Mouth Blues is part of the list. Okeh having better recording equipment than Gennett, the sound is clearer, deeper and more precise; and Baby Dodds can play his full drum set then, wich changed the color of the song quite a bit.
The interjection heard on the Gennett record is by banjoist Bill Johnson, screaming out at Baby Dodds who forgot to play a brief solo part. At that time, that wasn’t planned at all, “however, he [the recording technnicien at the Gennett studio] wanted to keep it anyway, and, ever since, every outfit uses that same trick, all because I forgot my part” Dodds recalled [1]. This “happy accident” became history and a trademark of the song.
On the Okeh session, the band kept the interjection even if the song wasn’t even known by the public in this very form. It was still screamed by the banjo player, wich was now Bud Scott, replacing Bill Johnson, despite the credits on the label of the record below.
On this french dub released by l’Association Française des Collectionneurs de Disques de Jazz (“The Association of Jazz Records Collectors”) in the 40s, the song is credited to the sole Oliver, while it is Oliver-Armstrong on the original Okeh release (4918).

Rec. 06/1923
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band “Dipper Mouth Blues” (Mx 8402)

In 1925, Louis Armstrong was playing in the Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. Don Redman made new arrangments for Dipper Mouth Blues and renamed it “Sugar Foot Stomp”. It is said that Redman asked Armstrong for one of his songs to work on, and that Armstrong took his own notebook from his pocket where Dipper Mouth Blues was written down.
A lead sheet for the new arrangement was send to the US Patent Office by publisher Walter Melrose. Oliver and Armstrong are credited as composers, Redman as arranger. Elmer Shoebel wrote down a simplified version to be sold as music sheet, and Melrose, to get his share of the sales of music sheets, added some lyrics to the song ! (He made a fortune out of that habit) Lyrics that, in my knowledge, have never been recorded.
The song was recorded for Columbia in May and released on Col 395-D. The record was quite a hit later that year, reaching #8 on the US Billboard in November.

Rec 05/1925
Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra “Sugar Fot Stomp” (Mx 140639-2)

Gennett must have tried to capitalize on this success by reissuing the song very late 1925 or early 1926, on its short lived budget series (with red labels) as Gennett 3076. The song being renamed “Sugar Foot Stomp” for the occasion.
It is the only other master pressing of the recording, all later US or EU pressings are dubs.

In 1926, Joe Oliver has a whole new band, with Bob Shoffner, Kid Ory, Louis Russel and Barney Bigard, and a contract with Brunswick. He records the song in May with new arrangments and a new ending (but the interjection has been kept) – changings that allowed him to own full copyrights for this version. Did he also called his own version “Sugar Foot Stomp” to capitalize on the success of Henderson’s version ? That I can’t tell…
Oliver is obviously the sole composer credited on the label.

Rec. 05/1926
King Oliver’s Jazz Band “Sugar Foot Stomp” (Mx E-3179)

In 1931, Fletcher Henderson recorded the song with the Don Redman arrangments, four times, for four different companies, all as “Sugar Foot Stomp”: Victor, Brunswick (released on Melotone with only Oliver credited as composer !), Crown (with Oliver and Armstrong credited !) and also Columbia (with only Armstrong credited):

Rec. 03/1931
Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra “Sugar Foot Stomp” (Mx 151442)

In 1936, Louis Armstrong team up with Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra for a recording session while both were in Los Angeles. Five songs were recorded, including this quite relaxed version with a shortened title. No credits appear on the label.

Rec 08/1936
Louis Armstrong with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra “Dipper Mouth” (Mx DLA-542-A)

1937 : Benny Goodman records his colorful version of the Henderson arrangements in early september. Two takes will be recorded, takes 1 will be released on Victor 25678 (presented here on contemporary french master pressing). Armstrong is credited before Oliver on the credits here (probably to please the french audience, wich knew Louis armstrong better than Joe Oliver at that time.)
Take 2 will eventually be released on LP.

Rec 09/1937
Benny Goodman & his Orchestra “Sugarfoot Stomp” (Mx 09689-1)

1938 : Glenn Miller records one last time for Brunswick and includes the song in the session. These arrangments were written by Miller in 1934, for the Dorsey Brothers. He was pretty fond enough of how the song turned out to eventually record it that way and keep it in the band’s songbook until late 1940.
Only Oliver is credited.

Rec. 04/1938
Glenn Miller & his Orchestra « Dipper Mouth Blues » (Mx B22975-1)

1939, Muggsy Spanier starts his Ragtime Band and records for RCA Victor, releasing 16 sides on Bluebird that will launch the New Orleans revival of the 40’s and be later called as “The Great Sixteen”. Dipper Mouth Blues is part of them. Oliver and Armstrong are credited.

Rec. 11/1939
Muggsy Spanier & his Ragtime Band “Dipper Mouth Blues” (Mx 043377-1)

1945 : Dr Frederick B. Exner, Seattle-based radiologist and record collector who started his own record company a year earlier, organised a recording session in Los Angeles with one of the fathers of Jazz, Kid Ory. The recording list includes Dipper Mouth Blues, wich is credited to Oliver only.

Rec. 02/1944
Kid Ory’s Creole Band “Dippermouth Blues” (Mx EX-5-3-A)

Of course, the “credit issue” I was pointing here is not a real issue, and there are some logic behind all that. Each credit refers to the version that has been used by the bands, mostly the 1923 or the Redman’s 1925 version.
The 1923 versions are credited to “Oliver” as he signed the lead sheet and then is officially the composer of the song; or “Oliver-Armstrong” as it appears on the Gennett label – but that still remains a mystery to me.
The covers based on the 1925 version are credited to “Armstrong” alone, as he is declared as the composer of the Redman arrangments. Another mystery then: the varying credits used on the various Henderson’s recordings in 1925, where he most propably used the Redman’s arrangments.
I haven’t found any cover of Oliver’s 1926 version so far; I don’t know if any has actually been recorded.
Devil is in the details, and chasing him teached me a lot !

[1] Gara The Baby Dodds Story. p70

2 thoughts on “Variations on a theme: Dipper Mouth Blues

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