It’s been a year today that I launched this blog and I wanted to celebrate in my own way, with all required humility.
The blog has become a way for me to actually work on my records (and I’ve learned a lot !), write down and share some thoughts and the results of my humble researches and conversations with other fellow collectors. Though, I do this very post firstly for myself, looking back at when 78s and their world were new to me. I will consign here some sides I wanted to own when I started collecting, or that gave me the will, the desire to collect 78rpm records – Not the gems discovered while hunting, not the most obscure records or labels, not the rarer of them all, just those that gave my small collection the taste of some personnal accomplishment. Of course, there are many more I’m still hunting. The following are some of those I’ve been able to acquire on the way, exposed in no particular order, beside being arranged as jazz, blues then country.
I was raised without Jazz, nor Blues or Country, so I discovered them quite tardily, on my own. What opened the doors of Jazz was the american cinema of the 40’s and 50’s. Thus, I started enjoying Jazz of that period (Big Bands, Swing). Then I started digging to find out where this came from.
My interest for Country music also came from the movies: the Westerns, obvioulsy. The ballads heard trained my hears. And I guess my first real encouter with (rural) Blues was in Terry Zwigloff’s cinematic rendition of Daniel Clowes’ comic book “Ghost World”. Skip James’ “Devil got my woman” deeply touched me.
And, in an act of faith, I bought Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music. It was a shock, but not in a good way at first…I didn’t liked what I was listening to. I guess I wasn’t prepared, it was too far from what I was used to. But it quickly grew in me and I eventually understood it all. And then I wanted all these songs, on their original format, I wanted the real thing.
I uncovered the well, and it was bottomless. Since then, I’ve become a 78 rpm records collector, once again, with all required humility.
Paul Whiteman & his Orchestra “Charleston”
This is the song that brought me into the 20s. I was more interested by the 40’s Swing at first, but that “Charleston” made me move further into the past. There were other great songs in the compilation from where I discovered it (some that I eventually purchased as well later) but that very one was a blast and opened the door of the Roaring Twenties and of the Dance Bands of the area, and beyond. A world of its own.
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band “Just gone”
My first contact with the “New Orleans” style of the 20s was with the Original Memphis Five and The Georgians – two bands for wich I became big fan, and still am – on compilations released by the dutch label Retrieval. That led me to the Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, wich seemed immediately at another level. Not that the previous bands were of a lower presence, but the Creole Jazz Band seemed less polished, despite the high level of muscial technique, and I really found myself into the feeling, and even the sound, as bad as it can be considered. “Dipper Mouth Blues” was the song that hit me the most (and I eventually bought a copy), but “Just gone” keeps having this particlar taste as it was the first song of the compilation, the first one I ever heard from the band and the first I heard each time I played the CD.
Jelly-Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers “Doctor Jazz”
As much as King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band changed my (jazz) life, Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers brought me even deeper. It was powerful, irreverent, and somehow, dirty. So exciting ! The whole JRM’s RHP discography is worthy, and “Doctor Jazz” (a rendition of an Oliver song) is often used as its highlight in jazz compilations.
This record is also interesting as it offers on the B side the first release of Clifford Hayes’ band: The Dixieland Jug Blowers, that mixed jazz with jugs, wich was pretty unusual. But works very well !
Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five “Fireworks”
I knew the late Armstrong (mostly the Decca years, from various compilations) before the early Armstrong. Discovering the Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band obviously led me to the aftermath: Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five/Seven. I bought a compilation and “Fireworks” was the first track. A revelation. That band became a goal in my jazz discoveries and somehow, I’m still not done with it after all these years. Hopefully, the OKeh years have been released in France on Odeon and later on Columbia, so I’ve been able to collect a lot of them, in nice shape and great sound, beside some of the original OKehs.
Bix Beiderbecke and his Gang “At the jazz band ball”
When you start digging into jazz of the 20s and 30s, the name of Bix Beiderbecke shows up pretty quickly. It doesn’t take much time before you see it pretty much everywhere. And you understand as quickly why. “Jazz me blues” usually appears as a top song of his discography, but it’s the flip side that striked me the most: “At the jazz band ball”. The heavyness, and uncompromising approach striked me immediately. This is what I wanted first from this gang.
Fats Waller & his Rhtythm “Dinah”
This song is propably the most symptomatic of what I like from Waller in a band: something catchy that grows and grows until total uproar. That sounded very “progressive” to me, much more than what I was used to: the Big Bands of the 40’s are – mostly – more steady in their playing, with a short blast at the end of the song once in a while. “Dinah” had a different approach. I never get bored of it. Hopefully, he repeated the exercise successfully several times with different songs.
There is another rendition of “Dinah” that I actively hunted since I heard it: Jean Goldkette Orchestra‘s. A very peppy version with a stunning and ahead-of-its-time bass solo. This side is one of my greatest highlights of my Dance Bands records.
Mississippi Maulers “My Angeline”
The VJM label (Vintage Jazz Music – mostly independant from VJM, Vintage Jazz Mart) produced reissues LPs of uncommon sides in the 60s and 70s. One of those LPs had the Rube Bloom sides under his own name (band and piano solos), the Seven Hot Air Men, and the Mississippi Maulers wich were not related to the previous, but too good to be forgotten. And as it was just one record, it had to appear somewhere somehow.
The Mississppi Maulers is not a band per se, but a gathering of musicians that known each other very well and must have had some spare time to record a few songs together. Put Manny Klein, Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Land, Stan King, Frank Signorelli and some more in a studio and they’ll record something perfect and quickly. They recorded three songs, from wich one will stay unissued and two that will appear on a Columbia record that I’ve been hunting for years, and that I used as avatar on forums for a pretty long time after purchasing it. A perfect side, period.
Billy Banks and his Orchestra “Bugle Call Rag”
The song is a classic among classics, and I knew several versions already (and purchased some of them) when I discovered this very rendition in Edward Gillan’s documentary about Joe Bussard, “Desperate Man Bues”. It was hot as hell, nervous and pretty dry. I needed it. Bussard plays an Oriole record, and that is what I have been looking for at first, not yet totally aware of the links that could exist between american labels. Oriole is just a subsidiary of a bigger company, A.R.C., thus, the song has been released on several labels. I eventually found it on Perfect.
I discovered later that the songs of this record crossed the ocean and have been released in Europe and even in France ! But…on Brunswick ! And under a different name ! Eddie Condon being somehow more well known than Banks around here, Brunswick deceided to use his name instead of Banks’. He was playing on this record after all, so…
Charlie Jackson “Coffee Pot Blues”
I never liked electric blues, and I still don’t, for the most part. But discovering rural, acoustic blues was a life-changing event. Charlie Jackson was part of my first wave of discoveries, with other Paramount artists (Charlie Patton, Skip James etc.). I understood quickly that these records will always be far out of reach. Though I managed, with a mix of luck and sacrifices, to get some from Jim Jackson, Tommy McLennan, Buddy Moss, Leadbelly and…Charlie Jackson, who’s “Coffee Pot Blues” was the song that hit me the most at the time of his discovery. A murder song, with a sad feeling.
Reverend Edward W. Clayborn “Your enemies cannot harm you (but watch your close friend)”
On all the blues compilations and sicographies I’ve bought to dig the genre(s), there was that one track that sounded very different from the others: it wasn’t very “delta”, nor “Chicago”, nor “Piedmont”. Strong, powerful, inhabited, with a message. I needed that one, and I eventually got it. The problem with Clayborn though, is that all songs sound quite the same. But this one is way above the others.
Alberta Hunter (and the Original Memphis Five) “‘Taint Nobody’s Biz-Ness”
Why this particular record among the vast discography of blues female singers ? I have to confess that I have a low tolerance for Bessie Smith, and I guess I am supposed to feel guilty about it. Her “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out” is one of my favorite blues song ever, but I hardly play her other records (from those I own). I discovered myself more attracted by the female vaudeville singers like Ethel Waters, Ida Cox, Lucille Hegamin and the present Alberta Hunter, who sound more lively to me. One can say that they actually don’t have the same feelings to pass into, wich is true. But in a general way, the above mentionned sounds more interesting to me, because of the variety of their respective discographies than the queens of moaning.
Sensible to the segregation issues, I liked the idea of an Afro-american singer being backed up by a white band. Not that the Whites were better than the Black musicians, but the idea of the mixity sounded reassuring: the music business might have not been that segregated after all, and that particular record (with Paramount 12021 that offers a third side with the OM5) was full of hope. Things appeared to be not that simple, but I eventually discovered nonetheless that, in the studio, “all musicians are grey”, and that there were many records with “integrated” musicians (i.e. mixing Black and White musicians). The above Billy Banks Orchestra record is another good exemple.
Above all, this side is simply terrific, period.
Alabama Sacred Harp Singers “Present Joys”
I never heard about “sacred harp” before hearing this song on the Anthology. It was a musical and a cultural discovery. And I found it very compeling, I really needed that record. The group recorded 4 songs during that session, only 2 were released. Sacred Harp is very unusual on 78 rpm records: there were other releases by other groups, of course, but not that much, all things considered; and damn hard to find. That makes this very record even more precious to me.
W.T. Narmour & S.W. Smith “Carroll County Blues”
I came across “Carroll County Blues” on a compilation, and I fell for it because it reminded me the beloved sides of Delma Lachney with Blind Uncle Gaspard – records I will never be able to acquire. I bought the discography on Document Records but still, I wanted that very record badly, as it offers what are probably my favorite sides of the duo.
The Carter Family “Anchored In Love”
Well, the Carter Family. There is no need to add more.
I wanted a lot of their records from the start and get quite a few. “Anchored in Love” is one of my top favorites. And a great side to end this celebration.
Thank you for reading !