Thursday, 9 January 2020

World War One Vets In Jazz & Country Music

On the hundredth anniversary of the Treaty Of Versailles I wanted to take a look at how some veterans of WW1 had an effect on the new and coming popular music scene that was about to become the dominate cultural movement of the 20th century; Jazz, Blues and Country music.

The Jazz Age started in America almost as soon as ink on the Versailles Treaty was dry and quickly spread to Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and eventually further afield to Japan, Latin America, Caribbean and a few parts of Africa and Asia. The unprecedented spread of these new musics was facilitated by two modern inventions. The Gramophone and the radio. Gramophones had been around since the 1890's but for much of that time they did not really become affordable until the 1910's and aside from Ragtime, some black Spirituals and a bare handful of quirky exceptions, record companies did not start to record any recognizable Jazz, Blues or Country records. Once they did the sales of these records took off with amazing speed as there was now a solid number cadre of young people and bohemians eager for the exiting new sounds to shake off the exhausted cobwebs of the now discredited Victorian age. Before the War Gramophones were playthings for the middle classes, they were now cheap enough for the working classes as well and even the poor rural and black folks, meaning there was now a market for music they would buy. Since Gramophones (unlike the later phonographs) were not electric and instead were wound-up like a jack-in-the-box they could be used in the most remote cabins of the Mississippi, Appalachia, the Ozarks, Dust Bowl and Newfoundland outports. This was even somewhat true for parts of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America where records would be exported and have an influence on the evolution of music such as Latin Jazz, Salsa, Ska and various African Jazz genres.

Radio's rise would be even more explosive. Before WW1 there were literally no radio stations anywhere in the world other than a few hobbyists. As the Jazz age started there were radio stations throughout the world with millions of listeners in an unprecedented growth rate. By contrast television's growth took more than a decade, slowed it is true by WW2. Radio would for the first time allow for music to be brought to the masses nationwide and even internationally just as music from the Bohemian fringe or the wildest hinterlands was being recorded.

In spite of the quick creation of this infrastructure the number of Jazz Age artists who had been veterans of the recently passed WW1 is surprisingly small. One reason might be that America's involvement in the war was rather brief and most of these artists were either black or rural or too young and thus far less likely to be drafted. However there were a few;

James Reese Europe;
Bandleader James Reese Europe is widely seen as being one of the most important figures in the transition between Ragtime and Jazz. Already a well known figure in New York society for his bouncy dance bands, he had also made a number of successful records, being the first Ragtime black band leader to do so. These records reveal his take on Ragtime was energetic but essentially conventional (and some are string bands that have no brass instruments) although he did allow some short solos and this along with the syncopated beat displayed the basic foundations of Jazz. His band became popular headliners at the Clef Club in New York but when WW1 broke out Europe immediately signed up and suggested the formation of a band that would entertain the Allied troops and quickly formed a band called the Hellfighters. Although the US army was still segregated the army did allow for black officers and Europe was made a lieutenant. Besides serving under fire and winning the French Croix De Guerre as a unit the Hellfighters became a musical sensation in France and Britain and returned home to as triumphant heroes leading a victory parade in Harlem. He then returned to his post didn't get much chance to capitalize on his new fame because in 1919 he was murdered by one of his own drummers in a pay dispute. We can never know what effect Europe would have had on the Jazz age as his bands were not really proper Jazz bands. Perhaps the ambitious and solidly professional Europe would have adapted and updated his sound as Paul Whiteman would later do, or maybe he would have been left behind as a respected but essentially no longer relevant elder founder like WC Handy. Either way he would have been an important figure.


Some other notable members of Europe's Hellfighters Band included;
Noble Sissle (1885-1975) ~ Recruited by Europe for his Society Orchestra before the war as a song and dance man, he had already made successful recordings by 1917. Sissle followed Europe into the army and helped organize a new band. After the war he returned to New York and teamed up with pianist Eubie Blake, who had been in Europe's pre-war band but had not joined up, and became a highly successful duo with hits like the classic "I'm Just Wild About Harry" (written by Sissle) and the musical "Shuffle Along" throughout the 1920's. Sissle & Blake also became one of the first musical acts to make a sound video. He had a long life, dying in 1975.


Vernon Castle (1887-1918) Not a musician at all, British born dancer Vernon Castle and his wife Irene became fashionable stars in the 1910's by adapting ballroom dancing to modern ragtime music. To do so they worked with black bandleaders James Reese Europe and Dan Kildare. The Castles helped popularize ragtime to a respectable audience of young white upper middle class sophisticates who would have avoided a ragtime dance hall and got the attention of white bandleaders like Paul Whiteman who would be important figures of the early Jazz Age. Like James Reese Europe, Castle himself would not get to see how things would develop. The aristocratic Castle enlisted enlisted in the new British air force and survived the war only to die in a plane crash in 1918. Irene would continue to have a successful dance career in New York for many years.


Rafael & Jesus Hernandez ~ New York based Puerto Rican brothers who were recruited by Europe along with over a dozen fellow Puerto Ricans. After the war they returned to New York where Rafael had a long career as a band leader and composer of a number of songs that made him a star in Puerto Rico, where there are a number of buildings named after him as well in Cuba. He died in 1965.


Opal Cooper (1889-1974) ~ Singer with Europe's pre-war band as well as being a banjo playing song & dance man, Cooper also enlisted but separately from Europe and ended in a different unit. Before the war in 1912 he recorded a couple of comedy songs and after the war he briefly led James Europe's band after his death but soon returned to Europe (the continent) where black musicians could get better treatment than in the USA and he had a long career as a nightclub singer along with making a few other recordings none of which received notice in the USA.

James "Tim" Brymn (1881-1946) ~ Known as "Mr Jazz Himself", Brymn was James Europe's greatest rival. Originally from North Carolina but having a formal musical education at the National Conservatory in New York, by 1900 he already had a successful band as well as being a solo ragtime pianist and had written a few hit songs. Like Europe he enlisted in the army and organized a band called variously the Seventy Black Devils, Black Devil Orchestra, and often advertised as “The Overseas Jazz Sensation.” After the war he would take over James Europe's position at the Clef Club and would record several albums into the swing era.


Will Vodery (1885-1951) ~ A bandleader originally from Pennsylvania then based out of Washington DC and Harlem, New York as a noted composer/arranger. Like James Europe he enlisted during the war and organized yet another band. After the war he made it to Broadway where he worked on popular musicals like "Showboat", worked with George Gershwin and Will Marion Cook and became an influence on the young Duke Ellington who he worked with at the Cotton Club. Oddly for a guy with such a long and successful career he doesn't seem to have made it into a recording studio on his own.

Willie "The Lion" Smith (1893-1973) ~ James Reese Europe and Vernon Castle might not be proper Jazz figures but that could never be said about Willie "The Lion" Smith. One of the great Jazz pianists of the 1920's known for his lightning fast barrelhouse playing as well as his image of the flashy sportin' life pianist with his jaunty suspenders, gold rings, derby hat and cigar and larger than life swagger. He had been an infantryman in the Great War (but not in the Hellfighters) and had seen some action. Exactly the nature of his service is in debate. Not known for false modesty or any other kind, Smith always claimed he had been a sergeant but the records say he was only a private, he also claimed he had gotten his nickname "The Lion" for his bravery on the front, however there is no record of that either and it would appear that he had already been using that name during a brief career as a boxer and others drolly noted that the Lion's roar was worse than his bite. At any rate he would have a long career continuing into the Swing Era and into the post WW2 era with his barrelhouse playing an influence on the later Be-Bop and Boogie Woogie styles of Fats Waller, Pete Johnson, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson up to R&B and R&R pianists like Merrill Moore, Moon Mullican, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles and Charlie Rich.


Jack Hylton (1892-1965) ~ A British pianist and bandleader who became one of the first British Jazzmen wining the title the British King Of Jazz. Hylton had been a singer and pianist in various cafes as well as in a dance orchestra before the war and served as regimental musical director. His post war career was not notably successful and he ended up getting fired from his own band but by the mid twenties he had formed a proper Jazz orchestra which became highly successful through heavy touring, radio appearances and recordings, he also became a promoter bringing prominent Americans to the UK including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller. After WW2 he wound down his performing but continued as a promoter into just before his death in 1965.


Henry Hall (1898-1989) ~ Another British bandleader of the interwar era. Before the war Hall had been a trumpeter, pianist and composer for the Salvation Army before joining the artillery where he played in the regimental band. After the war he eventually formed a society dance band which played dance halls and on the BBC where he became a fixture throughout the thirties and entertaining the troops in WW2. He continued his career into the sixties before retiring, dying in 1989.


Percival Mackey (1894-1950) ~ A London based pianist who played as a travelling entertainer in a one man act that included ventriloquism, magic and comedy as well as part of a troupe. After serving in the war he formed a dance band that would include popular singer Al Bowly as well as being musical director for musicals, film scores and for the record label EMI. He died in 1950.


Jack Payne (1899-1969) ~ A British pianist who served in the Royal Air Force where he discovered Jazz from visiting Americans. After the war he formed a dance band which performed on the BBC and later became the first band to perform on TV for the first BBC TV broadcast in 1929. He continued at the BBC until he retired in the sixties dying in 1969.


Victor Silvester (1900-1978) ~ Enlisted in the British Army at the age of sixteen (he lied about his age) he served as a private and saw action at the Battle Of Arras and even served on a firing squad before his actual age was discovered and he was sent home. Before getting there he volunteered as a stretcher bearer on the Italian front and was wounded thus getting a medal from the Italian govt. Before the War he had been studying music and returned to his studies at Trinity College along with dancing. He would later start his own dance band and dancing school while recording dance tunes which became wildly popular in the UK in the 30s and into the Second World War. While his band would do some Big Band Jazz numbers it was more of a Society Dance Band than a Swing band and by the 1950's was clearly out of style. In the Rock & Roll era he tried to do string-laden versions of pop songs and show tunes until his death in 1978 after which his sons continued the band to this day.


Debroy Somers (1890-1952) ~ Another British teen who lied about his age to enlist, although he done so in peace time in 1905. He rejoined during the War and served as a sergeant and military bandsman. In the twenties he would form another one of those sort-of-Jazz dance bands of the era rather like Paul Whitemen's and reworked George Gershwin's so successfully that Gershwin himself joined them for a UK performance. He and his band appeared in a few movies and scored a hit with "Amy, Wonderful Amy", a song about Amy Johnson, Britain's Amelia Earhart. Somers continued through WW2 but died before the R&R era in 1952.


Ken Maynard (1895-1873) ~ Now largely forgotten, Maynard was an important figure in early Country & Western, in fact he helped put the "Country" in C&W music. He had actually worked as a cowboy before enlisting in the army. After the war he headed off to the new town of Hollywood to try where he got a job in the new silent film industry as a stuntman in western films before graduating to acting in them. Unlike other western film stars like William S Hart and Tom Mix, Maynard managed to continue into the sound era and in a 1929 film he became the first singing cowboy. Unlike Gene Autry (who he would later discover) Maynard was never really a professional singer but could play a little guitar and fiddle and sing in a rather reedy voice which while crude it did sound authentically western. He never had any real hit records and had little interest in pursuing a singing career but his movies were successful enough to encourage the studios to make more specifically musical movies using Gene Autry who had been a supporting player in a few Maynard films and who Maynard encouraged. Autry's singing cowboy movies were a smashing success and his star soon surpassed Maynard's. Changing tastes were not Maynard's only problem, although supportive of Autry, Maynard had earned a reputation as hard drinking and quick tempered and prone to brawls. By the end of the thirties his career was effectively over and his fortune gambled away. He still had a few friends, especially Autry, who gave him some money and arranged for bit parts and he died in 1973.


Jules Verne Allen (1883-1945) ~ He called himself "The Original Singing Cowboy"; A title which was not entirely accurate, but he was certainly one of the first to record. Details of his life care hard to pin down because he would later write an autobiography which was, to say the least, highly misleading. But he had apparently spent some time as a working cowboy including claiming stints as a rodeo rider (which may or may not be true) and a town sheriff (probably not true) while a census actually lists him as a barber before enlisting in the US Army in 1905 and again during WW1 where he entertained the troops doing rope tricks and singing cowboy songs as well as appearing as a blackface minstrel. After the war the census reports him as working as an autoworker for a few years until the success of singers like Carl Sprague, Vernon Dalhart and Ken Maynard lured him out to Hollywood to try his luck at being a singing cowboy in the 1920's. He did not get a movie contract but he did get a recording contract from Columbia Records legendary talent scout Ralph Peer who had discovered Jimmy Rodgers, Fiddlin John Carson and the Carter Family. He would record a number of songs including the classic "Jack Of Diamonds" between 1928 - 29 before the Great Depression and changing tastes in the 1930's ended the careers of rustic singers like him. He continued to perform at rodeos and on radio in the Southwest and wrote a successful and self-glorifying autobiography which included a number of songs and poems and a glossary of cowboy terms called "Cowboy Lore" much of which he seems to have made up or plagiarized from John Lomax. He also managed to collect a number of ex-wives before dying in 1945, completely missing the folk revival that would have no doubt loved the charming old rogue.


Carl T Sprague (1895-1979) ~ Less flashy than Maynard or Allen and also less scandal prone, Sprague lived a quieter and longer life than either. He beat both of them to title of "Father Of The Singing Cowboys" with his 1925 recording of "When The Work's All Done This Fall" which sold 900,000 copies, later certainly reaching a million. There had been an earlier million selling singing cowboy record from Vernon Dalhart but he while he was from Texas he was no cowboy, and was in fact a trained tenor who had appeared in Gilbert & Sullivan light operas and recorded several successful pop songs in the 1910's. Sprague on the other hand had really grown up on a ranch in Texas and worked as a cowboy before joining the army in WW1. After the war he went to university at Texas A&M where he performed cowboy songs on the campus radio station and was offered a recording contract in 1925 scoring the above mentioned hit and another in "The Dying Cowboy" along with a few others until the Great Depression ended his recording career in 1930. He would live quietly until the 1960's folk revival discovered him and he would play the folk circuit and record another album before dying at 1979, the first of the classic Singing Cowboys was also the last.


David Miller (1883-1953) ~ A less well known figure of the early C&W era. Miller had a career as an obscure medicine show performer as a singer/guitarist before joining the the army during the war. His military career was brief however as he developed an eye infection which left him effectively blind. Even worse the Army denied him a disability pension saying that he had developed his infection before he enlisted. With no better options he pursued his singing career in the new record business starting in 1924 with Paramount Records and even then the newer radio with some success although never becoming a star. He kept it up through changing tastes into the Honky Tonk era eventually sharing stages with Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins. By that time his style was positively archaic.


John Jacob Niles (1892-1980) ~ An odd but influential figure of the post WW2 Folk revival, Niles came from Kentucky from a respectable background of a musical family and his father being a active in local politics. When America entered WW1 he enlisted as a lieutenant in the fledgling Airforce and was injured in a plane crash. After the war he stayed a while in France studying music and hanging out with the Bohemian set like Gertrude Stein. Returning to the USA he began compiling traditional folk ballads and touring the country singing them in a ghostly Renaissance style falsetto while playing an unwieldy dulcimer he made himself. He also published song books and did some recordings well into the late 1950's Folk Revival era when he became an influence of the likes of Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary although his style was too idiosyncratic to reach a larger audience. He continued to play on and off until his death in 1980 when he was into his nineties.


PRE WW1; There actually were a few figures of pre-WW1 wars who made it into the recording era.

Harry McClintock (1882-1957); One of the important early folk singers, known for the classic "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and "The Old Chisholm Trail". Born in Tennessee, he ran away to join a circus then worked the railroads and merchant marine before enlisting in the Spanish-American War in 1898 serving in the Philippines as a mule-team packer for supply trains. After that he went to China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 as a reporter. Back in the USA he joined the IWW (AKA the Wobblies), a radical anarchist union and spent the next forty years as a travelling minstrel singing folk and labour songs both his own as well as publicizing the songs of Wobblie songwriter Joe Hill. In the 1920's he began recording being a major influence on Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Cisco Houston. He died in 1957 just before the Folk Revival that certainly would have made him a star again.


Henry C. Gilliland (1845-1924); A fiddler from Texas Gilliland became one of the first authentic Old Time Musicians to record when he joined fellow Texan Eck Robertson to a recording session in New York in 1922 and recorded a single of "Arkansas Traveler" / "Turkey In The Straw" which became a surprise hit kicking off the start of the country music record industry. Originally from Missouri Gilliland was a 74 year old veteran of the Confederate Army who usually performed wearing his old uniform. Although Gilliland took the lead on at least one of the songs top billing went to Roberston as he had arranged to session and was known as a championship fiddler. For years the story about this legendary session was that they had simply showed up at Victor Studios demanding an audition with Gilliland in his CSA uniform and Robertson in full cowboy gear and the intimidated staff complied. But it later turned out that this was a regular session that Roberston had arranged previously like any other. Even in 1922 record labels were not in the habit of simply letting people swagger into a record deal off the street. Roberston would go on to a long career but Gilliland apparently did not record again and returned to Texas dying two year later.


Polk Miller (1844-1913) ~ Although the Robertson/Gilliland record is considered the birth of the country music recording industry more recent research has turned up earlier recordings that are obvious influencers on later country and blues artists notably the minstrelsy records of Polk Miller & His Old South Quartette made in 1909. From Virginia, Miller served in the Confederate artillery where he learned the banjo. After the Civil War he went into business founding a patent medicine for dogs which grew into the pet supply maker Sargent's (named after his dog) which is still in business. Although he had given up playing music publicly as undignified when he went into business by 1892 the now partially retired Miller started a successful career as a singer and banjo player doing old folk songs from the south backed by a black vocal quartet. Much of their material was meant to glorify the antebellum south and were quite popular, with Mark Twain and Grover Cleveland being fans, and an influence on the next generation of early country and blues performers both black and white notably Uncle Dave Macon, Charlie Poole, Wilmer Watts, Papa Charlie Jackson and Gus Cannon. Miller's attitude is complicated; while he openly revered the Confederacy he also refused to play in black face or had his quartet do so but they instead dressed in dignified formal wear and by all accounts treated them fairly. They did play Confederate reunions but avoided touring in areas where openly racist crowds made Miller concerned for the safety of his quartet. He cited his concerns about the increasing racism of the times when he retired in 1911 and died two years later. The members of the Quartet carried on for a few more years at least before fading from view. However a version of the group reunited in the twenties to record a few ore sides before disappearing for good.


James MacNeil (circa 1870-1945) ~ One of the leading black bandleaders and trumpet players in the early New Orleans jazz scene, MacNeil (sometimes also spelled as MacNeal) played in a number of the most popular bands in the city and was considered a rival to the legendary Buddy Bolden and an inspiration to younger players like King Oliver, Bunk Johnson and Freddie Keppard. He led the Onward Brass band along with his fiddle playing brother Wendell (1876-?) and most of the band enlisted in the army during the Spanish-American War in 1898 as bandsmen where they gained a reputation both as musicians and hell-raisers before being mustered out in New York where they made a brief splash on the music scene before returning home. While in NY MacNeil was recorded as making a record (possibly solo) which however has never surfaced which is a shame because he apparently never recorded again, quitting the band and handing leadership over to trumpeter Manuel Perez who would continue it til about 1930 when the depression and changing tastes put an end to them. Their lineup included a young King Oliver for a time. But this version of the band also never recorded. James went on to the more sedate life of a music teacher dying before the post-WW2 Dixieland revival that would rediscover Bunk Johnson could find him. Wendell moved to Chicago and was listed as still being alive in an 1958 index of Jazz musicians but there is no other info on him I can find.

And one more veteran; Although obviously not part of the Jazz or even Ragtime scenes, I'm including Arnold Schoenberg as the founder of avant garde classical music which would influence later figures like John Cage, Phillip Glass, Glen Branca, Karlheinz Stockhousen, Terry Reilly, George Antheil, La Monte Young and John Cale as well as Hollywood film scores.

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) ~ The father of avant garde composers was drafted into the Austrian army during World War One in spite of the fact that he was already 42 years old, out of shape, asthmatic, nearsighted and with no military training. He was also already a well known composer, notorious amongst the deeply conservative Habsburg establishment for his experiments in atonal music. Given that Schoenberg was also a converted Jew in the deeply reactionary Hapsburg empire he could hardly expect a good reception in the Austrian army. Arnold's own rather prickly personality didn't help. He was greeted by one officer with the words; "You wouldn't have to be that notorious Arnold Schoenberg would you?" To which he replied; "Well yes; I did have to be since nobody else was willing to". Still, he was well educated and so was sent off to officer training in 1916 but was eventually discharged on health grounds. A year later he was actually drafted again, this time to serve in a military band which at least does make some sense, but was quickly discharged again for the same health reasons. Once Hitler came to power he would fled the country and move to America.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Professor Kitzel's Record Label Profile; Paramount Records




Paramount Records was the premiere label for blues, jazz and country music during the Roaring Twenties, helping to create the mass market for blues and country and recording some of the biggest names of the era.


Jellyroll Morton ~ "SIDEWALK BLUES";

Early Years ~ 1916 ~ 1922 ~ Paramount was founded in 1916, growing out of the Wisconsin Chair Company ,which was itself founded in 1888 in Port Washington, Wis, making both phonograph players as well as records. Paramount's early recordings were light classical pieces, sentimental ballads and patriotic anthems of the day. Most of these records were a financial flop and by 1922 the label was deep in debt and desperate.


Urban Blues & Jazz on Paramount ~ In 1922 Paramount looking to turn around their flagging fortunes hired Englishman Art Satherly who began recording urban Vaudeville Blues singers such as Ma Rainey, Trixie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Hattie McDaniels & Moanin' Bernice Edwards as well as Hot Jazzmen as JellyRoll Morton, Clarence Williams, Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Noone, Jabo Williams, along with Boogie-Woogie pianists Roosevelt Sykes, Jimmy Blythe, Meade Lux Lewis, Charlie Spand and the white pianist Kansas City Frank Melrose. Satherly boosted Paramount's roster of black artists by hiring Mayo Johnson, an ambitious and well connected talent scout who would later go on to found rival Black Patti Records Paramount also arranged a licensing deal with the failing Black Swan label which included important and big sellers as Ethel Waters & Fletcher Henderson. When Black Swan folded in 1924 Paramount bought out their catalog.



Rural Blues on Paramount ~ As important as the urban recordings were in keeping the label afloat their biggest (and musically most important) recordings were it's rural blues catalogue. Mostly scouted and discovered by Mayo Williams, a black former executive from Black Swan, Paramount became the first label to score a hit with a rural blues artist starting with Papa Charlie Jackson and quickly growing to include most of the major names of the era including Blind Blake, Pappa Charley Jackson, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James, Ramblin' Thomas, Gus Cannon, Frank Stokes, Big Bill Broonzy, Tommy Johnson, William Moore, Bo Weavil Jackson, Bumble Bee Jackson, Henry Townsend, Freddy Spruell (who recorded the first version of "Milkcow Blues"), James Wiggins (who did the first version of "Keep a' knockin") and Bo Carter & the Mississippi Sheiks. The young Tampa Red and Josh White got their starts on Paramount. Soon the rural market was so important to Paramount that they started the "Broadway" budget label to introduce new acts.


Old Time Country on Paramount ~ Although known mostly for their "race" records Paramount also recorded a large number of Old time Country artists starting with among the earliest OTM recordings through the budget "Broadway" label in 1922 and later including Wilmer Watts, Charlie Poole (briefly), Arthur Tanner (brother of famed fiddler Gid Tanner), Earl Johnson, Fiddlin' Doc Roberts, Emry Arthur, Davey Miller (AKA The Blind Soldier), Welling & McGhee, The Blue Ridge Highballers and George Washington White.


Spirituals on Paramount ~ An important part of Paramount's "Race" catalogue were a number of Spirituals and Sermons with The Norfolk Jubilee Quartet and The Rev J.M. Gates being big sellers. Other frequent artists included The Jubilee Gospel Team, Rev. Beaumont, Blind Willie Davis, Blind Connie Rosemond and Rev. Johnny Blakey AKA The Son Of Thunder. Some of the blues artists also recorded spirituals including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton and Skip James, albeit under assumed names since many religious people would not buy records from "sinful" blues singers. Some of the white Old Time Country artists also recorded Gospel songs, however unlike the Blues artists the OTM artists recorded under their usual names. Notable OTM-Gospel artists included Sid Harkreader, Joe Reed, Welling and McGhee and The Kentucky Thoroughbreds. Classical baritone Carroll Clark also recorded classic spirituals in a staid, dignified style similar to that of Paul Robeson.


Concert Singing on Paramount ~ Besides the Jazz, Blues, OTM and Gospel which is most treasured by collectors today Paramount also continued to record what was then referred to as "Concert Music" which meant traditional songs such as Stephen Foster songs, Spirituals and light classical ballads and lullabies sung in a stately, restrained carefully enunciated style. Several black artists continued in this style well into the Jazz Age, many had originally recorded for Black Swan and were kept on by Paramount. Best known examples would include Carroll Clark, Florance Cole-Talbert and The Harmony Kings. While these records did not sell as well as the Jazz, Blues and Gospel records they evidently sold well enough to keep them in print for the duration of the label's life.


Cajun Music on Paramount ~ Paramount also recorded a few early Cajun artists as part of their OTM catalog including Leo Soileau & Robin Moise, John Bertrand & Milton Pitre and Roy Gonzales.


The decline and fall of Paramount ~ Like all labels that relied on black or poor white listeners Paramount was hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930's although the label was already struggling by then. Paramount was hit by the defections of Mayo Williams in 1927 to found his own "Black Patti Records", and Art Satherly in 1928 to start his own "QRS Label". In 1929 Paramount lost it's biggest distributor in Artophone to bankruptcy with others following as the depression deepened. The label was also rocked by the deaths of their biggest seller Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1929 as well as Jimmy Blythe and Charlie Poole in 1931. Paramount cut back on it's staff and recording until shutting down all new recordings and advertising at the end of 1932 although they continued to run an office until 1935. The inactive label was bought out in 1942 and run as a reissue label until much of it's catalog entered the public domain in the 1970's.


The aftermath ~ Many of Paramount's artists fell on hard times during the depression with most of the rural artists being forced into retirement. Many important ones did not survive the depression and war years including Blind Blake who died in 1933, Charlie Patton in 1934, Papa Charlie Jackson & Ma Rainey in 1938, Johnny Dodds in 1940, Kansas City Frank Melrose (murdered) & Jelly Roll Morton in 1941, Trixie Smith (car crash) and Wilmer Watts in 1943 and Jimmy Noone in 1944, and Rev. J.M. Gates in 1945. Carroll Clark appears to have died during this time. However a few did maintain careers into the R&R era such as Roosevelt Sykes, Tampa Red, Josh White, Fletcher Henderson and Ida Cox. A few survivors saw their careers revive with the folk boom of the 1960's including Son House, Skip James, Alberta Hunter and Henry Townsend who kept performing until his death in Dec. 2006.


Today ~ The Paramount catalog is widely available on a number of re-releases, comps and box sets and the original 78's are highly collectible. The building which housed The Wisconsin Chair company and Paramount Records was demolished in 1959 and is now in ruins in an open field with a plaque to mark the spot.



Thursday, 19 December 2019

Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project; UK Industrial Music

I've already posted numerous videos from early industrial bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Monoton, Ramleh and Destroy All Monsters but here's a few similar odds and ends.


Robert Rental (real name Robert Donnachie) was a Scottish pioneer of the the early electro industrial scene working with Thomas Leers and Daniel Miller (Mute Records founder) as The Normal starting in 1978. He released a few records including working with Throbbing Gristle and touring with Stiff Little Fingers. He died of cancer in 2000.


Both of these vids are from his first album on which the songs have no titles. I used films shot by Andy Warhol in the 1960's as part of his "Screen Tests".


Yellow were actually Swiss, not British but I don't know where else to put them. Anyway this vid uses an early rare horror film by DW Griffith based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask Of The Amontillado". The cast includes Henry Walthall (who would later star in "Birth Of A Nation" with supporting roles by Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett and Linda Arvidson, Griffith's wife.


Nurse With Wound are a UK group who have been around in various formations since 1978 with literally dozens of albums ranging from Industrial drone to Kraut Rock. For this vid I used an old silent fantasy film.


OMD were known for their series of synth pop hits however their early work was more experimental including this track from their fourth album for which I used a 1905 Segundo De Chomon film.


For this later track vid I used a French silent film from between 1904 - 1908 which includes some early animation.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project; UK New Wave

Assorted UK New Wave;

The post Sex Pistols project of Johnny Lydon (nee Rotten) had little in common with the Pistols but would be effectively the first Post Punk band and would be a huge influence on the likes of Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Bauhaus, the Banshees, Killing Joke, Clock DVA and pretty much every other artsy dark and moody UK band ofthe 1980's by eschewing the thrashy power chords of punk for funky-dub bass lines and shards of angular guitar and Lydon's keening vocals. The classic albums were the first self titled debut and the second "Metal Box" with it's iconic film can packaging. PIL would carry with an ever fractious lineup. At the end of the eighties they suddenly took an unexpected turn to more conventional sounds for their last three albums. The Pistols would briefly reform in the nineties.


For this video I used an early Gothic horror film from French director Maurice Tourneur "The Wax Figures" (1914)

SUBWAY SECT; Subway Sect were part of the first wave of London punk bands but they were radically different than than the thrashing three chord punks. Led by singer Vic Goddard the Sect filtered their slower Stooges chords through a low-fi artsier lens. They only released a few singles (including a minor hit with "Ambition") while the album they recorded sat on the shelf unreleased to this day after Goddard fired the rest of the band before completely restructuring them as a non-rock cabaret act for a few years. Subway Sect's time in the limelight didn't last long but their crude, droning art-punk and drab black and grey visual aesthetic would have an influence on the next generation of art punks like the Fall, Wire, Magazine, Joy Division and the Psychedelic Furs. The Jesus & Mary Chain would go on to cover "Ambition" in their early days.


For this vid I used some footage of a London Cabaret in the 1930's


This vid uses footage from a 1930's newsreal of a rally by the British Blackshirts and leader Sir Oswald Mosley that turned into a riot.


Magazine were formed by singer Howard DeVoto after leaving the Buzzcocks. They had several albums and a few hits from 1977 - 1981. After the band petered out guitarist John McGheogh went on to Visage (first album) and three highly regarded albums with Siouxsie & The Banshees finally ending up with Public Image Ltd by the late eighties. He died in 2004. This song was later covered by Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy on his first album and also by Trotsky Icepick.


This video uses some street scene footage from 1920's Wiemar Germany.


Fingerprintz were a Scottish group who put out three highly regarded but not very successful albums between 1979-1983. Each of their albums were quite different with the first album being artsy guitar based, the second more power pop and the third slick and dancable. In spite of getting great reviews nothing quite worked and they broke up with singer Jimmie O'Neil and guitarist Cha Burns reforming as the Silencers who would face a similar fate.


This early instrumental with a spaghetti western feel uses a clip of a silent western starring Jack Hoxie, (in the white hat of course).


The Furs started out as an artsy post punk band with a droning cacophonous sound of the Subway Sect/Wire school. After original producer Martin Hannett had to bow out in order to rescue New Order after the death of Ian Curtis the Furs went to Steve Lillywhite who had previously produced the first albums by Siouxsie & The Banshees and Ultravox. (Note; Another young band also being produced by Hannett also ended up with Lillywhite, that band was U2). Lillywhite would produce the Furs first two albums.


This track from the first album uses a 1908 George Melies film.


The Passions were a band a female singer (Barbara Gogan), who put out three well reviewed albums between 1979 - 82 with two classic hits including "I'm In Love With A German Film Star" and "African Mine" before they broke up. Later guitarist Kevin Armstrong later went to play with David Bowie in Tin Machine, Iggy Pop, Morrissey and Sinead O'Connor. And that's about it.


I naturally used an Andy Warhol screen-test of Nico because of course I did.

THE CULT; The Cult started out as a murky proto-Goth band as The Southern Death Cult who released a couple of singles and ep's before briefly shortening it to the Death Cult with another ep before finally settling on The Cult who finally settled on a cleaner big guitar and vocal sound with some psychedelic imagery on the "Dream Time" and "Love" albums which finally became, um, cult hits in the UK and Canada. By 1987 they evolved into a more 1970's hard rock sound with "Electric" and it's follow-up "Sonic Temple" which finally broke them into the U.S. market. It didn't really last though and the next few albums got diminishing results and cock-rock gave way to grunge. Eventually they broke up and singer Ian Astbury joined a reformed version of the Doors with Ray Manzerek.


For the opening track off of "Love" I used an old film "A Trip To Mars".


For this track from "Love" I used some early animation from German Dada film-maker Walter Ruttmann from the 1920's.


The Fixx were one of the last groups of the post-Joy Division Simple school of artsy, atmospheric, keyboard heavy, New Wave with their first album coming out in 1982 although they had been kicking around for a few years. Unlike the likes of Simple Minds, Ultravox and Japan however the Fixx surprised everyone, including probably themselves, by scoring a series of hits on both sides of the Atlantic, helped no doubt by the rise of MTV. This track off of the first album uses a short art film made for the Dadaist Fluxus Film collective circa 1967.


This track off of the first album uses a short art film made for the Dadaist Fluxus Film collective circa 1967.


This track uses an early film about a home invasion.

The Chameleons (sometimes called the Chameleons UK in the USA for legal reasons) were a band from Manchester with a loud echoey guitar sound and deep voiced vocals somewhat midway between early U2 and Sisters Of Mercy. They put out three albums between 1983 -86 before breaking up and reforming a couple times including a reunion tour this year. The first album was the best.


This song of the first uses a clip from a Harry Houdini adventure movie from the 1920's.


Another song from the first album using an early French film about a stalker.

ERASURE; One of the bigger synth-pop bands, Erasure were a spin-off from Depeche Mode starting in 1985 with a number of hits. ERASURE ~ "SHIP OF FOOLS";

This vid uses an early colour film (1926) using dancers from Martha Graham's modern dance troop.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Make CIUT Great Again!

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Yes it's CIUT's Fall Membership Funding Drive again. You know; that time of year when we go to you our faithful listeners to ask for your support for another year. It's been another hectic one as we, along with every other Campus/Community Radio station has to deal with drastic funding cuts from the Ontario government. Remember all the money we raise all goes right back into the station, and there's always something that needs fixing or replacing. So it's back to work.
CIUT 89.5fm is Toronto's listener supported community radio station. We have a unique blend of music, news, talk and arts programming not to be found any where else on the dial. All brought by volunteers with very few paid ads for more rock less talk.

My show;"Moondog's Ballroom" Tuesdays at 5pm brings the Punk, Rockabilly,Surf, Garage, Psyche, Blues, Honky Tonk, Swing, Gospel, Ska and various combinations thereof from the 1940's, 50's, 60's to today. Including some stuff rarely if ever played on the radio. I've also done live sessions with The Vibrators, Robyn Hitchcock, BB Guns, Split Lip Rayfield, CATL, Speaking Tongues, Fruitbats, Bela Clava, Three Blue Teardrops, Blue Demons, Maximum RnR, B-17, Christian & the Hangovers and more for unique recordings, with more planned for the future.


That's where you, our faithful listeners come in.
Just cuz CIUT has very few paid ads doesn't mean we have no costs. We have to pay for the equipment, a small paid staff and our transmitter, and we are hoping to buy a new one to improve our signal. But we need you to become members of CIUT and show your support.

Here's the drill;
1. Listen in to "Moondog's Ballroom" Tuesday Nov.12 at 5pm
2. Phone 416-946-7800 or go online to our secure server at
3. Make a pledge of $50 to my show and become a member of CIUT
4. Become one of the Cool Kids!


It's just that easy!
And as an added incentive all those who become make a pledge and become a member are added to our grand prize draw which this year includes a trip for two to Iceland! And who doesn't like Iceland?
Speaking of prize goodies I also have a collection of ticket giveaways unique to my show
If you can't tune in for Tuesday June 5 no worries, you can always go to our website at and sign up online, or contact me.
And speaking of Cool Kids; For a pledge of $60 to my show, You, yes You! Can host "Moondog's Ballroom" for an entire hour! You can choose the music, invite a guest and be DJ for a day. If you have a band you can even play your own stuff, or even do a live acoustic set. It's the one time of the year payola is totally encouraged. You bring the tunes and we'll bring the 15,000 watts of power.
This Tuesday Nov.12 at 5pm; Tune in, Listen in, Phone in and Join up.

Besides our onair broadcast you can still hear us @;
online at
iTunes Radio
TuneIn Radio Phone App
Rogers Digital Cable - Channel 946
Bell Fibe - Channel 970
Star Choice Satellite Channel - Channel 826


And a reminder about the CIUT Fundraiser with Miss Ginger St James, Luau Or Die, Moonjunk and High Heels Lo-Fi this Saturday at Cherry Cola's (Bathurst & Queen);

IMG-0002 Thanks Again as always!

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project Pres; Siouxsie & The Banshees pt.3

I already made a bunch of Banshees vids but then I stumbled on to some more stock footage and there's always room for more Siouxsie.


This is a Doors cover off the "Through The Looking Glass" album and uses some footage from a 1923 silent film "Brass" starring Marie Prevost who you may recognize from the nick Lowe song.


This cover version of the Television song off of "Through The Looking Glass" uses some test footage from some 1960's Hammer Studios horror films.


This song form the "Hyena" era uses some test footage from a 1960's caveman film.


Another track from "Hyena" this time using some stop-motion footage of a flower blooming.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

RIP to Ric Ocasek and The Cars


I grew up in the late 70's & early 80's during the Punk & New Wave era. When I was a kid I wasn't really into music. The only records I had were some of my dad's old Jazz records (Slim Gaillard, Fats Waller, Woody Herman, Glen Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tod Rhodes, Jellyroll Morton, Teddy Wilson, the Ink Spots and Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert) and some K-Tell albums. You know; those compilations where they would take a gaggle of songs that had been on the top forty and tossed them together regardless of whether they had anything in common with each other so you could find acceptable hard rock like Rush, Kiss and Nazareth alongside drippy pop singers Dan Hill, Burton Cummings, Tony Orlando and disco, country and novelty songs. All slightly edited and crammed together so tightly that each album would average twenty songs with crappy sound, garishly ugly covers and titles like "20 AMAZING DYNAMITE ROCK HITS!". You know; Classy. I didn't listen to them much. If you had asked me who my favorite bands were I would have said the Monkees because they had a cool TV show that was on after school, Suzi Quatro who was Leather Tuscadero on "Happy Days" and maybe Alice Cooper and that's about it.

However we also used to also have a cottage in Parry Sound where we would go practically every weekend and longer during the summer. It was pretty rustic, no running water, no phone, no TV. But we did have electricity and thus a radio. I never really listened to much radio at home in Toronto, after all there was the TV. But up north there was nothing to at night, or during the day if it rained, except read books and listen to the radio. Late at night I would hear crackling over the airwaves CBC shows like "Quirks & Quarks", old radio shows like "The Inner Sanctum" and "Quiet Please", top forty chart shows like Kasey Kasem's "America's Top 40" and "90 Minutes With A Bullet". This was happening just as New Wave (if not actual Punk Rock) was becoming a chart presence so I started to hear some news sounds among the usual dreary Kansas, Boston and Chicago.


The first band I remember falling in love with was the Cars with their cool linear sound and spacey keyboards fairly leaping out of the speakers next to the stodgy likes of the Eagles and Stampeders. Songs like "Just What I Needed", "Lets Go", "My Best Friends Girl" and "Shake It Up" made the likes of Supertramp and Elton John seem as old as ragtime. Soon there would be more; the Pretenders, B52's, Motels, Police, Diodes, Vapors, Blondie, Talking Heads, Devo, Teenage Head, OMD, Rough Trade, Martha & the Muffins. Along with a few not exactly New Wave but still somehow related types like Tom Petty, Nick Lowe, Cheap Trick, Max Webster, Dire Straits. It wasn't just big city radio either. I can still recall as if it was yesterday the time the local small town DJ came in and announced he had been in Toronto record buying and had the latest hit to unveil. Before doing so he warned the parents they might want to leave the room before playing...the B52's "Rock Lobster". Then laughing nervously. Thereafter there would be more; Devo's "Whip It", Teenage Head's "Disgusteen", Max Webster's "Check", the Vapors "Turning Japanese", M's "Pop Musik", the Knack's "My Sharona". Every time after playing one of these the befuddled local small town DJ would come on an say something like; "Well I'm not quite sure what that was but lets play some Fleetwood Mac", to which I would say; "NOOOO!".

The Cars first album was actually one of the first proper albums I got, although I didn't actually buy it. Mostly because I never had any money and what little I did have went to books, comics and model soldiers, not music. One day in 1980 or 81 I found a cache of albums somebody was tossing out (I think they were moving) which along side some old dinosaurs like Steppenwolf, Grand Funk, the Faces, Queen, Firefall, Nazareth and Uriah Heep (A double live album yet! This is why punk happened) there were a dozen New Wave and New Wave adjacent albums; the Cars, B52's, Romantics, Pretenders & Knack's first albums, the Police, Rockpile, Motels, Blondie, Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Max Webster, Suzi Quatro. After that I was hooked although I didn't get around to actually buying anything myself til 1982 and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock & Roll".


There was, and is still, a tendency to dismiss these New Wave bands as being pale shadows of real Punk Rock, corporate record company attempts to cash in on a genuine underground movement. And it's true you would never hear any real Punk Rock on the radio (aside from occasionally the Clash, Teenage Head or once in a blue moon maybe the Ramones) let alone Hardcore or Industrial music. But there is no doubt New Wave was a gateway drug for those too young to find their way to an underground club or those living too far away from a big city scene. The campus radio scene was in it's infancy at the time, Much Music and MTV were several years away and the internet a generation off. At any rate the best of the New Wave songs easily stand out even today.

At any rate back to the Cars. Ohio based Ric Ocasek (singer/guitarist & main songwriter) and Benjamin Orr (bassist/singer) had been working together for a while as folk-rockers since 1970 under various names and lineups with notable lack of success before moving to Boston. One of those abortive lineups included sax and keyboard player Greg Hawkes who had also played in comedian Martin Mull's band. By 1976 jazz influenced guitarist Elliot Easton and drummer David Robinson were added, Robinson was something of a veteran of the band new Boston Punk scene thanks to being in Johnathan Richman's band The Modern Lovers and DMZ and The Pop. As the band moved from artsy Folk Rock to a Roxy Music influenced New Wave it was Robinson's idea to change the name of the band from Milkwood (a Dylan Thomas reference) to the more modern sounding The Cars. They would get signed in 1977 and record the first album which quickly became the first American New Wave hit record that didn't come out of New York.


They were, along with Blondie, the first American New Wave band to have hits, and they were easily the most successful with a string of top 40 hits; "Just What I Needed", "Lets Go", "My Best Friends Girl" and "Shake It Up", in fact the entire first album (1978) sounds like a greatest hits album. Their mix of state of the art keyboards with just enough guitar to rock out, slightly nasal voices and short, snappy songs helped define the early eighties. One of the odd notes about them was the fact that Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr shared vocal duties even though they essentially sounded the same. They would continue to have hits for most of the rest of the decade even as a new generation of more underground American bands would make the Cars seem already old hat. They tried to dress the part with skinny ties and tight pants but their long hair was a little off-brand. 1984's "Heartbeat City" was their last big splash as they made the most of the new MTV, teaming up with Andy Warhol to make a series of splashy videos for "You Might Think", "Magic", "Hello Again" and the ballad "Drive" scoring several hits. These videos showed Ocasek's girlfriend, supermodel Pauliana Porikova to good effect as well as Warhol in his last major work and in which he showed he was easily the worst lipsyncher ever. The Cars, like most American bands and unlike the UK New Wavers, had never shown much interest in videos previously. The famously gawky Ocasek would get to live out the rock star dream by marrying supermodel Paulina. This was essentially their last hurrah however, 1987's "Door To Door" stiffed and they broke up rather acrimoniously. Ocasek would have a few minor solo records (as would Ben Orr) but he would become better known as a producer for the likes of Suicide, Bad Brains, Romeo Void, Hole, Nada Surf, Bad Religion, Black 47, Guided by Voices, Weezer, Bebe Buell, No Doubt, Johnny Bravo, D Generation, Possum Dixon, Martin Rev and going full circle, Jonathan Richman. He also produced books of poetry and photographs.


Ben Orr died in 2000 and Ocasek shunned any band reunions saying he had no desire to perform live and was especially not interested in touring. The Cars did do a reunion tour without him in 2005-06 with Todd Rundgren on vocals which Ocasek at first gave legal permission for but then mocked, as did most fans. There would finally be a proper reunion (without Orr of course) in 2016 with a new album and tour. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2018 which would be their last gig. Ric Ocasek was found dead of heart disease in his New York townhouse this September 15 aged 74.