Happy 126th Birthday, Paul Whiteman!

Today marks the 126th birthday of orchestra leader Paul Whiteman. Known as the King of Jazz during his heyday, Whiteman isn’t afforded that level of respect by many in the jazz community today, but his influence is undeniable. His music may have leaned to the pop side a little bit, but in that era, jazz was dance music. It was pop, in a sense, and Whiteman helped to bring the new sounds to a wider audience.

What’s more, the list of immortals who played or sang with Whiteman during his career is a lengthy one, among them Bing Crosby (who during his time with Whiteman was one of the hippest of vocalists), Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Jack Teagarden, Bunny Berigan, and Ramona Davies (she of the Grand Piano)—names that are very familiar to anyone who listens to Cladrite Radio reguarly.

Whiteman also commissioned George Gershwin to write Rhapsody in Blue, and that influential work’s 1924 debut was performed by an expanded version of Whiteman’s orchestra, with Gershwin himself at the piano.

Whiteman also performed in motion pictures, and it was announced earlier today that the restoration of his own starring vehicle, King of Jazz (1930), is now complete. It will be unveiled in screenings in various spots around the country beginning in May.

No less an authority than Duke Ellington once declared, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity,” and that’s good enough for us.

Happy birthday, Pops. We can’t wait to see a pristine new print of your movie in May!

Paul Whiteman

Moonlight Saving Time for Us, Please!

Sheet music for Moonlight Saving TimeWe’re awfully fond of the Harry RichmanIrving Kahal tune, (There Oughta Be a) Moonlight Saving Time, and we invariably think of it on this day every spring.

It was recorded by a wide variety of artists and orchestras when it debuted back in 1931, from Ambrose and His Mayfair Hotel Orchestra to Maurice Chevalier, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, and Jay Wilbur’s Hottentots, but our favorite rendition, in large part because she sings the verses as well as the chorus (unlike most of the other artists who have recorded, back then and in the years since) is by Cladrite Radio sweetheart Annette Hanshaw, who recorded the song in New York City on May 9, 1931, accompanied by Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet, Sammy Prager on piano and Eddie Lang on guitar.

Our gal Annette’s performance of the song manages to be simultaneously playful, sincere and just a little bit saucy, which shouldn’t be surprising. She was a terrific singer, and it’s a catchy and clever song. Enjoy!

(There Oughta Be a) Moonlight Savings Time

Birdies fly with new ambition,
Spring is in their song.
Soon you’ll find yourself a-wishin’
Days were not so long.
If my thought is not defined,
Listen while I speak my mind:

There oughta be a moonlight saving time
So I could love that boy o’ mine
Until the birdies wake and chime ‘Good morning!’

There oughta be a law in clover time
To keep that moon out overtime,
To keep each lover’s lane in rhyme till dawning.

You’d better hurry up, hurry up
Hurry up, get busy today.
You’d better croon a tune, croon a tune
To the man up in the moon,
And here’s what I’d say:

There oughta be a moonlight saving time
So I could love that boy of mine
Until the birdies wake and chime ‘Good morning!’

In January, the nights are very long
But that’s all right.
In happy June comes the honeymoon time;
Days are longer than the nights.

In lovetime season, the moon’s the reason
For every cuddle and kiss.
When days are longer, the nights are shorter.
Something should be done about this.

Oh, there oughta be a moonlight saving time
To make the morning glories climb
An hour later on the vine each morning.

You sorta need a moon to bill and coo,
An old back porch, a birch canoe.
A parlor lamp in June won’t do, I’m warning.

I’ve heard the farmer say, ‘I’ll make hay
While the sun is shining above.’
But when the day is done, night’s begun;
You can ask the farmer’s son, it’s time to make love.

There oughta be a moonlight saving time
So I could love that boy of mine
Until the birdies wake and chime ‘Good morning!’

Words by Irving Kahal; music by Harry Richman—1931

Fridays with Rudy: Vagabond Dreams Come True, Ch. 20

In Chapter 20 of his 1930 memoir, Vagabond Dreams Come True, Rudy Vallée recalls his lonely youth when gals didn’t always appreciate what he had to offer them and explores the impact that fame can have in the arena of romance.

Chapter XX

“That’s My Weakness Now”

I WAS born with an extraordinary amount of feeling. By feeling I mean something that has many sides and may be expressed in many ways. A person who has this intensity of emotion within, may find an outlet for it through passion and anger, or through artistic work such as painting, sculpture and writing, whether literary or musical. Some of its greatest mediums of expression are instruments of a musical nature, including that most beautiful of all instruments, the human voice. The majority of human beings rarely experience great passion or feelings. If I explain what I mean by “great passion or feelings,” I think it will be seen that I am quite correct.
In speaking of that passion or feeling known as anger or temper, I have found that nearly everyone seems to take a certain foolish pride in saying that they have quite a temper when once aroused. And yet, I find these people unusually docile, easy to get along with, and very tractable. It is true that, sufficiently aroused, they are provoked to anger. But in my mind, the person who really has a temper is one who, on he slightest provocation, or on no provocation at all, flies into an ungovernable rage. In the same spontaneous way does this same feeling or passion manifest itself through music and the sex impulse.
I know so many musicians who play well, who play mechanically correctly, and with a certain amount of feeling withal. That is, the listener is aware of the fact that there is some emotion expressed in the person’s tone, whether through an instrument or the voice. But the degree of feeling in the majority of musicians is very small, simply due to the fact that the majority of persons are not tremendously emotional by nature. So it is obviously quite impossible for them to express something they do not feel through their voices or instruments. The actor or orator who can sway his audience is merely using his voice and mind as a medium for the expression of this elusive feeling. I do not claim to know from what part of the body this phenomenon comes; I do know that it manifests itself differently in different people. I experience it very often through music. Martial tones give me that very commonplace run of shivers up and down my spine. Sad music, or extremely beautiful music combined with beautiful poetry, brings tears very easily to my eyes, beautiful music with a love story or love picture brings an emptiness, a yearning, and an ache into my heart. All my life I have always felt these emotions when I have been confronted by these expressions of the emotions of others. Thus it is that certain people have within them a well of emotion and passion or a certain quality of personality. We call that personality “IT” or sex appeal. A person of this temperament reacts upon one whose system is likewise constructed, in such a way that each is tremendously aware of the other’s feelings. Ever since I was a child I have been aware of the tremendous attraction that certain types of people who are generally alike in type have for me.
Clearly everyone has a weakness for something. By that I do not mean a weakness that becomes an obsession that ends with the person going to an asylum, or, in the case of a drunkard or a gambler, “to the dogs.” Rather is this weakness a sort of a cross between a hobby and a complex. For some men the week is not complete and they have not had their greatest happiness unless they have attended some kind of a sport event; for another man it is a business convention; for another in the nature of a gathering of old cronies either at cards, pool, or a fishing trip; and for still others it is a drinking bout, or a gambling fest, or a smoker. While I enjoy some of these things, I find none of them absolutely essential to my happiness. We have among our great paintings a simple that is called “End of Day” which depicts a farmer going home with the setting sun. I remember the painting only vaguely but I do know that the idea it conveyed to me was that the reward which awaited the farmer was his cottage, which all its homely comforts, his children, and lastly that complement that must have been created as a necessary half of the total, his wife.
Likewise to me, the reward for all my strivings, schemings, labors and hopes, is the comfort that I will receive from the company of the girl who brings happiness to me. Perhaps it will be just her company, just her presence by my side; maybe it will be the pressure of her hand, or the feel of her in my arms as we dance, or if alone, in embrace; and then that acme of all happiness and delight, the touch of her lips, that gives me this joy. I know that the majority of men are not so dependent on the companionship of women as I am and are perhaps happier for their independence, as I have often been very lonely.

Read More »

Fridays with Rudy: Vagabond Dreams Come True, pt. 2

In Chapter Two of Rudy Vallée’s 1930 memoir, Vagabond Dreams Come True, we’re there as Vallée’s band of musicians begin the engagement that would bring them fame and acclaim, at NYC’s Heigh-Ho Club.

Chapter II

THE YANKEES MEET

I was not a bit hurt when I saw the change of expression that came over the faces of the five boys who did not know me, because I realize only too well that I do not look like an orchestra leader. The other two, Cliff Burwell and the tenor saxophonist, Joe Miller, had played with me and knew that I had some ideas and liked my work. I had played many engagements with Cliff Burwell at the Westchester Biltmore during my college years. In fact, I regarded his pianistic ability so highly that had I been unable to secure him I would not have taken the Heigh-Ho engagement.
To me the piano is the and soul of the orchestra, without which you have nothing. And as I had for a long time had the idea in my head which I was now about to put into practice, I knew I would need a pianist who knew his keys thoroughly, and had a good memory for old pieces; one who could learn new pieces quickly, could play a tune in any key and, above all, could take piano choruses alone with only the drum accompanying him and play them in a way that would sound like four hands at the piano.
In all my dance orchestra experience I had played with the best of pianists. In London, our pianist was England’s best. The American with whom I had sailed to London, who was one of America’s greatest. The men I played with while at Yale were the best. I had become quite spoiled, and since this was the first band of my own, I felt that to start with a poor pianist would be to whip me before I began.
I had wired Burwell, who was in New Haven, playing very little as work was at a standstill. He was a wonderful man who had never been sufficiently featured and brought out where the public could appreciate his marvelous artistry. Today I think he thanks me for doing just that. I was very greatly relieved when he wired back that he would come, and that he could also secure Joe Miller, the tenor saxophone who lived near him and to whom I had also wired.
The rest of the men were strange to me.
There was Ray Toland, drummer, six and one half feet tall, size fifteen shoes. For several years he had played with Mannie Lowy, our first violinist, who has a wonderfully sweet tone and a loyal and energetic personality.
Next came Charlie Peterson, our banjoist, who came in from the middlewest with a Minnesota accent and the taste of several colleges; good-natured and always day-dreaming.
Then there was Harry Patent, our little bass player, quite as devoted to the study of music as my pianist. Harry had played the violin in junior symphonies and had decided to take up the string bass at the age of seventeen. He had practiced long and faithfully but had failed to secure an engagement anywhere, because he looked too young; so he conceived the bright idea of growing a mustache, which did indeed lend him an air of sophistication. Someone had recommended him to us and we gave him his first opportunity. Today he is rated as one of the world’s finest string bass players and has never failed to evoke admiration from other musicians.
Finally came one of the boys who is the bane of my existence and at the same time a great personality. With a name like Jules De Vorzon you would look for no less than one of the descendants of the old Canadian fur trappers who would have difficulty in eliminating a “Canuck accent”; instead you find a pop-eyed individual whose face is a puzzle. He might be Italian, or French, or even Jewish, which he really is. Jules—always late, always making engagements at the last minute; wrapped up in his girl whom he loves more than life itself—but little Jules, irrepressible, buoyant, with a vitality that expresses itself in a thousand ways that always brings a smile and an invitation to the tables of our guests.
These were my recruits, and I saw they looked at me in a disappointed sort of way because that is the first reaction of the average person who sees me for the first time. My appearance was never calculated to inspire awe or respect in anyone. It has given me a great humorous kick, when, in the course of our vaudeville engagements, we have gone to the stage door of a new theatre to find our dressing rooms and the stage door man has invariably said to me, “When will Mr. Vallée be here?

Read More »

Snapshot in Prose: Red Nichols

This week’s Snapshot in Prose captures cornet and trumpet player Red Nichols at a relatively early point in his career, though he had already made hundreds of recordings under a variety of band names. But, to a certain degree, the more traditional jazz he favored, with its Dixieland flavor, was on the verge of being replaced by the new swing craze.

But Nichols survived and even thrived, continuing to record and perform until his death in 1965. In this 1935 profile, Nichols looks back at his salad days in the world of jazz.

Who plays the red-hottest trumpet in captivity? Red Nichols! Who has the grandest, wavy red hair and come-hitherest laughing brown eyes? Red Nichols! Yet, this utterly charming and totally unaffected young maestro, who became famous from the hour “Red Nichols and His Five Pennies” lit on Broadway, is almost shy.
The day, recently, when this fascinating, slim young leader celebrated his thirtieth birthday, he was also congratulated upon having devoted a quarter of a century to the art of playing a trumpet!
The “veteran” is of medium height. He doesn’t tan tan but red, and his face retains its ruddiness from one season to the next. While Red is remarkably good-humored, he literally sees red when he has to do with chiselers and liars. For the big red haired boy is a square straight-shooter himself.
He was born thirty miles from Salt Lake City. He lists Brigham Young among the half-dozen greatest men in history. However, the Nichols family were not practical Mormons.
Red’s father, E. W. Nichols, was professor of music at Weber College, Ogden, Utah, and at the State University in Salt Lake City. When little E. Loring (Red, to us) was three years old he was running around with a silver-plated trumpet in his mouth. At five, he played “America” before Weber’s entire student body.
“I always loved the cornet best. My trumpet technique improved under the guidance of Captain O’Callaghan,” he told me.
The boy was a good student. He also excelled on the track, and at basketball. A military career loomed ahead. For strangely enough, Red’s parents strenuously objected to their son having a musical career, unless he would devote himself exclusively to the classics.

“I ran away from home, the summer I was sixteen, to join a dance band at Piquet, Ohio,” the affable leader said. “It was called the Syncopating Five. We got stranded in Indianapolis. There was no work. I wouldn’t go home. Washed dishes in a lunch room for three weeks for my food.”
“Then, with nothing at all, I got Ralph Dunkee, of the now famous Sisters of the Skillet and organized a cooperative dance band. In Lake James, Indiana, we found ourselves broke. Luckily, about that time along came the Syncopating Five, and asked me—” Red gave us one of those priceless, roguish looks, and went on, “or rather I asked them, if I could have a job again.

Read More »