Thursday, June 21, 2007

Anatomy of a Forgotten Fad

When I was transferring those four NYC country novelties a couple of weeks ago, I noticed one of the characters on the Manning record counting up...but with a twist...he substitutes the syllable "uh" for the number seven.

Well, that tickled me, for I knew what the joke was.

This reminded me that there was a Warner Brothers cartoon from 1936 or so that also contained an "uh" for the number seven...and a "woof woof" for ten. It's an early Tex Avery WB cartoon, Porky the Wrestler, from early 1937: and the sequence is in the final minute. The wrestler actually says "uh-uh" which throws 8 and 9 off by half a beat. But the audience "woofs" twice and that joke ends.

Anyway, I've never seen anybody else pick up on the joke...and I've checked the standard Warner Brothers cartoon books and websites. The "uh-uh, woof-woof" fad seems to be completely forgotten among the general public, although there are several record collectors who'd notice the cartoon reference, if they were reminded of the records that I've cited below:

It all started in February of 1936, when Hezekiah Leroy "Stuff" Smith and his Onyx Club Boys recorded their I'se A-Muggin' routine (I can assume the song and musical counting game were quite popular at the Onyx and the Brunswick/Vocalion brass smelled a hit record).

18654-1 I’se A-Muggin’ Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys Vocalion 3169 (link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 45 times)
18655-1 I'se a Muggin' Musical Numbers Game Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys Vocalion 3169
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 49 times)

NYC, 11 February 1936: Jonah Jones, trumpet; Stuff Smith, violin & vocal; Raymond Smith, piano; Bobby Bennett, guitar; Mack Walker, bass; John Washington, drums.

Apparently this sold well...for the next month there were no fewer than five more versions recorded within a few days of each other (and two of those are two-sided recordings)

Interesting note: Bud Freeman plays on both Victor/Bluebird versions...recorded 2 days apart.

99447-2 I’se A-Muggin’ – Part 1 The Three T's Victor 25273
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 29 times)
99448-1 I’se A-Muggin’ – Part 2 The Three T's Victor 25273
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 28 times)
(for the record, the full credit on the record reads THE THREE T’S (Paul Whiteman Presents the Teagarden Boys & Trumbauer Swing Band)
NYC, 10 March 1936: Charlie Teagarden, trumpet; Jack Teagarden, trombone & vocal; Jack Cordaro, clarinet; Frank Trumbauer, c-melody sax; Bud Freeman, tenor sax; Roy Bargy, piano; Carl Kress, guitar; Art Miller, bass; Bob White, drums.

In my opinion, this was the best of the copy versions of Muggin'. Then again, any band that had both Jack and Charlie Teagarden, Tram, and Bud Freeman couldn't be too bad. One wishes there had been more recordings by this Whiteman-sponsored group, but there weren't...although some broadcast material has recently surfaced.


99776-1 I’se A-Muggin’ – Part 1 Mezz Mezzrow and his Swing Band Bluebird B-6321 (link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 18 times)
99777-1 I’se A-Muggin’ – Part 2 Mezz Mezzrow and his Swing Band Bluebird B-6321
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 21 times)

NYC, 12 March 1936: Frank Newton, trumpet; Mezz Mezzrow, clarinet; Bud Freeman, tenor sax; Willie "The Lion" Smith, piano; Al Casey, guitar; Wellman Braud, bass; George Stafford, drums.

Recorded at the RCA studios two days later for RCA's 35-cent Bluebird label. When the musicians are playing, all is great, but during the numbers game on side two, the musicians seem a trifle bored. Maybe it's because they waxed four other titles at this session. Bud Freeman returns after the less-than-inspired counting to rescue the record.


On 11 March 1936, Decca got into the act by recording Andy Kirk's version (with his Clouds of Joy, of course)...but I don't have that recording yet.

The RedHotJazz website aparently has a copy at , but the link seems to be dead at the moment.


Also on the 11th, ARC waxed a cover version of Muggin' for their dime-store copy is on Melotone:

18806-1 I’se A-Muggin’ Joe Haymes and his Orchestra Melotone 6-05-09
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 28 times)
NYC, 11 March 1936: Cliff Weston, trumpet & vocal; Gordon (Chris) Griffin, Zeke Zarchy, trumpets; Mike Michaels, Frank Llewellyn, trombones; Leo White, Edgar Sarrason, Freddy Fallensby, Ben Harrod, reeds; Bill Miller, piano; Brick Fleagle, guitar; Jack Fay, bass; Charlie Bush, drums.

A rather hot version, with a more-or-less rhymed list of instructions...and they trim around 30 numbers out of the counting game.

B-18809-1 I’se A-Muggin’ Hal Kemp and his Orchestra Brunswick 7636
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 28 times)

NYC, 12 March 1936: Hal Kemp, clarinet and alto sax, leader; Earl Geiger, Russ Case, trumpets; Wendell "Gus" Mayhew, Eddie Kusby (Kuczborski), trombones; Harold Dankers, Ben Williams, Saxie Dowell, reeds; Dowell, vocal; John Scott Trotter, piano; Phil Fent, guitar; Jack Shires, bass; Skinny Ennis , Maxine Grey, speaking roles only .

Recorded the next day (and only three matrixes later), ARC's more expensive label, Brunswick, gets a version too. This was first version of the tune I ever had...I've had this copy for around 35 years. This was the only version that did a takeoff on "oh no, sir" bit that Stuff did on his record...and they got a full chorus of the song and a whirlwind count too. It's also a lot hotter than most of Kemp's post-1934 sides...his records usually were safely catalogued in the sweet/Mickey Mouse section.


OLA-1057-1 I’se A-Muggin’ Quintet of the Hot Club de France HMV K-7704, Vi JA-874 (link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 24 times)
Paris, 4 May 1936: Stephane Grappelli, violin; Django Reinhardt, Pierre Ferret, Joseph Reinhardt, guitars; Lucien Simoens, bass; Freddy Taylor, vocal.

The Muggin' fad finally had hit Europe, and Freddy Taylor (black tap-dancer and vocalist) does a fair vocal, even if he does mangle the names of his supporting musicians..."Dango" and "Steven" must have loved that. Mercifully, they don't count on this version..

I think there might have been other versions recorded in Europe at around the same time...but will I look for them?

(Image borrowed from the WB Cartoon Filmography website)

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