Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Country Novelties recorded in NYC 1937

Recently, there was a request from a fellow 78-L member who was looking for recordings by a few obscure novelty country acts that were rcorded in NYC in 1937. Oddly enough (well, maybe it’s not so odd), I happened to have a record apiece by two of the requested acts. They are posted below, with the discographical info, such as it is (a lot of musicians who remain unknown):

Zeke Manners and his Swing Billies recorded four sides (all issued) for Irving Mills’s Variety label in March 1937…the instrumentation is a bit complex, so I’ll list it exactly the way it is listed in Russell’s Country Discography:

M-242-1 Organ Grinder’s Swing Zeke Manners and his Swing Billies Variety VA 640
–1, 3, 5, 8
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 53 times)
M-243-1 Blow The Whistle Zeke Manners and his Swing Billies Variety VA 640 –2, 4, 6, 7, 8
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 37 times)
NYC March 1937: Zeke Manners, piano-accordion –1; unknown, electric steel guitar; unknown, guitar; unknown, string bass; unknown, ocarina –2; unknown, bazooka or slide whistle; possibly unknown, xylophone –3; possibly unknown, washboard – 4; unknown, traps -5; unknown, bell –6; unknown, train whistle effect –7; Band, vocal and speech.

Members of the band are addressed on Mx M-242 as Ed, Hank, Bob, Bill and Ace. Hank appears to play the bazooka or slide whistle, and Ed may play electric steel guitar.

For what it’s worth, the other two sides in the session may have Elton Britt’s yodeling on them.
Arty Hall and His Radio Rubes did two sessions for ARC in 1937, six were recorded at the first session and all were issued. The second session produced six more sides, but only one was issued.

21495-1 Conversation With a Mule Arty Hall and His Radio Rubes Melotone 7-12-54

NYC 11 August 1937: Arty Hall, speech; unknown, fiddle; unknown, accordion; unknown,
guitar. (link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 40 times)

21830-2 Sara Jane Arty Hall and His Radio Rubes Melotone 7-12-54
NYC 8 October 1937: Arty Hall, two unknown, vocal trio; unknown, fiddle; unknown, accordion; unknown, guitar; unknown, harmonica & Jews harp.
(link killed 23 February 2009 - Downloaded 32 times)

I think these sides are rather fun, in a Hoosier Hot Shots vein...light novelty fare without the bombast that Spike Jones would offer in a few years.

Oh...before I get any nasty comments, I do like Spike, and have a couple of unusual items that I'll post sometime in the future.

Shoooot...I'd settle for any comments, actually. I've had only one (from a friend) since I launched this furshlugginer blog......

(My labels scanned by my good friend, neighbor, and fellow 78-L member...you know who you are. Many, many thanks!)


Kevin said...

Hi & thanks for posting those. They're weird and interesting records. Most of my research has been devoted to western swing bands of the Southwest and similar groups elsewhere, but I've occasionally moved further afield. THe New York country scene was always lively but it wasn't musically that interesting for the most part in the 1930s -- a few good groups from elsewhere travelling through, but the locally based performers seemed to focus on novelty and didn't respond as much as groups elsehwhere did to what was going on in the pop world -- swing, jazz, etc. That changed in the 1940s, when the scene loosened up a bit. Zeke Manners' 1940s sides are often great -- with jazzmen like Eddie South, Frankie Froeba, Hot Lips Levine and others present. He was still tied to novelty, but there were some great solos on those records and others on that scene cut similar stuff -- sort of a New York studio version of wesrern swing. Manners is probably best known these days as the uncle of filmmmaker and comedian Albert Brooks, but he was a pretty big star in some corners in those days. As for the lineup here, I'm still puzzled a bit and will probably wait to hear the other two sides before sticking my neck out, partly because Manners had some upheaval in his group around this time and for a while had an entirely different group from his usual lineup (which was very heavily slanted toward vocals features, with a more spare instrumentation than heard here. The steel guitarist, howeever, is probably Eddie McMullen, a long-time stalwart of the NY quasi-country scene....The Radio Rubes had been around since the early '30s. When they cut the 1937 session, they'd recently lost their main attraction, Rufe Davis and Hall, the last original member of the group, had eased into the leadership spot. THe rest of the lineup is not as mysterious as the discographies suggest. The fiddler is Harry `Slim' Duncan, a multi-talented and durable sideman on the NY scene into the War years who spent the rest of his career on the West Coast, recording extensively and doing a lot of radio work. THe accordionist is Eddie Smith, who like Duncan would go from the Rubes to being a member of Denver Darling's backing group. Hall is presumably the jew's harp player, while the guitarist remains undetermined. I have a couple of names somewhere of members of the group around this time whose instrument of choice I'm not sure about, but that doesn't help much at this point...The Rubes recorded again for Bluebird in 1939, by which time Arty Hall was gone; they are also quite possibly the backing band on Roy Rogers' June 1938 Vocalion session held in New York -- they worked with him on personal appearances when he toured the area around that time. The band was still going strong into the second half of 1940, but soon after split, with Duncan and Smith going with Denver Darling. Smith also worked with Emerson's Mountaineers...Oh well. THanks again -- Kevin

Buck said...

Love the nice clean transfers and the label scans. Keep the novelty stuff coming!

RonL said...

To answer the Uh question, is there not a tune where the singer tells us to count and put the Uh sound in instead of a seven? There are more sound substituions for other numbers and combinations.

Ron L

ZorchMan said...

Thanks to Keven...your info will be penciled into my discography and will be used to update my posting.

ZorchMan said...

Glad you liked, Buck!

ZorchMan said...


You're on the right path...can you come up with a title?

Carrie Laby said...

My grandfather Neil Laby was most likely the guitar player at this time. I still have his Martin Guitar and Paramount Tenor Banjo. He was Dutch and as I was told, Arty was the only one who spoke English. I have a picture of the 4 of them together. just e-mail me at:


Carrie Laby Hoagland said...

Where can I hear these recordings? I have been looking all over for my grandfather playing.