Last month, one of the last surviving singers from the pre-rock 'n' roll era, Jo Stafford, quietly passed away at the age of 90. There have been so many tributes in the blogosphere and newspapers
(http://www.nysun.com/obituaries/jo-stafford-90-singer-of-swing-standards/82157/ is probably the best one) that there's little that I can add.
(5 November 2008 flash: I just found a nice Stafford discography here: http://web.cfa.arizona.edu/westonstafford/JoDiscography.pdf )
However, there are a couple of interesting 45 rpm singles that you probably haven't seen:
I've always been fond of the records that Jo and her husband Paul Weston recorded under the name of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards...their impression of a truly awful lounge act. "Jonathan" would play the piano in the worst possible manner... hitting wrong notes everywhere and losing (or adding) a beat here and there. "Darlene" would sing a quarter-tone sharp.
I knew that a 45 rpm single was issued from their first Columbia LP, 1957's The Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards...but I didn't know that there was also a special promotional picture sleeve that went along with it. A very special promotional picture sleeve. I got my copy fairly recently on eBay for a couple of bucks plus postage.
JRZSP 40180 It's Magic Jonathan & Darlene Edwards (Paul Weston & Jo Stafford) Columbia 4-41001
Hollywood, 8 April 1957
Marvelous, isn't it? Jonathan's piano artistry is particularly good here...the fingers on his two right hands (check the pic sleeve!) are certainly nimble.
While I'm at it, here's the flip side (Jo sits this one out):
JRZSP 40269 Nola Jonathan Edwards Columbia 4-41001
Hollywood, late 1957
That tiny picture at the top of the B-side of the sleeve is just too good not to blow up...
I've never seen this pic anywhere else...it's not on the LP.
The LP cover is here, by the way: http://lpcoverlover.com/2008/08/07/right-handed/
In the mid 1950s, there were many (far too many, actually) cover versions of rhythm 'n' blues hits, taking the rough edges off of great R & B songs, perhaps sanitizing the lyrics a bit, and having someone like of Pat Boone or Gale Storm record them for the white pop market. Sadly, many sold better than the original records.
Here's one of the strangest ones...
RZSP 33324 I Got A Sweetie Jo Stafford Columbia 4-40451
Hollywood, 4 February 1955: Jo Stafford, vocal; Paul Weston Orch.
Yep...that's a completely retooled and retitled version of Ray Charles's I Got A Woman. Don't blame Jo...she was probably forced to do it by the head of Columbia's pop division at the time, Mitch Miller (I'm thankful Mitch didn't use Stan Freeman's harpsichord this time around.) Actually, Jo sings it fairly well, but nobody can make lyrics like "he's my dreamboat" sound anything but ludicrous. Notice that the only composer credit is Ray Charles...perhaps the dreamboater decided to remain anonymous. Paging Alan Smithee!
Oh, did you happen to notice the CSL notation at the 4:00 position on the label? I've seen it on many Columbia promos of the period. I remember asking around at the various record shows a few years back...and nobody knew what "CSL" stood for.
I finally came across a little notice here:
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/5876/cd6/comments.htm (and look about halfway down the page).
So the "CSL" notation was to tell the deejay that this record conformed to the Columbia Standard Level!! It's amazing what one can find on the 'Web, isn't it? At least in this instance, anyway.
Here's another oddball record I spotted on eBay (cost me a buck or two) a while back...
It's the original CSL calibrating record! Here's a little bit of it.
It's a real toe-tapper, isn't it? Needless to say, it doesn't get a lot of play at Chateau Zorch. At least the label is interesting.
A while back, someone in 78-L remarked that he seemed to recall that the "Hi Fi Plus" logo at the 9:00 position on many promos of the period was the indicator for the deejay that the record conformed to some standard level.
If that was the case, why are stickers like this
often found on covers on LPs that were issued to the public? My guess is that "Hi Fi Plus" was Columbia's answer to RCA Victor's "New Orthophonic High Fidelity"
Of course, it was the CSL that the 78-Ler was thinking of. Since both the CSL and Hi-Fi Plus were first used at around the same time, it's understandable that there was a little confusion...and it's been over half a century since most people have given these matters any serious thought.
In February, I mentioned all of the recording activity that followed the first From Spirituals to Swing concert in December 1938. ARC/Vocalion recorded Mitchell's Christian Singers, Sonny Terry, and the three boogie-woogie pianists, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis.
Shortly thereafter, the three pianists recorded for Blue Note....the first sessions for this new label.
From what I've heard, Alfred Lion had fifty copies each pressed of the first two records. He wasn't sure how well they'd sell. They sold quickly enough for him to continue pressing the rest of the sides and do more recording as well.
Anyhooooo....those first fifty copies used a pink and black label. Here's one of those records:
441-5 Boogie Woogie Stomp Albert Ammons Blue Note 2
442-8 Boogie Woogie Blues Albert Ammons Blue Note 2
NYC, 6 January 1939: Albert Ammons, piano solos.
Great sides, aren't they? One can see why they sold fairly quickly. But all subsequent pressings used the more familiar blue-and-white label (and for a while, Blue Note used a blue-on-yellow color scheme too).
(shameless plug coming...)
Psssssst....want this rarity? I'm thinking of selling it. Money's a little tighter than usual, and I'm feeling the pinch. A copy of this record sold a few months ago on eBay for close to $1,000.00. I'd be a happy Zorch indeed if my copy earned almost as much.
But do I sell it on eBay, send it to a certain well-known 78 dealer, or conduct a private sale?
Here's another record I think I'll put on the block...what is probably the only time you'll hear a jug band doing...waltzes! Strange as that may seem, it proves how versatile Will Shade's group could be...they could (and did) play posh social functions, even if they had to come in through the back door to do so.
It's a pleasant record, but one that leaves some collectors flat...I got this from a big Boston-area record dealer who really didn't like it much at all. I traded a Miles Davis Prestige LP for it (shoot...the Miles would go for a pretty penny nowadays too!).
And, yes...this is also up for grabs. I have it on CD. As I said, it's pleasant and historically interesting, but it's never been a huge favorite here (if it was something else by the MJB I'd probably keep it). In the past three years or so, I have seen two or three copies of this record go for between $500-975, depending on which way the wind blew that week.
Oh, did I mention that my copy has its original dealer's sleeve?
Or, rather, a sleeve with the original dealer's sticker on it? These stickers would be put on any heavy paper sleeve...one that would temporarily house a certain record. Most of the time, the sleeve would be used several times over (notice that this sticker is on top of another one).
37038-2 Jug Band Waltz Memphis Jug Band Victor V-38537
37039-2 Mississippi River Waltz Memphis Jug Band Victor V-38537
Memphis 15 September 1929: Will Shade, harmonica; Ben Ramey, kazoo; Charlie Burse, Vol Stevens, guitars; Jab Jones, jug.
You might ask why I left the pre-music noise in...there's a tiny, almost imperceptable pressure crack that goes in about 7 or 8 grooves...and I wanted to prove to the record-buying public that the crack is inaudible. The thumping noise that is audible at the beginning is only the bit of nail polish I put on the crack [in the lead-in only, of course] to 1) make sure the crack wouldn't get worse, and 2) to locate the crack in the first place...it's so small it's almost invisible. In the 25 or so years I've had the record, it's never gotten any worse, and it's unlikely to do so in the future.
A pair of pairs:
Something unusual...the same title, the same label...but completely different compositions! The first version of White Heat is a lesser song from The Band Wagon, sung here (and on stage) by some cat named Austerlitz. I heard he could dance a little too.
70259-1 White Heat Leo Reisman Orch. Victor 22836
NYC 28 September 1931: Leo Reisman, conductor; large society orchestra; Fred Astaire, vocal.
Just over two years later, Will Hudson's frenetic piece with the same title was waxed by the Jimmie Lunceford orchestra:
81324-1 White Heat Jimmie Lunceford Orch Victor 24586
NYC 26 January 1934: Lunceford, conductor; Eddie Tompkins, Tommy Stevenson, Sy Oliver, trumpets; Henry Wells, Russell Bowles, trombones; Willie Smith, Joe Thomas, Earl Carruthers, reeds; Edwin Wilcox; piano; Al Norris, guitar; Moses Allen, tuba; Jimmy Crawford, drums.
Here's another pair of sides that share the same title...this time you can't get much more different...one's a 1920s (oh, all right...it's 1930!) classic jazz piece, the other a mid-1950s country number.
404047-A Louisiana Swing Luis Russell Orch OKeh 8811
NYC 29 May 1930: Henry "Red" Allen, Otis Johnson, trumpets; J. C. Higginbotham, trombone; Albert Nicholas, Charlie Holmes, Teddy Hill, reeds; Louis Russell, piano & conductor; Will Johnson, guitar; Pops Foster, bass; Paul Barbarin, drums.
RZSP 33350 Louisiana Swing Johnny Bond Columbia 4-21383
mid 1954(?): Johnny Bond, vocal, unknown band.
This is the only time I've seen a CSL promo with black print. Then again, I've never seen the "Sleeper" notation or a photo on a Columbia 45 either.
That should nail the seeds to the roof...Hope y'all have some fun with my music this time around...