Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Calypso: Wilmoth Houdini

I've noticed that some of the most-downloaded albums in Ye Olde Zorche Bloggue are those that feature calypso music (at last count, 210 on the Sir Lancelot set and 278 on Calypso Carnival).I think I'll post some's a 6-song album (three 78s, actually...and there's a nice descriptive booklet, too!) by legendary calypsonian, Wilmoth Houdini.
CALYPSOS Wilmoth Houdini
Decca Album 78
66526A Monkey Swing
Decca 18005-A
66528A He Had It Coming Decca 18005-B
66523A Welcome of Their Majesties Decca 18006-A
66527A Hot Dogs Made Their Name Decca 18006-B
66525A Roosevelt Opens The World's Fair Decca 18007-A
66524A Johnny Take My Wife Decca 18007-B
NYC 11 September 1939: Wilmoth Houdini, vocal; with the Royal Calypso Orchestra.

Yes, it appears that all six songs in this album were recorded at that one session. Four of them were about then-current events...the New York World's Fair (where Houdini performed), the arrival of the British King and Queen in June, and the menu for the Royal Picnic held at FDR's estate on the 11th (more on the visit here, and a murder that occurred in Port-of-Spain's Grass Market.

You can find a bit more on Mr. Houdini at , but they give the composition date of He Had It Coming as 1946, which is six years after this recording. Time ran an article about the composer as well (,9171,933584,00.html).

In October 1945, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan recorded their spirited version of the song, calling it Stone Cold Dead In The Market. It sold quite well in the summer of 1946.
73073 Stone Cold Dead In The Market Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan Decca 23546
NYC, 9 October 1945: Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Jordan, vocals; with Louis Jordan's (somewhat augmented) Tympany Five: Aaron Izenhall. trumpet; Louis Jordan, alto sax; Josh Jackson, tenor sax; William Davis, piano; Carl Hogan, piano; Jesse Simpkins, bass; Eddie Byrd, drums; Harry Dial, maracas; Vic Lourie, claves.

The following year, Tiger Haynes and The Three Flames covered another song from this album (which Houdini himself had previously recorded in 1932):
CO 37383 Johnny Take My Wife The Three Flames Columbia 37321
NYC 17 February 1947: Tiger Haynes, vocal & guitar; Roy Testamark, piano; Bill (Averill) Pollard, vocal & bass.

Billboard's reviewers (in the issue of 17 May 1947) didn't much care for it...

...which may be one reason this didn't sell nearly as well as their previous record, their cover of Jack McVea's Open The Door Richard. I don't care...I rather like the side, but the Houdini one is better.

Finally, I offer a couple of interesting airchecks I found a few years ago in a stash of 78s...sometimes those home-recordings contain gems like these:

-- Sweet Sue / Hand To Mouth Boogie Adler, Ross & Burns Aircheck
5 September 1944: Larry Adler, harmonica; Shirley Ross, piano; Bob Burns, bazooka.
I assume that this is from Burns's program...he seems to be the host, anyway.

And here's a little thing by Tommy Dorsey:

-- It's Never Too Late To Pray Tommy Dorsey Aircheck
circa 1945: Tommy Dorsey, trombone solo.

...and yes, according to Tommy Dorsey, his friend (the composer) Willard Robison's last name was pronounced "ROBE-is-son."

One last point...I recently received a very generous donation from our pal The Mad Doughnut Man, who hosts the terrific Original Bandbox show Thursdays on WRDV (

This entire post is for you, my friend!!! And thanks again!!


baikinange said...

This is GREAT post, lots of wonderful stuff. And thanks for letting me know you posted the song I've been looking for !

ZorchMan said...

My pleasure!!! Thanks for the comment!

FredrikO said...

Wonderful! Keep that calypso coming!

Joy said...

I've just discovered your site and am enjoying it immensely--the Charlie Parker Xmas broadcast and the Louis Jordan/Ella F. collaboration in particular. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and unusual music.

ZorchMan said...

Thanks Fred & Joy! Glad to see new people!

PerfectoJoe said...

Zorch daddio!

Any plans to re-up things in the demise of the mega?

I am itchy!

Go ApE!