Friday, November 19, 2010

Songs from a fine concert...

The other day (6 November), the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse in Franklin, Massachusetts hosted a terrific concert...folk/roots music legends Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur were the headliners.

If, by some sad twist of fate, you don't know them, or the fact that they played together in Kweskin's Jug Band forty-something years ago, here they are in 1967 performing a song familiar to Sanctum readers (from their enigmatically titled LP See Reverse Side For Title):

Never Swat A Fly Jim Kweskin Jug Band
Vanguard VSD-79243
(See Reverse Side For Title)
1967: featuring Geoff Muldaur, lead vocal; with Jim Kweskin, Maria D'Amato (Muldaur), Bill Keith, Fritz Richmond.

After the show, I talked for a minute with both musicians, and told them about my blog, mentioning that it had two rare versions of Never Swat A Fly... forgetting that the links to those records I originally posted in 2007 were down (to make room for newer stuff).


Those songs are re-posted below:

According to Geoff, the band learned the song from this record:

64608-2 Never Swat A Fly McKinney's Cotton Pickers
Victor 23020
NYC, 4 November 1930: Don Redman, conductor; Joe Smith, Rex Stewart, Langston Curl, trumpets; Ed Cuffee, trombone; Don Redman, Benny Carter, Edward Inge, Prince Robinson, reeds; Todd Rhodes, piano; Dave Wilborn, banjo; Billy Taylor, tuba; Cuba Austin, drums; Bill Coty, vocal.

The clarinet soloist is a young Benny Carter.

The song came from a rather strange 1930 science-fiction/comedy/musical film, Just Imagine. I got a copy of the film a while back. Frank Albertson and Marjorie White do their version of Never Swat A Fly here...splices and all:

Never Swat A Fly Frank Albertson & Marjorie White Just Imagine soundtrack

These two versions, from rare Brunswick-recorded radio discs, are reposted especially for Geoff and Jim, with many thanks for a great show:

XE-35018 (excerpt) Never Swat A Fly The Mirth Quakers
from Mirth Quakers, show P, part 4
NYC ca. 4 November 1930: Jerry Macy, Norman Brokenshire, vocal; probably Murray Kelner, violin; others unknown.

Notice how they changed the lyrics from "with you" to "with Sue!" not that anything's wrong with that!

XE-35335 (excerpt) Never Swat A Fly Irving Kaufman
from Novelty Special, show J, part 2
NYC 7 November 1930: Irving Kaufman, vocal; personnel uncertain, but my guess is that the band contains Mike Mosiello, trumpet; Andy Sannella, alto sax; and (definitely) Joe Venuti, violin.

Kaufman muffs the words "Here is the motto," somehow getting it "Here is the mos' moto." It's interesting that Brunswick didn't do a retake. They probably figured that the record would be played once over the air, and that would be it...the records were supposed to be returned or destroyed.

Kweskin and Muldaur didn't swat flies that night, but they did perform a whole bunch of other fine stuff. I think I'll post the original versions of some of those other songs:

Here's some fine hot fiddlin' by the legendary hellraiser Prince Albert Hunt:

400435-A Blues In A Bottle Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers OKeh 45230

San Antonio, 8 March 1928: Archie "Prince" Albert Hunt, fiddle & vocal; unknown, guitar.
Frank Stokes and Dan Sane recorded several sides as the Beale Street Sheiks for Paramount...Kweskin and Muldaur played two Stokes songs that night (Downtown Blues was the other):

4773-1 Sweet To Mama The Beale Street Sheiks (Stokes and Sane) Paramount 12531
Chicago, ca. August 1927: Frank Stokes, guitar & vocal; Dan Sane, guitar.

The Jug Band recorded this Leroy Carr song on that See Reverse Side For Title album

C-6092- Papa's On the House Top Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Vocalion 1593
Chicago, 9 September 1930: Leroy Carr, piano & vocal; Scrapper Blackwell, guitar.

Poultry in motion!!

The Chicken Mississippi John Hurt Vanguard VSD 79248 (The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt)

1966: Mississippi John Hurt, vocal & guitar.

Oddly enough, two of the songs performed that night were originally recorded in Johnson City, Tennessee on the same day, probably within minutes of each other! The first was the classic version of Cuckoo by Doc Watson's mentor, Clarence (Tom) Ashley:

149251-2 The Coo-Coo Bird Clarence Ashley Columbia 15489-D
Johnson City, TN, 23 October 1929: Clarence (Tom) Ashley, vocal & banjo.

There is apparently nothing known at all about the Bentley Boys, other than the fact they recorded only two sides on the same day (and nothing else)...

149254-2 Down On Penny's Farm The Bentley Boys
Columbia 15565-D
Johnson City, TN, 23 October 1929: Unknown, banjo, guitar & vocal.

Folding money (and not some weird tarnish) is the subject of the next goodie, by the great Memphis bluesman, Furry Lewis.
42425-2 I Will Turn Your Money Green Furry Lewis Victor V-38506
Memphis, 28 August 1928: Walter (Furry) Lewis, vocal & guitar

Oh, did you ever see the Burt Reynolds comedy W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings? Furry's featured fairly prominently...

The perennial folkie favorite Fishing Blues was in the playlist too...
C-2003- Fishing Blues Henry Thomas ("Ragtime Texas") Vocalion 1249
Chicago, 13 June 1928: Henry Thomas,
vocal, quills (panpipes) & guitar.

I should mention that I also thoroughly enjoyed the opening act, Eric Royer's one-man band. At one point in the set, he asked for requests. I yelled out "Pretty Polly!" Eric's off-the-cuff rendition was one of the best I've ever heard.

There are several recorded versions of this old murder ballad...the one by Dock Boggs is great, but my favorite is the one recorded by B. F. Shelton.

39736-2 Pretty Polly B. F. Shelton Victor 35838

Bristol, TN. 29 July 1927: B. F. Shelton, vocal & banjo.

If you noticed that this performance seemed a little longer than the average 3-minute 78, you're right. It came out on a 12-inch 78...

By the way, Polly is descended from a much longer ballad called The Gosport Tragedy, first published around the longer version, Polly is pregnant, the murderer goes to sea and is followed by Polly's ghost. The Library of Congress has an early broadside of the ballad:

After the show I told Eric that I thought the old Alfred Karnes song We Shall All Be Reunited might be a good end-of-set piece. It would make a good encore, too...

47234-2 We Shall All Be Reunited Alfred G. Karnes Victor V-40076
Bristol, TN, 28 October 1928: Alfred G. Karnes, vocal and harp-guitar.

Yes, this song has been posted here before, but it's so good I can't resist. I've used it as a closing for many mix discs and for those Grits Radio shows.

And I close with it this time too.

PS. I turn 54 can cut off my leg and count the rings...