Sunday, January 2, 2011

Not My Victrola

240252 posted this 1929 Brunswick version of the St. James Infirmary Blues, by George E Lee's Novelty Singing Orchesta. The history posted with this song from Wikipedia is interesting reading; the third time was the charm for this great song.

"From Wikipedia:

St James Infirmary -- American folksong, made famous by Louis Armstrong recording from 1928. (Many records credit it to Joe Primrose, which is a pseudonim of Irving Mills - agent and songwriter, probably an autor of an original arrangement).

George E. Lee Singing Novelty Orchestra steadily grew in number and sophistication throughout all the 1920s. George and his sister Julia's showmanship and strong vocals made the band a hit with the audiences in the 18th and Vine area. In August, 1923, the six-piece Lee band recorded for the OKeh label, becoming the first African American band from Kansas City to record. Unfortunately, Okeh judged the result of the session unsatisfactory and declined to release the two selections, "Just Wait Until I'm gone" and "Waco Blues." Having missed an opportunity for national exposure, the Lee band continued playing the dance halls and cabarets in the 18th and Vine community.

In November, 1929, the Lee band recorded six selections for the Brunswick label, including "St James Infirmary." Louis Armstrong had recorded an up-tempo version of "Saint James Infirmary" a year earlier, but it failed to catch on with the record-buying public. Lee's slower-tempo version better matched the solemn lyrics describing a gambler meditating on his own mortality while viewing his dead sweetheart's body in Saint James Infirmary. The record sold well locally, but Brunswick did not promote it nationally in the advent of the Great Depression. Cab Calloway's cover of Lee's version of "Saint James Infirmary," recorded the next year, created a national sensation."

Here is a Betty Boop cartoon featuring Cab Calloway singing "St Jame's Infirmary Blues;" scoot the slider over to 4:10 to go right to the song. This video was posted by abadhiggins.

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