The Kingfish Files

Author: host Created: 1/30/2011 12:59 PM
Celebrating the music and musicians of early jazz.
By host on 9/25/2011 5:54 AM
There is no question Jelly Roll Morton was one of the most prolific and original composers of the Jazz Age.  His tunes were recorded by many other artists such as Benny Goodman whose recording of "King Porter Stomp" ushered in the swing era. Despite his obvious contributions, ASCAP refused to recognize his right to receive royalties on his music.  That was ASCAP's attitude towards black composers as a rule.  But Jelly tenaciously fought ASCAP for years and finally won the recognition he deserved.  Unfortunately, ASCAP agreed to pay him the lowest possible rate of $120 per year (white composers got up to $6,000 per year).. Though the pay was low, Jelly was poor and he needed the money badly.  So he went back into the recording studio and, while suffering from bad health, knocked out some of the best recordings he ever made.  What makes these recordings unique for him is that he sings on them, something he never did...
By host on 6/11/2011 8:41 PM
Last week an astute subscriber noted that Annette Hanshaw reminded him of Betty Boop, and therein lies a tale. It is no accident that Annette sounds like Betty Boop, but the connection is somewhat indirect and it ends with a lawsuit and a woman cheated out of what is rightfully hers.  Please click on the link to read the whole story.
By host on 6/5/2011 4:55 AM
I'm a sucker for Annette Hanshaw and I'm not sure why.  I think it's the combination of her great style, terrific songs, unassuming arrangements, and wonderful backing musicians. Oddly, she didn't think much of her own voice. But I'm glad she recorded anyway. Here's one of my favorite tunes with a great line: There are other new sheiks who would like to be sheikin' Haven't slipped yet but I'm liable to weakin' Great stuff ...
By host on 5/20/2011 7:13 AM
In 1924, cornetist Bix Beiderbecke recorded "Riverboat Shuffle" with the Wolverine Orchestra.  The recording is a jazz classic that not only showcases Bix's trumpet style, but also illustrates the rapid advancement of jazz arrangement since the first jazz recordings only a few years prior.  Pay particular attention to the guitar work of Bob Gillette.  Bob was an unsung pioneer of jazz guitar who could have rivaled Eddie Lang. Interesting sidelight, the song was a Hoagy Carmichael tune called “Freewheeling”. The band liked the tune but not the name. Bix said it reminded him of a Riverboat. Bob Gillette said that the rhythm had a shuffle to it. They renamed it the “Riverboat Shuffle".  ...
By host on 1/31/2011 10:10 AM
It's a shame that our memories are so limited.  Who do most people remember when it comes to music from the 1920s?  Louis Armstrong, certainly.  Bix Beiderbecke, maybe.  Adrian Rollini?  Not likely. Yet, for those who take music from the 1920s seriously, Rollini is respected as one of the truly great musical talents of his time. A true multi-instrumentalist, Rollini was equally skilled at piano, drums, xylophone, and bass saxophone,  In fact, it was Rollini who established the bass saxophone as one of the iconic features of 1920s hot jazz. Please enjoy Adrian Rollini on "After You've Gone". ...
By host on 12/23/2010 12:00 AM
  Judy Garland introduced this classic in the 1944 MGM musical "Meet Me in St. Louis". As is so often the case, the original is the best, not just for the recording but for the lyrics. 1944 wasn't the happiest of times -- victory in WWII was hardly a foregone conclusion and the depression was still in recent memory. So it's only appropriate that the song's lyrics include the line: Someday soon we all will be together If the fates allow. Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow, So have yourself a merry little Christmas now. Isn't that much better than "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough"? Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight. ...
By host on 11/21/2010 12:00 AM
Some songs just refuse to go away. They may not have made it to the top of the list of great American songs, yet they continue to be played, mostly by musicians who appreciate their beauty. "Alice Blue Gown" is one of those songs. Introduced by Edith Day in the 1919 Broadway show "Irene", the song has a universal appeal. First, of course, is the music itself -- an unassuming yet memorable waltz. But then there are the lyrics that tell the story of a young woman who clearly was not well-off enough to afford a new dress. But the "nearly new" gown of Alice Blue was her pride and joy. And my favorite part is this: And it wore, and it wore, and it wore 'Til it went, and it wasn't no more Pure poetry. Edith Day (1896 - 1971) had a successful career in the...
By host on 10/31/2010 12:00 AM
Popular music in the 1920s was very accepting of odd and idosyncratic performers. And nobody demonstrates that better than Lee Morse. Lee was very popular and very quirky -- her vocal style was truly unique. Some would say thankfully so, but I find it charming and authentic. This recording demonstrates Lee's style in all its glory. ...
By host on 10/24/2010 3:00 AM
  Eva Taylor is one of the many forgotten singers of the 1920s despite all the many recordings she made. She was a child actor who came to Harlem, sang in nightclubs, married the great jazz pianist Clarence Williams (also pretty much forgotten) and had a long and successful career. This recording of West End Blues is my favorite version of the tune, performed with simplicity, directness, and plenty of feeling. ...
By host on 10/17/2010 3:00 AM
In the 1920s and early 1930s Ruth Etting was as big a singing star as ever existed. Here's a nice recording of her singing "I'm Happy". What a great scene - Ruth sharing the backseat of a limo with the chauffeur, listening to the newest technology -- car radio!

UPDATE: The lawyers win again.  The short excerpt from a 1930s film was removed from youtube for copyright violation.  Copyright laws have been extended to the point that just about nothing can be shown without paying someone.  Just another sign of the decline of our culture.  If you can't view this video, thank a lawyer.

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