Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
All this is a prelude to Mr. Riccardi's upcoming (2010) book about Armstrong's later years. Sounds like it will be well worth keeping an eye open for.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Jack Shea's was probably the second recording of "Lovesick Blues" (after Elsie Clark's, earlier the same year). This song is much different from the one recorded by the yodelling blackface minstrel Emmett Miller in 1928. It was Miller's recording that inspired Hank Williams, whose version shot to the top of the charts in 1949.
To hear this song, click on: "Lovesick Blues" MP3.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The first album I saw there was called Music Hall Memories, and features British music hall performances from as early as 1906 (and as recently as 1938). So, this is a kind of roots music and although you won't hear anything resembling "St. James Infirmary" here, you will hear tunes that were enormous influences on British popular music as well as on the music that came from American Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley.
In fact, the second major hit for Irving and Jack Mills' fledgling sheet music business was "Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Sean" - a song that would be very much at home on this collection. The Gallagher and Sean song ensured that Jack and Irving had enough money to continue buying songs, and so probably played a key role in the later drama of SJI.
I have an old 78 of "Mr. Gallagher and Mr Sean," the flip side of Jack Shea's 1922 recording of "Lovesick Blues." It's very scratchy, but I've just purchased an old turntable; my son, Alex, gave me an accessory that will allow me to create mp3 files from those records, and I shall be posting them in the near future.
Highly recommended here is the hilarious 1932 ditty "The Lion and Abert" by Stanley Holloway.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Clicking on the image should give you a larger, readable version of the page.
This particular score was almost certainly used by an orchestra of the period. An instruction pencilled in at the bottom of the page tells the player when to "stand up" during the performance.
In this orchestral score, music is included for drums, piano, 1st and 3rd alto saxophones, 2nd tenor saxophone, violin, trombone, 1st and 2nd trumpet, tenor banjo, bass, and 1st violin. The price for the entire score was 50 cents.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
To paraphrase the big band historian Joesph E. Bennett, if one were simply to listen to a Moore performance, one would first hear Deacon's introductory remarks delivered in a broad hillbilly twang - and would expect, upon opening one's eyes, to see a country hick in bib overalls, chewing on a bit of straw. Instead there would stand "a handsome, slender young man immaculately arrayed in a spotless tuxedo, leading an orchestra which was equal in appearance to the most impressive New York ensemble. The band's music was tasteful and modern, with an impressive mix of popular up-tempo numbers and traditional lush ballads, all delivered with an obvious high degree of musicianship."
You can hear all of that in this selection. To listen to this song, click on: "Nobody Knows Where She's Gone" MP3.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Mills covered as many bases as he could. He gave orchestra scores to dance bands, free records to radio stations, discounted sheet music to newsstands. Bands he managed released versions of "St. James Infirmary" for both the premium record labels and the budget record labels, so whatever their income level there was probably a version of the song in the buyer's price range. And as you can see in an earlier entry on this blog, newspaper advertisements sometimes made no reference at all to the music, but instead hinted that cool dudes owned this record.
I found myself musing again and again about the selling of SJI when I read Rob Walker's recent book "Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are." Song publicists in the 1920s were a creative bunch, often devising unusual ways of popularizing a product and could, "by all the arts of persuasion, intrigue, bribery, mayhem, malfeasance, cajolery, entreaty, threat, insinuation, persistence and whatever else he has" see to it that the music was heard. While Mills was well ahead of his time in terms of advertising know-how and moxy, he hardly held a candle to the bright lights of today's advertising business.
Rob Walker is, of course, responsible for the remarkable NOnotes website, the best resource for SJI-related material on the web. He is also an authority on consumerism - by which I mean the means whereby we are convinced of the seeming advantage (or necessity) of owning a particular product, taking a particular point of view - and writes a regular column for the New York Times Magazine. I'm an occasional reader of his Murketing blog, where his musings are sometimes nothing short of brilliant.
We think of ourselves as a pretty sophisticated bunch these days. We're savvy to advertising tricks, immune to their various arts of persuasion. I thought of myself this way. Until, that is, I read Buying In. Cultural artifacts like, well, like "St. James Infirmary" should come to us of their own accord, because something about them resonates with our essential selves or with the spirit of the times. "St. James Infirmary" survived, I think, despite the efforts of Irving Mills. These days, though, one can be excused for wondering how much of what we buy into has any real weight outside that of the pen signing the advertising contract. It's good to be aware. This is a good book to read.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Moore's first radio job was an early morning show on Cincinnati's WLW radio station. This station was originally built to help sell radios and used such a powerful transmitter that it interfered with Canadian radio signals. From Cincinnati the Moore's moved to St. Louis (where Carl hosted a country show called "The Shady Valley Gang"). By 1947 the Moore's (Carl, Margie, and their daughter Carole) made California their permanent home. The hillbilly persona he adopted in the dance halls of America served him well in the increasingly popular world of country music. It is still possible to see Carl "The Squeakin' Deacon" Moore on some of the Bear Family videos of the 1950s country TV show, Town Hall Party, making brief appearances to tell jokes and advertise his Sunday morning amateur hour. On the August 8th, 1959 show you can not only see the Deacon telling a couple of his jokes, but also watch a 27 year old Johnny Cash doing an impersonation of Elvis Presley.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
If you look closely at the label you will notice that Robertson is referred to as "Comedian With Orchestra." (When Fess Williams performed "Gambler's Blues" in 1927, he was also listed as a Comedian on the record label.) Robertson's delivery might be a little exaggerated, but from my perspective - almost eighty years after the record was made - I don't hear anything that makes me want to chuckle. His take on the song is interesting in that he starts with the complete Armstrong lyric, then he incorporates the changes Mills/Primrose included in his second copyrighted version, and concludes with a verse that is peculiar to this recording. You can hear an mp3 by clicking: "Dick Robertson, St. James Infirmary" MP3.
A biography of McTell must have been a real challenge. Information about him has - until now - been uncertain and, depending upon one's source, contradictory. Michael Gray has accomplished a remarkable feat with this book, which will be a valuable and absorbing read for anyone interested in "roots" music, early blues, Blind Willie McTell or "St. James Infirmary." This is an important book about an important musician. The Sunday Times, for one, calls it “Shrewd, lucid and immensely well informed.”
McTell, of course, was responsible for resurrecting the remarkable SJI-influenced "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues." McTell actually did record "St. James Infirmary" - in a small Atlanta record store owned by Ed Rhodes. That was in 1956. Unfortunately the CD, Last Session, is incomplete, and so his rendition is not generally available. (Although in 2004 record producers Laurence Cohn and Marino De Silva teamed up to create a box set of McTell recordings that was to include the complete Ed Rhodes tape, the complete John Lomax recording session, and many other treats. People who got wind of this kept their eyes and ears open through 2004 and 2005 and 2006 . . . the web site finally went down in 2008. There are odd rumours afloat about the cause of the project's failure, but the much anticipated box set is dead - and one wonders when these items will come into the light.)
I ordered my copy of Gray's book from amazon.uk and was impressed by both the final cost and the speed of delivery.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Now, she told Lucian all about evolution
While she was sitting down on his knee
When one fine day she got gay and started steppin’ out
Well sir, then ol’ Lucian started a revolution
And the neighbours heard him shout
He said, Evolution Mama, Evolution Mama
He says, Honey Lamb don’t you make a monkey out of me
'Cause Evolution Mama don’t you think you’ve got me up a tree
I remember the time you had me nice and tame
and I was eating right out of your hand
But some sweet day I’m going to take dead aim
And knock that peanut whistle right off your stand
‘Cause Evolution Mama, sweet smellin’ mama
Listen here while I get you told
This is odd, but you ain’t no organ grinder
And I ain’t a hangin’ on your chain
He says I got me a razor and I got me a gun
And I’m gonna cut you if you stand still
And shoot you if you run
‘Cause Evolution Mama, sweet smellin’ mama
Don’t you make a monkey out of me
Says, I ain’t half man and I ain’t half beast
But I can do you more good than this here store-bought yeast
‘Cause Evolution Mama, sweet smellin’ mama
Don’t you make a monkey out of me
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Buell Kazee is not a name one would easily forget, so I had to admit that I'd never encountered him before. Although that's not quite true. I am very familiar with songs on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music that were performed by Buell: "East Virginia," "The Butcher Boy," "The Wagoner's Lad." I'd never noted his name, though. Thanks to emusic.com I was able to download Gambling Blues and am amazed. This is, lyrically, very similar to the song that Carl Moore (from Arkansas) and Phil Baxter (from Texas) - both white musicians - put their names to and which Fess Williams recorded in March, 1927. Kazee's recording date of January 1928 makes it, chronologically, the second recording in the "St. James Infirmary" canon, effectively moving Louis Armstrong into third place.
Kazee hailed from Eastern Kentucky. For the sake of posterity he transcribed the traditional songs of his family and neighbours, and recorded about fifty of them between 1927 and 1929. His "Gambling Blues," while lyrically similar to "Gambler's Blues" and "St. James Infirmary" has a different melody, a kind of simple rhythmic chant reminiscent of mournful Appalachian ballads.
What does this mean? Certainly it gives credence to the notion that SJI was all over the map in the first decades of the twentieth century. Where did this version spring from, though? Perhaps "St. James Infirmary" was originally a hillbilly song - or came to America from Britain fully formed.
But "crapshooters," "jazz band" - do these sound like lyrics from an indigenous Appalachian song? Also, that sudden change - without transition - between the fourth verse (her funeral) and fifth verse (his funeral) is odd. It's as if the verse that usually starts "When I die I want you to bury me," had been misplaced. Perhaps the song was adopted by Tennessee townsfolk after a minstrel show breezed through the region. Kazee's discography from 1927-1929 contains cowboy songs and original compositions, so he was not recording only regional tunes; perhaps he'd simply picked this up on his travels. Perhaps . . . there could be any number of possibilities. Do you have any thoughts on this?
On the corner of the square
A goodly crowd had gathered
And the drinks were flowing there
I sat down by McKinney
His eyes were bloodshot red
He leaned to me and whispered
And this is what he said
I went down to the infirmary
And looked into a window there
Saw my girl stretched on a white bed
So cold, so pale, so fair
Sixteen coal black horses
Hitched to a rubber-tired hack
Took seven pretty girls to the graveyard
Only six of them came back
Six crapshooters for pallbearers
And a chorus girl to sing me a song
Put a jazz band on my hearse top
Let ‘em play as I roll along
And now my story’s ended
Give me one more drink of booze
And I’ll be on my way boys
For I’ve got those gamblin’ blues.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Willy hailed, probably, from the days of the Wild West – from the days when, as Alan Lomax put it, “taking dope was not regarded as a much more serious habit than drinking or chewing tobacco.” The song developed many variations, most of them adding verses that described further drug-induced dreams. Inevitably, though, Willy wakes up and, weeping, has to return to his mundane life and his mundane job.
Irving Mills claimed he wrote "Minnie the Moocher" himself. He completed it in a couple of hours, using one of the Mills Music house musicians to transcribe the melody. Calloway then, according to a 1933 newspaper interview with Mills, “injected his catching musical personality into the piece.” The song has writing credit to Mills, Clarence Gaskin and Calloway.
Willy was a chimney sweeper. Minnie was a red hot hootchie cootcher. Willy and Minnie were both hopeless addicts and the songs recounted their drug-induced dreams. Willy’s dreams took him to Bulgaria where the queen gave him a car with a diamond headlight and a silver steering wheel. Minnie wound up with the king of Sweden, who gave her a diamond car with a platinum wheel. The queen of Bulgaria had a million dollars in nickels and dimes which she’d counted a million times. The king of Sweden gave Minnie a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes which Minnie sat around and counted a million times.
In both Calloway's 1931 and (especially) 1933 recordings, one listens to the orchestral introduction expecting to hear "St. James Infirmary." But then, as Calloway starts singing, a variation of the earlier "Willy the Weeper" melody emerges. This was a really big hit for Calloway, and other related songs followed in its wake, including: "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day," "Kicking the Gong Around" (a euphemism for smoking opium), "Minnie's a Hepcat Now," and "Ghost of Smoky Joe" (Joe was Minnie's boyfriend, who taught her how to kick the gong around).
"The Hi-De-Ho Man" was another song in this Calloway stream - based upon the Hi-De-Ho call and response chorus of "Minnie the Moocher." The audiences loved this. When singing "Minnie the Moocher" Calloway would call out "Hi de hi de hi de hi" and the audience would shout it back; gradually the call and response would become more complicated until Calloway returned to the story. Coincidentally (or not) the earlier "Willy the Weeper" had a call and response chorus of its own.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It's Dylan's talking that keeps things flowing. Good as his selections are, his patter is often the best thing about the program. He can be thoughtful, serious, self-mocking, sarcastic . . . often very funny. Always reverent. I think of Bob Dylan as one the the great exponents, and authorities, on early American popular music. So it was with some excitement that we listened as his February 20th broadcast veered into a discussion of "St. James Infirmary." The theme for this show was "Doctors" and Dylan said, "One place you’re going to find a lot of doctors is St. James Infirmary. This song’s history is convoluted and fascinating. Louis Armstrong recorded it as early as nineteen and twenty-eight, but it goes back much further. According to one study it got its start as a ballad called 'The Unfortunate Rake'..."
"According to one study," Dylan said. That was wonderful to hear, because most discussions of the song take the assumption of a direct relationship between "St. James Infirmary" and "The Unfortunate Rake" as established fact. That one study was probably A.L Lloyds 1947 article Background to St. James Infirmary Blues. (You can read more about it by accessing this link and searching for the section titled "Tracing a Ballad," a little more than half way down the page.) Far from factual, a direct connection between the two songs is more a tenuous assumption.
A few seconds later, however, Dylan referred to a 1934 song by James "Iron Head" Baker as "the real link between the folk ballad and the pop tune, ‘The Unfortunate Rake’ and ‘St. James Infirmary.’" I suspect this reflects some sloppiness on the part of his research staff, who used Kenneth Goldstein's liner notes to a 1960 Folkways record called "The Unfortunate Rake: A Study in the Evolution of a Ballad" - on which Alan Lomax himself sings the song, "St. James Hospital" - as their primary reference. John Lomax recorded the song (for a while the convict James "Iron Head" Baker served as John's substitute for the recently disaffected Leadbelly) and Alan touted it as a link between the two songs. Actually listening to the songs, however, does not bear this out. One gets the impression that Alan wanted to find a missing link between "St. James Infirmary" and "The Infortunate Rake, " but this is not it.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I spent about five years researching and writing this book. In the course of exploring the usual questions - the relationship between "St. James Infirmary" and "The Unfortunate Rake," for instance - other issues begged for attention. I found out, to my dismay, that Blind Willie McTell (with all his claims to the contrary) did not compose "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," that great homage to "St. James Infirmary." The fellow who did has been so ignored by music historians that the date and place of his birth have been (until now) unknown. In fact, many of the key players in the SJI drama have been pretty well forgotten. Phil Baxter, Carl "The Deacon" Moore . . . even Irving Mills, aka Joe Primrose, has never had a respectable biography written. The one in this book might be the most complete overview to date of his early life.
Some of the characters who appear in I Went Down to St. James Infirmary are shown in the picture here. Clicking on it should give you a larger image. I started this painting/collage many years ago (thank you, Albert Gleizes), modified it for the cover of the first incarnation of this SJI project - a small book titled A Rake's Progress - and have, in celebration, modified it further here. Many thanks to all who have helped along the way!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
In his book Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon, Donald Clarke quotes songwriter Arthur Herzog. Herzog is recalling the encounter beween Billie Holiday, himself, and his songwriting partner Danny Mendelsohn which led to the writing of the 'new' song:
"She came rushing in to Danny. She was a great artist, but creative - no. She said to Danny, 'Danny, I've got a great tune, take it down for me.’ And she sings, da-daing, 'St. James Infirmary'. So Danny says, ‘Yes, Billie, it’s a great tune, but it's St James Infirmary' .' ‘Oh, Danny, bend it a little for me, bend it.' So Danny took out his pencil, put it in blues time, four/four, attached a bridge to it and said, 'All right Arthur, give me some words.' So I popped the first thing that came into my mind: 'Tell me more and more and then some', inane kind of thing, so we scratched this underneath and forgot about it completely. Six months went by, and there's a record out - 'Tell Me More', words and music by Billie Holiday, sung by Billie Holiday, accompanied by the Billie Holiday Orchestra - of which there was no such thing, of course. There it was. 'Danny, what are we going to do about this? This idiot friend has done this to us and the song isn't worth a goddam.’ I mean, 'St. James Infirmary'. After she died, Herbie Marks called me up and said. 'I seem to remember that you had something to do with this song, and I'd like to do something with it,' and I said, 'Herbie, I can't prove anything, but this song was written by yours truly and the late Danny Mendelsohn.’ That's how it happened. It never made any money."
Friday, August 22, 2008
The foxtrot originated around 1914 in vaudeville, by dancer Harry Fox. As part of his act Fox was executing trotting steps to ragtime music. Referred to as "Fox's trot" the dance was set to a broken rhythm (slow-slow-quick-quick). Bit by bit the dance moves changed, and with remarkable speed the foxtrot came to dominate the dancehalls and the music scene.
The foxtrot became the dance phenomenon of the 1920s. And the 1930s. And the 1940s. One could whirl around the dance floor, or one could execute the steps in the crush of a crowded venue, dancing (oh, dear!) close together and more or less in place. In those days, before television and computer games and tupperware parties, people danced. Dancehalls were everywhere. It might not be too great an exaggeration to say that dancehalls littered the landscape like Starbucks franchises in the 21st century. Irene and Vernon Castle, the exhibition ballroom dancers pictured here, were among the main celebrities of the day. In fact, by including the scandalous foxtrot in their routines, they sped its popularity.
The "St. James Infirmary" we know was partly shaped by the passion for dance that swept the nation and the world in the decades after the First World War. The song had already become something of a dancehall staple before it entered the recording studio, coming north with traveling musicians looking for work with the big bands. As musician Claude Austin said in 1931 (as transcribed by a court stenographer):
Sunday, August 17, 2008
When researching “St. James Infirmary” I found anecdotal evidence that placed the song in minstrelshows around 1916, but not much that was more substantial than that. A little over two years ago, though, Rob Walker posted an interesting discussion about a song titled “In a Charleston Cabin.” It's well worth reading. "In a Charleston Cabin" was recorded – extensively – in 1924. Nothing in the lyric is reminiscent of our song, but the melody reminds one of “St. James Infirmary.” We don’t know, of course, if the melody was borrowed from SJI - but at the very least this extends our excavations back to 1924. (Since writing this over four years ago, I have uncovered much that places the SJI lyric much closer to the turn of the 20th century - RwH.)
For those of you who can read music, I am posting the sheet music to “Charleston Cabin” below. I would be most interested in any comments regarding how closely you find it resembles “St. James Infirmary.” By clicking on the images, you should be able to view larger, readable versions of the files.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
This one, from 1937, announces that on Sunday, for 40 cents a person, Carl "Deacon" Moore and his famous orchestra will be the grand special attraction. The woman pictured is Marge Hudson, one of the singers in his band. She is presented in this ad as "The singing artist's model. An exotic beauty of Spanish type."
But the most interesting part of this advertisement is the announcement that Carl Moore is the composer of "St. James Infirmary," "Bye Bye Blues," and "Ding Dong Daddy." As I've noted in earlier posts, Moore always maintained that he wrote the lyrics for "St. James Infirmary." A 1935 newspaper article, announcing the upcoming appearance of Moore and his orchestra, stated: "Moore and Phil Baxter were responsible for many popular melodies being composed. Among them were "Ding Dong Daddy," "St. James Infirmary," "Ride 'em Cowboy."
"Hot dancing . . .
"See dis Strutter!
"He's jess like that. Jess like that! And he don't give a doggone whut you say 'bout his clothes.
"Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five are playing No. 8657
"'St. James Infirmary,' 'Save It Pretty Mama.' Fox trots."
It's interesting that, unlike the ad below, this one does not talk about the music. It does suggest, though, that if you owned this record you might very well be a real cool cat.
"Here's a blazing, blistering 'blues' melody, brimful of primitive rhythm and plaintive fervor. Down in the land of cotton they've been singing it for two decades or more; it's the kind of tune you simply can't forget. Come around and listen to this record by King Oliver and His Orchestra. You'll give ear to some of the 'meanest' trumpet playing you've ever heard in your life."
There's no hint here that Oliver was on his way out. Gum disease was making it harder and more painful for him to play the trumpet. Henry Allen and Bubber Miley handle most if not all of the trumpet parts on this record. Still, this is one of my favourite versions of the song. From the opening bells it has a thoroughly composed feel, and yet it is full of vitality.
Other Victor artists mentioned on this advert include Rudy Valee and Maurice Chevalier.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
In the late 19th century pluggers were known as "boomers," for their ability to belt out a song that could be heard over long distances. They would often sing through megaphones, with racks of sheet music for sale in front of them. Or sit at pianos behind 40 foot counters at the back of a department store, where shoppers could ask to hear samples of the sheet music on sale. By Mills' day the boomer had become a plugger. A good one would become a sort of advertising whirlwind who, in the words of Isaac Goldberg, "by all the arts of persuasion, intrigue, bribery, mayhem, malfeasance, cajolery, entreaty, threat, insinuation, persistence and whatever else he has, sees to it that his employer's music shall be heard."
One of the tools at Mills' command was the recording studio and radio. In 1925 he became probably the first to advertise a song over the radio, when he and one of the songwriters on his staff, Jimmy McHugh, calling themselves "The Hotsy Totsy Boys," performed "Everything is Hotsy Totsy Now." Song plugging for the new electronic age.
Once he secured the copyright to "St. James Infirmary" Mills ensured that it received the widest possible airplay - the greater the number of recordings out there the more likely it would be played, the more popular it would become, and the more copies it would sell. (Mills looked at popular music as having a very short shelf life.) So, between his copyright in March of 1929 and the end of 1930, at least 19 versions of the song were recorded. These included two by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra - managed by Mills. For these recordings they were known as the Ten Black Berries, and the Harlem Hot Chocolates. Irving Mills served as vocalist for that last one. Mills Merry Makers (created for recording purposes only), with musicians including Charlie and Jack Teagarden, Harry Goodman (brother of Benny), and Ruby Weinstein recorded a version. Mills could not have had any idea how eternally popular the song would become.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The songs on this anthology were all recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. You can easily hear an example of musical borrowing by playing The Bentley Boys 1929 "Down on Penny's Farm" next to Bob Dylan's very early (1961) "Hard Times in New York Town." Anyway, this map is an attempt to show "the geographical origin of each cut on Harry Smith's 1952 Anthology." It appears on the site of The Celestial Monochord - Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues.
This is an extraordinarily ambitious site. You can read an outline of a 1931-1932 court case that figures prominently in my book. This is in the "Case List" section, but it is also informative to browse the "Song List" section, where Mr. Cronin comments with both clarity and humour about specific songs. Read, for instance, his comments on the (in)famous case of "He's So Fine" vs. "My Sweet Lord."
Baxter also claimed co-authorship for "St. James Infirmary." He and Carl Moore actually published the song in 1925, but they neglected to apply for copyright. Baxter, a pianist, was unable to perform after 1933 because of arthritis. On the verge of his leaving for Texas, the Kansas City Journal-Post ran a long article about Baxter, one of the town's favourite musicians, which included this comment: "Baxter has had some litigation over the authorship of one song, which has been in circulation as 'St. James Infirmary,' but which he said he composed long ago and called 'Gambler's Blues.' He said he published it privately in Texas years ago, and that a New York publisher picked it up." That New York publisher was undoubtedly Gotham Music, whose president was Irving Mills.
Information about Phil Baxter is very hard to come by. Recordings of his can still be found on CD, but in compilations with titles like volume 2 of Jazz the World Forgot, or Texas and Tennessee Territory Bands. If anyone has information about Phil, or Carl Moore, I would love to hear from you. I understand that Baxter's friend, Cliff Halliburton, wrote a biography of Phil, but I have been unable to find it and suspect it was never published.
Margie sent me a number of photographs and press clippings, including this photo that I did not include in the book. This is Carl as a California country radio dj "The Squeakin' Deacon."
Moore's first radio job was an early morning show on Cincinnati's WLW radio station. This station was originally built to help sell radios and used such a powerful transmitter that it interfered with Canadian radio signals. From Cincinnati the Moore's moved to St. Louis (where Carl hosted a country show called "The Shady Valley Gang"). By 1947 the Moore's made California their permanent home. It is still possible to see Carl "The Squeakin' Deacon" Moore on some of the Bear Family videos of the 1950s country TV show, Town Hall Party, making brief appearances to tell jokes and advertise his Sunday morning amateur hour. On the August 8th, 1959 show you can not only see the Deacon telling a couple of his jokes, but also watch a 27 year old Johnny Cash doing an Elvis impersonation.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Carl was a drummer. By 1927 he had left Baxter's band and was leading his own orchestra. Born in Arkansas, Carl Moore adopted the role of the hillbilly hick, injecting jokes and skits into all his performances. He recorded, for Decca, only four songs in his career - and while he performed "St. James Infirmary" throughout his band career, he never recorded the song.