Inquiries into the early years of SJI

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

King Oliver - St. James Infirmary advert

King Oliver recorded "St. James Infirmary" on January 28, 1930. This was the same day, in the same studio that Gene Austin recorded the song. (Their sessions were probably back-to-back; Oliver's catalog no. is 22298, Austin's 22299.) The ad on the left, for Oliver's record, appeared in a March 1930 newspaper:

"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.

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