Inquiries into the early years of SJI

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jack Shea revisited - or should that be Irving Kaufman?

Back on November 23rd, 2008 I posted an article about Jack Shea, with an mp3 of him singing the Irving Mills/Cliff Friend song "Lovesick Blues" in 1922. This afternoon I received a note from Anonymous, declaring "Say, that's the prolific Irving Kaufman in a bluesy frame of mind as 'Jack Shea'."

Ah, the history of popular music does have its share of mysteries - and it seems plausible that Jack Shea never existed.

Irving (of the singing brothers Phillip, Jack, and Irving Kaufman) frequently recorded under aliases, with the agreement of his contracting record companies. Brian Rust, who listed only a handful of records he deemed of interest to jazz enthusiasts, included the aliases of Billy Clark, Sammy Burton, Harry Topping, Tom Nevill, Arthur Holt, Charles Dickson, Noel Taylor, and Brian Watt.

Kaufman was a prolific singer and performer, who made his first record in 1914 and his last record in 1974, when he was 84 years old. A good brief biography can be found on Tim Gracyk's Phonographs.

I did read a list of pseudonyms that claimed Jack Kaufman (Irving's brother) was Jack Shea. But others feel that Shea's intonation is more reminiscent of Irving's voice. Is the jury still out on the true identity of Jack Shea - or is Irving Kaufman's the voice we hear on that 1922 recording?

1 comment:

vilstef said...

Several of the Broadway Bellhops records with Mr Kaufman singing are on the collection Bix Beiderbecke: Singing the Blues V1. There's a song called Blue River, two versions of There's a Cradle in Caroline, There Ain't No Land Like Dixieland and Just an Hour of Love and I'm Wonderin' Who. These songs are from unsuccessful Broadway shows of the day. Several other records by him are available as free downloads on

I like his diction, but the nasality of his voice really hurts the musicality. He's quite out-classed by his accompaniment. Even so, I like him better than most of the other vocalists who sang with Bix. The Giant amongst them all was Bing Crosby of course, though Irene Taylor acquits herself well on Mississippi Mud.