Inquiries into the early years of SJI
Showing posts with label Phil Baxter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phil Baxter. Show all posts

Friday, August 31, 2018

The FIRST sheet music for SJI

The cover for Gambler's Blues, 1925
I had been looking for this sheet music for years. It was as if the object did not exist. It was a legendary thing.

But eventually I did find it ... it was a stroke of luck, for I've never seen it again.

This is an important historical document. It had been printed in such small numbers that it must have become a collectors' item. I was certain of that.

I bought it for ninety-nine cents. Obviously, others were not as eager as I was.

The composing credit was to Carl Moore and Phil Baxter - both of whom are major characters in I Went Down to St. James Infirmary. The sheet music was published privately by Phil Baxter in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1925. Soon after, the publisher Harry D. Squires picked it up.  Squires convinced Fess Williams to record it (February 1927). That was the first recording of the song - which was next released by Buell Kazee in January 1928, and then - definitively - by Louis Armstrong in December 1928.

The sheet music with lyrics can be found elsewhere on this blog - just enter "Gambler's Blues" in the search box. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

"A Sparkling Book"

The Phil Baxter moustache
Musician and film-maker Digger recently read I Went Down to St. James Infirmary. Here is part of his reaction, referencing characters and places that appear in the book. Thanks to author Gordon Bailey for forwarding this to me.

"This book makes me want to be at the El Torreon Ball Room dancing the Foxtrot with Irene Castle followed by a late date with Valadia Snow at the Noble Hotel where in the background I hear Don Redman's "Chant of the Weed." Mr. Harwood opened up so many musical alleys to explore. A sparkling book! One of the side-effects of this book is that I now sport a Phil Baxter moustache."

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Original Sheet Music for SJI???

This, to the left, is the generic cover of the 1929 sheet music for "St. James Infirmary." The cover was designed so that a performer's image could be inserted without breaking the flow, as in the next picture. In those days images had to be set physically - that is, with an editor's hands placing the components in place. And so it was important for the Mills organization - and everybody else - to create flexible background images.

This is the first music score ever released for "St. James Infirmary." In the same year Mills Music (aka Gotham Music Service) also released an orchestral arrangement for SJI (which you can find elsewhere on this blog - search "sheet music"). The Mills music machine was fully engaged. The song had been subsumed.

Ahhh. But while it's the first music score for "St. James Infirmary," the sheet music for "Gambler's Blues," an earlier title for the song, had been printed four years earlier. The composer credits were to, not Joe Primrose, but Phil Baxter and Carl Moore. I wrote a bit about it here: The Golden Grail - you'll find more in the book.

"St. James Infirmary" aka "Gambler's Blues" had been around for many years before being taken into a recording studio. There were a ton of variations. There were many verses. The song, chameleon-like, changed its colour for the environment it stumbled into. The sheet music below, the first of its kind, gives us a taste of the song. But the song was more than this. It assumed many shapes; there were many versions.

This was just one of them.





Thursday, August 3, 2017

SJI on Ukulele

While researching the book I Went Down to St. James Infirmary, I collected quite a few sheet music scores for popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s. While all contained the piano score, most included the chords for ukulele accompaniment. None of this sheet music refers to guitar accompaniment.

The ukulele is a relatively recent creation, Hawaiian in origin, it probably developed in the late nineteenth century - although with precedents in the Portuguese machete, which is probably related to the European lute (dating back about 800 years), which is probably related to the Arabic oud (dating back thousands of years) ... and so on.

It's doubtlessly a truism, but it bears reiterating: everything - including musical instruments and musical composition - is related to something that came before.

Following concerts in the U.S. by some Hawaiian bands, the ukulele became intensely popular in the early years of the jazz era. So, whether the sheet music was for  Phil Baxter's "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas," or Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher," or "St. James Infirmary," it was likely to have the ukulele chords included.

Now, what does SJI sound like as played on ukulele?

I recently exchanged some brief emails with Toronto ukulele player, Jennifer Schmitt. She had just posted a recording of the song on YouTube, and was curious about how to credit the composer ... "it was a favourite of my father's. He died ten years ago today, and I used some of my Lake Opinicon time to record this in his memory."

I like Schmitt's treatment of the song. Direct, expressive, and sweetly melodic.
(To view in its proper aspect ratio, watch it on the YouTube channel.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Copyright entries for SJI, etc.

I have been searching Library of Congress copyright records for an article I am writing about the original Carter Family. I took some detours into "St. James Infirmary" territory; here are actual song copyright entries for some of these songs.

The full music sheets are
elsewhere on this blog

Gambler's blues ; w C. Moore, m P.
Baxter, of U. S. © Jan. 15, 1925
2 c. Jan. 15 ; E 605070 ; Phil Baxter
and Carl Moore, Little Rock, Ark.
1159

The first version of SJI to enter the copyright books was "Gambler's Blues," in 1925. While credited to Carl Moore and Phil Baxter, this (under the title "Those Gambler's Blues") was collected as a traditional song by the poet Carl Sandburg, in his 1927 book The American Songbag. Hmmmm.

Phil Baxter and Carl Moore


St. James' infirmary ; words and musicby Joe Primrose. © Mar. 4, 1929 ; 2 c. Mar. 26; E pub. 4595; Gotham
music service, inc., New York. 6527

This copyright, to the fictional Joe Primrose, was registered in March, 1929.
The recording, by Louis Armstrong & His Savoy Ballroom Five, was recorded in December, 1928 - three months earlier than the copyright. Something was afoot.

Irving Mills aka Joe Primrose

Porter Grainger

Dyin' crap shooter's blues ; words and
melody by P. Grainger. © 1 c. July
27, 1927; E 672418; Porter Grainger,
New York. 13674

"Dyin' Crap Shooter's Blues" was recorded three times in 1927, and then abruptly forgotten ... until resurrected by Blind Willie McTell in the 1940s. McTell was very convincing when describing how he wrote this song - but, obviously, he didn't. Bob Dylan's lyric for his song, "Blind Willie McTell" - "I'm standing in the doorway of the St. James Hotel" - was partly responsible for the writing of this book, I Went Down to St. James Infirmary.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Golden Grail - found! Gambler's Blues (aka St. James Infirmary), the first sheet music


Ahhhh.

I have been looking for this sheet music for years. Dare I say, for at least a decade?! And it escaped me. It was as if the object did not exist. I mean, I read about it, and I even found evidence that it was locked in the archives of the New York State judicial library, as evidence in a 1930s lawsuit. But it was rare as the Dickens and I could never find the actual thing.

But two months ago I did.

I found it on ebay. The starting price was ninety-nine cents (plus postage), and there were two weeks left in the bidding. "Oh dear," I thought, "this is such an important historical document, one that has eluded me for a decade, and I am sure many people will be bidding for this. There is no chance that, with my meager resources, I shall be able to actually get my hands on this item." But, as you can see, I did win it. For ninety-nine cents (plus postage).

What an odd thing!! This was something of considerable importance to me. And I was the only one to enter a bid. Nobody else in the world cared. It was my golden grail. And nobody else cared. There were no other bids. And so I now possess (what I thought to be) a great historical document at a cost of ninety-nine cents (plus postage).

I must be deluded. I have been pursuing this story, this history of "St. James Infirmary," for over a decade. One of the critical links in the saga of this song appeared for sale, and . . . well . . . it sold for ninety-nine cents.

I shall have to ponder this.

Maybe history depends upon who writes the story.

The year on this music sheet is 1925. It was published by Phil Baxter in Little Rock, Arkansas. My research had informed me that "Harry D. Squires, Inc." was the original publisher of this song, and that Squires was the person who convinced Fess Williams to record it. So it is possible that Baxter released this edition before finding a bona fide publisher. Also, I had noted that Baxter and Moore neglected to copyright the song (thereby leaving the way open for "Joe Primrose" to take ownership of it). But "International Copyright Secured" is printed on these pages. I had found no evidence of this when I contacted the U.S. copyright offices, so I am not sure what this means.

The sheet music with lyrics is below - the pages should expand when you click on them. I leave it to you to compare this music with the versions of this song in Carl Sandburg's "American Songbag," published in 1927. Whatever this comparison tells you, it will be clear that neither Phil Baxter nor Carl Moore nor Joe Primrose nor anybody else wrote "St. James Infirmary."




 




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

MP3 Monologue 10 - The Hokum Boys 1929

"St. James Infirmary" was first recorded in February 1927, as "Gambler's Blues," by Fess Williams And His Royal Flush Orchestra. The composer credit on the record's label went to Carl Moore and Phil Baxter. It was next recorded as "Gambling Blues" in January, 1928 by the, uhm, hillbilly Kentuckian Buell Kazee. There was no composer credit. The third recording occurred in December 1928. This time it was titled "St. James Infirmary," the recording artist was Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five, and the composer credit went to Don Redman. Until, that is, the second pressing of the record; that's when Joe Primrose made his first appearance on a record label. The fourth and fifth recordings, October 1929, were by The Hokum Boys. The songs were called "Gambler's Blues 'St. James Infirmary Blues'" and "Gambler's Blues No. 2." There was no composer credit. There were at least 23 recordings of "St. James Infirmary" released in North America up to the end of 1930, and most of these bore the composer name "Joe Primrose." Mattie Hite attributed her version to "Nobody," meaning it was in the public domain - but that was challenged, and Primrose appeared on later pressings of Hite's version, which was really a combination of the two songs Carl Sandburg documented as "Those Gambler's Blues" in his book American Songbag.

The Hokum Boys, though. These were quite different songs. I sometimes think of them as the last vestiges of a folk process that, before the copyright took firm hold, was still evolving the song. The one you will hear below, "Gambler's Blues 'St. James Infirmary Blues,'" initially follows the commonly known lyric, and then veers off into strange territory. The musicianship is, I think, extraordinary, and the song is a real pleasure. The second version, "Gambler's Blues No. 2" is odder, and well worth a listen - these songs can be found by clicking here.

To listen to this monologue (less than two minutes), with music (more than two minutes), click here: The Hokum Boys, Gamblers Blues 1929 MP3


Many thanks to Document Records for keeping all these songs available and alive.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Carl Moore as The Squeakin' Deacon - photograph

Moore as radio personality "The Squeakin' Deacon"
Back in the mid nineteen-twenties Carl Moore, along with Phil Baxter, claimed authorship of "Gambler's Blues" (aka "St. James Infirmary"). You can read more about each of those fascinating individuals elsewhere on this blog (and, of course, in the book).

I recently received a message from Cecil Warren, who noticed that once upon a time I started to create a family tree for Carl, at Ancestry.com. Moore was one of the central characters in I Went Down to St. James Infirmary, and I closely researched his early years.

When he was a young lad ("in the 1947/1948 time period when my parents took me to his radio program"), Mr. Warren once sat on Moore's knee, and received the photograph you see here. "Too bad it got torn," Warren wrote, "probably a result of a fight between my sister and I over who got to hold it while we listened to his radio show. It is still a piece of history that has survived these 60 plus years."

By this time, Moore had given up leading a dance orchestra (many dance orchestras dissolved due to supply and personnel shortages during World War Two), and had become the country radio personality, "The Squeakin' Deacon." The Deacon was living in California at this time, not far from Hollywood. In fact, he had a (very) minor film career, including an uncredited appearance as the Toastmaster in the Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean movie Giant. He was once considered for the title role in the Will Rogers film biography, but Rogers' son eventually played that part. Moore would have been a natural, with his down-home humor and country hick persona.

Mr Warren added, in response to my writing, that  "I am glad that his role in music history is being preserved." Thank you, Cecil

ps In her late nineties, Moore's wife Marjorie is very much alive and energetic - she will be thrilled to see that you remember Carl Moore, The Squeakin' Deacon.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

MP3 Monologue 7 - Buell Kazee: the second recording of St. James Infirmary

From an article I wrote in 2008, when first alerted to Buell Kazee.:

"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."

To listen to this monologue (about 2:30 at 256 kbps) click here:
Buell Kazee and SJI/Gambling Blues MP3

Saturday, March 31, 2012

MP3 Monologue 6 - Fess, Phil, and Carl: the first recording of St. James Infirmary

Here is monologue 6 from the ongoing series. These were recorded two or three years ago, when I was living in urban Ontario rather than rural Saskatchewan. Here we explore (with a number of period sound clips) the first recording, from 1927, of "St. James Infirmary" - then called "Gambler's Blues."

You might be startled to hear, in this monologue, that Phil Baxter and Carl Moore wrote "Gambler's Blues." Well, they did, in a way. The song had been floating around the music halls for some time. They wrote a version of the song and had some sheet music printed. But, of course, they weren't the creators of "Gambler's Blues."

I know that a sample of their sheet music lies somewhere in the files of New York's legal vaults, where it served as evidence in a 1930 lawsuit initiated by Irving Mills (unrelated to Moore-Baxter), but search as I might I have never been able to find an actual copy. I am sure, though, that Irving Mills did have his own copy, before he disguised himself as Joe Primrose.

To listen (about 4:45 at 256 kbps) click here: Fess, Phil, Carl, and SJI MP3

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Illustration

A few years ago, while working on the first iteration of I Went Down to St. James Infirmary (which I had titled A Rake's Progress and of which perhaps a dozen copies are still in existence), I  created an illustration that brought together some of the principal characters in the SJI story. Albert Gleizes' 1913 painting "Women Sewing" was the inspiration for the underlying art work; onto this I layered photographs of various SJI personalities, and included myself and my wife (the book's designer) as, I guess, observers of the drama.

So here, in no particular order (the illustration should enlarge if you click on it), you can find Jimmie Rodgers, Porter Grainger, Dan Emmett, Mamie Smith, Irving Mills, Don Redman, Phil Baxter, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Carl "The Deacon" Moore, Bob Dylan, Bessie Smith, Emmett Miller, and Blind Willie McTell.

Speaking of Blind Willie McTell, he will be (part of) the subject of our next entry.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Phil Baxter, bandleader, 'co-composer' of Gambler's Blues (aka St. James Infirmary)

Today, I'm revisiting an earlier post about Phil Baxter, a pianist and band leader who was active in the 1920s and 1930s. Phil Baxter was a prolific and successful song-writer. Among his better known compositions we can include "Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas," "Piccolo Pete" (and the follow-up, "Harmonica Harry" - both were early novelty hits for Ted Weems and his orchestra), and "A Faded Summer Love" (which was a hit for Bing Crosby in 1931).

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. It is possible that around 1921 Baxter and Moore toured together as a duo.They would ride the train from town to town and perform skits and music, with Moore on drums, Baxter at the piano. Baxter eventually settled in Kansas City where, leading the house band at the El Torreon ballroom, he displaced the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks as Kansas City's favourite dance orchestra.

Baxter 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 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 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.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Paul Whiteman and the Beatles

During the years that I was researching and writing I Went Down to St. James Infirmary I exchanged many letters with the big band historian Joseph. E. Bennett. In fact, we continue to write to each other.

Recently I sent him a copy of Elijah Wald's most recent book, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music (Oxford University Press, 2009). Having sent the book via amazon.com I quickly wrote him a letter, explaining why I thought he would be the least bit interested in a book about either the Beatles or rock 'n roll. Bennett had played with big bands in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He befriended many of the big band leaders, researched and talked to them about their various histories, and wrote many articles for publications such as the recently defunct Joslin's Jazz Journal. He has an as yet unpublished 500 page history of the big bands, including many photographs, several of his own paintings (such as the one you see here, of "Hot Lips" Henry Busse), and previously unpublished biographical details about many of the band leaders.
In several letters to me Mr. Bennett noted that histories of popular music generally disparage the types of bands he played with and wrote about. While these bands, parlaying pre-arranged, "sweet" jazz, were by far the most popular and the most long-lived of the bands, it's the "swing" orchestras that are credited as being most representative of the big band era. "The commercial, stylized sound," Bennett wrote, "was criticized as 'Mickey Mouse,' 'corny,' and 'dull' by the swing enthusiasts" but "without exception the swing bands faded quickly while remaining in recorded form as what the big band era was all about."

Paul Whiteman is the most obvious example of this form of historical exclusionism. The self-titled "King of Jazz" was an accomplished, classically trained musician. (In fact, he and Phil Baxter - one of the characters who makes frequent appearances on this blog - served in the navy together during WWI. Neither Whiteman nor Baxter had yet made names for themselves, but Baxter organized a jazz band that he would take ashore when they were on leave. Baxter had no room in his "hot" band for a violin, though, and so Whiteman remained aboard ship.) Whiteman was the most popular band leader for years, often racking up six or seven of the best-selling records-of-the-year during the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, the Joel Whitburn book, A Century of Pop Music, lists no less than 78 Whiteman records among the top 40 rankings between 1920 and 1934.

Writers on music history have their biases, and generally prefer more esoteric performers over the ones who appealed to the masses. Elijah Wald attempts to correct this imbalance in his book, and in fact devotes a goodly amount of space to Paul Whiteman in doing so. Do not be distracted by the title - it's the subtitle that matters here. An Alternative History of American Popular Music is a fantastic read, it moves seamlessly through the eras, and recognizes the common (wo)man as having a powerful influence on the evolution of musical forms.

Joseph Bennett has at times opined that his time has past, that nobody cares about the music that swept the nation for at least two decades of the twentieth century. If Elijah Wald has any say, Mr Bennett will be proven wrong.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Carl "Deacon" Moore - "A Woman Gets Tired" mp3 - and Margie Moore turns 93!


A recent photograph of Marjorie Moore, with her daughter Carol

As readers of this blog, or of the book, know - Carl Moore was credited as co-composer of "Gambler's Blues" when it was recorded by Fess Williams in 1927. "Gambler's Blues" would soon become known as "St. James Infirmary" - and credit for authorship would change; first to Don Redman, and then to Joe Primrose.

But Carl Moore (along with Phil Baxter) was the first of these. He is one of the most interesting of the characters that I explore in
I Went Down to St. James Infirmary. After many years as a big band leader - and dapper, tuxedoed, comical hillbilly hick - he became one of the first (and one of the most popular) country music djs. Although he retired in 1969, Dave Sichak's website Hillbilly-Music dawt com announced that in 2008 Carl "Squeakin' Deacon" Moore had the most visited page of the many disk jockeys the site features.

Carl Moore was born in Paragould, Arkansas in 1902. He died in
Huntington Beach, California, in 1985. I telephoned his wife, the lovely Margie Moore, a few days ago. She celebrated her 93rd birthday this past weekend!

Happy Birthday Marjorie!!

In celebration of Margie's birthday, I am posting the fourth - and last - song of Carl's complete recorded output. Much of Carl's inspiration came from the vaudeville and minstrel stages, and this song - written by Paul Carter and C.H. Barker (who are today as obscure as songwriters can get) - was popular on vaudeville. Deacon drawls, the orchestra swings.

To hear this song, click on: "A Woman Gets Tired" MP3. Be warned that a few seconds in it might sound like the recording skips a beat. I edited the file a bit in order to removed a loud click.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Buell Kazee

I recently received a letter from Richard Jenkins, who lives in Sheffield, England. Richard is one of those rare souls who has made a study of SJI; he had just finished reading I Went Down to St. James Infirmary and was kind enough to write, "I've really enjoyed it! Brilliant." He then asked, "Where, in the whole saga, would you place 'Gambling Blues,' recorded on 16 Jan 1928 by Buell Kazee, from Eastern Kentucky?"

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?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Book availability

I was excited to hear that the book, I Went Down to St. James Infirmary, has finally been printed, and will be available within the week. There were some problems with the printing of the cover, and that caused the most recent delay. I wish to thank those of you who have - as long as two years ago - expressed interest in purchasing the book, and to reassure you that I shall be sending you an email as soon as I possibly can.

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!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Carl "Deacon" Moore advertisement

I thought it would be interesting to post a few old newspaper advertisements.

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."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phil Baxter

Phil Baxter was a prolific and successful song-writer. Among his better known compositions we can include "Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas," "Piccolo Pete" (and the follow-up, "Harmonica Harry" - both were early novelty hits for Ted Weems and his orchestra), and "A Faded Summer Love" (which was a hit for Bing Crosby in 1931).

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.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Introducing Carl "The Deacon" Moore

When, in 1927, Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra made the first recording of "St. James Infirmary" it had the title "Gambler's Blues." The record label showed a writing credit to Moore-Baxter. Carl Moore and Phil Baxter had published the song two years earlier, when both were members of Baxter's band.

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.

During World War II, when it became impossible to maintain a touring orchestra, Moore became a radio disc jockey, specializing in the newly emerging country music. Moore always maintained that he wrote "St. James Infirmary."