TOMMY LAKES ORCHESTRA, King Porter Stomp

These four tracks first appeared on the Tommy Lakes presents When Swing Was King LP on the  Promenade label out of Newark, New Jersey before they were licensed to the Opera label out of  Stuttgart in 1957. One budget label licensing to another budget label was common practice in those days, when the main objective was to sell records cheaper than the bigger labels. So probably that´s why Opera bought some swing standards by an unknown American band to add to their jazz catalog. Interestingly they also published Duke Ellingtons Overture To Jam Session, originally issued on the Musicraft label in 1946, as Opera #4409.

Now that I´ve mentioned budget and cheap so many times, I´ve probably sealed  Tommy Lakes fate forever, but while he ain´t no Count Basie, this is some nice big band swing. These tracks have never been re-released in any format in more than fifty years and will likely never be, but  King Porter Stomp does have some cool moments when the drums race the dueling clarinet and brass section towards the end of the song. That´s certainly still worth a couple of swing-outs:

 

TOMMY LAKES ORCHESTRA, King Porter Stomp

TOMMY LAKES ORCHESTRA, One O´Clock Jump

TOMMY LAKES ORCHESTRA, Hawaiian War Chant

TOMMY LAKES ORCHESTRA, Tiger Rag


Stompin´at the Savoy

Every once in a while I like to go to a Berlin record convention. The records there are a little more expensive than in thrift stores but generally of much better quality. It´s nice to be in a room filled with choice stuff for a change, instead of my usual neighborhood stores where I have to wade through heaps of garbage. I hadn´t found so much on that one day a couple of years ago, and was about ready to leave when I came across a seller specializing in magazines. While randomly browsing through some of them, I noticed this Music Makers (of stage-screen-radio!) magazine from December 1940, way down at the bottom of the stack. At first  it seemed like a typical tabloid featuring the regular pop stars of the swing era – no real jazz music in there with all of the featured artists being white. When suddenly, somewhere in the middle of the magazine, I saw this double spread about the SAVOY BALLROOM! Immediately I knew that I wanted this magazine and I took it home for four euros.

 

If you search the Internet for photos of the Savoy Ballroom or even just any period lindy hoppers, the same handful of images seem to pop up. I haven´t seen these shots before, so I thought it would be nice to share them. They´re pictures of regulars at the club, some of them sitting on the floor, watching couples doing some wild air steps. The atmosphere is casual, not very ballroomsy, the girls are wearing simple skirts and saddle shoes, lotsa guys are without ties, some of them wearing sandals. It must have been in the midst of the summer.

Sadly the accompanying article is full-on racist. It shouldn´t be surprising regarding the nature of this white pop magazine, but it´s still worth remembering, while we enjoy swing dancing and listening to swing music today, how common racism was in the 30s. The article reflects the widespread bigotry of the period, when it was hip to be entertained by  Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, where black people were not allowed. Few people actually went to Harlem to hang out, let alone move there like Mezz Mezzrow, who was a junkie. The whole country was segregated. But it was still nowhere near the degree of murderous racism that was taking place right here in Berlin at the same time in 1940. Now it´s always said, that the Savoy Ballroom was the only integrated ballroom in the U.S. and probably the whole world. If you look closely, you can even find some white faces in these photos. Double-click on them and they will get much bigger.

Just for historical accuracy and to remind us of the dubious source of these images, I transcribed the article in full. So please don´t blame me for reproducing the racist trash talk or the numerous irregularities in this exploitation piece. It´s what came with these pictures.

Stompin´at the Savoy

by Ted Farah

THINK it over – and if you want to know the reason why darkies were born come along to Harlem´s Savoy ballroom. Sure, someone has to to plant the cotton, and someone has to pick the corn, just like the song says. Someone has to shine  shoes and wait on tables and do housework, but that ain´t all.

Someone´s gotta dance. Someone´s gotta play hot, rapturous jazz on a piano and a trumpet, on a high laughing clarinet, on low mournful trombones. Some colored gal in a flashy evening gown has to stand at a microphone and sing the blues away, while a mean horn plays all in and out and around the melody.

Down below the platform, on the long dimly-lighted dance floor, the boys and girls are struttin´, jivin´, cuttin´ up. The days´s work is done. No boss to´yell orders. Only rhythm. Plenty of rhythm. All God´s chillun got rhythm.

For fifteen years this has been going on at the Savoy, in the heart of Harlem, the greatest colored community in the world. Remember, way back in the twenties, when the Charleston was the rage all over the country?

The Charleston was born at the Savoy. A sepia cavalcade of jazz could be based on the dance crazes that were cradled in one upper Manhattan ballroom. After the  Charleston, they gave out the Blackbottom and it was succeeded by the Lindy Hop, Truckin´, Suzy-Q, Boogie-Woogie and Big Apple, with a few others in between. For dancing like that, ecstatic, jubilant, all out dancing you have to have music. That´s where Duke Ellington, the great Duke who means so much to American music, comes in. He got his first big breaks at the Savoy. The late drummer genius Chick Webb was discovered here. Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Lunceford, Erskine and Coleman Hawkins, The Four Ink Spots – began their careers in the Savoy.

The kids who go there – attracted by a reasonable admission price, ten-cent beer and jazz played by masters – go strictly to dance.

Many songs have been composed by musicians, sitting around its lively atmosphere. They say Hoagy Carmichael wrote his ever popular “Stardust” while sitting at the Savoy. Gene Krupa jotted down his startling “Bolero” there one night. Chick Webb dictated “Stompin´at the Savoy” to Ella Fitzgerald in a moment of inspiration between dance sets. “Tuxedo Junction” was born there.

The Stompin´at the Savoy reaches its zenith on Thursday nights. This is a free night for ladies. By eleven, the dance floor is jammed. By midnight the building seems to be rocking with rhythm and the dancing that goes on would bring joy to the heart of a wooden Indian.

A cavalcade of dances could be based on the styles cradled in the Savoy – birthplace of the Charleston, Blackbottom, Truckin´, Lindy Hop, and Big Apple.

(captions from Music Makers magazine:)

This series of action pictures shows members of the Savoy´s “Four Hundred Club” in action on the dance floor. The club is composed of the best dancers in Harlem.

While the band on the platform provides torrid rhythms, they skillfully toss their partners toward the ceiling, or around their shoulders.

There is no charge for membership in the “Four Hundred Club”, but aspirants must demonstrate to members that they are good enough dancers.

Once admitted to the club, they may attend the regular Tuesday night dance sessions at the Savoy and get in at the club rate, which is less expensive.

At these sessions of the “Four Hundred Club” you see some of the smartest amateur dancing on view anywhere.

As performed by the members of the “Four Hundred Club”, this interpretation of the “Big Apple” would bring down the house in any theatre.

Truckin´and the Lindy Hop are highly popular dances among the Savoy Stompers. Here you see a Truckin´couple being “sent” clear out of this world.

When the highly expert members of the Club put on a group number at their Tuesday night gatherings, other dancers mass around the floor and watch.

Fast action is characteristic of the youngsters when they “get hot” while Stompin´at the Savoy. Here is a remarkable photo that captures the speed and spirit of a dancing couple.

Photos by Barry


COLETTE MESTON, Sexy-Twist, 1963

“Sexy-Twist” is a German version of Chris Montez´rocking surf hit “Some Kinda Fun” minus the buzzing trademark organ. The title is quite misleading and was obviously just chosen to raise attention.  It´s just a happy little twist tune about being young and in love. This version, recorded for the budget label Clariphon, is almost identical to the original version by the Twist Twens on Germany´s biggest budget label Tempo. Colette Meston recorded only a handful of songs and also narrated some children´s records for Clariphon but besides that I couldn´t find any information about her, the Colibris or Jean Satori and his orchestra. “Sexy-Twist” would´ve fit on the excellent “Twist in Germany” CD that Bear Family Records put out  in 2000, but so far the fifty year old song has never been re-released.

“The most beautiful thing in the world is for free and it´s being young and in love.”

COLETTE MESTON, Sexy-Twist, 1963


HELMY´S HOT-CLUB, Rock´n “Roll-Mops”, 1957

Helmy was a cool cat! Local Berliner Helmut Zacharias could have had a huge career as a classical violinist but instead he chose to a be a giant German pop fiddler! As a teenager in the 30s he was a swing and jazz fan  and first recorded in 1941. Some of his early material is fast and furious and pretty close to that of  Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt:

Now the title of this particular song seems almost cynical, because “Gut gelaunt” translates to “In a good mood”. In 1942 that was certainly not the prevalent feeling of a lot of people in Germany and Europe. Some might disagree, but to me German swing music, like all of the culture that was produced in Nazi-Germany, no matter how sophisticated, will always feel stained. Simply because it wasn´t a threat to the dictatorship and it was made while millions of people were expelled, tortured and killed.

But what were you to do if you were a very talented 22 year old swing musician living in a dictatorship? Zacharias chose to stay and keep playing and playing until Berlin was in ruins.  And then he still kept playing. In this picture he is shown with his wife Hella and his friend, guitarist Coco Schumann, circa 1947 in front of a sign that says: “Long live the SED” (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands – Socialist Unity Party Of Germany).

Coco, a Berlin jew,  had come back from Auschwitz and Dachau and immediately started to play with Helmut again, like they had done before 1943. The two swing enthusiasts, bound together by their love for the music, were now performing for Berliner Rundfunk, the first Berlin radio Station run by the Soviet military government. Into the late 40s they recorded together for Odeon, Amiga and Polydor.

Hemut Zacharias´ career really took off in the 50s and he remains one of the few German pop artists that reached a worl-wide audience. Despite the bias of  German  cultural circles towards more vulgar styles he held on to his true swing spirit: “It ain´t what you do. It´s the way that you do it.”

Naturally he didn´t shy away from Rock´n´Roll either.  Henry Cording (aka Henry Salvador, the name is a word play: re-cording) recorded “Rock and Roll Mops”, one of the first French rock´n´roll songs in 1956. The lyrics were written by Vernon Sinclair, a pen name of Boris Vian. Vian, an accomplished jazz trumpeter, published his first poem in 1943 in the bulletin of the Hot Club de France, the association of lovers of authentic  jazz. In the 30s and 40s Hot Clubs spread all over the world.

Rock´n “Roll-Mops” plays with the words Rock´n´Roll and Rollmops.  A Rollmops is a rolled pickled Herring fillet, a particular specialty of Berlin. Somehow Helmut Zacharias´ instrumental version has never been re-released, or at least I couldn´t find it anywhere. Check for yourself, if you´ll only find this post, I´m probably right.

HELMY´S HOT-CLUB, Rock´n “Roll-Mops”, 1957

HELMY´S HOT-CLUB, Barock´n Roll, 1957


HELMUT SIGGI AND THE GOLDEN EIGHT, Baby Shoe Dixi

A very common series of German advertisement flexible records, that  I keep finding, was put out by the Servas shoe company, once one of Germany´s leading shoe manufacturers. According to a 1970 article in Spiegel magazine Servas had a business volume of 100 million Deutschmarks  and produced 15 million shoes per year. Today it is reduced to a factory outlet.

This was their very first release on a very thin one-sided flexible disc, in fact so thin that it took hours to digitize this one track.  The otherwise perfectly flat record would not keep skipping until I found just the right weight of  the tone arm. As you can see on the scan, the label could be modified with a sticker so that each shoe store that sold Servas shoes would have their own name on the record, as in this case “Stiller, Berlin”. The Berlin store still exists in Friedrichstrasse, one of Berlin´s main shopping streets.

Of all the Servas songs I know, this is the only one that actually centers around Servas shoes in the lyrics. Other records just mention Servas in the introduction and at the end of the record. I have no idea who Hemut Siggi was or the orchestra backing him. Again Dixie is spelled wrong and the music can only loosely be called dixieland, but there´s some nice jazz, scat-vocals and lotsa schlager here:

HELMUT SIGGI AND THE GOLDEN EIGHT, Baby Shoe Dixi


DIXILAND, Saints Go Marching In

A pretty forgettable version of a song that´s been done to death, no names given of anyone who is playing it and a very bad condition of the grooves on this flexible disc, but somehow I liked the small 6″ cardboard format and the image enough to take it home for a measly 50 cents.

DIXILAND,  Saints Go Marching In


BESSER WOHNEN MIT DINETT, Serenade In Swing, 1960

This flexible disc was produced as a gift to the sellers of  the “Dinett” trolley table made by the furniture company Bremshey out of Solingen. Bremshey was a family business that operated from 1862 up to 1982. In 1932 they were the first to mass produce a small folding umbrella they named “Knirps” (scrub). In the mid 50s Bremshey started to produce the rolling folding table “Dinett”.

Besides the subtitle calling the song a “swing classic”, I couldn´t find any mention of a song called  “Serenade in Swing” on the Internet. There is however a short music film from 1942 called “Serenade In Swing” starring Jan Savitt and his orchestra,  Martha Tilton, Kenny Stevens and the vocal groups Six Hits and A Miss and the Rhythm Rascals.

The first side is a cover version of the instrumental hit record “Wheels” by the String-A-Longs from Texas, interrupted three times (!) by the good wishes of the Bremshey company. Aside: contrary to what is written on the label, Norman Petty, who produced many of Buddy Holly´s records,  did not write “Wheels” but only recorded it in his studio in Clovis, New Mexico.

The company that produced this record no longer exists and the label does not even say who played on it or if  the songs were even recorded by the same group. All public and commercial interest in it seems to have been  abandoned 52 years ago.

And for a good reason. I paid 50 cents for it a couple of weeks ago in a local thrift store and that´s still more than a free giveaway record should be:

BESSER WOHNEN MIT DINETT, Serenade In Swing, 1960

BESSER WOHNEN MIT DINETT, Wheels, 1960


Eggy Ley´s Jazzmen, Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho, 1959

One of the first music blogs that I read before I started Berlin Beatet Bestes in 2007, was Scott Soriano´s Crud Crud. It is  still one of the best written record collector´s blogs with the most carefully chosen music from a very broad spectrum. In his last post Scott announced that he was putting his blog on hiatus. He wrote that it did not feel right anymore to distribute other people´s creative property for free, while operating  record labels and trying to sell music at the same time. I have thought a lot about what he wrote in that article and it touches on some things I have also been writing about here and elsewhere.  I agree that legally there is no difference between “good” and “bad” MP3 blogs. Whether the MP3s you offer for download are from ripped CDs of currently active bands or digitized from some forgotten, out of print 45s, is the same. As long as you do not own the copyright of that material, distributing it is illegal. When I´m offering it for download, I´m in the same boat with anybody else who shares files on the Internet.

Here´s where I disagree:

I think the trouble is with the digital itself. If you would want to sell counterfeit copies of, let´s say, Addidas sneakers, you have to use a lot of criminal energy. You have to get a designer that copies the design, a company that will secretly produce the shoes and a underground distribution system to sell them.  Now that takes a lot of  money and effort and is clearly criminal. Even old style record bootleggers, who sold blues and rockabilly comps or live recordings of the Rolling Stones, still had to do the work of pressing LPs and printing sleeves. Now, who´s fault is it, that those awful CD bloggers today, don´t have to go out and actually copy any real articles? Who made it so easy for them to do their “business” with a couple of mouse clicks? And who made it so easy for me to go into a thrift store, pick a record,  pay for it, go home, scan the sleeve, cut and size it with Photoshop, put the record on my turntable, digitize the music, scan some more images from my vintage magazine or book collection that relate to the record, do some research from the same material and the Internet and then do my best to write something useful about the artist and the music?   No wait… actually that is not soo easy!  My girlfriend always says, it´s so much work and takes so much time, that I should be paid for it.

Anyway,  it was the dominant electronics industry that created this mess. They pushed the technology for digital file sharing. And then in 2001 everyone wanted an Ipod.  Suddenly the record industry was facing dwindling CD sales. Next all the proud, one hundred year old, phonograph industry could do was trying to sell digital files. Many people´s reactions to that were only natural: they didn´t want to pay for something that is so easily reproducible. If you can get a whole “record collection” worth of MP3s  from the hard drive of a friend, why buy anything?

But here´s my point:

1. People that download music from the Internet are not fans, no matter what they say. Even in the 80s, when vinyl was the popular medium, some people went through their punk phase on a bunch of mix tapes they got from a friend. They were not real fans of the music either. If you´re a fanatic you want to support the people who made that music that you supposedly love so much. Buying some MP3s on Itunes for your Ipod should not be enough to satisfy that passion. Buying music should not be like a donation for a good cause, to make you feel like you´re a better person. Or like buying organic food. Buying music should be cool. Records are cool. Real music fans need the real article and the biggest article is still a vinyl record!  Real fans will always want to buy some real product to show their dedication. They need that record!

2. Digital is worthless. As abstract as the music itself. No wonder nobody wants to pay for it. People pay for material. Everything we use , food , clothes, furniture, is still real material.  We all love and need objects. There´s no reason why one of the most precious things in our lives, music, should be without an object.  That said, my girlfriend would love the space that we would have, if all those shelves full of records in my room would suddenly disappear. But she´s not a music fan, she´s a book lover. Her room is full of book shelves!

3. My blog is a service. I do the work of presenting records for the first time in digitized form. I´m not hurting anyone’s business. I choose the material for this blog very carefully. Most of it is not commercially viable. If I would not post it here, it would sit in a box in a Berlin thrift store forever. I don´t care for the MP3s that I create and post on this blog. They´re worthless. I care for records. And so should you.

So:

If you call yourself a music fan: buy a record player. Go into a record store and buy records. If you´re a DJ and you´re DJing with MP3s or your Spotify playlist on your Iphone,  I think you should be ashamed of yourself. Buy a record player. Go into a record store and buy records. If you are a musician or in the music business and are trying to sell Mp3s. Good luck!

Finally, the record. Another one of Eggy Ley´s outings on the German Tip Top flexi-disc label. These two songs have never been re-released and are not likely to be in the future. As great as it is, British retro-dixieland jazz from the 1950s is not exactly in high demand today, even after all this time. New Orleans style jazz from the 20s still is. The record is also in a very bad condition. But it´s the only copy I´ve got and it will have to do, while I´ll wait until another copy comes my way.

Download this and listen to the glorious crackling mono sound on your Iphone if you really need to…

Eggy Ley´s Jazzmen, Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho, 1959

Eggy Ley´s Jazzmen, When The Saints Go Marching In, 1959


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