Most people will probably only shrug their shoulders when they hear these songs, but to me this record seems almost unreal. It´s like this record was made for Berlin Beatet Bestes and on so many levels!
1. It is an advertisement record,
2. It was privately pressed for a Berlin car dealer
3. It´s got a cartoon sleeve
4. The two risqué songs are sung by local Berlin star Brigitte Mira, an actress who frequently worked with Fassbinder
5. The music is in sort of a Dixieland Jazz style
6. Of course it´s also never been reissued.
What more can I ask for?
In a way these two risqué songs, backed by Heinrich Riethmüller, predate Brigitte Mira´s bold later work. For some unknown reason the Berlin car dealer Bunde had the idea to advertize for his business with some naughty songs. Some sleeves even had “Der kesse Gruss vom Autohaus Bunde” ( Naughty greetings from Autohaus Bunde) stamped on the front. You can see this stamp on a copy that some greedy person is trying to sell on Ebay for the ridiculous amount of 35 Euros. Of course nobody will ever buy it. Listen to the songs and you´ll see why. Last week I paid less than 50 cents in a thrift store and I think that´s much more appropriate. Most likely it was the name that got the seller to put a higher price tag on this record.
Brigitte Mira (1910-2005) was most famous for the work she did with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It was Fassbinder´s genius to cast people like Brigitte Mira for his art films. She had been a popular German actress since the 1940s, but was mostly known for her comedies. Mira´s personal courage made her steer off the beaten path and towards serious, more challenging roles, like in Ali:Fear Eats The Soul (1974).
By the early 70s Fassbinder regularly worked for German television. “Wie ein Vogel auf dem Draht” was a TV-show directed by Fassbinder for Brigitte Mira. German television never got more campy than this:
Despite her adventurous career, in the eyes of the majority of the German public, Brigitte Mira remained „the archetypal funny old Berlinerin with a heart.” (The Guardian). But in the 70s Brigitte Mira basically had two careers, appearing in cutting-edge art films and also starring in funny popular films and on television (most prominently in the series Drei Damen vom Grill).
Finally: the music.
Die alte Clofrau translates to “The Old Toilet Lady”. In the song she tells the story of her life as a bathroom attendant. A blues song about how she flushes the toilet for the very last time…
Triebwagen is railcar, but Trieb also means sex drive. Mit dem Triebwagen nach Italien translates to “Travelling to Italy by railcar”. The lyrics deal with the cliché that Italian men are sexually potent. So horny female German tourists travel to Italy in search of sexual adventures…
The artwork of this record is not signed. I have a vague suspicion who could have done it but so far I can not put a name to it.
Last week I bought two Opera label 45s. Opera was a record club, essentially a sort of cheapo label. They still sell cheaply today and I would contribute this largely to the bland record sleeves, that do not tell much about the music on the records and lead sellers to believe the music must not be interesting. Opera did mostly published second grade versions of hit songs, but also took over some cool stuff from other labels catalogs, like Duke Ellington and the Deep River Boys. While the music on this record is not rhythm & blues or hot jazz it´s still a little more sophisticated than the stuff that I normally present here. It´s Modern Jazz in the Stan Getz style – some sort of big band junkie jazz. Either way it´s not meant for dancing. It´s music for sitting. I´m nearing fifty but I feel that I´m still way too young for this type of jazz. I still have no time for slow music. Or for music that I need to sit down to to listen to.
But who is this band and where are they from? I couldn´t find any trace of The Pepper Biters Big Band on the Internet. Are these real names? Ben Brook (Piano), Joe Nathan (Trumpet), Shaw-Shaw Namuna (Drums), Mackie Daniels (Voice), Mike Mills (Saxo), Buddy Toybeen (Trombone), Coleridge Gray (Vibraphone), Larry Pongo (Bass) and the Hot Nine.
Compared to the Dixieland songs from flexi discs that I´ve posted lately, the Leathertown Jazzmen were the real thing. Maybe not in the sense that their playing was more authentic, but at least the Leathertown Jazzmen were full-time Jazzmen.
Most groups who played early jazz in the 50s were decidedly amateur. They believed that if they wanted to stay true to the original New Orleans players, who were predominantly amateurs, they must also stay amateurs. Nevertheless, the youthful and talented Leathertown Jazzmen (Otto Zitzelsberger, John Howlett, Armin Johl, David Meggeson, Horst Brandt and Roy Pellet), a mixed group of British and German musicians, were in such high demand, that they were able to turn pro in 1960. They toured Germany, England, Spain and Norway. In August 1962 they appeared at the International Jazz Festival in Comblain-la-Tour, near Liege in Belgium, in front of 35.00 people. Apart from the instruments they´re holding in the picture (clarinet, trombone and banjo), they look like a rock´n´roll group. The Leathertown Jazzmen were from Offenbach, a town that until the 1950s was known for its large leather industry. Since then, that has changed dramatically. Due to many companies moving their businesses to countries with lower wages, from the 1.339 leather companies that were counted in Offenbach in 1907, only 19 remained in the year 2000.
As far as I know, the Jazzmen recorded at least one more 45 for the Pye label in 1962 (Heidelberg/Rosamunde, Pye 7N 3113) , but none of them have been reissued in fifty years. Delia Gone, written and recorded by Blind Blake in 1949, tells the true story of the murder of Delia Green on Chrismas Eve 1900. Interesting trivia according to Wikipedia: “Delia Gone” was prominently covered by The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger and four times by Johnny Cash. In the music video for Cash’s fourth recording, Delia is played by Kate Moss.
The Leathertown Jazzmen´s version of Delia Gone is pretty close to the version of Acker Bilk. I still like The Jazzmen´s version better. It´s a little more rootsy…
Drummer, band leader and actor François-Alexandre Galepides, alias Moustache (1929-1987), was a big name in French post-war jazz with quite a few releases in the 1950s. He started to play in Claude Luter´s band and later performed with Sidney Bechet and George Brassens. Moustache even recorded some funny early rock´n´roll sides like Le Croque-Crâne-Creux (Purpe People Eater) with French lyrics written by Boris Vian. From what I understand he also really enjoyed playing rock´n´roll, contrary to guys like Henri Salvador, Boris Vian and Michel Legrand. Henri Salvador recorded some excellent early French rock´n´roll, but still only regarded it as satire, a part of his job as a comedian. Decades later he hated it when rock´n´roll fans pestered him about his Rock´n´Roll Mops. Personally he preferred the swinging jazz music he grew up with. Moustache apparently was a much more down-to-earth kinda guy. In the mid-50s he also ventured into acting and comedy, mostly playing musicians in films. Later he owned a restaurant and ran several bars. Moustache died in a car accident in 1987.
The back of the sleeve lists three other EPs in what appears to be a series of musical trips: Moustache a Moscou, Moustache Toréador, Moustache en Italie and Moustacha a Tyrol. As illustrated by the nice cover design done by Max Dufour, house illustrator for the French Festival label, on this record the Stache takes a trip to Harlem. The three jazz standards are quite faithfully trying to recreate a swingin´ 1930s mood. In his fast instrumental version of Chick Webb´s Stompin´at the Savoy the Savoy Ballroom is coming to life, while Duke Ellington´s Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me) and the traditional Frankie and Johnny, both sung by Nadine Young, are played in a nice easy going mid-tempo…
Three years ago I wouln´t have looked twice at a Dixieland record. But then I found some Dixieland/Trad Jazz 45s from the early 50s to early 60s and started to like them. So far I haven´t met anyone who shares this interest and so far nobody snatches those 50 cents records up before I do. But it also means no communication. Punk, garage, indie or 70s rock record collectors still talk music in record shops all the time, but not Jazz fans. There might be some Dixieland fans out there, but they don´t hang out in record stores and probably just buy CDs on Amazon. But that´s all fine with me. When I buy 45s by Edmond Hall, Bunk Johnson, George Lewis or Sidney Bechet, I do it unsupervised and without any competition by other collectors. Right now Dixieland means worthless. Nobody seems to care for this stuff and that goes double for 1950s Traditional Jazz groups from Europe and triple for anything that only loosely had the Dixieland tag attached to.
Like this record by Hettlage-All-Stars. Hettlage, founded in 1896, was a German clothing retail company that went bankrupt in 2004. In the 50s, when they were still doing good business and operated a number of clothing stores, they chose teenager´s favorite product, the 7″ record, to advertize their new Twenty clothing line for teenagers. They could have put some Rock´n´Roll or simply Schlager songs on the record but they decided to put two Jazz hits on a very thin piece of plastic and to make the package look a little cooler, opted for a thick cardboard sleeve and a design that incorporated an abstract painted for a background, some stylized musical instruments and a silhouette of a trumpet player on the label, that is reminiscent of the logo that David Stone Martin designed for Noman Granz Clef label.
Manhattan Spiritual was a hit for Reg Owen and his orchestra in 1959, which peaked at #10 in the Billboard Hot 100. Whereas Reg Owens original Big Band Swing version had a bold brass section, the Hettlage All-Stars small combo version makes quite effective use of piano and clarinet improvisations. Not bad at all for an anonymous band playing on a flexible throw-away advertisement record…
The models (Heinz Feldhaus, who is holding the Hettlage All-Stars record sleeve, and actor Margita Scherr) are standing in front of an air-brushed record rack holding funny looking cell phones to their ears…
Friday, February 8th 2013
at Wasserturm, Kopischstrasse 7 in Kreuzberg (Kopischstrasse on the corner of Fidicinstrasse, 2 minutes from subway station Platz der Luftbrücke)
Wasserturm is a real 125-year old water tower in the center of the historic Chamisso area in Kreuzberg. It offers 70 square meters of nice wooden floor, a small stage with a piano and full back line, high ceiling with super acoustics and no noise outside because of the extra thick walls of the water tower and a small bar.
Some records I´m going to play:
1. COLEMAN HAWKINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA, What Harlem Is To Me, 1935
2. LOUIS ARMSTRONG AND THE MILLS BROTHERS, Boog-It
3. FATS WALLER WITH EDDIE CONDON´S DIXIELANDERS, Oh Sister Ain´t That Hot, 1940
4. COZY COLE´S BIG SEVEN, Sweethearts On Parade, 1950
5. JOHNNY HODGES AND HIS ORCHESTRA, Standing Room Only
6. MAHALIA JACKSON, Walking To Jerusalem
7. KID ORY´s CREOLE JAZZBAND, Weary Blues, 1945
8. SIDNEY BECHET & MEZZ MEZZROW, Revolutionary Blues, 1947
9. THE NAT KING COLE TRIO, Gone With The Draft, 1940
10. TAB SMITH, Can´t We Take A Chance, 1951
11.COLEMAN HAWKINS ALL STAR OCTET, When Day Is Done, 1940
12. SAM PRICE AND HIS KAYCEE STOMPERS, Jumpin´ On 57th
This is the other EP by Jean-Claude Pelletier that I have in my collection. My French is rather limited so this is what I could grasp from the liner notes on the back of the sleeve. It´s probably all wrong, so please correct me: Jean-ClaudePelletier was born in Paris in 1928, started to go to conservatory in 1936 and won a first prize for his piano playing and graduated in 1946, met Benny Vasseur, Pierre Braslowsky, René Franc and their group ended up in the finals of the Hot-Jazz contest in 1946. Jean-Claude then joined the orchestra of Alix Combello and stayed with them for five years. In 1954 he started to play in smaller groups together with Bill Coleman, Albert Nicholas, Buck Clayton, Jonah Jones James Moody, Sidney Bechet and Lionel Hampton. In 1955 he performed together with Claude Luter at the Vieux Comombier, the famous Paris jazz club in the basement of the Vieux Colombier Theatre.
Jean-Claude Pelletier is seen pointing to a sign of the Paris metro station Peletier (pronounced just the same but spelled differently) on the front cover of the record. On the back of the sleeve two more EPs are listed in the Columbia Jazz Stars series by the Pelletier Trio and the Pelletier Sextett. I would sure be interested to hear them, but, just like this EP, they have never been reissued. All of the songs were written by Jean-Claude Pelletier.
The personnel of the Pelletier orchestra is:
A. Renard – P. Sellin – V. Cassino (tp) B. Vasseur – Ch. Verstraete (tb) – H. Jouot (bs) – G. Grenu (as) – G. Lafitte – R. Simon (ts) – R. Bianchini (b) – Ch. Garros (dm) – J.C. Pelletier piano and leader
Pelletier was not only well-versed in traditional jazz but could also really swing. The liner notes mention his ability to play the blues: “a rarity among pianists of the new generation”. Now some purists might argue that the only good swing music is from the 1930s and 40s but by now you should know what I think of purists. I think this is excellent French 1950s big-band swing…
A couple of years ago I found two 78s by Joe Dixie in a little thrift store in the street where I live. When I recently found two more records that had his name on it, it was time to do some research. Unfortunately there is very little information about pianist, arranger, band leader and songwriter Joe Dixie on the Internet. Not even his real name is known. His music seems to be forgotten. Although clearly jazz tinged, it is too commercial for hardcore jazz fans and too obscure for everybody else to ever be reissued. A good starting point for a very small portrait.
In 1946 a group of young jazz fanatics who had survived the chaos of the last years of World War II were determined to establish a jazz scene in the ruins of Dresden. Among them was a 22-yer old pianist who called himself Joe Dixie, because crazy English-sounding nicknames were customary among German jazz fans. Spurred by his love for real Jazz, Joe Dixie founded one of the first big bands in post war Germany, the Original Dixies – Dresdner Tanzsinfoniker. The group fused jazz and dance music and even had a string section. Although popular locally they did not record, which they most probably would have, had they been based in Berlin. In 1951 the young ambitious bandleader left the group and Dresden for the Western part of Germany to pursue a professional career in music. Throughout the next decades he would keep his moniker “Dixie” from his early life in Dresden.
When exactly Joe Dixie recorded these songs for the West Berlin record label Metrophon is not known, but it was definitely prior to his leaving East Germany, because the little annex on the side of the label Hergestellt unter der Zulassung Nr B-511 der Nachrichtenkontrolle der Militärregierung (made by permission Nr. B-511 of the surveillance of the military government) was only used until the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. Cultural transfer between the two Germanys was still relatively common, before the Berlin wall was built in 1961. While the borders were transparent, it might have been decisive that it was a West Berlin label that released Dixie´s first records. It mustalso have been obvious to the young musician, that in the long run an artist going by the name of “Joe Dixie” would not fly with the communist East German regime. Nor would a song about springtime in Texas and the cowboys having a ball with no cops and no tax authorities around…
I already posted these songs two years ago, but back then I did not know how to record them properly, so now I did it again and though there are still ticks and hisses to be heard, the files sound much better than before…
Eins, zwei, drei kleine Mädchen is a German version of The Trolley Song performed by Judy Garland in the film ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, from 1944. The German lyrics are credited to Joe Dixie so I suppose this was his unique version. The Ping-Pongs were an East German girl group very much like the Andrew Sisters.
Louise was composed in 1929 with music by Richard Whiting and lyrics by Leo Robin for the film “The Innocents of Paris”, Paramount´s first musical picture, starring Maurice Chevalier. The song became a swing favorite recorded by many groups.
After Joe Dixie escaped from communist East Germany, he settled in a small village, tellingly called Freiheit in Osterode, Lower Saxony. By 1952 he had established himself as a songwriter and even started his own small publishing company for sheet music issuing songs like: Der Lange Jan Aus Amsterdam, Die Fahrt zum Mond, Fritzchen pfeift fabelhaft, Sieben Tage keinen Kuss von dir, Canzonetta d`amore, Prego, prego, Gondoliere (together wit Fred Oldörp, die drei Travellers)
In the late fifties he led groups of various sizes (Joe Dixie Swingtett, Joe Dixie Und Sein Tanzorchester, Joe Dixie Und Seine Instrumental-Virtuosen, Joe Dixie Und Seine Solisten) and recorded for Telefunken, Baccarola and Ariola but also for the small indie label Jupiter from Munich. Jupiter released two 45s by Mona Baptiste backed by Joe Dixie and his orchestra.
This EP, released in 1957 on the Opera label out of Stuttgart (and also on Donauland 1563), really does have extended playtime, with each side being around six minutes long. Though burdened by the fact that these tracks are not only medleys, a particularly weak format, but also medleys of German schlager songs from the 1930s and 40s, Joe still manages to fill in quite a few jazz licks on his piano.
By the mid-60s Joe Dixie stopped performing and moved towards songwriting and arranging. But I´m pretty sure there´s more Joe Dixie solo material out there that I´ve never heard of.