CELEBRATING THE 21ST ANNIVERSARY OF
"RECORD OF THE WEEK" (5/10/97 - 5/10/18)
SPOTLIGHT ON THE JIMMIE LUNCEFORD ORCHESTRA - PART ONE
SPOTLIGHT ON THE JIMMIE LUNCEFORD ORCHESTRA - PART ONE
"Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down"
"My Blue Heaven"
"'Taint Good (Like A Nickel Made Of Wood)"
"Slumming On Park Avenue"
Above: James Melvin "Jimmie" Lunceford, known early as the "New King Of Syncopation", was an orchestra leader who played saxophone, clarinet, flute, guitar, and trombone. He was also a composer and arranger. In the late 1920's, Lunceford led a territory band in Memphis called The Chickasaw Syncopators. In the early 1930's, the band became known as his "Tennesseans". Later, it was named his "Cotton Club Orchestra", his "Columbia Broadcasting Orchestra", or just his "Orchestra". His road show was called the "Harlem Express".
ITHACA JOURNAL, January 13, 1932:
JIMMIE LUNCEFORD'S TENNESSEANSJimmie Lunceford and his "Twelve Talented Tennesseans," a popular recording and broadcasting combination, have been engaged to play at the Crescent dance ballroom next Saturday night, Jan. 16. Of the outfit, it has been said: "Hailed unanimously throughout the South and Midwest as the successor of all modern orchestras, the members of this outfit are absolutely in their style and the real producers of 'ethyl' jazz and rhythm. These facts are easily proved by the phenominal successes the organization has scored at such places as Cleveland's beautiful Lake Shore Hotel; the Silver Slipper, show-place of Toronto; Wille's Lake Shore Gardens, Cleveland; the ultra modern Green Mill, in Cincinnat; Endicott-Johnson's nationally-known George F. Pavillion; Buffalo's entrancing Arcadia; and Cornell University's famous annual Navy Ball, together with Guy Lombardo and his band."
Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra, at The Cotton Club, Circa 1934. Eddie Tompkins is third from left, Sy Oliver is fourth from left, and Willie Smith is fifth from the right. These orchestra musicians were the "Vocal Trio". "Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra" had four records recorded for and released on the Victor label in 1934.
Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra, Circa 1934.
Jimmie Lunceford in New York City in 1935.
Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra, photo provided by Paul Ressler. CAPTIONED: "EXCLUSIVE DECCA RECORDING ARTISTS, Personal Direction HAROLD F. OXLEY, New York City"
Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra, the 1936 photo provided by Paul Ressler. CAPTIONED: "Scene from Warner's Short" "EXCLUSIVE DECCA RECORDING ARTISTS, Personal Direction HAROLD F. OXLEY, New York City"
NOTE: The Vitaphone musical short is titled "Jimmie Lunceford And His Dance Orchestra" from 1936. Songs performed by them are "It's Rhythm Coming To Life Again", "Rhythm Is Our Business (vocal by Willie Smith)", "You Can't Pull The Wool Over My Eyes" (vocal by Myra Johnson), "Moonlight On The Ganges", "Nagasaki" (skat vocal by Eddie Tompkins, shouts by Sy Oliver), and "Jazznochracy" (during opening titles). It also includes tap-dancing by The Three Brown Jacks. This short can be viewed full length at YouTube.com (highly recommended). Per IMDb.com, Lunceford and orchestra performed in only one other film, "Blues In The Night", from 1941, as a "barn-storming band", credited as "Jimmy Lunceford And His Band".
Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra.
Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra in a typical theater performance. (L-R) Sy Oliver, Paul Webster, Russell Bowles, Eddie Tompkins, Eddie Durham, Elmer Crumbly, Eddie Wilcox (piano), Jimmie Lunceford, Jimmy Crawford (drums), Willie Smith, LaForest Dent, Al Norris, Joe Thomas, Moses Allen (bass fiddle), and Earl Caruthers.
Jimmie Lunceford's Vocal Trio (L-R) Sy Oliver (trumpet, saxophone), Eddie Tompkins (trumpet, saxophone), and Willie Smith (saxophone, clarinet).
NEW YORK AGE, May 20, 1939:
FAMOUS TRIO FEATURED WITH JIMMIE LUNCEFORD[L-R] Sy Oliver, Eddie Tompkins, and Willie Smith, outstanding members of the Jimmie Lunceford Band who play the 125th Street Apollo Theatre next week (beginning Friday, May 19)....
NOTE: This is a similar, but different picture than the photo further up on this page. Notice the bow ties.
PITTSBURGH COURIER, February 20, 1937: BOSSES OF THE LUNCEFORD AGGREGATION
Leaders of the famous Lunceford musical and business organization get together to work out all the angles of his invasion of the European continent. From left to right: Harold Oxley, business manager, doing the pencil work; Mrs. Oxley, Mrs. Lunceford, and Jimmie himself. Of course, Mrs. Lunceford accompanied her husband on the high seas.
EXTRA AUDIO (Windows Media Player):
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]
At Left: James "Trummy" Young
(From Honolulu Star Bulletin - October 7, 1949)
Above: Jimmie Lunceford's Vocalion Sax Section
(L-R: Willie Smith, Eddie Tompkins, Ted Buckner, and Earl Caruthers)
"'Taint What You Do" on Vocalion 4582 was recorded on January 3, 1939. Song composed by orchestra members Sy Oliver and Trummy Young.
"Well, All Right Then" on Vocalion 4887 was recorded on May 17, 1939. Song composed by "Entire Lunceford Orchestra".
Both feature group vocalizing by ensemble.
A total of eight records were recorded for and released on Vocalion by Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra in 1939.
Personnel in Lunceford's orchestra for the Vocalion records are:
Jimmie Lunceford (director), Eddie Tompkins (trumpet, sax), Paul Webster (trumpet), Sy Oliver (trumpet, sax), Elmer Crumbley (trombone), Russell Bowles (trombone), Trummy Young (trombone), Eddie Durham (sax), Willie Smith (sax, clarinet), Dan Grissom (sax), Earl Caruthers (sax, clarinet),Ted Buckner (sax), Joe Thomas (sax, clarinet), Edwin Wilcox (piano, cello), Al Norris (guitar), Moses Allen (bass fiddle), and Jimmy Crawford (drums).
1. "'Taint What You Do (It's The Way That You Do It)" - Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra - Vocalion 4582 - 1939.
2. "Well, All Right Then" - Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra - Vocalion 4887 - 1939.
BOTH played in sequence
ARTICLES AND BLURBS....
PITTSBURGH COURIER, June 8, 1935: JIMMIE LUNCEFORD IS SOCIAL FAVORITE
The most universally popular orchestra is coming back to Pittsburgh. Jimmie Lunceford, a Fisk University graduate and a Kappa Alpha Psi frat man himself, will bring an orchestra to the beautiful dance pavillion at Olympic Park on Tuesday evening, June 18, which includes more college and fraternity men than any other big-time band.
Widely acclaimed by radio and theatrical scribes as the "New Colored King of Syncopation," genial Jimmie and his marvelous orchestra are winning their way into the hearts of music lovers of all races and classes by their cosmopolitan air as well as their remarkable ability as musicians. It is a real "All-American" band. Led by the dynamic personality of Lunceford, no other colored orchestra in America has has such a meteoric rise in public favor as his splendid aggregation of musicians.
Only a short time ago Jimmie Lunceford was an obscure orchestra leader playing small-time spots around Memphis and Nashville, Tenn. Then an interested friend, impressed by the Luncefordian style of "hot and sweet music," started Jimmie in the general direction of New York by way of Buffalo, where he played for a space at the Arcadia Ballroom. Jimmie's next jump to the Lafayette Theater in New York brought him a step nearer to fame.
Followed by a short engagement at the Lincoln Theater, Philadelphia, during which negotiations were completed for his first week at Harlem's Club. Before Jimmie had completed his first week at Harlem's celebrated night spot, he was being hailed by the critics as the New King of Jazz....
INDIANAPOLIS RECORDER, August 31, 1935: SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF JIMMIE LUNCEFORD
Born James Melvin Lunceford in Fulton, Miss. on June 6, 1902. He weighs 194 pounds, is five feet eleven inchesparents James and Ida Lunceford, both musicalhis nickname is "Piggie," and he insists that it be spelled with an "ie" instead of a "y"his first professional engagement was at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., and he played a piece all the way down in the wrong keyJimmie has an A.B. degree from Fisk University, with post-graduate work at City College of New York, and was a four letter man in athletics at Fiskhis fraternity is Kappa Alpha Psifootball is his favorite sport and his most thrilling experience was losing his way in a Colorado blizzard and almost freezing to deathhe regards his band as his greatest extravagance, first learned to play a guitar and now is proficient with the saxophone, clarinet, trombone, and flute....his band succeeded Cab Calloway at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem early in 1934 and was heard on the air waves via NBC twice weekly from that rendezvous.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORDER, November 30, 1935: HAIL LUNCEFORD NEW JAZZ KING
Hot harmonies! Roaring rhythms! Scorching syncopations!
Yeah Man! What we mean is that Jimmie Lunceford and his famous Columbia Broadcasting Orchestra will be here Dec. 15 at the Walker Casino, with those torrid dance rhythms which have captivated and charmed the radio listeners of the nation.
So well-known has become the "New King of Syncopation" through his coast-to-coast broadcasts, his triumphant dance tours, and his sensationally successful road-show, "Harlem Express," that it is difficult to believe that not so very long ago Jimmie Lunceford was a struggling band leader playing small-time spots around Memphis and Nashville, Tenn. Then he began to play the University circuit, and his campus admirers at Cornell, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Hamilton, and other leading universities spread the fame of his music far and wide.
Stage and dance engagements followed in rapid succession, and early in 1934 Jimmie Lunceford and his band followed Cab Calloway into Harlem's celebrated night spot, the Cotton Club, where he also made his air debut over a coast-to-coast hook-up. Before Jimmie had completed his first week at the Cotton Club he was being hailed by the critics as the "New King of Syncopation." Since then the Lunceford orchestra has been featured at many of the leading theatres and ballrooms throughout the East and Middle West, including engagements at such well-known spots as the Savoy in Pittsburgh, the Palladium in St. Louis, the Grey Stone Ballroom in Cincinnati, and soon to be presented at the beautiful Walker Casino here....
PITTSBURGH COURIER, September 3, 1938: SPOT IS FAVORITE OF SOCIETY ELITE
NEW YORKJimmie Lunceford goes "high hat"! Even if this news is a bit startling, it's nevertheless true.... However, the news does not apply to the genial, modest maestro himself, but to his future clientele, my deahs, at the exclusive Kit Kat Club here in New York. Following an engagement of a month's standing at the Southland Cafe in Boston, Mass., Lunceford and his band will open an engagement at the Kit Kat playing to elite societyThe Vanderbilts, Astors, etc., for an unannounced length of time....
Since his debut in New York in 1933, Jimmie Lunceford has come a long way. His records are heard on almost every nickelodeon in the country and everywhere the band makes a personal appearance, crowds greet them. A couple of weeks ago Jimmie and his band broke the box office record at the Savoy Ballroom in New York when more than 3,300 fans turned out to hear them.
And as the band marches into its sixth year on "big time" there seems to be no indications that the popularity of the band is on the wane. On the other hand, with the news of his new triumphs, things point to increased demand for Lunceford and his "streamlined rhythm."
PITTSBURGH COURIER, December 16, 1939: JIMMIE'S BAND HAS DRAWN 'EM
NEW YORKNineteen thirty-nine is drawing to a close and the year's musical record finds Jimmie Lunceford in the van of the dance parade, with unrivaled accomplishments from the viewpoints of popularity, versatilty, showmanship, and ability.
At left is the Lunceford Quartet, composed of Gerald Wilson, Trummy Young, Joe Thomas, and Willie Smith.
Jimmie ushered in 1939 with a New Year's week date at famed Apollo theater, cradle of swing, and set an attendance record that still stands. Playing a repeat engagement at the Apollo in August, Jimmie ended a box office drought of 12 weeks when he grossed $14,000 for the week, the first time in three months that the theater's revenue approached that box office sum. Other theater records shattered by Lunceford are the Howard, Washington, and the Earle, Philadelphia.
Lunceford outdrew every band touring the South in March as he enjoyed turnouts, not since equaled, at Montgomery, Columbia, Houston, Atlanta, and other Mason-Dixon points. The warm April winds rocked with Lunceford's music an evening in Philadelphia when Jimmie set a Keystone State public dance record by drawing 18,000 dancers into Convention Hall. Then South for further Dixon points. Then an engagement at Clemson College, the first time a colored band played in this Southern Ivy college.
Jimmie enjoyed a wide college vogue in 1939, playing the prom circuit at Williams, Northwestern, Purdue, Chicago, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Amherst, North Carolina, among others.
The road accomplishments of Lunceford's ensemble in 1939 marks him as a giant of swing. June, July, and August found Jimmie in the East, South, West, more often than not toppling his own attendance records. Currently, he is at the Southland Cafe, Boston, where he is breaking his own all-time high at this smart Hub cafe.
Above: Label image of Decca 453 B recorded on December 17, 1934. The original issue would be on the sunburst Decca label (similar to that shown further below). This re-issue is likely from the late-1930's.
Above: Label image of Decca 712 A recorded on December 23, 1935.
Above: Label image of Decca 960 B recorded on September 1, 1936.
Above: Label image of Decca 1128 A recorded on January 26, 1937. Note that now "Vocal Trio" has become "The Lunceford Trio". From 1934 to 1938, Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra had 37 records released on the blue Decca label. They then moved to the Vocalion label, returning to Decca in 1941.
NOTE: Most discographical information provided at this website is from Ferdie Gonzalez' Disco-File.
Listen to this week's selections featuring Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra on Decca from 1935-1937 using Windows Media Player:
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]
1. Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down
2. My Blue Heaven
3. 'Taint Good (Like A Nickel Made Of Wood)
4. Slumming On Park Avenue
ALL FOUR played in sequence
[To download audio files, right-click on link and then select "Save link (target) as..."]
Click HERE for SPOTLIGHT ON THE JIMMIE LUNCEFORD ORCHESTRA - PART TWO.
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