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|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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In Tune February 2007
Ohio Band Leaders
A few years ago we presented an “In Tune” column on “Ohio Composers and their Tunes.”
This time, let’s take a look at some early twentieth century Ohio band leaders and some tunes
they recorded for various popular labels of the times. Our focus, this time, will be more on
the band leaders than the tunes:
HERE COMES EMILY BROWN - recorded in Cincinnati in 1930, by Henry Theis and His
Hotel Sinton Orchestra. Henry Theis’s bands were well known in Cincinnati and performed
well into the 40’s. He recorded for both the Gennett label and the Victor label. This particular
tune was recorded live at the Hotel Sinton in Cincinnati when Victor brought in portable
‘CAUSE I FEEL LOW DOWN - recorded for the Vocalion label in Chicago, in 1928, by Sammy
Stewart and His Orchestra. Stewart was a native of Columbus,Ohio, but spent most of his
time in Chicago or on the road. On this recording he had some heavy hitters like Walter
Fuller on trumpet, Ikey Robinson on banjo and Sid Catlett on drums. Unfortunately for
Sammy, a lot of his musicians were hired away from him by Earl Hines.
SPRINGFIELD STOMP - recorded for the Victor label in New York in 1929, by Cecil Scott and
His Orchestra. This unit was from the Springfield, Ohio area. By all reports it was an
awesome band – too awesome! When it hit New York with the likes of Bill Coleman and
Frankie Newton on trumpets and Dickie Wells on trombone it underwent the same fate as
Sammy Stewarts’ band. Top New York band leaders were able to convince Cecil’s boys to
come work for them.
IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT - recorded for the Champion label (a subsidiary of Gennett) in
Richmond, Indiana in 1929, by Zack Whyte and his Chocolate Beau Brummels. This band
hailed from Cincinnati, Ohio, and included Sy Oliver in the trumpet section. Sy later became
known as a topnotch arranger. The band toured all through the Midwest.
MY DADDY ROCKS ME WITH ONE STEADY ROLL - recorded for the Okeh label, in
Cleveland, in 1925 by Harold Ortli and his Ohio State Collegians, a band that had a brief but
fairly successful run in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. The group originated as a campus dance
band at Ohio State University where Ortli attended; however his home was in Cleveland.
While he was home he heard that the Okeh Record Company was going to record locally. He
auditioned his band and it was selected. The recording was made and released. Later on
Ortli worked at his brother’s music store on West 25th Street in Cleveland.
BIRMINGHAM PAPA - recorded for the Okeh label, in Cleveland, in 1925 by the Emerson
Gill Orchestra. The fact that this and the above Ortli band recordings were done by the same
label on the same date in February of 1925, in Cleveland, would seem to indicate that Gill’s
orchestra also underwent the auditioning process and was selected. Gill was a well-known
band leader in Cleveland for many years. [auth.note: I remember my dad mentioning that he
had played, on occasions, with the Emerson Gill band].
In the late 20’s Gill did a lot of work in Chicago, but later came back to Cleveland. The male
vocalist in his band at this time was Pinky Hunter who later became the broadcast voice of
the Cleveland Indians. The Emerson Gill Orchestra also recorded for the Columbia label.
RIMSHOT: to Jim Prohaska, nationally known record collector and member of the Cleveland
Traditional Jazz Society from whose notes on early Ohio band leaders I borrowed heavily.
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