Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright Editor@earlyjas.org
|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
Additions, comments, corrections,
contributions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas, or
V - Discs
(RIMSHOTS- to Editor Phil Cartwright and to Audrey VanDyke for printouts of valuable V-Disc information.)
During the American involvement in WW II (starting in 1942) and thereafter (till 1948) the V-Disc
Organization headquartered on 42nd Street in New York City and under the auspices of the War
Department issued 500 flexible vinylite or rigid shellac 12-inch, 78 r.p.m. records (usually with two
cuts per side) to American soldiers and sailors all over the world. These “government property” V-
Discs have, over time, become relatively scarce and coveted items by collectors. Further contributing
to their desirability is the fact that some of the recordings were made exclusively for V-Disc rather
than being dubbed from other commercial recordings. The final element contributing to their scarcity
is the fact that after the war almost all the masters were destroyed in accord with an agreement by the
government with the American Federation of Musicians. A wide range of music was recorded on V-
Disc labels including a substantial amount of jazz. Over the next two issues we’ll take a look at some
of the jazz tunes recorded on V-Disc, such as:
-STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE-written in 1927 by Lil Hardin Armstrong and recorded by
Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five in the same year on the Columbia label. Because of the musical difference
between this tune and other tunes Lil wrote, many critics believe Louis actually composed it.
Nonetheless Lil won a lawsuit against Louis over its copyright.[V-Disc
#200, recorded in New York, 1/23/39, by the Bob Crosby Orchestra]
-MEMPHIS BLUES-written in 1908 by W.C.Handy as a campaign song for Mr. Crump (who won).
This tune was a favorite of Handy’s and was played by his band from 1909 on. It wasn’t published
until 1912 (as a piano composition) and was, along with “Dallas Blues” the first sheet music to be
published with the word “blues” in it. In 1913 it was bought by a New York publisher for $350. It was
finally recorded by the Victor Military Band in 1914.[V-Disc #299, recorded in Hollywood by Harry
James and His Orchestra].
-KING PORTER STOMP-written and introduced by Jelly Roll Morton in 1924, the tune was made
popular by the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. It was recorded in 1935 by the Benny Goodman
Orchestra with trumpeter Bunny Berigan doing the vocal. [V-Disc #15, recorded in New York, 7/1/35
by the Benny Goodman Orchestra]
-BASIN STREET BLUES – written by Spencer Williams in 1928, and recorded by Louis Armstrong’s
Hot Five for the Okeh label in 1928 in Chicago. Basin Street is a famous New Orleans street that was
part of the “regulated” Storyville District.[V-Disc #234, recorded in New York on 1/26/44, at the
Metropolitan Opera House Jam Session which included: Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Jack
Teagarden, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, et al.]
-MILENBERG JOYS-written and recorded as a piano solo by Jelly Roll Morton in 1923. “Milenberg”
is a corruption of Milneberg, a Black resort area outside New Orleans. The tune was also known as
“Golden Leaf Strut.” Jelly’s original title for it was “Pee Hole Blues.”[V-Disc #273, recorded on
1/19/39, by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra].
-ROSETTA- written in 1933, by Earl “Fatha” Hines who also wrote “My Monday Date” and “You Can
Depend on Me.” This one was named after the pesty girlfriend of one of Hines’ arrangers.[V-Disc
#384, recorded in New York, 12/17/44 by the V-Disc All Stars including Charlie Shavers, Trummy
Young, Don Byas, and Bob Haggart, et al.]
Originally the record labels for V-Discs were red and white for the army and blue and white for the
navy, but later a generic label was adopted. Only about 10% of V-Disc pressings were made on shellac
(a hard, breakable substance) and the rest were pressed on non-breakable vinylite. The record
pressings were made predominantly by the Victor Recording Company, but some, especially the
shellacs, were pressed by Columbia.
V-Disc records were government property and not intended for commercial sale, artists, publishers, V-
Disc records were government property and not intended for commercial sale, artists, publishers, and
record companies collected no royalties.
and record companies collected no royalties.
Here are some more jazz tunes issued on V-Disc:
BALLIN’ THE JACK – written in 1914 by Chris Smith with lyrics by Jim Burris. The lyrics are the
only dance-song lyrics of instruction to outlive its time. The song’s title reputedly derives from Black
railroad slang about how the engine (“jack”) moved rapidly (“highballed”) down the line. By the
time this song was inserted into the musical show “The Girl from Utah,” it was already a popular
dance favorite. This is also one of the tunes Bunk Johnson claims a very young Louis Armstrong
asked him to teach him in New Orleans. It was recorded by Jimmy Blythe and His Chicago
Footwarmers in 1928 for the Okeh label. [V-Disc #211, recorded in New York on 3/8/44, by Eddie
Condon and His Town Hall Jazz Band].
DIGA DIGA DO – by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields in 1928. It was introduced by singer
Adelaide Hall in Lew Leslie’s “Blackbirds of 1928.” It was recorded by Duke Ellington on July 10,
1928, and then later by the Benny Goodman Quartet under the title “Opus 3/4.” [V-Disc
# 126, by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra].
DINAH- written in 1925 by Harry Akst who also wrote “Am I Blue?” It was originally written as a
dance number for Fred Astaire, but was made more famous by Eddie Cantor in the show “Kid Boots.”
It was also used in the show “Plantation Review.” The melody was probably lifted from drummer
Frankie Warshaur’s “Dirty Nellie.” As time went on the song became long associated with singer
Ethel Waters. [V-Disc #159, recorded in New York by the Benny Goodman Orchestra with vocal by
DAVENPORT BLUES – written by cornetist Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbeck in 1925, and introduced
by Bix Beiderbeck and His Rhythm Jugglers. Bix also wrote compositions for the piano including “In
a Mist,” “In the Dark,” and “Candlelight.” [V-Disc #404, recorded in New York on 1/22/45, by Yank
Lawson and His V-Disc All Stars].
CREOLE LOVE CALL – credited to Duke Ellington in 1927, but he probably “borrowed” the melody
form the trio strain of Joe “King” Oliver’s “Camp Meeting Blues.” Duke recorded it at the beginning
of his “jungle music” period during his Cotton Club days with Adelaide Hall doing the wordless
vocal. [V-Disc # 415, recorded in New York on 12/1/43, by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra].
SAINT JAMES INFIRMARY – credited to Joe Primrose (pseudonym for Irving Mills) in 1930.
This melody was known as early as 1890 as “Gambler’s Blues.” It was popularized by Cab Calloway
and used in the film “The Birth of the Blues,” with Bing Crosby and Mary Martin.
[V-Disc # 259, recorded 7/24/41 in Chicago by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra].
RIMSHOTS – to editor Phil Cartwright and to Audrey VanDyke for printouts of valuable V-Disc
-contributions, suggestions, comments, questions, additions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas or e-mail
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
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