Saturday, August 25, 2007

New Phonograph Record

Today two new 1930s contributions, send to me by Guido van Rijn, about the Hit of the week record. Both are from ca. April - May 1930 as the items refer to the Harlem Hot Chocolates recordings released in May 1930. The Hit of the week was released each week at news stands and the first article, New Phonograph Record to Sell for Fifteen Cents, explains this new kind of gadget. It suggests, that these records were for sale in Boston for the very first time around May 1930, and that might be correct, as the Hit of the week were released in New York City alone at its very beginning ( February 1930).

This is a leaflet, distributed early May 1930 that announces the new Hit of the week ( Hit of the week 1046 ) that contains the tune St. James Infirmary as played by the Harlem Hot Chocolates. Mind that nobody in this leaflet, nor in the article, tells what band actually was hidden behind that name.

Well, let's make it to a public question:

What band was actually the Harlem Hot Chocolates?

Please send your answers to and the winners names will be published in this Keep swinging web log later.
Archeophone Records announces on its website that the third 2CD of the Complete Hit of the Week Recordings will be released this fall. You can find the track list here. The sound samples will be published soon.The first and second volume of this Complete Hit of the week Recordings has been released before. You can find all information here: Volume 1 en Volume 2

This contribution was also posted at the Keep swinging web log.

Keep swinging

Hans Koert

Monday, August 06, 2007

Betty Co-Ed

Today I love to tell you something about the Screen Songs, an innovation introduced by the Fleischer Studios during the early 1930s. These Screen Songs were short films where you could listen and sing-along with the latest hits as sung by the artist himself. When the song had been repeated several times, packed up into animated cartoon gags, the original artist would sing the tune. A dancing ball indicated what words, to be seen on the screen, had to be sung. In fact, these 1930s inventions, were karaokes avant la lettre. I will share with you one of those Screen Songs, titled Betty Co-Ed ( J. Paul Fogarty-Rudy Vallee ), released the first of August 1931 and sung by Rudy Vallee, who made it a hit.

In the 1920s animator Seymour Kneitel from Fleischer's studios started to make a series, titled Follow The Bouncing Ball. Max and Dave Fleischer had invented a way to mix animated cartoon and live actors, together during the early 1920s with their series Out Of The Inkwell cartoons. Walt Disney released late 1920s the primitive Alice Cartoons, I talked about some times ago. Although the first Follow The Bouncing Ball series, like Fleischer's Song Car-Tunes were silent films, as soon as the invention of sound-on-film was made they were re-named as Screen Songs. The first one The Streets of New York was released February 1929.
Rudy Vallee, who was born as Herbert Pryor in 1901 in Island Point and passed away in 1986 in Hollywood, was one of those extreem popular crooners of the 1920s and 1930s. He had changed his name in Rudy, because of Rudy Wiedoeft, his great example. He became a band leader in 1927 in Boston where he sung ( although he played alto saxophone and clarinet) and late 1920s he moved to New York where he got a job at the Heigh-Ho-Club. He named his band The Connecticut Yankees. He became a film star and got radio shows which made him extreem popular. He made a lot of top hits, like the Main Stein Song and Betty Co-Ed. Up to 1939 he had ca. 70 hits, which indicates his great popularity. During the 1940s up to his death he stayed popular as a musical and film star.

When you listen to the Screen Songs as made by the Fleischer Studios the tunes released were the Hits of the week. No, I don't mean the card board record as you see above, but I mean that the tunes were the actually hit songs of the moment; the songs whistled by the butcher boy and heard on the radio. Among the Screen Songs, released for 1931 where Somebody Stole My Gal, Alexander's Ragtime Band, That Old Gang of Mine, You're Driving Me Crazy, Kitty From Kansas City ( also sung by Rudy Vallee) and My Baby Cares For Me. The card board Hit of the week records, as shown above, where cheap records that contained also the Hits of the moment, played by a studio band, directed by Bert Hirsch or Phil Spitalny. Betty Co-Ed was released as a Hit of the week in the third week of October 1930 played by Phil Spitalny's Music. You can listen to a fragment here as it was released on the first 2CD in the Complete Hit of the Week Recordings by Archeophone. While listening to the Betty Co-Ed version on the film, especially the first time it is played, it seems as if the Phil Spitalny's Hit of the week version was used. I have had the experience with other tunes as well, like the title tune Betty Boop, also recorded by Phil Spitalny. Up to now I don't have indications that Phil Spitalny's Music is the (anonymous) band that plays the music on some Betty Boop / Screen Song films. I guess that both bands just used the official arrangements, which makes that the tunes sounds similar. Mind that popular music during the early XXth century were spread by sheet music.
Enjoy Betty Co-Ed as a 1931 Fleischer Screen Song, sung by Rudy Vallee. ( It's a pity that it seems that the music isn't synchronous with the film images ).

I'm searching for a DVD ( PAL - code 2 ) with these Fleischer Screen songs. Can someone help me?

This contribution is also published in Dutch and English at the daily Keep swinging web log.

Keep swinging

Hans Koert