Saturday, May 08, 2010

Harlem Hot Chocolates - St James Infirmary

HARLEM HOT CHOCOLATES [3tp-2tb-cl as ss-cl ts-cl as bars-p-banj-b-dm-vo]: Duke Ellington dir. p. Arthur Whetsel tp, Freddy Jenkins tp, Cootie Williams tp, Joe Tricky Sam Nanton tb, Juan Tizol tb, Johnny Hodges cl-as-ss, Barney Bigard cl-ts, Harry Carney cl-as-bars, Freddie Guy banj, Wellman Braud b, Sonny Greer vib dm, Irving Mills vo
ST. JAMES' INFIRMARY Fox-Trot Primrose
Recorded in New York City, March 1930
Matrix number: 1046 D
This Hit of the Week record was released on Thursday the 15th of May, 1930. It has been reissued on numerous LPs and CDs, which are to be found in
the online Hit of the Week Discography. (Hans Koert)

Label of the Hit of the Week 1046 ( Hans Koert collection)

The label of the Hit of the Week has a black - green - black lettering and that's for the very first time. The regular labels had the blue - yellow - blue lettering. Record labels during this period normally have the same lay-out and colours and contain the information of the music as played on the label. Durium tried to attrack attention with these different coloured labels, I guess. Mind that these early Hit of the Week records were sold in a display - not in a sleeve or cover. Only the label information was visible for the passer-by and had to attrack his attention.
A 1930 Hit of the Week display

Duke Ellington recorded two records for Durium - this is the second one: St. James Infirmary. It is, like the first one, Sing You Sinners, a sought after record. It is one of the few records that should be listed in the jazz discographies, as most of the other Hits of the Week belong to the sweet dance music hits of the 1930s. It is a remarkable one, as this is one of the few, if not the only black band that recorded for Durium. One of the other exception that proves the rule is Eva Taylor who sung on a Durium Junior. The regular Hit of the Week studio bands contained white musicians only. The Duke recorded this tune also on the 29th of January 1930 for some budget labels like Cameo, Perfect and Banner as the Ten Blackberries - Irving Mills recorded it too, two days later, for Harmony as the Mills' Merry Makers. This learns that there are wheels within wheels thanks to the Depression.
Sheet music of St. James Infirmary.
The tune St. James Infirmary was originally recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five (1929). It is a sad song about a man who dies from syphilis while on the stairs of St. James Hospital. ( As I lay dying on the stairs of St. James' Hospital). When it became popular in the States, it was telling the story of the youth "cut down in his prime" (occasionally her prime) as a result of some morally questionable actions, like gambling and alcohol, which became common causes of the youth’s death. Although the song originally was an English 18th century ballad it was registered by Joe Primrose, which was a pseudonym for ........ guess ..... Irving Mills. Well, this explains why Mills sings this tune on so many 78rpm recordings from this period.

Irving Mills ( aka Joe Primrose) ( 1894 - 1985)
In 1927 Irving Mills became his manager and impresario of the Duke Ellington orchestra. He would make the band into an international attraction. He became a wealthy man thanks to the numerous compositions in his name. Irving Mills organised numerous recording sessions and as most bands and musicians had a very tough time to make a living due to the Depression, it seemed that Duke Ellington's popularity was still growing in 1930.( source: Duke Ellington early 1930: The Year of the Depression )

Duke Ellington ( 1899-1974)
The tune was recorded hundred times between 1929 and 2010, not only by jazz musicians, but also by numerous popular groups into an icon of American Music. For me, this Louis Armstrong version is the best - It was recorded 3eptember-October 1959 in los Angeles by Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars. ( thanks to Tom Fine) Enjoy it.

Max Fleischer used the tune in a famous 1933 Betty Boop cartoon entitled Snow White, in which Cab Calloway sings St. James Infirmary. Hope you like it.

The next Hit of the Week, Springtime In The Rockies by Vincent Lopez was a less spectacular issue and was released on the 22nd of May, 1930.

Hans Koert - author of the (online) Hit of the Week-Durium discographies

Thursday the 6th of February, 1930: "Tip-Toe Through The Tulips With Me" - Don Voorhees Orchestra ( HOW 1019).
Thursday the 13th of February, 1930:"Through" - Bert Lown and his Hotel Biltmore Music ( HOW 1020)
Thursday the 20th of February, 1930: "Hello Baby" - Bert Lown and his Hotel Biltmore Music (HOW 1021)
Thursday the 27th of February, 1930: "My Fate Is In Your Hands - Vincent Lopez Orchestra ( HOW 1022);
Thurday the 6th of March, 1930: My Sweeter Than Sweet - Vincent Lopez Orchestra ( HOW 1023-A)(HOW 1023-B)
Thursday the 13th of March, 1930: I'm Following You - Ben Pollack Orchestra ( HOW 1026) Thursday the 20th of March, 1930: Cryin' For The Carolines - Ben Pollack's Orchestra Thursday, the 3rd of April, 1930: Congratulations - Bert Lown and his Biltmore Music ( HOW 1032) Thursday, the 10th of April, 1930: University of Maine Stein Song - Hotel Pennsylvania Music (HOW 1036) Thursday 17th of april, 1930: With You - Statler Pennsylvanians ( HOW 1037) April 1930: University of Maine Stein Song ( promo) - Statler Pennsylvanians ( HOW 1040) Thursday the 24th of April, 1930: A Cottage For Sale - The New York Twelve ( HOW 1041) Thursday the 1st of May, 1930: Lazy Lou'siana Moon - Jan Garber's Orchestra ( HoW 1043) Thursday the 8th of May, 1930: Sing you Sinners - Harlem Hot Chocolates ( HoW 1045) 15th of May, 1930: St. James Infirmary - Harlem Hot Chocolates ( HoW 1046)

Next week, at this blog, the next Hit of the Week to be sold in the New York news stands ............ 80 years ago !!

In December 1929 the DURIUM PRODUCTS CORPORATION prepared the start of a new unbreakable record, made of cardboard. The well known weekly issues, called the Hit of the Week, were released in a weekly schedule, which started in February 1930. The Hit of the week blog and the Keepswinging blog will follow the development of these 80 years old records in an unique series of blogs. If you love to be informed about these contributions, and you love to make a chance to receive an original Hit of the Week record, ask for the newsletter


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