Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crisco Presents the Mills Brothers discovered

A few months ago I posted a contribution, entitled Crisco Presents The Mills Brothers about a rare and missing original Mills Brothers promo disc for Crisco, the all vegetable shortening which digest so easily, which should have been released on a small cardboard Durium recording early 1932. It was first reissued on a Ristic album ( Ristic 51) and later adopted from that first album on several lp's and cd's.

As the discographer of the (paper and online version) Hit of the Week-Durium Discographies ( and particularly the Durium Advertisement and Custom Records Discography) I wondered if the "original" record still existed, as I'd never seen a scan of the original label. Wasn't it strange that this small record seemed to have disappeared since its release in the 1930s, most likely in large quantities, and reissued for the very first time in the 1970s on a ten inch Ristic album - but never seen again since that post-Ristic period? I posted a call and last week Jerry Zolten responded that he had a copy, just recently found, of the original record. Great!

CRISCO PRESENTS THE MILLS BROTHERS (Durium) ( April 1932) ( photo courtesy; Jerry Zolten).

……. PRESENTS THE MILLS BROTHERS [g-(male) vo4] John Mills vo g, Herbert Mills vo, Harry Mills vo, Donald Mills vo.
Recorded in New York City, ca Apr. 1932
5108 (A) E (Goodbye Blues)
Originally released unnumbered on a small 4-inch cardboard Durium record.
Contemporary issues: RISTIC 51 / MFC–9 / S.H. 2044 / JSPCD 301 / JSP 902 / MUSIC BOX THEATRE vol 3 / NOSTALGIA ARTS NOCD 3010
(source: Durium Advertisement and Custom Records discography - Hans Koert)

The matrix number is 5108, but the take number is B ( and not A) as was listed in my discography. It is of course possible that several takes were used.

The sound track:

Crisco, the all vegetable shortening which digest so easily presents the MILLS BROTHERS singing their famous theme song GOODBYE BLUES. There's no tuba, saxophone, trumpet or trombone. The only instrument used is a guitar. All effects are achieved vocally. Unknown six month ago, the MILLS BROTHERS today are internationally famous for having introduced a new rhythm and a new type of vocal harmony. We invite you to tune in and hear them at 7.15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time every Tuesday and Thursday evening over the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Jerry wrote: My copy was acquired at an estate auction a couple of months ago. It was in a box unprotected with a number of unrelated items, but I do have an interest in the Mills Brothers, more so than Duriums in general - and so bid on and won the box. Believe I tossed everything but the Durium disk. Had a tough time playing it when I got home. It just didn't want to stay stationary on my turntable and so had to delicately tape the disk in place...but, as you see, it did play...and I was thrilled with the content...that early Mills Brothers sound that I was hoping for. Jerry Zolten also shared us some details that might be of some importance: As to the Mills Brothers, I live not too far from the Central Pennsylvania town of Bellefonte where they had family ties. Some years ago, I had an opportunity to buy a family piano which, I was told, they had stood around as youngsters when they were just learning.

Thanks Jerry for sharing this with us.

The Mills Brothers, originally billed as Four Boys and a guitar, was a group that performed in the vaudeville circuit and they became famous because they could imitate all kinds of instruments, like the trumpet, trombone and the tuba or bass with their voices: There's no tuba, saxophone, trumpet or trombone. The only instrument used is a guitar. All effects are achieved vocally. In one of their first 1931 recordings for Brunswick they recorded the Tiger Rag. In the next fragment, part of the 1932 film The Big Broadcast you can see how this sound imitating works and sounds. One of their first hits was the Goodbye Blues, here, in a very short fragment of that same The Big Broadcast from 1932.
Goodbye Blues became their signature tune and that's the reason why this tunes was the opening tune for the Fleischer Screen Songs cartoon I Ain't Got Nobody, a kind of karaoke avant la lettre, which includes a sing-along bouncing ball fragment. The Screen Songs cartoon, a typically Fleischer mix from filmed fragments and cartoon comics, starts with a filmed Goodbye Blues. Later in the film you'll find Some Of These Days - Tiger Rag - I Ain't Got Nobody ( Don't sing to loud - mind the neighbours) and finally the Tiger Rag again with a great scat fragment - all hits from the early 1930s Mills Brothers Quartette (sic). The music throughout this cartoon is furnished by the Mills Brothers Quartette. They employ no musical instruments of any kind – except the guitar. There is no tuba, no trumpet and no saxophone. As this film was released on the 17th of June, 1932 the recordings for these fragments must have been made in the same period as the Crisco commercial ( spring 1932).

Isn’t it great to learn that the artists in Max Fleischer’s team seem to have had prophetic talents too, by introducing the first “television-set”!

Thanks Jerry for sharing this record label. Good to learn that it is still around.

This contribution will also be published at the Keep Swinging blog in Dutch.

Follow the Keep swinging blog contribution at Twitter: KeepSwinging

Hans Koert

Saturday, October 23, 2010

See How The Won - a 1935 multimedia Boots campaign

Durium started its activities in Europe early 1932 in the London suburb of Slough with a factory that produced a regular series of commercial Hits, in fact a copy of the well known Hit of the Weeks series that had been released in a weekly schedule in the US from early 1930 up to the summer of 1932. The US Durium branch was broken and also the European Durium Product (GB) Ltd. lasted only a few years. When Durium had started its commercial catalogue in England of weekly hits ( the durium EN-series) they also launched an advertisement division that could made small cardboard promo records cheap and in large quantities. In 1934 Durium Product (GB) Ltd. was broken too, but the advertisement division started up again as Sound Distributors. A kind of intermission firm entitled Dubrico handled the current affairs for a few months and became known for the Talkie Cigarette Cards. These small advertisement records show the spirit of the age. One of those small records was released as a promo record for Boot The Chemist and has his own story to tell.
(Thanks to Judith Wright - Boots Archive)
......... : Unknown orchestra. Unknown vocal 4 London,
Recorded 1935. Released ca. October 1935
Matrices: S.D. 76. Take numers B C G H J

It is a small 4-inch ( = 10 cm) round cardboard record which has on its label the text: "SEE HOW THEY WON" Presented by BOOTS THE CHEMISTS.

On the record a song entitled See How They Won played by an unknown orchestra and sung by an anonymous vocal quartet. The information at the bottom of the label reads: These are the words & music of the Colour Cartoon Film. Produced by Revelator Films Ltd.
A Boots The Chemicals shop in Enfield ( Highstreet) (1930s)
The tune played on the record was originally released on a film "See How They Won". Well still nothing news under the sun - a lot of records during the 1930s and onwards contained film music, but this film was specially made for Boots The Chemist to promote its activities. Thanks to Judith Wright, archivist of Boots archive in Nottingham, (United Kingdom) I can give you some details about the 1935 campaign around the See How They Won Sound Distributors record and, surprisingly, a special made Ib Iwerks cartoon.
In 1935, Boots Pure Drug Company launched a Winter Health Campaign which focused for the first time on preventative healthcare, encouraging customers to buy products such as throat pastilles, children’s cough mixture, aspirin and cod liver oil to combat the inevitable winter coughs and colds. Central to the campaign was a Hollywood-made colour cartoon “See How They Won” which was released on 14 October 1935 and shown at approximately 400 cinemas throughout the UK. It was the first ever colour cartoon film shown in the UK devoted to Health Propaganda. It was supported by a promotional board game for children, gramophone record, colour booklet and poster campaign as well as compulsory window bills and displays in over 1000 branches of Boots.
The cartoon was made in Brewstercolour whilst Revelation Films of Aldwych, London, prepared the sketches and storyline and UBIwerks, Hollywood, did the animation. Production was by Celebrity Productions Inc.

The cartoon shows the "Bad Health Army" (comprising Brigadier Blood Poison, Flight Commander Influenza and Captain Sore Throat) attacking the "Good Health Brigade" (John Careless who has "never had a day's illness in his life …" and his family). The message is one of preventative medicine - keeping products like aspirin and cough mixture at home so as to combat germs as soon as they strike. ( Judith Wright - Boots Archive)
Ub Iwerks ( 1901 - 1971)
The film was made by one of the most neglected cartoon makers of that period, Ub Iwerks, a name well known by connoisseurs, but complete unknown by the general public.

Of course, most people will know the name of Walt Disney, the creator of great characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and maybe a handful might have heard about Max Fleischer, although his creations Betty Boop, Olive Oyl and Popeye the Sailor have become almost as famous as Mickey and Donald. But who really created Mickey Mouse in its early films? Ub Iwerks. He was born in March 1901 in Kansas City as Ubbe Ert Iwwerks, and became famous as an artist at the Walt Disney studios in the 1920s.
Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks

In 1930 Ub Iwerks resigned and started his own studio: The Iwerks Studio. There he created characters like Flip The Frog and made dozens of great Flip The Frog cartoons. But the Iwerks Studio couldn't handle with the great popularity of the Walt Disney and Fleischer cartoons and broke. One of the smaller projects by Ub Iwerks were two films for Boots The Chemist: See How They Won (October 1935) and Leave it to John (1936). I haven't found any information about the latter, but the first one had a duration of ca. 6 minutes and was directed by Ub Iwerks and produced by Charles Cochrane for the founded Cartoon Films Limited. It was, as said before, scripted in the UK and animated in the States.
The reverse of the cardboard Sound Distributor record. (Thanks to Judith Wright - Boots Archive)

On the reverse of the Sound Distributors cardboard record you can learn more about the film: THE MARCHING SONG OF THE GOOD HEALTH ARMY TAKEN FROM THE FILM “SEE HOW THEY WON”. With banners proudly waving high . The Good Health Army marches by While with steady hand and sparkling eye The family salutes. How perfectly this army's drilled Year in year out, its ranks are filled. With splendid men superbly skilled. The men you'll find at Boots. You'll find a branch right in your town. A Good Health Centre of renown. So don't let bad health get you down. YOU CAN ALWAYS RELY ON Boots

The film was lost for a long time, but it seemed that some copies still exist, retitled as The Microbe Army. The copy I found could have been an issue for The States where Boots The Chemist wasn't active or a bootleg, which was a copy of the original See How They Won, renamed as The Microbe Army as at the end, just before the word Boots is used, the film fragment stops. Although the original film was made in colour, this one is a copy in I black and white version I love to share with you.

Thanks to Judith who sent me some additional information and two great scans of the original record.

This contribution will be published in Dutch at thre Keep Swinging blog as See How They won: Een multimedia Boots campagne uit 1935.

Hans Koert