I was delighted to learn that the father of a childhood friend from Cincinnati was once a professional musician, whose chosen instrument was the saxophone. Milton Ostrow, in fact, was captured in a live performance with Tony Pastor and His Orchestra, accompanied by Dolores Martel, in a “Snader Telescription” short film “Your Red Wagon” from 1951. Ostrow is standing behind Pastor (far right), the lone member of the horn section playing baritone sax:
“Your Red Wagon” Tony Pastor & His Orchestra (feat. Milton Ostrow) 1951
WeirdWildRealm serves up a little history about Snader films, in general, and this one, in particular:
The Snader Telescriptions were filmed in black & white, but someone, Turner Broadcasting probably, colorized a [boat]load of them, including Your Red Wagon (1950) with Tony Pastore & His Orchestra.
Tony was a top sax man shown wearing black in the opening scene, sharing a sax duet with a bandmember. It’s his sideman playing the lead though, so that Tony can sing to the jazzy beat:
“If you wanna go crazy & act the clown/ Be the laughingstock all over town/ That’s your red wagon / That’s your red wagon / That’s your red wagon so just keep draggin’ your red red wagon around…”
Your Red Wagon quite a delightful & amusing number, with some call & response from the band. After Tony sings the second verse, Dolores Martel squeezes up close to the microphone & takes over the vocal for a few lines, then it’s back to Tony. Very nice.
Milton Ostrow with Tony Pastor (Behind, Right) & Dolores Martel (Ditto)
Several years earlier, Pastor had issued this same track on top label, Columbia, in 1947 as the B-side of “Gonna Get a Girl” (a song that featured The Clooney Sisters – Rosemary & Betty – from the Greater Cincinnati area by way of Maysville, Kentucky). Zero to 180’s big question: Did Milton Ostrow play on this Columbia recording (which has not yet been uploaded on YouTube) or any other?
In the days of 78s, pretty much every song was a “fox trot” – right?
The 1940 Census (thanks to Ancestory.com) notes the following facts about the Ostrow family, who lived on Prospect Place in Cincinnati:
Head Isaac Ostrow 40
Wife Sophie Ostrow 40
Son Alfred 17
Son Milton 12
Milton served a stint in the Army (and The U.S. Army Band, it is believed), prior to his work with the Tony Pastor Orchestra.
Milton & Sandra Ostrow
Music would eventually give way to more traditional methods of generating an income, when marriage and family entered the picture. Covington, Kentucky served as the base of operations for A & M Furniture, a store jointly owned by brothers, Alfred and Milton, during the years 1961-1979, possibly 1980.
Philip Paul‘s stellar stick work really drives this “killer” instrumental version of “Fever” that features organ (Milt Buckner) and vibes (Gene Redd) — recorded at Cincinnati’s King Studios on March 5, 1963:
“Fever” Milt Buckner 1963
Organ: Milt Buckner
Drums: Philip Paul
Bass: Bill Willis
Vibes: Gene Redd
“Fever” — rightly selected as the A-side of a 1963 single release on King subsidiary, Bethlehem (paired with “Why Don’t You Do Right“) — would be characterized 54 years later as “Mod Popcorn R&B” when sold at auction.
“Fever” would also be one of the highlights of 1963 long-playing release The New World of Milt Buckner, an album produced by Hal Neely, arranged by Gene Redd and Milt Buckner, and engineered by Chuck Seitz. (with cover design by Joseph F. Wood). 2013 would see the album reissued on compact disc in Japan.
The Australian All-Stars‘s 1959 album – Jazz for Beach-Niks – was originally released on Columbia Australia and picked up for US release four years later by King subsidiary label, Bethlehem (and reissued 2013 in Japan), subject of the previous history piece. One can only presume Syd Nathan was trying to capitalize on the burgeoning surf sound via the misleading cover photo (strictly jazz – not a trace of surf).
Vexingly, Bethlehem had already issued the Australian All-Stars sophomore album in 1960, three years prior to the US release of their first album. Are you confused?
“Decidedly” The Australian All-Stars 1960
Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording sessions discography, sadly, is bereft of any information (“details not known”) about this release by The Australian All-Stars. Fortunately, Discogs has the musician credits, with the following players listed on both albums:
Freddy Logan: Bass Ron Webber: Drums Terry Wilkinson: Piano Don Burrows: Saxes, Flutes & Clarinet Dave Rutledge: Tenor Sax & Flute
Eternal debt of gratitude to Larry Appelbaum of WPFW’s Sounds of Surprise program for pointing listeners (including myself) to a fascinating moment in our nation’s history about which not enough seems to have been written.
“Moon Maiden” Duke Ellington Quartet @ ABC in NYC July 21, 1969
A rather surreal television moment, as the Apollo 11 rocket lifts off in a video montage behind Duke Ellington that then dissolves into a shot of the moon. “Moon Maiden” would be the regal bandleader’s debut vocal performance, amazingly enough, thus exquisitely underscoring the theme of Appelbaum’s program: vocal performances from otherwise staunch instrumentalists.
Jazz Lives reports (via his “expert friends“) that Duke Ellington’s televised performance – with Al Chernet on guitar, Paul Kondziela on bass, and Rufus Jones on drums – had been “pre-recorded for the telecast.”
Duke Ellington, composer-bandleader-pianist par excellence who has taken The A Train through the Air Conditioned Jungle to his Satin Doll, climbed musically aboard Apollo 11 with his specially composed song, Moon Maiden, for the Moon-bound astronauts. The veteran musician, 70, whose musical composition is an accompaniment to man’s first steps on the moon, permitted himself a public first: he sang as well as played the Moon Maiden tune. The 10-minute composition for piano, bass, and drums, commissioned by ABC-TV for the network’s day-long broadcast of man’s first walk on the moon, says:
Moon Maiden. Way out there in the blue … / Moon Maiden. Got to be with you / I made my approach and then revolved / But my big problem is still not solved / Coming in loud and clear / I’m just a fly-by-night guy, but for you … / I might be quite the right–so right guy / Moon Maiden. Moon Maiden. Maiden, you’re for me.
Asked why he composed a song about a “maiden” when the astronauts going to the moon are men, the veteran jazzman, surrounded by a set the simulated the lunar landing site, replied: “For those cats to want to be there, there must be a chick around someplace.” Onlookers and studio buffs who witnessed the musical taping said Duke didn’t “sound bad” as a singer. Duke said this first vocal effort is his last. A studio spokesman declared: “It seemed appropriate–as man first sets foot upon the moon–that we should celebrate with music.”
Ken Vail’s invaluable reference, Duke’s Diary, points to September 4, 1969 as the day that “Duke Ellington and his Orchestra again record for Reader’s Digest in New York City” with the following musical personnel to record “Moon Maiden” — twice, including a version that features vocals from Duke himself — along with four other songs:
Richard Jurek, in the February 15, 2017 edition of Smithsonian’s Air & Space, writes about this fascinating musical footnote in American aeronautical history, when an emerging TV network – with a reputation for “counterprogramming” against its competitors – commissioned a 10-minute vocal paean to our planet’s lone satellite to be broadcast to the entire nation. Jurek also notes with amusement that our good friends at Pickwick did their level best to capitalize on the national sentiment in 1969 by churning out a covers album of ten popular “moon” songs.
Seasons in Your Mind would go one step further and compile an annotated listing of other “moon-sploitation” albums from the year 1969 (although shamefully neglect to include the Journey to the Moon album released that same year by Cincinnati’s King Records).
Zero to 180 is reminded of a time when television news had a modicum of dignity — although hard to say with a straight face as one spies the prominent product placement for Tang on the newscasters’ rostrum.
Tang: Proud NASA Sponsor
Big tip of the hat to Aeolus 13 Umbra, who posted the above television clip from his own video archives and noted the striking juxtaposition of Duke Ellington with full-sized replicas of the Apollo 11 Command Module and Eagle Lunar Lander in ABC’s television studios. Thank you also to Brent Hayes Edwards, who gets very specific about Ellington’s “Moon Maiden” (as well as “Spaceman“) in Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination:
“Ellington’s manuscript for ‘Moon Maiden’ is located in the Duke Ellington Collection, Subseries 1A: Manuscripts, Box 229, Folder 8, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Duke Ellington, ‘Spaceman,’ Duke Ellington Collection, Series 5: Correspondence, Box 6, notes, undated, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.”
One can be forgiven for mistaking the heartbeat bass line and the off-kilter, syncopated hand drumming in this 2-minute heavy chant as being part of the Jamaican Nyabinghi tradition. Note the special effect at song’s end — somewhat “high tech” for King in 1954:
“Oooh-Diga-Gow” Cecil Young Quartet 1954
And yet, this King track by the Cecil Young Quartet, according to Michel Ruppli King Labels discography, was recorded December 7, 1953 in Cincinnati. But where – given the live audience sounds – exactly? We the listeners can only presume that stage movements and vocal inflections, designed to accentuate the “meaning” of the lyrics, are what’s eliciting periodic bursts of laughter. To make sense of the laughs, it is imperative, given the lack of accompanying video, that the listener consult his or her inner oracle.
“Oooh-Diga-Gow” was originally a B-side that enjoyed release on 78 as well as 45. Five years later, King would reissue the song on Audio Lab LP, Jazz on the Rocks. One Ebay ad for this song (with no reference to the A-side) describes the music as “rare jazz exotica Yma Sumac,” while another seller would go even further.
King’s art department would turn out some delightful ‘cool jazz’ covers for Cecil Young and his crew during their short run with the label 1953-54:
King Records would try to cash-in on the success of “Tequila” by The Champs, as Johnnie Pate‘s 1958 Federal 45 “Muskeeta” would demonstrate:
Johnnie Pate’s “Muskeeta” 1958
Johnnie Pate (b, ldr); Ronald Wilson (fl); Williams Wallace (p); Wilbur Wynne (g); Donald Clark (d).
Chicago, March 20, 1958
According to Armin Büttner‘s Johnnie Pate history website, the version of “Muskeeta” on the French EP (below) is exactly the same as the version on King LP 584, but for a tenor sax probably overdubbed by Ronald Wilson himself. It is not yet known, which version of “Muskeeta” is on Federal 45-12325.
The Soulful Strings evoke the magic of falling snow — thanks to Dorothy Ashby‘s harp — on their classic instrumental track, “Snowfall“:
“Snowfall” Soulful Strings 1968
Discogs helps us appreciate how The Soulful Strings were able to create an identifiable sound despite only playing other people’s material:
“The Soulful Strings was a project of the Chicago soul arranger Richard Evans, working with several musicians from the Cadet Records house band between 1966 and 1971 including Charles Stepney, Bobby Christian, Billy Wooten, Phil Upchurch, Lennie Druss, and Cleveland Eaton.
Employing a repertoire composed almost entirely of covers, Evans and company created a unique sound, combining a sharp, soulful rhythm section with a lush string backing. Evans pushed the strings to the front, assuming an attitude previously reserved only for the hulking funk of bass and rhythm guitar. It was this crucial element that made The Soulful Strings sound, so successful.”
“Snowfall” can be found on The Magic of Christmas, released in 1968 on Chess jazz subsidiary label, Cadet.
Cadet would issue 7 albums by The Soulful Strings between the years 1966-1970.
Fascinating that a musician of the caliber of Hank Garland (who was signed to Columbia, for cryin’ out loud) would release a companion album of sorts – Subtle Swing – to the groundbreaking (and previously discussed) Jazz Winds from a New Direction, and yet so little information to confirm its existence, aside from Sundazed’s 2004 vinyl reissue.
Poke around online and you will discover that Subtle Swing was tacked onto 2013’s CD reissue of Who Is Gary Burton? as an inducement for fans of the noted jazz vibraphonist — but at the expense of Hank Garland!
Dig deeper still, and you will correctly deduce that Sony, in partnership with Sundazed, incorporated Hank’s entire Columbia output [1959’s Velvet Guitar + 1960’s Subtle Swing + 1961’s Jazz Winds + 1962’s Unforgettable Guitar] into a double compact disc, albeit in jumbled order, when issued in 2001.
Jazz Wax notes that the recording session for Subtle Swing took place six days after the Jazz Winds in a New Direction album had wrapped on August 24, 1960 (here we go again, an entire album recorded in a single day) although, it’s not quite true that the “same group” of musicians played on this follow-up album — only Garland and Burton remained from Jazz Winds.
Check out the stereo drums that kick off album closer, “Call D. Law” – a clever bit of wordplay that also pays tribute to Columbia boss and benefactor, Don Law :
“Call D. Law” Hank Garland 1960
Hank Garland: Guitar Gary Burton: Vibraphone Bob Moore: Bass Doug Kirkham & Murrey “Buddy” Harman: Drums Bill Pursell: Piano Don Law: Producer
The CD liner notes by the indispensible Rich Kienzle sheds light on the special reasons underlying Subtle Swing‘s obscurity.
“Six days later, Hank returned to the studio for two days to produce a jazzy album for the song licensing firm SESAC, who produced country and gospel recordings for the radio stations that took licenses with the company. This session was geared as much to the radio market as it was to the jazz audience. The band, however, was strictly Nashville, including Burton, Bob Moore, pianist Bill Pursell, and drummer Doug Kirkham, who’d worked with Hank in Billy Burke’s combo.
If Jazz Winds emphasized Hank in a [Tal] Farlowesque context, the ten-song SESAC effort, released to clients under the title Subtle Swing, reflected the influence of pianist George Shearing’s Quintet. Programming requirements seemingly mandated no songs longer than four minutes. It’s a Garland-Burton effort all the way.”
Rare original copy of 1960 SESAC album — sold for $47 in 2004
“Now that the Hank Garland Quintet is a ‘fait accompli’ on SESAC Recordings, the young guitarist stands in the unique position of moulding a new career on the firm foundation of his C&W successes. With a patient hand and perceptive musicianship, he has unified the instrumental skills of five performers to produce these refreshing sounds. The “subtle swing” which has always been a vital part of Garland’s playing transcends his newest contribution to musical entertainment.” [liner notes from the back cover]
But tragedy would intervene in Garland’s life when a blown rear tire resulted in a serious accident that would leave him permanently impaired. 1962’s Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland would essentially be a repackaging of the SESAC recordings — his musical career forever halted. In 1992, Bear Family would gather Garland’s 1940s & 50s Decca recordings, including a pair of excellent unissued tracks from 1957, “Baby Guitar” and “Hank’s Dream.”
2004 reissue — “designed for repeated listening” as the original LP promised
Zero to 180 kicks off its musical salute to grits with an obvious winner of an instrumental, “Tacos and Grits” by Al Grey:
“Tacos and Grits” Al Grey 1963
The first featured song in Zero to 180’s music & grits series — launching on the heels of Saturday’s big Max Fleischer event at the AFI — happens to be represented on YouTube by exactly one audio clip, one that is illustrated (for mystifying reasons) by a still image of Betty Boop.
Trombone: Al Grey
Piano: John Young
Guitar: Leo Blevins
Bass: Ike Isaacs
Drums: Phil Thomas
Engineer: Ron Malo
Supervisor: Esmond Edwards
Liner Notes: Holmes (Daddy-O) Daylie
A single clause would speak volumes: “Recorded December 17, 1963” – as it says on the cover of Al Grey’s Boss Bone album. One day. Just like Stones Jazz by Joe Pass. Even the debut album by The Beatles would require a handful of recording sessions. Recording for the Boss Bone album would take place at Ter Mar studios – i.e., Chess.
“Tacos and Grits” would be released on Chess subsidiary, Argo, in 1964 — did it chart? Rest assured, Al Grey did register his copyright for “Tacos and Grits” in 1964.
Fish tacos and grits
Good news! “Taco and Grits” would be used as background music to accompany Mr. Fine Wine’s DJ patter on WFMU’s Downtown Soulville radio show on July 11, 2014.
Bill Doggett and his Hammond organ, in 1957, would breathe (via flute) fresh life into Tiny Bradshaw‘s “Soft” from 1952 – both versions released on King. Even though Doggett’s “Soft” would ‘only’ peak at #51, Billboard’s “Hot 100 Chart History” indicates this song to have spent 14 weeks on the chart – impressive staying power for an instrumental:
The song would endure into the 1970s. However, King Records would do a curious thing. On the one hand, King would reissue “Soft” as a single in 1971 – though as a B-side (!) – while just the year prior, the song had been deemed fit to serve as the title track of a Bill Doggett LP compilation. What gives? Perhaps the 1971 single was an attempt to give record buyers a “double A-side” release with two solid tracks and no filler, so perhaps I should lighten up a little.
1971 King LP — “Soft” as title track 1970 King 45 — “Soft” as B-side
It’s the Bill Doggett Centennial!
Bill Doggett, who recorded an instrumental in 1956 (“Honky Tonk”) that sold over 1 million copies — a ridiculous number, especially for King Records. 2016, therefore, means that “Honky Tonk” turns 60 (which is the new 40, anyway), and the artist who recorded it was (curiously enough) 40 years old at the time, as Bill Doggett was born exactly one hundred years ago. I have to confess: I didn’t figure this out on my own. This information would come directly from Bill Doggett II, nephew and namesake, who recently reached out to Zero to 180 in response to the precarious future of the original King Records historic site in Cincinnati:
“King Records and its building are to Cincinnati Music History what Capitol Records and its building are to Los Angeles and West Coast r&b and jazz. Preserving the building and turning it in to a restored TOURIST Destination will bring Tax revenue dollars and TOURISM. Think BIG….not small. THIS YEAR is The BILL DOGGETT CENTENNIAL 1916-2016 and THE 60TH Anniversary of the landmark KING Gold Record: HONKY TONK Parts 1/2.”
“Honky Tonk”: Promotional video from Bill Doggett Productions
Browse Doggett’s many releases from the 1950-1970s and beyond at Discogs.com