Tag Archives: Paul Robeson

78Man Podcast No. 9

The Ninth 78Man podcast is slightly different as it is dedicated to my Uncle Jim, who bequeathed me his (rather large!) 78 collection, and all the records played are from his collection. It can be heard on iTunes Here and on Soundcloud HERE

Tracks heard are :

  1. Barnacle Bill the sailor by Bud and Joe Billings (Released by Zonophone (5725) in 1930. Bud and Joe Billings were actually Frank Luther and Carson Robison. Frank Luther was born in 1899 (as Francis Luther Crow), in Kansas. He was musical from an early age but was ordained as a minister in his teens; this was, however,  short lived and from 1921 he devoted himself to music, joining the Revelers in 1927 and touring the UK. The following year, back in the US, he teamed up with Robison and began performing with him as Bud and Joe Billings. Despite their huge popularity and recording many records together, the pair parted in 1932. Although as Bud Billings he released some of the earliest “Hillbilly” (the precursor to Country ‘n’ Western) records, Luther went on to record in several styles- dance bands, children’s records and general popular music. As well as records, he appeared regularly on radio and in short films. He carried on recording right through to the 1970s and died in 1980. Carson Robison was born in 1890, also in Kansas. He was born into a musical family and became a professional musician at the age of 15, although he didn’t make his first recordings until 1924, and became hugely successful through his association with Vernon Dalhart, as a song writer, vocalist and musician in Dalhart’s band. They scored a million seller in 1924 with “The wreck of the old ’97”. The relationship with Dalhart broke down in 1928 after a dispute, and Robison teamed up with Frank Luther for the next four years. In 1932 he formed a new band, The Pioneers, who later changed their name to The Buckaroos. He continued recording and touring through the ’30s and ’40s, and died in 1957.
  2. Barney’s Boarding House by Albert Whelan (Released by Eclipse (154) in 1931.) (More info on Albert Whelan, a favourite of the 78Man podcast, can be found in the blog for the first podcast).
  3. Roger the lodger by Leslie Jerome (Released by Sterno (567) in 1929) Little is known about Leslie Jerome, although this record is on the Sterno label, a label which was only on sale at Mark’s and Spencer’s, and for which a lot of the recordings were by Nat Star’s band under pseudonyms, so maybe Leslie Jerome didn’t exist! “Roger the Lodger” was also recorded by The Two Gilberts. Sterno also released “Berlington Bertie from Bow” under the Leslie Jerome name.
  4. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child by Paul Robeson (Released by Columbia (D.B. 2506) in 1949.) Originally recorded by Robeson in 1926 and released in the UK on His Master’s Voice, this version is a re-recording from 2 decades later. The song is a traditional song which dates back to the days of slavery in the U.S. Paul Robeson was born in 1898 in Princetown, New Jersey to a religious family (his father was a Presbyterian minister, his mother was from a prominent Quaker family). Robeson was a gifted child, excelling in sports as well as acting and singing. He went to University to study law and graduated in 1922. By this time he had appeared on stage as both an actor and singer and he only briefly practiced law as his acting career began to take off. His recording career began in 1926, and in 1928 he appeared in “Showboat” in the UK at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and stayed in the UK until 1932 when he returned to Broadway to appear again in “Showboat”. From then he split his time between the UK and the US, and began appearing in films, “Sanders of the river” in 1935 becoming his first major film hit. Robeson started to become increasingly politically active around this time, and was particularly affected by the Spanish Civil war of 1936-39. In 1946 Robeson founded the organisation American Crusade against Lynching and was vocal in his support for the Trade Unions. All this activity led to Robeson being blacklisted in the ’50s in America, and his passport revoked meaning he could not perform abroad. In 1958 he managed to get his passport reinstated, and he  embarked on a World tour. Over the next couple of years his health deteriorated (he and his family believed there was CIA involvement in his health problems) and in 1963 he announced his retirement, spending much of the rest of his life living in seclusion. He died in January 1976 following a stroke.
  5. Laughing PC Brown by Charles Penrose (released by Winner (3717) in 1923). Charles Penrose was born in 1873 in Biggleswade, the son of a jeweller. He initially followed in his Father’s footsteps but developed a stage act using “laughing” songs, and became so popular locally that he gave up jewellery to become a full time entertainer. He began his stage and singing career in the 1890s and his first recordings were made in 1915, but it is “The Laughing Policeman” (first recorded for Regal in 1923, then Columbia in 1926, then Dominion in 1929) for which he is remembered. He recorded many other records, on many labels under several aliases (Charles Jolly, Andrew Merry, The Spoofums), many with his second wife, Mabel Anderson. Most of his songs were credited to Mabel as the writer, under the name Billie Gray. Later he appeared in films and on radio, and died in 1952, aged 79. (More of Penrose’s songs can be heard on the album “78Man presents Charles Penrose”, available for download or streaming at most digital sites).
  6. Buying a stamp by Fred Gibson (Released by Broadcast (287) in 1928). Fred Gibson was a popular comedian in the late ’20s and early ’30s on the London stage but is largely forgotten now. As well as this Broadcast release, he seems to have recorded “Buying a stamp” for at least two other labels-Regal and Unison.
  7. The more we are together (The froth blower’s anthem) by Alfredo’s band (Released by Edison Bell Winner (4553) in 1927.) Alfredo was born Alfred Gill in 1892. He learned to play the violin, and in 1925 formed his own band, which played at the New Princes Restaurant. The band soon won a recording contract with the Edison Bell label, and over the next 5 years recorded many records on the Edison Bell Winner, Edison Bell Electron and Edison Bell Radio labels. Largely forgotten now, Alfredo’s band made some great dance records and are well worth investigating. In 1931 Alfredo changed direction and started recording more gypsy flavoured music, to little success. His recordings seem to have petered out around this time. He died in 1966. An interesting piece of trivia-the trumpet player in Alfredo’s band was Alfie Noakes, father of ’60s/’70s “Blue Peter” presenter John Noakes!
  8. When Tommy Atkins taught the Chinese how to Charleston by Buddy Rose and his dance orchestra (released by Imperial in 1927)
  9. The Party’s Over now by Noel Coward (Released by His Master’s Voice (B 4270) in 1932.) Noel Coward was born in 1899 in Teddington. As a child he was interested in the stage and made his first professional stage appearance at the age of 11. His acting career continued throughout the first world war (he was deemed unfit when conscripted in 1918), and in 1920 wrote and appeared in his first play, “I’ll leave it to you”, which ran for a month with moderate success. His first real success as a playwright came in 1924, with “The Vortex” and the following year he wrote “Hay Fever”, an enduring success. From then on he was very prolific as a writer, with many successes including “Easy virtue” (1926), “Home chat” (1927), “This year of grace” (1928), “Bitter sweet” (1929) and “Private lives” (1930). In 1929 he signed to His Master’s Voice and made many records for them over the next 7 years. During the Second World Ward Coward largely gave up theatre and started working for British Intelligence, in an attempt to influence public opinion in the US to facilitate their joining the war. He did carry on recording during the war (mainly patriotic songs) and appeared in the film “In which we serve”.                                                                            After the war Coward  carried on as a playwright but was less successful but he carried on writing into the 1960s, also having a successful cabaret career, and appearing in several films. The 1960s saw a revival in his popularity, with many of his plays from the ’20s and ’30s being revived. He was knighted in 1969 and died in 1973.
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