Luis Russell

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Luis Russell was a pianist from Panama that led a couple of great bands in the 1930's and 40's.  He began playing professionally in 1917 at a casino in Colon, Panama, where he would provide the live music for silent films.

He later won $3,000 in a local lottery and used it to move to the U.S. along with his mother and sister. They settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked as a pianist for a few years.

Russell relocated to Chicago in 1925 to play with bandleader King Oliver, then left to form his own band in 1929.  His first band became one of the leading groups in the New York City scene and included some big names including Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham. They soon became the backup band for Louis Armstrong, who eventually took over the band in 1935. Russell remained with the orchestra for over eight more years serving as the musical director.

In 1943, Russell formed a new band under his own name, which played at the Savoy and Apollo in Manhattan and Atlantic City, New Jersey. He retired from the music business in 1948.

Listen to "Ease On Down" by Luis Russell and His Orchestra

You can hear the music of Luis Russell right here on Swing City Radio.

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"You Was Right, Baby" by Peggy Lee

Picture of Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour

Today's video features Peggy Lee singing one of my favorite tracks by her, "You Was Right, Baby."  This Snader Telescription was filmed in September of 1950 in Hollywood, CA and was released into television syndication shortly afterward.  Learn more about Snader Telescriptions.

"You Was Right, Baby" was one of ten "Snaders" Peggy filmed in the fall of 1950.  She is backed by her then husband, Dave Barbour, and his Quartet.  Dave Barbour is the gentleman on the guitar along with Jess Bourgeouis on bass, Sid Hurwitz playing piano and drummer Alvin Stoller.  The Dave Barbour Quartet was such a talented group and provided the perfect musical background for so many great Peggy Lee songs.

Such a great video.  Enjoy!

Watch: "You Was Right Baby" by Peggy Lee

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Podcast: Episode 80 - Some Forrest and Sherwood

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The Big Band and Swing Podcast - Some Forrest and Sherwood - Episode 80 - 

This episode includes some vintage music by Louis Jordan and Tony Pastor.  We also listen to some performances from the old AFRS variety show, "Mail Call" by Helen Forrest and Nora Lou Martin.

* All music in this podcast are Creative Commons.  Artists are credited within the podcast.

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Blanche Calloway

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Blanche Calloway was the older sister of Cab Calloway and was a successful singer before her brother.  She was the first woman to lead an all-male orchestra and had a music career that spanned over fifty years.  Blanche had a brilliant stage presence and her style was known to be very flamboyant and a major influence on her brother's performance style and music.  Take a listen to "Just a Crazy Song" by Blanche to hear how much she influenced her little brother.  Keep in mind this song was recorded and released prior to Cab's famous song "Minnie the Moocher".

Listen to "Just a Crazy Song" by Blanche Calloway.

Blanche had become a successful entertainer in Chicago by the mid- 1920's.  At that point in time Chicago, was considered the  jazz capital of the world. She made her first recordings in 1925, hiring a young, up and coming musician named Louis Armstrong as a sideman.

In the early 1930's, Blanche joined Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy as their featured vocalist. Her stay with Kirk's band was brief because she was fired when Andy found out that Blanche had plans to take over the orchestra. Shortly afterward, Blanche put together her own orchestra, first named Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys, later changing the name to Blanche Calloway and Her Orchestra.

After having a successful run throughout the mid-1930's and releasing some great sides including: "I Need Lovin", "Make Me Know It" and "You Ain't Livin' Right",  Blanche decided to disbanded her orchestra in 1938. She formed an all-women band in the early 1940s, but that band was short-lived and never came close to achieving the success of her earlier band.

You can hear many of Blanche Calloway's songs right here on Swing City Radio.

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Soundie: A Knife, a Fork and a Spoon

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Today's Soundie is a bit on the silly side.  It stars the The Fashionaires, which were a vocal quartet cut from the same cloth as The Merry Macs and The Modernaires.  The Fashionaires perform their version of the song "A Knife, a Fork and a Spoon" and the music is provided by Hal Bourne and His Orchestra.  (The orchestra is not shown in the Soundie.) 

The song is quite catchy and The Fashionaires add some nice harmonies to the number.  The Soundie was filmed in February of 1942 and also features multiple sets which was quite elaborate for these small budget films.  It shows that the studio was really behind this one and felt like they had a winner.

There is not much information out there about The Fashionaires, but I can tell you that they found their way into about six different Soundies.  Enjoy!


Watch: The Fashionaires perform "A Knife, a Fork and a Spoon"

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Podcast: Episode 79 - So Tired and Need Some Pep

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The Big Band and Swing Podcast - So Tired and Need Some Pep - Episode 79 - 

This episode features recordings by Russ Morgan, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey and more.  We listen to some Soundies and hear about some great little prizes included in boxes of Pep Cereal.

* All music in this podcast are Creative Commons.  Artists are credited within the podcast.

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Louise Tobin

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Louise Tobin will turn 103 years old this November and is one of the few remaining links we have left to The Big Band Era.  She is most known for her work with Benny Goodman's band in which she recorded the hits "There'll Be Some Changes Made", "Scatterbrain" and "Blue Orchids" among others.  Tobin was also the first wife of Harry James.

Louise, in my opinion, was a great vocalist. Her time with Goodman's band was quite short.  She was originally brought in to replace Martha Tilton who had recently just left the band but in that brief time she was able to leave her mark. It's sometimes forgotten that she recorded with other big names from the era including Will Bradley, Bobby Hackett, Ziggy Elman and Emil Coleman.

Throughout the 1950's and early 60's, Tobin took a break from the music scene as she raised her two children she had while married to Harry James.  In 1967, Tobin married famed clarinetist, Peanuts Hucko.  Hucko went on to lead the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Tobin toured worldwide with the band as well.

Watch: Louise Tobin with Emil Coleman's Band

It was last reported that Louise Tobin now lives with her son, Harry James, Jr., in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.  You can learn more about Louise at: louisetobin.com.

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Soundie: Sentimental Journey

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Today's Soundie is "Sentimental Journey" by Glen Grey and The Casa Loma Orchestra.  This simple and straight-forward performance was released to Panoram machines in July of 1945.  The Soundie features the vocals of both Bob Anthony and Eugenie Baird.  For some reason, many resources list the vocalist as Skip Nelson, but that is incorrect.

The performance itself lacks the strong emotions usually associated with this song but still remains entertaining. Bob Anthony provided vocals for the bands of Randy Brooks, Bob Chester and Harry James as well as forming his own band in the early 1950's.  Eugenie Baird sang for Jan Savitt, Tony Pastor and a few others.  She was also the first female vocalist to be featured in the long history of The Casa Loma Orchestra.

Watch: "Sentimental Journey" by Glen Gray and The Casa Loma Orchestra

"Sentimental Journey" was the first of seven official Soundies that Glen Gray and The Casa Loma Orchestra filmed for the Panoram.  Enjoy!

Picture of Glen Gray and The Casa Loma Orchestra

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Podcast: Episode 78 - A Doozy On The Upbeat

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The Big Band and Swing Podcast - A Doozy On The Upbeat - Episode 78 -

This episode includes songs by Ray Anthony, Count Basie and Dick Stabile. We listen to some music by bandleader Tommy Carlyn as well as hearing a PSA that stresses the importance of driving safely.

* All music in this podcast are Creative Commons.  Artists are credited within the podcast.

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Lani McIntire

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As a bandleader, Lani McIntire led his Aloha Islanders from 1935 to 1950.  They released dozens of successful records, and the American public, who was simply fascinated with Hawaiian culture during that time, turned them into hits.

McIntyre is most remembered for featuring the Hawaiian guitar and steel guitar and helped popularize the instrument, which eventually became a mainstay in American country and western music.  His brother Dick McIntire is considered a steel guitar legend.

The Aloha Islanders later changed their name to Lani McIntire and his Hawai'ians and worked with Bing Crosby on the original versions of "Blue Hawaii" and "Sweet Leilani". In the 1940's, Lani McIntire also starred in about a half-dozen Soundies and also appeared in four Hollywood Films.

My personal favorite by McIntire is a song called "Holoholo Kaa".  It's a great example of how Hawaiian music can blend so well with Big Band music, if done correctly.  And Lani knew how to do it correctly.  This Soundie also features Lani's brother Dick McIntire singing in this one.  

It's also important to note that Lani last name was spelled "McIntyre" on some recordings.  Enjoy.

Lani McIntire performs "Holoholo Kaa"

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Soundie: Jumpin' At The Jukebox

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Today's Soundie is called "Jumpin' At The Jukebox" by Al Donahue and His Orchestra.  This catchy little song was released on December 6, 1943 to be played in Panorams all across the United States, but this was originally filmed in 1941 by a company called Phonovue Productions.  Phonovue Productions was later purchased by Soundies in 1943 and their clips were rebranded with the Soundies logo overlay to start off the film.

The vocalist is named Dee Keating who eventually went on to become the female lead with Ray Anthony's Orchestra.  Actually, she also ended up marrying Ray Anthony as well. 

I just love the fact that the producers decided to stick Keating into a hollowed out Panoram cabinet to sing her song.  The song is a little bit silly, but then again, most catchy songs are.  Enjoy!  

Watch: Al Donahue & His Orchestra - "Jumpin' At The Jukebox" from 1943

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Podcast: Episode 77 - Such a Wonderful Feeling

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The Big Band and Swing Podcast - Such a Wonderful Feeling - Episode 77 - 

This episode features music by Glenn Miller, Peggy Lee and Gene Krupa. We also enjoy an old radio ad from Lux Soap.  Mmmmm! That's such a wonderful feeling.

* All music in this podcast are Creative Commons.  Artists are credited within the podcast.

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Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Streaming Online from King of Prussia, PA. Commercial Free!

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