Revision note:We have obtained label photos of Rondo 1551 by Lil Mason, which we will post shortly (our thanks to Tom Lukowicz for locating this rare single). We have confirmed the existence of Rondo 103, 112, and 114 by Marsh McCurdy; Rondo 101, 103, and 112 by Noller and Straub; Rondo 115 by Elmer Ihrke; Rondo 591 by Alicja Kusek; and Rondo 597 by Joe Durlak. We have added information about Rondo 582 by Gene Heier; Rondo 260 by Bill Walker; Rondo 261 by Chuck Cabot; Rondo 1050 by Ken Griffin; Rondo 147 by The Wagners; Rondo 208 and 211 by the Harmony Hawaiian Quartet; Rondo 233 by the Songsmiths; Rondo 238 by Bob Long; Rondo 251 by Dusty Rivers; Rondo 252 by Stu Davis (a Sonora reissue); Rondo 290, a 1951 release by Jack Teter (our thanks to Cary Ginell for this information); Rondo 222 and 225 by Ken Griffin; Rondo 566 by Rudy Plocar; the rediscovered Rondo 563, the first known release on the label by a Slovak band; Rondo 127, a previously unknown item by the Rondoliers with Elmer Ihrke at the organ; Rondo 239, an item that the company acquired from a foreign source (according to the labels, it was recorded in England); and no fewer than three versions of Rondo 120 by Elmer Ihkre.. We have also found evidence (from an advertisement in Billboard) of a Rondo release (number and further details unknown at present) by one Anne Covette, a Chicago-based singer.
Rondo was an independent label that opened in the middle of 1946. It would be based in Chicago until November 1954, when it was acquired by music business veteran Eli Oberstein, folded into his Record Corporation of America, and moved to Union City, New Jersey.
The latter-day Rondo (which spun out two subsidiaries, Evon and Rondo-lette) will not be our concern here. Staying in business until 1970 or thereabouts, the Obersteinian edition of the label was mainly an issuer of cheap 12-inch LPs, with an emphasis on light classics and show tunes. (A 78 rpm release, from the earliest Obersteinian days, will be described below, in order to show how it differed from Chicago-era Rondos; it does not appear that there were many others. In 1957, there were some new 45s in a 900 series that the Chicago operation had never used, with a label design copied from the last Rondo 78s.)
We don't know the month and day in 1946 when Rondo opened its doors. In its formative stage the company wasn't doing nearly enough business to draw ink from anyone, let alone attract the interest of Billboard magazine. (When the trade paper's next annual issue for jukebox operators came out on February 1, 1947, Rondo was still too puny to rate a listing. We haven't even found a record store ad for Rondos going that far back.) The earliest press coverage identifies the company's principals as Julius F. Bard and Nick Lany; so far as we know, they started the company. The outfit's business address was initially given as 329 South Wood in the Loop.
Throughout its history, Rondo's strategy, whether it was on a tight budget or had money to burn, was to throw off lots of releases, in the hopes that a few would catch some revenue. Those that failed were quickly withdrawn from distribution. In consequence, many Rondos are extremely rare and remain undocumented.
Julius Bard had been around the music business for a while. The 1944 Billboard Music Yearbook, p. 190, listed J. F. Bard, 414 South Franklin Street, as the Chicago distributor for a clutch of small labels (Asch/Stinson, Continental, Gala, Musicraft, Premier, and Bibletone). In July 1945, Bard, who had been spending some time in Los Angeles, got together with a fellow Chicago-based distributor, Franz Green, to start Pan-American. As the name intimated, Pan-American was an independent label that initially recorded Latin bands, such as those of Noel DeSelva and Rafael Mendez (Billboard, July 28, 1945, p. 19). After a while, Pan-American would branch out into jazz and Country. But Bard quickly lost interest in the production end of Pan-American, spending most of his time in Chicago and leaving Green to represent the company at record-industry get-togethers in Los Angeles. In January 1946, J. F. Bard and Company was distributing such labels as De Luxe and Guild, as well as Pan-American and others that Bard had recently encountered on the West Coast, such as Melodisc and Philo.
In May 1946, Bard and Green sold a majority interest in Pan-American to the Birwell company, which was originally out of Detroit. (In case anyone's wondering why Bernie Besman called his Detroit distribution outfit Pan-American, the answer is that its cofounder was Hans Green, brother of Franz; the distributor opened in April 1946, when Hans and Franz were still both associated with the record company.) In November 1946, Birwell would buy out Julius Bard and Franz Green's remaining interest in the Pan-American, which continued under Birwell's exclusive management. That was just as well from Bard's point of view, because Pan-American had less than 6 months to live; after releasing 67 singles, it would file for bankruptcy in April 1947, owing $40,000.
According to the article announcing the launch of Pan-American, "Bard and Green say they will eventually go into American pop stuff and will use another record label name when they release these sides" (Billboard, July 28, 1945, p. 19). Green may not delivered on those plans, but it took Bard less than a year to make a move. Bard had been distributing labels with a jazz presence, Asch and Continental and DeLuxe and Philo, and Pan-American had recorded some jazz acts. But Rondo, we may safely say, did not build its business plan around the music being made on the South or West Sides of Chicago. Nor was it oriented toward the downtown jazz clubs. It didn't even aspire to capture what was being played in hotel ballrooms in the Loop. The company's interest in any of these would prove fitful. Its intended clientele was the Central and Eastern European immigrant communities, in and around Chicago and extending through Milwaukee up into Wisconsin, along with those record buyers in the towns and rural areas of the Midwest who shared their preferences.
Other Chicago-based companies that sought the support of white record buyers put crooners and other popular singers in front of Swing or Mickey Mouse bands. Two post-World War II independents with a pop emphasis were Vitacoustic, which flared up in 1947 and sputtered out at the beginning of 1948, and Sonora, which started up in 1942 but didn't really enter the pop market till the end of 1945, reached its peak for recording activity in 1946, and ran out of gas in the summer of 1947. In 1948 Rondo would acquire two masters that had been recorded for Vitacoustic, and a couple of months later would pick up a bunch from Sonora. Both Vitacoustic and Sonora recorded a few artists with jazz credibility, and toward the end of their runs made a more focused effort to record "race" music, as it was then called.
By contrast, Rondo's ventures into jazz and rhythm and blues were so quick and casual, they almost look accidental. The company made a sudden jab at the "race" market during its first year in business, and almost as quickly abandoned it. Its later ventures, some a little more substantial, came about because the company, over a two-year period, was pulling in enormous sums from its organ records. It invested the proceeds to pump up its artist roster and fill out its release series while it was temporarily unable to make records with its top-selling artist. So it bought some "race" sides left over after Sonora collapsed, and added an R&B session of its own. Finally, seeking some keyboard and rhythm acts, it signed a Chicago-area jazz pianist in 1949, and, casting about for new directions after losing its star attraction, it tried recording Dixieland in 1950.
But now we are getting well ahead of ourselves. For Rondo wouldn't be ramping up to its revenue plateau until the spring of 1948.
Rondo started out with two release series, which would continue as its mainstay as long as it operated in Chicago. One of these was a 100 series for keyboard records. Other kinds of music would eventually be added—after something like 38 piano and organ releases in a row.
The first act to be called on split the difference: it was a piano-organ duo. Ruth Noller and Ada Straub had arrived on the scene as the "piano twins." Ada Straub was probably the older of the two; she had previously worked in a piano duet with Irene Jones. Ruth Noller, born in 1898, probaby in Terre Haute, Indiana played the organ in movie theaters before joining Straub. At first, Noller played piano in the duo. In 1934 and 1935 they were featured in broadcasts over WFBM out of Indianapolis; in those days their sponsor was Wilking Music House, a piano store. They got some write-ups in the Presto-Times, a trade magazine for Middle American piano retailers (see, for instance, "The Piano Twins Concert," June-July 1935, p. 4). In 1935, they appeared at a piano dealers' convention playing Wurlitzer pianos. By 1946, they were affiliated with Pearson's in Indianapolis, a big piano store that also sold records; it got them a 15-minute radio program that was broadcast from a studio inside the store. The organ Ruth Noller now used was a Hammond, as Rondo made sure to note on the label. Because they were affiliated with Pearson's, it ran the earliest advertisements for Rondo records we have been able to find anywhere: one in the Indianapolis Star for July 5, 1946, which announced that their first record (Rondo 101) was coming; one on August 2, 1946, which played up Noller and Straub's Rondo 100 and 101; one that ran on September 13, 1946 and mentioned four Rondo keyboard records, including the first 104 ("just arrived"); then finally one with the Rondo logo on January 10, 1947, which mentioned most of what Rondo had already put out by that date.
Noller and Straub's initial release on Rondo 100, coupled "Nola" with the Zez Confrey rag "Kitten on the Keys." The matrix numbers, 1063 for "Nola" and 1064 for "Kitten," appear to come from the same small studio that such indies as Hy-Tone, Gold Seal, and Sunbeam were using in the summer and fall of 1946. From the reminiscences of pianist Max Miller, we've identified it as the Bachman studio. The numbers (and what we know about release dates) indicate that all of the duo's Rondo sides were made at one long session in late June 1946 (right after the first Rudy Richardson session for Miracle). Their Rondo 101 was announced as ready for advance orders on July 5, 1946. Although Noller and Straub played many a ladies' club function, and could by no stretch be described as a jazz act, they liked to incorporate rags into their programs as virtuoso vehicles. Throughout its years in Chicago, Rondo would look for pianists who could play rags.
Their release on Rondo 102 coupled a pop tune, "Coffee Time," with a parody of Classical music, "In an 18th Century Drawing Room" by Raymond Scott. They were also responsible for a single that came out in July 1950, a reissue that coupled sides from two other early Rondos; it consisted of two perennials in both the pop and jazz repertoires, "Copenhagen" and "Tea for Two." The Billboard article announcing the 1950 release, which came out on Rondo's ephemeral 49 cent budget subsidiary, Rolin, says that Noller and Straub's sides were "from foreign masters" (July 8, 1950, p. 15). Foreign—as in from Indiana?
Noller and Straub were also responsible for Rondo 101 in the early going—arrangements of two classical themes—and for half of the first release on Rondo 104: the A side features another Confrey rag done by an organ-piano duet (just not by Noller and Straub) and a B side consisting of their "Copenhagen." In a short while, the first 104 was rereleased as Rondo 112. We don't know whether "Tea for Two" was released in 1946, but it must have come from the same session.
The duo broke up in the early 1950s, when Ada Straub retired from performing to become a full-time piano teacher. Ruth Noller Shusler retired in 1960. She died in Indianapolis on July 28, 1987, at the age of 89; the obituary did not mention that she had made any records.
The A side on this short-lived coupling, along with both sides of Rondo 103, were credited to Marsh McCurdy at the Hammond organ and Bob Peary on piano, recording at Bachman Studio in August 1946. McCurdy was a veteran by this time; his only other records that we know were made in the late 1920s and featured him on theater pipe organs. McCurdy also did Rondo 114 (and possibly other releases) in a duet with Pauline Lamond at the piano.
A couple of months after the first Noller-Straub sides, another Chicago startup called Gold Seal was putting out a bunch of releases on Kenny Jagger, who played many a hotel and many a convention as a "cocktail single." Since Jagger's shtick was playing piano and organ simultaneously, one wonders whether Gold Seal hired him to compete with Rondo. Or was it the other way around? He and Misses Noller and Straub both recorded "In an 18th Century Drawing Room." Oh, and Jagger, too, was from Indianapolis.
Next up was a flashy pianist named Jimmy Blade. Blade would be responsible for Rondos 104, 105, 110, and 111. The use of 104 as an issue number for Blade stepped on the Marsh McCurdy/Noller and Straub coupling, which the company renumbered as Rondo 112.
From 1929 to 1941, Jimmy Blade had been the chief arranger for Wayne King, whose sweet band was famous for its waltzes. He also led bands of his own in Chicago. In 1942, Blade was leading a large combo that played society events along with such venues as the Balinese Room at the Drake Hotel. In 1946, he was picked up by radio station WMAQ, which initially used him on a hit parade show but soon gave him his own 15-minute slot on weeknights. WMAQ was an NBC affiliate, and soon Blade's show could be heard on other network stations. When Rondo recorded him, the show was called simply "Jimmy Blade's Music," and the company used the same title on its labels.
Rondo soon compiled Blade's 4 singles onto an album, Rondo 1001, grandly billed as including a rhythm section. The "section" consisted of one string bass. Blade had a full sound and a fleet technique on the piano, so he didn't need a whole lot of accompaniment. But the duet recordings must not have been what his following was expecting, and they may not have been what Blade most wanted to do, either. Blade probably signed a one-year contract with Rondo, leaving as soon as it expired. In September 1947, he took up with a tiny new label called Sullivan, started by a Loop music publisher who wanted his own songs recorded (Life was a slightly later venture of this kind, which lasted longer because it didn't keep fixating on its owner's compositions). On his Sullivan sides, Blade led a combo that backed vocalists. There were three Jimmy Blade releases before the Sullivan enterprise faded away in the early months of 1948, the last of them intended for St. Patrick's Day. Meanwhile, Rondo kept right on promoting his 1946 recordings, presumably on the strength of his radio show. All four of them were advertised by a Dixon, Illinois record store in November 1947, and copies of the album are extant in which the 78s carry silver-on-red 1947-style labels.
His radio work would continue until WMAQ cancelled Jimmy Blade's Music in February 1950, whereupon the pianist went back to leading society bands. In 1950, Rondo gathered his 8 sides into a 10-inch LP, figuring he still enjoyed local name recognition that would generate a few more sales. But Blade had never relied on recordings for income. After playing country club dances and other such functions in 1950 and the early part of 1951, the Jimmy Blade Orchestra would be in residence at the Camellia House in the Loop for 16 straight years, all the way through 1967. Jimmy Blade died in Chicago in August 1974.
The third keyboardist Rondo picked up in 1946 was a solo Hammond organist named Elmer Ihrke, who specialized in hymns and Christmas carols. Elmer Ihrke, from what we have been able to discover, was from Milwaukee and was probably born there in 1902. In his younger days, he worked in churches, such as Lake Park Lutheran in his home city. Eventually he took up the Hammond and made occasional appearances at trade shows and the like. What might have been his first release, on Rondo 106, paired "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "Dancing Tambourine," two light classics in vogue with keyboardists at the time. This was also offered in a 3-pocket album, R-1002, along with 100 and 102 by Noller and Straub. Around this same time, Ihrke recorded versions of "Serenade," "Deep Purple," "Three O'Clock in the Morning," and "Wedding of the Painted Dolls" (these were reissued on his second 10-inch LP, RLP-36; we have found the 78-rpm originals of of "Painted Dolls" and "Deep Purple," but not of "Serenade" or "Three O'Clock," which we suspect are still out there.) What the company found it preferred was Ihrke's medleys of Christmas carols, on which Skip Berg played the chimes. Three of these appeared on Rondo 107 through 109, which were also sold as a 3-pocket album (Rondo 1000 was the company's very first, released in November 1946. It carried one of two generic covers without the artist's name: "Rondo Presents | Christmas Carols | Organ with Chimes"). One of the covers has a large bell on it, the other a church with a prominent steeple. Rondo's interest in Ihrke would fade in and out; Rondo 120, for Christmas 1946, coupled "Jingle Bells" with "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers"; Rondo 120, for Christmas 1947, with a special red and green label, coupled "Jingle Bells" with "Silent Night"; an even later version of Rondo 120 coupled "Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Silent Night." Rondo tried putting Ihrke in a trio; we've seen an ad for Rondo 121, but no copy of the record yet, which suggests less than stellar sales. They also tried using him to back a choral group, the Rondoliers—Rondo 127 didn't sell either. Four more of the early Ihrkes would be reissued as Rondo 140 and 141. Rondo 1000 can be had on vinyl as well as on shellac; it was trotted out for each holiday season through 1949—when it ran into some internal competition.
By the end of 1946, we have now learned from the incredlble run of early advertisements in the Indianapolis Star, Rondo had released 17 items in its keyboard series: 100 through 115, plus the first 120. These were accompanied by 550 through 554 by Rudy Plocar, and 1550 and 1551 by Lil Mason.
Rondo 116 through 119 are still terra incognita; most likely they were part Ihrke and part McCurdy. Meanwhile, an advertisement from Kuras Furniture in Ludington, Michigan (right across Lake Michigan from Manitowoc via ferry, and a reliable source for Rondo products, Ludington Daily News, July 23, 1947, p. 10) lists along with three items from Rudy Plocar's first two sessions two items with "Organ, Piano & Chimes." One was a coupling of an "Ave Maria" and a "Te Deum," the other of "Rock of Ages" and "Onward Christian Soldiers.'' These could have been the work of Elmer Ihrke, but we remain to be instructed.
A Hammond organist named Cosmo Teri, known around Chicago as a teacher of the instrument, was responsible for Rondo 124, which offered a couple of Christmas tunes. Guided by Ihrkean precedent, the company wanted chimes on the record. This had the odd result that the two pop tunes, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Winter Wonderland," played on the organ, came with a chimed Christmas carol prelude and, in the case of "Coming to Town," a matching postlude. Rondo 124 was advertised by good old Kuras Furniture in Ludington, Michigan on November 21, 1947; Elmer Ihrke's album from the preceding year was also mentioned. The label almost certainly recorded more selections by Teri; the other missing items (we've narrowed these down to 122, 123, 125, and 126) are probably more Ihrkean experiments.
Output in the 100 series was actually down in 1947; if 126 was released before the end of the year, there were just 10 new singles (Rondo 120 being a reissue). The 100 series, and the company as a whole, would take on new life when Ken Griffin's first instrumental record came out.
Post-Griffin, the first 28 releases came to be seen as prehistoric. Rondo printed up several versions of an elaborate 78 rpm sleeve in 1950, and one more in 1951, each with a detailed roundup of company product on the back. Even though some of the early 100s would later see release on 45s (Jimmy Blade's all did), and the company eventually gave LPs to Noller and Straub, Ihkre, and Blade, even putting Teri on one of them, none of the sleeves mentioned any of these singles.
Also there right from Day 1 was a 550 series for polkas and waltzes.
In fact, Rondo 550 was the product of the company's first session and was the label's very first release. This was the work of an act that largely carried Rondo for its first year and a half, Rudy Plocar's band out of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. On Rondo 550, which identifies the outfit as Plocar's "All Veterans" Orchestra, matrix numbers UB 2142 on one side and UB 2145 on the other show that it was cut at United Broadcasting Studios in June 1946. (The entire session ran from UB 2142 to UB 2151.) This is our best available estimate for the inception of the label.
Rudolph J. Plocar was born in Chicago on December 6, 1916. HIs parents were probably first-generation immigrants, because he sang in Czech on some of his records. We don't know when his family moved to Manitowoc, a small town on the shore of Lake Michigan 80 miles north of Milwaukee. We do know that Plocar spent nearly his entire adult life there.
Plocar was a multi-instrumentalist. He played the clarinet, on which he supposedly won a competition while in high school, but was also featured on several saxophones, as well as on the trumpet. When advertising his services as a music teacher, he offered saxophone lessons. All of these instruments came in handy in polka bands, which catered to the Polish, Czech, Slovenian, Croatian, and German immigrant communities in Wisconsin. They came in particularly handy in Manitowoc, which was a polka band center.
It's been said that Plocar spent some time in the saxophone section of the sweet band led by Freddy Martin; this seems plausible, but corroboration is still needed. At the beginning of 1936, Plocar joined the band of Roman "Romy" Gosz (1910-1966), which by then had achieved prominence in the polkasphere; he advertised his membership in the band when he offered his saxophone lessons in February of that year, and the Gosz band played at his wedding to Stella Holeman in June 1936. Gosz, a native of Manitowoc who started on the piano at 7, was already playing in a band led by his father, Paul Gosz, in 1921. Soon after starting his own band, Romy Gosz switched instruments when his regular trumpet player quit and he had trouble finding a replacement. On April 20, 1931, Gosz, already playing first trumpet, cut his first records in Grafton, Wisconsin. His group returrned for a second session in Grafton on July 17, 1931. They were released on Paramount's dime-store label, Broadway; because Romy Gosz had not yet turned 21, they appeared under his father's name. (For these dates, see Alex van der Tuuk's account of the Paramount L- matrix series at http://www.mainspringpress.com/nyrl-L.html). Paramount went inactive in 1932, but in 1933 Gosz was in Chicago recording for Columbia, which billed his band as "Roman Gosz and his Bohemian Orch" and included a vocal in Czech. In 1935 and 1936 Gosz was under contract to Vocalion, which recorded a raft of Czech-language titles; in 1938 and 1939 he was with Decca. After a long hiatus from recording, in October 1945 Gosz became one of the very first artists to sign with what was then a little Chicago-based startup called Mercury ("Mercury Starts with a Polka," Billboard, November 10, 1945, p. 19).
Rudy Plocar's recording debut was on Romy Gosz's second session for Vocalion, which took place on February 19, 1936, laying down 10 sides. Plocar played clarinet, tenor saxophone, and trumpet, and he and Linky Kohlbeck were further entrusted with five Czech-language vocals. Comparing the band with the unit that Gosz had used on his 1935 session for Vocalion, it's clear that Plocar contributed more than just the extra horn. With Plocar in the band, Gosz routinely varied the instrumentation of a polka or waltz strain; where previously the band just repeated a strain with the same instrumentation, now a rendition with two trumpets and a clarinet might be followed by one with one trumpet and three saxes. Much richer saxophone and clarinet scoring was now in use, and the band even recorded a tango called "White Acacias"—albeit with words in Czech.
On Gosz's first Decca session, cut in New York on August 3, 1938, Plocar played third trumpet and third clarinet, while the leader played first trumpet, Dave Kruswick was on second trumpet, Norman Skornicka (sometimes spelled Skornichka) handled first clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax, Don Kruswick was on second clarinet and tenor sax, Fritz Puls on E-flat recording tuba, and Dick Fricke at the drums. A February 1939 advertisement in the Manitowoc newspaper helpfully runs down the entire current Gosz personnel, most likely to draw attention to their hometown ties. It further notes how Rudy Plocar was deputized, along with the band's accordionist, Gordy Kohlbeck, to serenade patrons at their tables. When the band recorded for Decca again, in Chicago on May 15, 1939, it had nearly the same personnel: Andy Heier had taken over on the drums, Dave Kruswick was back in on second trumpet, and Plocar and Skornicka were asked to play a lot of tenor and baritone sax, respectively.
Leaving Gosz later that same year, Plocar joined Lawrence Duchow (1914-1972), an accordion-playing bandleader out of Potter, Wisconsin. For many years, Duchow's Red Raven Orchestra, named after an inn where the band held a long residency, was based in Appleton. Formally launched in 1933, the Red Ravens quickly become one of the top bands in the genre, landing recording contracts first with Decca, then with RCA Victor, where Duchow would remain on the roster for 13 or 14 years. And for 20 years, Gosz and Duchow vied for top billing in the eastern half of Wisconsin. Plocar is known to be on the 18 sides that Duchow cut for Decca in 1939. It remains to be determined whether he was still in the band for any of Duchow's Victors.
In the spring of 1941, Plocar took leave from the Red Ravens and started his own band. He stayed with it until October 1942, when he and several other members of his National Guard unit enlisted in the army, for what turned out to be a three-year commitment. Plocar served in Europe, playing in the band of the 2nd Armored Division. Returning to Manitowoc in December 1945, he recruited several other veterans home from the war; in February 1946 he placed a newspaper advertisement soliciting engagements. Within a few months, the band was doing a half-hour show on the local radio station, taking gigs in Sheboygan (a bigger town about 30 miles south of Manitowoc; territories were so narrowly defined that it was a big deal when his band first played there), and recording for Rondo.
During five recording sessions in 1946 and 1947 the Plocar band slung out the singles (mostly instrumentals, though three featured a "Bohemian Vocal," three more had words in German, and one had words in English). In fact, the All Veterans Orchestra was responsible for the first 10 releases in the 550 series. In March 1947, Mullen's record store ran an ad in the Sheboygan paper, promoting new arrivals (the Manitowoc newspaper never advertised a record by a local musician; there was litttle interest, when readers could hear the bands in or around town at least once a week). Romy Gosz' latest releases got the top billing, but the finer print ran through the first five Plocar releases (Rondo 550 through 554), along with items by Lawrence Duchow and another regular on the polka circuit named Marvin Brouchoud. This is the earliest published reference to Rondo records that we have found anywhere. On May 3, 1947, Billboard (pp. 123, 130), in an unaccustomed show of disrespect, mentioned Mr. and Mrs. Plocar as guests at an event for Milwaukee jukebox operators—and failed to note his record company. On July 23, 1947, Kuras Furniture in Ludington, Michigan offered two releases from Plocar's second session for Rondo, 558 and 559.
Among American polka bands, Rudy Plocar's played in a Czech style. The band supplemented its polkas and waltzes with such German dances as the ländler and the finger tanz, but not the schottische. Plocar's ensemble played a lot of traditional material (traditional meant from the previous century; the polka originated in Bohemia in the late 1820s). Plocar's ensemble often used two reeds and two trumpets, usually entrusted the bass line to a tuba, and was comfortable with the appelation "Old Time," which was used in some of Rondo's later publicity on him, but it also didn't mind being called a polka band. Unlike the Polish-style bands, the Czech bands rarely featured solo work.
Polka bands weren't limited to the regulation 4 tunes in 3 hours. The pieces they recorded were almost always in their working repertoire, so extra takes were rarely needed; 14 sides in one day was a pace far from unheard of. Rudy Plocar made a session in June 1946 to launch the label, returning for a second outing at United Broadcasting in November 1946. It's possible that all five releases from his first session (Rondo 550 through 554) were out by the time of his second; in any event, the first ad we have seen for any of his records (Pearson's piano and record store, Indianapolis Star, January 10, 1947, p. 27) mentions them all in order. Rondo had already developed an interest in releasing vocal and instrumental versions of the same tunes: where Plocar had previously sung "Julida" in Czech, now he did it without the vocals; contrariwise, "Svestovka Alej" (aka "The Prune Song") got vocals where the previous version had been an instrumental. Plocar was back again in August 1947, then cut his fourth session in October 1947, and his fifth and final in November 1947. Rapidly building catalogue, his band was averaging 8 sides per session.
In the studio, Plocar's 1946 lineup consisted of two trumpets (played with vibrato so wide, you might think there were three), two clarinets (doubling alto saxophone), piano, tuba, and drums. The leader was the utility player; he switched from second trumpet to clarinet to tenor saxophone, depending on the passage and the arrangement. The drummer did most of his work on the snare—polka band drummers thought nothing of press rolls on waltzes—and the piano parts must have been boring to play because their sole function was to reinforce bass line and rhythm. Billboard reviewers would comment, later on, on the oompahish quality of one of Plocar's singles.
A photo of what appears to be Plocar's 1946 band (with "Rondo Records" emblazoned across the fronts of the music stands) shows Wilfred Doleysh on first trumpet, Rudy Plocar on second trumpet, clarinet, and tenor sax, Norm Skornicka (or Skornichka) on clarinet and alto sax, Jim Doleysh on clarinet and alto sax, Howard Fisher at the piano, Russell Rank alternating between string bass and sousaphone, and Jim Schneider at the drums. We haven't heard the string bass on any of the Rondo sides; otherwise, this is the precise lineup for the 1946 recordings.
In 1946, Plocar kept to 4 wind players, second trumpet switching to clarinet and tenor sax, instead of the 5 winds, third trumpet switching to clarinet or sax, that Romy Gosz had been able to carry since the late 1930s. However, his August, October, and November 1947 outings include passages of lusher scoring for three, sometimes even four, saxes, and the band has clearly expanded to 5 winds. His October 1947 session made the further addition of an accordion, in homage to his one-time employer Lawrence Duchow, and the November session kept it. Plocar experimented, just this one time, with two pop tunes, sung in English by one Alan De Witt: "A Sailboat in the Moonlight" and "I Still Want You." He now reached for a quasi-Swing band sound with some of his saxophone scoring, though he would never move so far in this direction as Duchow, whose later lineups approximate a big band without the trombones. Plocar was much more rustic in presentation than Duchow, even more rustic on many occasions than Gosz, with wider vibrato from the trumpets and more skirl from the clarinets. Gosz's band occasionally programmed a solo feature for the leader's trumpet. There are no solo features on record for Rudy Plocar. And one of the tunes in his book was "Die Dorfmusik," or "The Village Band."
Plocar was getting so much attention now that Mercury stole him. Right after his November session, he was hastily signed by the already much larger company, which wanted to bulk up its "folk" roster (on January 17, 1948, p. 37, Billboard mentioned him as one of Mercury's "last-minute additions before the Petrillo ban"). Around the same time the Slovenian-style band of Louie Bashell, who was also making a name for himself on the Wisconsin circuit, was hastily signed, as was a Swiss-style polka outfit. Plocar may have been chosen with an eye to replacing Romy Gosz.
Rushing Plocar's band into the studio to beat the recording ban set for January 1, 1948, Mercury recorded him twice in December 1947, very likely with the same lineup that he had recently used for Rondo (it still included that accordion). Having recorded 14 sides, Mercury put them out on 7 singles in 1948 and 1949 (polka bands never left a whole lot in the vaults). Mercury must have wanted a more traditional presentation; with a single exception (a pop tune titled "Nine O'Clock in My Own Home Town") Plocar's sides for the bigger company dispensed with the fancy saxophone scoring and the vocalizing in English. His other Mercury sides were all polkas, waltzes, or ländler, many identified as traditional, with ensemble vocals in Czech on three of them. In fact, Plocar remade several numbers (such as "Poor Cinderella Polka" and "Hillside Waltz") that he had first recorded in 1936—as a member of the Romy Gosz band.
With characteristic ambiguity about market positioning, Mercury put the first 3 Plocars in its 6000 Country series and the last 4 in its 2000 pop series (it used three different series for its Goszes). But Mercury became serially disaffected with its polka bands. After recording Gosz in October 1945, October 1946, and November 1946, it let his contract expire a year later. And after the recording ban was officially lifted in December 1948, Mercury didn't bring Plocar back into the studio, not even to cash in on the late-1948 fad for "More Beer!" (see Appendix C for more about this; instead, Rondo grafted the words onto his November 1947 recording of "Beer Bucket Polka"). Mercury put out his final single in March 1949, allowing Plocar's contract to expire in its turn. (Bashell was still being recorded in the first half of 1949, but after Mercury signed Lawrence Welk that year, the company quit paying attention to other polka purveyors.) Fortunately, Rondo welcomed the prodigal Plocar back.
In October 1949, Rondo released a 10-inch LP of polkas that he had cut during the company's earliest days. It also brought Plocar back into the studio for a sixth session. Meanwhile, his previous releases, some of which had fallen out of the catalogue, were restored to circulation. In 1949, most of Plocar's 78s were re-pressed; by the end of 1950, pretty much everything he had ever done for Rondo could also be had on 45 rpm. For instance, in April 1950 his coupling of "Helena Polka" and "Clarinet Polka" on Rondo 553, by then nearly 4 years old, was being promoted as a new 45 (in an advertisement from a store in Ludington, Michigan; Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8).
As it started its second year of operation, Rondo signed other polka bands. Some have been lost from view; they slipped right off the list when their releases didn't sell. The first session involving another band took place in June 1947, as can be discerned from the UB numbers in the 21300s. Rondo 560 features something called the Bellini Accordion Orchestra on the A side; the B side is credited to the Accorionette[sic]Ensemble, but they appear to be the same group: 3 or 4 accordions and a string bass, playing waltzes. On Rondo 561, the Accordionette Ensemble has turned into a lithe and sprightly combo that, in addition to the usual clarinet doubling on circus alto sax, accordion, guitar, and string bass, features a vibraphone (often played xylophonically, with the motor off). The vibes gave the band a distinctive touch; Bob Sanley / Stanislaw Mroczek's big Eastern style band (which recorded for Sonora) featured solo xylophone and marimba, as did a few other bands like Jerry Mazanec's Chicago Polish ensemble, but these were infrequently encountered in the polkaverse. Maybe three members of the group doubled on accordion? These Accordionettes were not a high-profile ensemble, to put it mildly, but we wonder whether the Accordionette Combo that got a couple of mentions in the Benton Harbor, Michigan newspaper toward the end of 1947 was the same bunch. (Unfortunately for researchers working today, Bellini was one of the most popular brands of accordions, and any ensemble with multiple female accordion players was commonly referred to as "Accordionettes.") Whoever they were, their records stayed in the catalogue long enough for some copies to be pressed on plastic in 1948 or 1949.
We had long wondered who got signed next, and was then responsible for Rondo 562, 563, and 564. In November 2015 a copy of 563 finally surfaced—and it was by a Slovak gypsy ensemble. The Jožka Cigaňsko Orš. performed a csárdás (tagged as a Slovenské čárdáš) on both sides. Though we presume it worked in Illinois or Wisconsin, this was definitely not a polka band: not with three violins, a cimbalom, and a string bass. It seems likely that Rondo put out another single on the group, maybe even two.
After bringing Rudy Plocar back for his third session in August 1947, the company gave a quartet of yodelers a try. The Swiss Family Fraunfelder had been resident in the United States for over a decade. The band consisted of R. Fraunfelder Sr. (1895-1988), who played the string bass, and three of his six children. His son, whose name was variously spelled Reinhardt (in Schriftdeutsch) or Reynard (in native dialect; 1920-2007) played the clarinet; Betty (1922-2008) played the accordion and Ruth (born 1924) played the piano and occasionally a wooden flute. All four sang, in keening Swiss German. All four yodeled. They contributed to the soundtrack of the Walt Disney feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in which the dwarfs end up doing some yodeling (see the reminiscences of Jim Macdonald, who worked in Disney's special effects department, at http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Funnyworld/Macdonald/Macdonald.htm). The family band landed some other film work afterward and remained in Southern California for a time, performing in public schools and colleges and even getting a resolution of thanks out of the California state legislature.
But by 1941, they had relocated to the area around Monroe and New Glarus in southern Wisconsin, known for its big dairy farms and high concentration of Swiss immigrants. In 1947, the Fraunfelders were doing steady business at fairs and company picnics in Wisconsin, Illinois, and occasionally other Midwestern states; they also did periodic radio work. Though they had to cancel some appearances in February 1947, after R. Fraunfelder Sr. was injured in a car accident and then suffered a heart attack, he and the band bounced back quickly. A few months later, when they were at the peak of their popularity, Rondo picked them up for one recording session. Rondo 569 is not in any of the matrix series that Rondo was using; with a BA suffix scratched in the trailoff shellac, the sides appear to be a demo the family made at Bachman Studio in Chicago. Rondo must have decided to release it after signing them. On Rondo 571, the "Yodel Laendler" is really a feature for the Fraunfelders' instruments; only on the last two choruses do they get into the yodeling. "The Cuckoo" features a lot of singing and yodeling in waltz time, interspersed with stop-time cuckoo imitations answered by peeps out of the wooden flute. A poster for their Rondo releases can be seen at http://www.swissfamilyfraunfelder.com/CartoonPoster.html. The steady regional demand for the family's live appearances must not have translated into record sales, because by 1950 they were no longer mentioned on the company's sleeves.
In 1949, the family accepted the sponsorship of a big brewery in Milwaukee, in whose honor they went as the Schlitz Family Fraunfelder. However, toward the end of 1950, Ruth Fraunfelder married, left the group, and settled first in Monroe and then in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin (see the Monroe Evening Times, August 22, 1951, p. 1); the remaining members left both Wisconsin and Schlitz behind. They moved first to San Mateo, California, where in 1950 they made a single for the Alpine label. Moving again the next year, to the Hood River area in Oregon, they recorded in the 1950s for a small company called Yodel Melody. For a detailed history of the Fraunfelder family, with a host of photos, see Larry Ganders' site, http://www.swissfamilyfraunfelder.com/
Activity accelerated in the fall of 1947; everybody, little indies emphatically included, was scrambling as the second Petrillo recording ban impended (it was the dearth of activity that signaled the end of the line for Sonora).
And an oblique mention of the label belatedly took place in Billboard, on December 6, 1947 (p. 25). Red Raven Enterprises of Appleton, Wisconsin ran an ad announcing the release of two of its tunes ("Swiss Boy" and "My Swiss Girl") on RCA Victor singles by Lawrence Duchow's band. In small print, the ad gave an oblique acknowledgment to Duchow's former employee; it noted that Rondo had also waxed both numbers, coupling them on 572 in its polka series. Of course, this was a Rudy Plocar record. Although Rondo had already put an instrumental version of "My Swiss Girl" out on Rondo 565, it had Plocar remake the song, now with vocals in German and English and a prominent accordion line, as a coupling for a new recording of "Swiss Boy" on 572. The company had upwards of 20 polka releases in its catalogue by then. Rondo 573 would also be by Rudy Plocar (featuring his last "Bohemian Vocal" on "At the Spring"; he'd sung it a decade earlier with Romy Gosz on Vocalion 15936, under its Czech title, "U Studanky Sedela"). We have no sales figures on Plocar's Rondos, but the company must have fairly pleased with the way they were doing, because it would end up releasing 23 singles on him. Plocar was pulling in so much that in 1948 he was able to buy a tavern in his old neighborhood on the edge of Manitowoc, the Shoto Gardens.
Just before Plocar got snapped up by Mercury, Rondo added Gene Heier's Orchestra to the mix, bringing him in for two sessions less than a week apart in November 1947. We suspect that at least four singles materialized (at least four tunes per session), but so far we know of Rondo 582, 583, and 584. Heier, who played clarinet and tenor sax, could well have been recommended by Plocar; he, too, was from Manitowoc, was a Romy Gosz alumnus (in this case, from Gosz's 1946 ensemble), and his band played on the same circuit.
Heier's records also had a little staying power: Rondo 583 and 584 were still listed on the company's sleeves in 1950. In 1949, Rondo stole Bernie Roberts' polka band away from Pfau, a new small label from Milwaukee; Pfau returned the favor by signing Heier. On February 18, 1950, Billboard announced (pp. 41, 43) that Gene Heier had signed with the smaller label (he actually recorded for Pfau in September 1949). In the second half of 1950, however, Heier would be back with Rondo for one more try. Heier used a slightly larger ensemble than Plocar (9 pieces, in later years) and programmed pop and Swing numbers along with the polkas and the waltzes that Rondo wanted from him.
Having staked its claim to polka bands from Wisconsin, Rondo added J. Perush and His Joliet Tavern Band to the roster. Joe Perush operated a tavern in Joliet, Illinois, where his band was in permanent residency; they sang in Slovenian (when they sang at all; Rondo 575 is instrumental on both sides). Having finally caught up with a Perush release, we can say that he led a band with two accordions, guitar, and bass (the same lineup as Lee Monti on Aristocrat), he probably recorded 8 sides for the company, around October 30, 1947, and may have had four releases on the label (Rondo 574 through 577). It would be nice to see the others.
In the last quarter of 1947 the company even added a group that sang in Polish. Rondo put out at least three singles by Alicja Kusek and Casey Stefaniak, backed by the band of one F. Przybylski. Przybylski had been active in Chicago for a few years when Rondo picked him up. In October or November 1940, a Polish polka band called the Juke Box Serenaders recorded in Chicago for Columbia; Columbia 12203-F includes "Hill-Billy Polka," which would acquire lyrics in Polish on Rondo, and "On the Green Meadow Polka," credited to "Fr. Przybylski." The Juke Box Serenaders returned to Columbia's Chicago studios in late April or early May 1941, producing 12215-F, "Steel Mill Polka" b/w "Juke Box Polka" (the lattter also credited to Fr. Przybylski). After the wartime recording ban lifted, a band called the Windy City Five recorded in December 1944, producing Columbia 12247-F, "My Polish Gal" b/w "Clam Chowder Polka," with Przybylski credited as the arranger on both sides. And a larger Juke Box Serenaders unit recorded "Love Sick Oberek" and "Lolly Pop Polka" (Columbia 12307-F) in July 1946 (right before Columbia recorded Bill Crosby and his band) with arranger credits to one Phil Wing; however, Przybylski was still cited as the composer on the oberek. As with nearly all of Rondo's polka band sides, the Przybylskis were cut at United Broadcasting, on two dates about a week apart in November 1947. The lineup was interesting enough to Bard and Lany that they called the band back for a third and final session in 1949, producing one single that we know of. Around that same time, Kusek also would be called on to put Polish lyrics to Ken Griffin's biggest number, "You Can't Be True, Dear."
After Rondo cut a deal with a French label (announced in Billboard on September 4, 1948), Rondo 578 was reissued across the Atlantic, on Pacific 1766. Another Przybylski that we haven't seen yet on Rondo presumably had made an appearance, because when the sides came out in France on Pacific 1791, the cryptic codes UB22028 and UB22031 were still attached. The matrix numbers put them in the same recording session as Rondo 590 and 593—but we haven't seen those particular sides on Pacific. Whether Pacific released anything off the 1949 session remains to be determined.
More Polish offerings would follow from Steve Adamczyk and His Polish Hungry Five and Joe Durlak and His Orchestra. The company was now getting involved, not just with Polish polka, but with modern Chicago-style Polish polka, which could be performed by a groups as small as a quartet: clarinet, accordion, bass, and drums. Adamczyk played clarinet and saxophones; Durlak played clarinet. Adamczyk recorded in late December 1947, right before the Petrillo ban was due to hit; he was responsible for Rondo 594 and 595. Durlak's session was squeezed in even later, leading to Rondo 597 (and, we are reasonably sure, at least one more).
Durlak had already recorded for Columbia, singing his biggest hit, "Czyja ta Dziewczyna" (Whose Girl Are You) with the Karuzeli (Carousel) Orchestra. Rondo wanted Gene Heier to cover the waltz, which he did on Rondo 582; did the company ask the composer for a new version? Adamczyk, to our knowledge, had not seen the inside of a studio before.
Before Rondo could get all of his singles out, Adamczyk's Hungry Five were already recording for Capitol (Billboard, February 25, 1950, p. 116), and the Five had soon compiled enough sides for the bigger company that in 1957 Capitol was able to release a 12-inch LP on them. Capitol probably made its move because Adamczyk's somewhat later band, the Hungry Six, had taken on a high profile in the polkasphere. The Hungry Six recorded for Dana, a label operated by Walter Dana (né Danilowski) that specialized in polka bands, remaining with it until at least 1960 and cranking out a long series of LPs. (These Hungry Six were undercounted: they actually numbered two clarinets, a trumpet, an accordion, piano, bass, and drums.)
Durlak also recorded after his brief involvement with Rondo.
While Rondo recorded the four major varieties of polka—German, Czech, Slovenian, and Polish—it quickly let its Chicago-based performers move off to other labels. So the Chicago polka bands went to major labels (such as Capitol), to polka specialists with a national scope (notably, Dana), or to smaller local specalists like Lil Wally Jagiello's Jay Jay label. Nor did Rondo develop an interest in Eastern polka, which went for more of a big band sound; this had been the province of larger independents like Sonora and Continental, and smaller outfits like Harmonia. Rondo's artists were recruited out in polkaland—they were overwhelmingly from Wisconsin.
Although Rondo maintained a significant piece of its polka band catalogue until the company was sold, and put out 2 LPs on Rudy Plocar, Bard and Lany seem to have made a decision, as 1950 rolled around, to scale back their polka activity. Where just a few months earlier, Rondo had been poaching bands from Pfau and Tell, now Pfau, Tell, and new Wisconsin specialist labels such as Polkaland (which would open for business in 1951) and Potter (starting in 1954) would be taking artists away from Rondo.
Not long after the company was launched, Rondo made a first tentative move into the "race" market, as R and B was then called. Two singles, one scarce today and the other even scarcer, are known to have come out of it.
We used to think, following Fancourt and McGrath and other blues experts, that these items were done in 1949, when the remaining items in the series, Rondo 1553 through 1558, were released. But the evidence of the studio band, of the variety of label used, and of the matrix numbers all point to an earlier time. We now have further confirmation from an advertisement for Rondo records in the Indianapolis Star of November 8, 1946, placed by the ever-faithful Pearson's music store.
Lil Mason (voc); A. Davies (ts); Bill Shavers (p); Booker T. Collins (b); F. Robinson (d).
Bachman Studio, Chicago, September 1946
|R-1113||How Fast Can You Boogie? (Mason)||Rondo 1550-B|
|R-1114||The Buggy Ride (Mason)||Rondo 1551-A|
|R-1115||The Buggy Ride (Mason)||Rondo 1551-B|
|R-1116||Upstairs (Mason)||Rondo 1550-A|
Lil Mason was a veteran club performer when Rondo picked her up. She was born Lillian Mason, in Union, South Carolina on February 7, 1918. Mason was raised in Gary, Indiana, and in Chicago, and began performing in the Chicago clubs during World War II. She cut her first recording session for OKeh on December 18, 1944, with accompaniment by Little Brother Montgomery at the piano and Ransom Knowling on the bass. As happened to quite a few made as tastes were changing and the Melrose operation was going into decline, nothing from it was released.
Beginning in November 1945, Mason became a regular at the 308 Club (3900 South Parkway), appearing with famed blues pianist Big Maceo Merriweather and Tommy Dixon’s Band. Her tag was “Blues Mistress.” By May of 1946, she was the feature act, now billed as “Chicago’s Sweetheart of the Blues.” In the fall of 1946, around the time of her Rondo session, Mason was appearing in a revue at The 21 Club (21 N. Western Ave on the city’s west side), where she was represented as “Lil Mason of Stage and Screen.” One wonders what kind of screen appearance she'd made. In November, she was back at the 308 Club.
"The Buggy Ride" is a talking boogie of the sort that Mayo Williams liked, and would record on several occasions in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The lyrics were not suitable for radio play. "Upstairs," featuring a bit of imagery common in postwar blues, was her signature number; she had already tried it for OKeh. After her Rondos came out, she would be regularly billed as Lil "Upstairs" Mason.
William Shavers, the pianist who led the band on this date, appears to have spent just a couple of years on the Chicago scene. He is not on any of the Local 208 contract lists from 1944. William Shavers first shows up in Local 208 Board Meeting minutes on April 19, 1945, when his "indefinite" contract with the Garrick Stage Bar was accepted and filed. Now referred to as "Bill" Shavers, he filed an indefinite contract with Tin Pan Alley on September 6 of the same year. As Bill Shavers, he shows up again in the Local 208 Board Meeting minutes on May 16, 1946, posting an indefinite contract for relief nights at the Downbeat Club. There were no mentions of him in 1947, 1948, or 1949.
Throughout the 1950s Mason performed regularly in the West Side and near North Side clubs. In February 1950, she appeared at Ralph's Club (2259 Madison). April 1951 saw her at the Hollywood Rendezvous (3849 Indiana). At Joe’s Rendezvous Lounge (2757 W. Madison) later in July she co-headlined (with Jimmie Binkley) as “Lil (Upstairs) Mason.”
February of 1952 saw Lil Mason ensconced on the near North Side at Club Evergreen (1332 N. Clybourn), which would be her home throughout much of the 1950s, always with that tag, "Upstairs." Through much of 1953, however, she appeared at the Savanah (sic) Club (350 E. 51st). In August of 1955, she made an appearance at Charlie’s Lounge (1811 W. Roosevelt), accompanied by the “All Stars” band of Jimmy Wise (bass), Miss Bertie Davis (alto sax), Fred Hudson (piano), and Duran Barksdale (drums). Her appearances grew infrequent in the 1960s, but she made one at the C&C Club Lounge (6513 Cottage Grove) in late 1964.
In 1982, Mason made her last recording (apparently there had been none in between), a 45-rpm single for the Streetcar Craft label. She sang “The Cabrini Green Song,” as a tribute to a housing project on the near North Side, not far from Club Evergreen. Mason died in obscurity on 21 February 1988 (other sources give 19 February as the date). She was 70, but the obituary wrongly reported her age as 60.
The matrix numbers are in the same series as those on Noller and Straub's Rondos, on the one Marsh McCurdy we presently have a matrix number for, on several of Elmer Ihrke's earliest recordings, and on all of Jimmy Blade's. 1113 through 1116 can be pretty firmly dated to September 1946. From other evidence (see our Gold Seal page), we have concluded that that all of these were done at Bachman Studio. The release date was no later than the beginning of November 1946.
One of the mysteries still surrounding the company is whether there was a Rondo 1552, and, if there was, who was on it. Rondo normally avoided leaving gaps in its release series.
Had the Lil Mason sides come out from a company with the right sales and distribution personnel, they still might have gone nowhere. With what in 1946 was a rudimentary distribution network and a sales force with no experience catering to African-American record buyers, Rondo didn't have a snowball's chance. We have found two advertisement for 1550 and 1551 (November 8, 1946 and January 10, 1947), from a piano, music, and record store in Indianapolis that was promoting Rondo for its keyboard records (especially those by its in-house performers, Ruth Noller and Ada Straub). It's doubtful that such ads could move Lil Mason platters. Some copies of Rondo 1550 were pressed on vinyl and sold in 1949-model Rondo sleeves, indicating that when Rondo revived the 1550 series, it tried again. But the new pressings still carried 1946-style labels. Apparently Rondo hadn't used up the first print run... Rondo 1551, which was never re-pressed and is only on shellac, is an extremely rare release. Finally in 2016, we can report on it with the help of Tom Lukowicz. Although "The Buggy Ride" is in two parts, they were not labeled as such on the record. All four of these sides are worthy of reissue attention.
In the early going, Rondo also put out stories for children in a single-digit series; a rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, told by one Mildred Sinclair, was recorded in September 1947 (with UB 21654 on one side) and released as Rondo RC-2. We don't know how many more singles ensued in this series, but in time there enough children's stories had accumulated to load up a 10-inch LP.
Through the end of 1947, there was nothing in Rondo's output of polkas, waltzes, piano and Hammond organ solos, and spoken word items to make it a bigger deal than Pfau, the Milwaukee-based polka specialist. Except that Rondo packaged some of its earliest 78s into albums, and so far as we know Pfau never got to that point. But 1947 came and went without one solitary story about Rondo in the trade papers.
And so it would remain—until Ken Griffin came long.
During the next 6 years in Chicago, it was Griffin who kept Rondo's lights on and its bills paid. He even cast his shadow over the company's afterlife in Union City; the Record Corporation of America kept his EPs in print and recycled his tracks on Rondo-lette LPs. Sixty years later, Rondos keep right on showing up at estate sales and in second-hand stores across the USA and Canada. So many of these bear Griffin's name that veteran collectors usually don't realize that Rondo recorded anybody else.
Kenneth W. Griffin was born in Columbia, Missouri on December 28, 1909, and grew up in Colorado. Originally a violinist, he taught himself to play the pipe organ in a movie theater; he got plenty of experience accompanying silent movies during the last couple of years before talkies came in. In 1935, he became an early adopter of the Hammond organ.
From the middle of 1942 through the beginning of 1944 he served in the US Army. On his return to civilian life, Griffin landed a gig playing the organ in a restaurant in Naperville, Illinois, moving on to a beer garden and a restaurant in Aurora, then to regular appearances on local radio station WMRO. By 1947, Griffin was working regularly in clubs and restaurants in Chicago. Rondo wasn't the first company to want to record him; as we will see, it was the second or the third. But when Griffin got going with Rondo, in the last quarter of 1947, he scored a monstrous hit for the company, and would reign as its top artist from then on.
Griffin's singles were all in the 100 series, which kept on going through the company's Chicago period, reaching at least to Rondo 307. One suspects that Bard and Lany came to see the 100s as starting in April 1948. That was when the company issued Ken Griffin's first instrumental single: "You Can't Be True, Dear" and "Cuckoo Waltz" on Rondo 128.
Which merely serves to underline how he transformed the company's prospects. Griffin recorded 8 solo organ titles for the Chicago Recording Studio on August 20, 1947 (we know these specifics because CRS and Rondo would become entangled in a lawsuit of Dickensian duration over the publishing rights to "You Can't Be True, Dear," a 1935 pop tune by two German songwriters that had become "alien property" during World War II). His first rendition of "You Can't Be True, Dear" was released, on one of the small labels operated by CRS, as Broadcast 406 in October 1947. (The Broadcast label of the late 1940s and early 1950s has no connection with the 1970s operation that specialized in bootleg or sonically altered doowop reissues.)
However, Griffin was not under long-term contract to Broadcast, and didn't expect to see any money beyond the $165 he'd been paid for the 8-tune session (plus whatever he got for the follow-ups; Broadcast claimed to have 21 masters on him, making good on its assertion by eventually releasing every last one). So he brought a 6-cut demo to Rondo, which signed him to do another 8-tune session, covering some of the same pieces he'd already done at Chicago Recording Service. Legend has put the session on December 31, 1947, but we aren't buying that. Griffin's first six instrumental releases on Rondo carry matrix numbers from Universal Recording, and the U900s (see our Vitacoustic page) date to September 1947. In other words, Griffin most likely cut for Rondo before his first Broadcast 78 had even been released. And, as we will see below, he'd cut his demo in a studio session before his outing for Broadcast.
Griffin launched his Rondo career with a strange pair of singles: Rondo 128, his original instrumental recording, and Rondo 228, a souped-up version of "You Can't Be True, Dear," featuring crooner Jerry Wayne, who had been handed some lyrics hastily jotted in English so he could dub them over the instrumental. In fact, 228 seems to have been released in March 1948—in advance of 128. It further appears that Griffin signed a two-year contract around the time that Rondo 228 was released.
In any event, the vocal and instrumental renditions sold smartly, and both sides of 128 shot way up the pop charts. Ken Griffin collector Bryon Young has said of Rondo 128, "This record was probably heard by every American alive during the 1950s, since it was a staple in the carnival/fair/amusement park 'merry-go-round' repertoire, as well as roller skating and ice skating rinks."
So Rondo 128 and 228 stepped, hard, on Broadcast 460. Adding to the insult, Julius Bard and Dave Dreyer, who had fitted those lyrics in English to "You Can't Be True," started a music publisher called Biltmore, copyrighted the tune with the new words, then sent Broadcast a telegram demanding payment of all the publisher royalties on "You Can't Be True." When Broadcast refused to pony up, Rondo filed suit.
Rondo promptly released two more records from Griffin's first session, as 129 and 130. Now what? The second Petrillo ban was on, and Griffin was a member of the Musicians Union. Rondo bought a little time with Elmer Ihrke playing medleys of hymns, on Rondo 131, 132, 133. These, of course, had also been recorded during the previous year.
In June 1948, Rondo took out an ad in Billboard to promote two of its next three Ken Griffin releases: 135 and 137. We assume that 134 came out a little earlier. An advertisement that same month from Kuras Furniture store in Ludington, Michigan (on the eastern shore of the lake, at the other end of what was then a busy car and rail ferry running from Manitowoc) suggests seven Rondos—four Ken Griffin releases and three Rudy Plocars—as Father's Day presents.
Rondo 134 and 135, had a, well, interesting origin. Some copies of "Every Little Movement" (UB21347-M-R) carry the date July 21, 1948, in the trail-off shellac, but it has an R suffix, for "remastered," and the remastering obviously took place when 134 and 135 were being prepared for release. The original matrix numbers from United Broadcasting, which range from UB21347 to UB21352, point to recording date in June 1947, before either the Broadcast or the Rondo "You Can't Be True, Dear." By way of corroboration, the sound of the instrument is different.
There is a tiny bit of studio ambience on "Polka Pops" and its session mates, suggesting the organ was being recorded through a microphone. By the time he took up with Rondo, Griffin had his instrument hooked up intravenously to the control board, a practice he would continue during his years with Columbia. The enhanced lack of definition is already noticeable on the Rondo "You Can't Be True, Dear."
Rondo 134 and 135, then, must be the demos that Griffin initially brought to Bard and Lany. The matrix numbers on them carry an M suffix, which probably stands for Master, the house brand established by Egmont Sonderling of United Broadcasting. He would use it in 1949 and 1950 to sell sides from companies that had recorded with him and failed to pay their bills.
With one more Griffin release, on Rondo 137, the stash from Universal Recording was exhausted.
Rondo was now in a bit of a spot. The company had a huge hit. Griffin's records were flying out the door and he could reel off tune after tune in the studio. But the second Petrillo recording ban was being enforced with some vigor in Chicago. Rondo had used up the 12 sides at its disposal. To make matters worse, its competitor Broadcast, now itching for revenge, actually had more Griffin masters on hand than Rondo did.
And Rondo couldn't expect much help from its polka offerings. The company still had a few of his masters in the vault, but the top draw in the 550 series, Rudy Plocar, had been lured away by Mercury.
Rondo temporized by dubbing vocals on top of more instrumentals that it had previously issued (singers didn't have to join the Union). Between Rondo 137 and Rondo 183, there were all of seven Ken Griffin sides: six vocal retreads and one solitary instrumental. The instrumental, Griffin's original tune "Bumble Bee on a Bender," was apparently the last usable side from his demo session; it appeared on Rondo 146. (Rondo picked up an old sweet-band side by Lang Thompson, originally from Eli Oberstein's original Varsity label, to serve as a coupling for "Bumble Bee." See below for more about the track that started out with Eli Oberstein and ultimately returned to him, after sale upon resale.)
The company also re-pressed Rondo 124 by Cosmo Teri, put it together with reissues (on Rondo 140 and 141) of four sides that Elmer Ihrke had recorded in September and October 1946, and bundled them up as a 3-pocketed album titled Merry Christmas Melodies (Rondo R-1004).
But Rondo had to start calling up other musicians to fill up its 100 series. All of a sudden, there were a whole bunch of Rondo 100s not featuring the organ.
Julius Bard took off to Europe at the end of June, looking for partners to distribute Ken Griffin records. Returning Stateside at the end of August, Bard announced that he had signed a deal with Pacific, a French company headquartered in Paris, and that a deal with an unnamed Italian company was in the works. From Pacific, Rondo had licensed 15 masters by Armand Bernard, who led a chamber orchestra (Billboard, September 4, 1948, p. 17). We are not sure whether Rondo put out some of the Bernard sides in 1948, or waited until 1951, when it assembled 8 of them into a 10-inch LP. 1948 releases seem more likely; we just need to find some actual records. We also don't know what Pacific did with Ken Griffin; all we know of is polka sides by Fr. Przybylski.
In August 1948, Rondo tried a modest reclamation project, as its once-celebrated competitor Vitacoustic, already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, slid toward liquidation. On August 21, 1948, Billboard reported that Vitacoustic was trying to placate its creditors by selling off blocks of unissued masters. The only items to change hands, however, were two sides by crooner Jack Carroll, submerged in a hulking, string-laden studio band led by one Bill McCrae.
Vitacoustic had cut these at Universal Recording in September 1947, but just two sides from the 8-tune session had seen release. "Sleepy Town" was written by Maurice Murray, Vitacoustic's recording director at the time, and Fred Rose, of Acuff-Rose, the Country music publisher. Murray and Rose bought the master, along with "Time to Dream" for a B side. Although this Billboard story didn't mention where they planned to take the record, in a little while Murray and Rose persuaded Bard and Lany to release it, on Rondo 160. On September 4, 1948 (p. 17), Billboard announced that Rondo had taken over the "peddling" on the Carroll sides.
Rondo 160 apparently came out in October 1948; there was some kind of production trouble with "Sleepy Town," which was remastered by Egmont Sonderling's Master Records and carries the date "10-19" in the trailoff vinyl. The Hollywood strings and, umm, soporific vocals on the Carroll record failed to excite Rondo's base, and the record soon fell out of the catalogue. Rondo passed on further offerings from Vitacoustic, which was ordered liquidated on October 23, 1948, followed by an unsuccessful attempt, on April 28, 1949, to auction off most of its remaining masters,
Don Pablo's Orchestra, a Latin band out of Detroit, was responsible for 12 singles, all slotted in between Rondo 145 and 178. Don Pablo's lineup was 10 or 11 pieces, with 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, 4 saxes, piano, bass, and Latin percussion. Alongside the obvious titles like "Maria Elena" and "La Rosita," Don Pablo catered to more regional tastes with titles like "Red Wing" and "Mercury Waltz." Bets were also hedged by featuring both a Latin singer and a pop singer (Bunny Paul, who would go on to make a few sides for RCA Victor in the early 1950s). The Don Pablos were cut in Detroit. According to the story in Billboard (September 4, 1948, p. 17), they had been recorded for a little company called Vargo, out of Owosso, Michigan; indeed, the Rondos that we have seen carry matrix numbers from a foreign series, and some of the Rondo titles would be reissued by Vargo later. Vargo maintained a subsidiary called Latin American, which had released a few Don Pablo singles in 1947 (though, as far as we know, none of the sides that Rondo picked up had appeared on the parent label yet). We presume the deal with Rondo was made on the strength of what had suddenly become superior distribution.
Also included in the Vargo deal were sides by the Westerners, whose genre should be obvious, by the similarly situated Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers, and by a vocal group called the Four Dukes. We know for sure that the Charlie Jones and Four Dukes items had originally appeared on the Vargo label. Although Jones made his reissue debut with Rondo 152, a nice Western Swing offering, following up with another on Rondo 165, and probably getting several more releases into the catalogue, only his series of square dance records, Rondo 168, 169, and 170, rated a listing on the Rondo sleeves. We've found one single so far (Rondo 149) by Oklahoma & The Westerners, to give their full name. It also carries "foreign" matrix numbers. There may have been others, still to be traced. Reportedly 11 sides by the Dukes were in the transaction (these were in a different matrix series from anything we have seen on the Don Pablos), and at least four were released. The Dukes were a Irish-flavored barbershop quartet; Rondo touted their rendition of "Paddy Murphy's Wake."
From sources not yet identified the company picked up a third Country act, Elton Adams and His Blue Ridge Mountaineers, and some sides by a Country singer named Betty Norman, whose release on Rondo 164 included "I'm Headin' for a Shotgun Weddin'."
As soon as it was safe, Rondo booked studio time to record more Ken Griffin. Judging from an article in Billboard, on Chicago labels' reactions after the official lifting of the recording ban on December 13, 1948, Rondo was walking on eggshells around the Union. "J. F. Bard, of Rondo, and Dick Bradley, of Tower, both reported that they have no sessions arranged yet, but will make a thoro study of study of current tunes and their artist rosters before proceeding into a recording studio" (December 25, 1948, p. 18). Well, for Rondo no thoro study (if we adopt Colonel McCormick's spelling) was necessary. Recording Ken Griffin was Job 1, Job 2, Job 3, and several more down the list. So he made a United Broadcasting session, in that helpfully ambiguous 9000 series, either in late 1948 or early 1949 (we have seen matrix numbers running from UB9286 to UB9289). If done in 1948, it was followed by a cooling off period, as nothing saw release until March 1949. (The same Billboard piece carried statements from Universal Recording and United Broadcasting about the sessions they had scheduled over the next month. Not a word, of course, about any they'd already conducted.)
There were loud sighs of relief in Rondoland as 9 new Ken Griffin singles poured out, one each month from March through December 1949: Rondo 188, 189, 186, 187, 192, 196, 197, 183, and 198. (The items are listed in this order on the 1950 sleeves, probably on account of hitches in the release schedule.) And, yes, one of them was "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" (Rondo 197, with—what else?—"Skaters' Waltz" for a flip).
Several of the new ones would, in their turn, acquire Doppelgängers with vocals; the release number on the English-language vocal version was normally the instrumental release number plus 100. Hence, Rondos 287, 292, 283, and 298 (for more on these, see Appendix C).
In the summer of 1949, Griffin had become such a draw that the company was able to put out its first LP on him, a 10-incher. Released when microgroove was a brand-new concept, Rondo RLP25 is plainly transitional in nature; it was initially sold in an extra-heavy paper sleeve with a foldover flap, and the labels were the same diameter as on the 78s, leaving an awful lot of trail-off vinyl.
RLP25 was soon joined by RLP26, consisting of Elmer Ihrke playing Christmas carols, and RLP27, consisting of 8 more Griffin tracks. These still carried the petite labels, but were packaged in cardboard jackets from the git-go. By the end of the year, Rondo had five LPs out. But Elmer Ihrke couldn't have been too pleased to discover a sudden lacak of promotion behind RLP26, because the company had had Ken Griffin record his own batch of Christmas songs, which were put in a 3-pocket album (Rondo R-1010) and on a corresponding LP (RLP-1010) in time for Christmas 1949. Compounding the insult was the use of chimes and celeste to reinforce most of the pieces. Even though Ihrke records remained in the catalogue, and the company eventually released other LPs on him, RLP26 was allowed to go out of print; nearly all of Rondo's other LPs remained on the market until the company was sold. Another holiday offering for 1949 was Ken Griffin's pairing (on Rondo 206) of "Star of the East" with a drearily sung number called "Our Christmas Waltz." This didn't do so well; Rondo 206 was soon dropped from the company's promotional material, copies are uncommon today—and neither side was picked up for any of Rondo's many Ken Griffin collections.
Around the same time, the company started putting its new singles as well as some old ones—all of Ken Griffin's back catalog and part of Elmer Ihrke's—out on 45 rpm. The early 45s carry new matrix numbers from RCA Victor, a logical choice given its role in promoting the format and its offer of mastering and pressing at introductory rates. In 1950, Rudy Plocar's back catalogue was reissued on 45s.
After a while (there is some question as to the date that Rondo went with these), the 45-rpm singles were joined by a series of 17 45-rpm EPs, each with 4 selections by Ken Griffin (an 18th EP featured Elmer Ihrke). No one else got this EP treatment. Meanwhile, Griffin eventually had 6 10-inch LPs out on Rondo, and Ihrke had 2 1/2.
A look at the covers to the Griffin LPs (the first six can be seen at http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/LPs10.htm) shows how Rondo, um, economized on art work. RLP-34 used the same cover design as RLP-25, in red and brown instead of yellow and green; the same composite photo of Griffin and his instrument was also employed, in black and white, in the liner to his 78-rpm album of Christmas songs. The RLP-25 design was reused, in its turn, for most of the EP sleeves (the one exception, EPR-10, appears to have taken its cover design off the front of the same 3-pocket 78 album of Christmas music). RLP-34 and RLP-38 repeated the design of RLP-27, 34 in a deeper shade of blue and 38 in red. For Griffin's valedictory offerings, RLP-43 and 44, the company actually sprang for new cover art printed in 4 colors—not that it set the company back a whole lot.
After the company was sold, the Rondo LPs were retired, and Griffin reissues on 12-inch Rondo-lette LPs took their place. But the EP line was still being offered in 1955, after Rondo had changed hands. Some 78s were also still being pressed for the new company.
In 1949, Rondo also embarked on some further Country recording. The first band to be signed wasDusty Rivers and the Rangers. By the end the year, Rivers and the Rangers had two singles out on Rondo. Rondo 250 and 251 carried UB numbers for a recording session back in May 1949. Dusty Rivers was obviously a stage name; an item in Billboard (May 13, 1950, p. 124) would identify him as a disc jockey whose band had recently moved to KWBU in Corpus Christi, Texas, after a stint at WSIP in Paintsville, Kentucky (a much shorter drive from Chicago). "Personnel includes Oscar Ball, mandolin; Speedy Ross, take-off [i.e., lead guitar] and vocals; Herby Dooley, steel; Jess Estepp, bass; and the leader's rhythm. They have cut 12 sides for Melco, a new Houston label." Melco was actually based in Corpus Christi, and would release at least two singles by the band. "Wheelwright Boogie" is a strong proto-rockabilly number with string-popping bass by Estepp and strong guitar work by Ross and Dooley.
A followup by Rivers and the Rangers wouldn't have been a bad idea, but this may have been precluded by their move to Texas. Although 250 was out of order in the 100 series (Rondo would not get to 249 till 1951), it looks as though the company was trying a 250 Country series. This grew to include a single by Jesse Rogers (Rondo 252, reissued from Sonora), and a couple of other 1949 releases (such as 255 by Dick Brown). It does not seem to have gone any further.
The October 29, 1949 issue of Billboard announced (p. 15) that Rondo, which was now running its own distributor in New York City, was planning a series of German and Swiss records acquired from "a foreign source." An album of Hawaiian music had been picked up from "Chrome Seal, local label catering to industrial music users." This was a reference to RLP-30, by the Hawaiian Harmony Quartet.
The same issue, partly repeating an item from October 15, announced that Rondo had signed Bernie Roberts' "Wisconsin polka crew," which had previously recorded for Pfau Records in Milwaukee, and had scored some sales in Wisconsin and Minnesota. This was a moderately big deal, because with the exception of a farewell session for Alicja Kusek and Fr. Przybylski, there'd been no new polka band recording since the second Petrillo band was lifted. Supposedly two singles by Roberts would be out "in a week." These were Rondo 607 and 608.
Bernie Robertsplayed the accordion and led a German-style band. He was born Bernard Robert Feilbach, in Milwaukee on August 16, 1921. He picked up the accordion at 15 and was soon playing at parties. In 1940, he joined a quartet called Shorty and the Rhythm Ramblers, then, as it lost personnel to the draft, played for other bands in the area. The first Bernie Roberts Orchestra was formed in 1943; it soon included two of his brothers and two of his sisters. His sister Blondie played first trumpet and often got her own billing in advertising for the band's apperances. Roberts' 1949 recordings for Pfau were his first.
Roberts probably stayed with Rondo for a year. On "Jolly Musicians Polka" and "Juneau Park Schottische," the Jolly musicians oompah robustly, with three trumpets and a prominently recorded tuba. The lead instrument, which gets some solo responsibilities, is Roberts' accordion, and piano, banjo, and drums round out the rhythm section. After his contract with Rondo expired, Roberts signed with Decca, which released a new version of "Jolly Musicians' Polka" with a brief vocal in English (Billboard, June 16, 1951, p. 45). But Decca didn't keep him for more than a year, either, so Roberts came back to Rondo in 1952. The company would put out at least two further releases on him, Rondo 625 and 643; 643 probably brought an end to the 550 series.
In January 1949, Rondo had bought at least 6 sides by Pete Ochs, who led a somewhat larger German-style band and, for many years, ran a music store in Milwaukee. The matrix numbers on Rondo 599 are not from any of Rondo's main series; most probably the tracks were recorded in Milwaukee, either for a very small company called Tell Records, or for a somewhat larger company called Chord. The immediate occasion was the music business' mini-frenzy over the polka-beat drinking song "More Beer!"; Ochs had apparently just recorded it for Tell. Rondo had already souped up a version of "More Beer!" on Rondo 600 by dubbing the vocals of Jolly Franzl and the Payson Sisters onto an edited master of Rudy Plocar's "Beer Bucket Polka" (Rondo 589), but wasn't adverse to offering another if, in the language used by Billboard in those days, it might draw coin. From 1949 through 1951, Ochs recorded a bunch more 78s that did get released on the Tell label; in June 1950 he became a jukebox sales representative for that company, which also did some distribution. In 1952, he would make his last studio recording, a single for Pfau (despite not being a whole lot bigger than Tell, Pfau would stay in business until 1957 at least).
Rondo took its new foreign-language ventures quite seriously: on Rondo 328, "You Can't Be True, Dear" was reverse-engineered with overdubbed vocals in the original German, while Rondo 428 had a vocal overdubbed in Polish. By 1952, Rondo would even be offering German dance instruction records.
Somewhere around this time, Rondo singles started being pressed and distributed in Canada. Most of the Canadian Rondos that have come to light are, inevitably, Ken Griffins, but Rondo 164 by Betty Norman and 250 by Dusty Rivers were released in Canada (though the Canadian operation changed Rivers' name to "Dustry"). For all we know, a great many more were in circulation at one time. We are not sure who Rondo's Canadian partner was. (Quality, a label that licensed much of its product from small labels in the USA such as Atlantic, is the best bet, because it is known to have put out 4 LPs by Ken Griffin.) The Canadian Rondos carried a clumsily transferred version of the original gold on maroon label design from 1946-1947, with a bite taken out of the logo above the center hole. The Canadian records did sport a striking color scheme, copper on midnight blue, but the labels have darkened with age, the copper-colored area scratches easily, and they don't usually photograph well.
In the Fall of 1949, Rondo changed the lettering and background to its logo, going from 5 wavy lines, which suggested a musical staff, to 6 wavy lines. The change was occasioned by the company's move to 45s, on which the old logo wouldn't fit gracefully; in tooling up. the lettering was also changed for the 45s, but not the 78s. When it opened in 1946, Rondo used a dark red label with gold print. Starting around the middle of 1947, Rondo labels had been a medium to dark red with silver print. In the middle of 1948, the company changed to a lighter, rather metallic red with silver print. The 6-line logo kept the basic scheme but went to a somewhat darker shade of red and reduced the silvered area, to just the word "Rondo" and the 6 lines. In addition, there are two known instances, from late 1949, of silver on black (see below). For its LPs, Rondo went with a 6-line silver on apple green label.
In July 1949, as it committed to LPs and 45s, Rondo definitively dumped shellac for exclusive pressing on "filled vinylite," as the Billboard item described it (July 2, 1949, p. 25). Rondo had had to deal with noisy shellac, especially during its first two years, so Bard and Lany presumably were pleased to be rid of it. We suspect they were already doing some pressing on plastic in 1948. A few of Rondo's releases from 1949 through 1952 were done up on red or purple vinyl, some transparent and some opaque. The opaque red and purple vinyl are particularly striking, though the plastic was soft and easily scuffed, and such Rondos have often deteriorated over the years.
From its rudimentary days in the summer of 1946 through the fall of1949 Rondo had a strong preference for United Broadcasting Studio as a recording venue. There are UB 2000s from 1946, many UB 21000s and 22000s from 1947, a fair number of UB9000s and 9-1000s from 1949, even some UB50-000s from 1950. Rondo also did a little overdubbing at United Broadcasting on top of masters cut elsewhere, in a UB8000 series. During 1946, Rondo also employed a studio that was long a mystery to us, despite its employment by several small Chicago labels. But from the evidence provided by pianist Max Miller, who booked it for private sessions and made his Gold Seal sides there, we've concluded that the venue with the 1000 matrix number series was the Bachman studio on Carmen Avenue. Rondo used it for the Misses Noller and Straub, for Marsh McCurdy, for Jimmy Blade, for Elmer Ihrke (his first and second sessions, maybe for more), and for Lil Mason.
In 1947 Ken Griffin's first session for the label took place at Universal Recording, and a couple of Elmer Ihrke's were done there as well. But Rondo didn't develop a lasting relationship with Universal.
In the summer of 1949, the company moved most of its Ken Griffin sessions over to the RCA Victor Studios, indeed, transferred a lot of its actitivity there for the next six months. It was already relying heavily on RCA to master and press some items previously recorded elsewhere. RCA had introduced the 45 rpm single in April 1949, with the rollout completed by October of that year; in the early going, smaller companies relied on RCA to manufacture their 45s—and benefited from the promotion RCA initially gave to any that it pressed. Rondo was one of the first independent labels to adopt the 45. The first Rondo 45s, which came out in January 1950, carried matrix numbers in the D9-CX series, indicating that the 45 mastering was done toward the end of 1949. Rondo 78s recorded in 1949 carry matrix numbers in the D9-CB series from RCA; a few items previously recorded at United Broadcasting also carry D9-CB numbers because they were mastered and pressed by RCA.
Where the company was working during the next couple of years is hard to know Some E0-CB series matrix numbers for RCA Victor in 1950 have been spotted on 78s, and lots of E0-CX's can be seen on the 45s that came out that year. But many of the newly issued Rondos from 1950 through 1953 were purely A and B, leaving the matrix numbers off both labels and vinyl.
Still, we've seen some indications that as the label was winding down, it entrusted a little work to Edwin M. Webb's Modern Recording Studio. A German dance record from Maxham's Folk Orchestra (a fancy name, for an ensemble of violin, piano, and string bass) shows MR 49791 and MR 49792 in the trail-off area. Work order 4979 at MRS dates the session to May 1952 (for the dates, see our JOB page; Joe Brown of JOB relied heavily on Modern Recording between 1949 and the fall of 1952).
Rondo splurged on a full-page ad in the January 21, 1950 issue of Billboard, boasting that the company had sold 6 million Ken Griffin records. The advert promoted his new releases on Rondo 213 and 214. "My Blue Heaven," on the B side of 213, horned in on Kenny Jagger's act: on this one occasion, Griffin played piano with one hand and organ with the other. Griffin had recently put out 191 and 199, and would soon follow with Rondo 221 and 222. Rondo 421 was another overdubbed vocal record, now skipping 200 places in the numbering. Up to this point, Griffin had brought the company 22 instrumental singles, and 10 more with vocals laid on.
Maybe Bard and Lany shouldn't have been drawing so much attention to those sales figures right before their go-to artist's contract expired. Before they knew it, he was entertaining offers from Mercury and Columbia.
Columbia must have made the best offer. Ken Griffin signed on the dotted line and went right to work on "Easter Parade" (matrix number CCO5147, done in the major label's Chicago studio in March 1950). He would spend the rest of his career with Columbia, recording prolifically in its Chicago and, occasionally, in its New York studios. Prolifically—from 5 years spent recording him 2 or 3 times a year, it would put out 65 singles on him, plus a slew of 10-inch LPs. Griffin must also have landed a new sponsorship deal; some of his Columbia releases identify his instrument as a Wurlitzer. For a time, he even had his own TV show in Chicago, 67 Melody Lane. Unfortunately, his health didn't hold up. In 1955, Griffin suffered a heart attack while touring, and was hospitalized in Spokane, Washington for a time. On March 11, 1956, he had a second heart attack, and died a few hours later in Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was only 46 years old.
On April 1, 1950, Rondo moved into new offices at 220 West Locust Street. The building also housed the J. F. Bard Company, which of course was Rondo's distributor for the Chicago territory.
After Ken Griffin decamped to Columbia, Rondo sustained itself by mining his extensive back catalogue. But efforts to diversify continued for a while. The company picked up Martha Lou Harp, a young pop singer whose nightclub debut had taken place at Cafe Society in New York City (show on August 17, reviewed by Bill Simon, Billboard, September 8, 1949, p. 38; Simon praised her "rich set of pipes," but thought she needed something besides run-of-the-mill pop material to shine—and Rondo didn't take his advice). Nick Lany went off to Europe, looking for business partners for Rondo. He made deals with Selmer in France, Disco-Trade in Belgium, and Heimbrodt in Switzerland (Billboard, May 20, 1950, p. 14), though one wonders how many Rondos were actually pressed and distributed in these countries. The same article announced that Rondo had signed "Danny Alvin, the vet Dixieland drummer and his band" (see below for more about Alvin's one session for the label). Other additions included "the Song-Smiths, Harmony Trio, and Charley Agnew's small dance band." Agnew, whose first name was more often spelled Charlie, had been leading sweet bands in Chicago since 1924, and had made records in the past for RCA Victor and Columbia. We have found two Rondo releases by the Songsmiths accompanied by Agnew's orchestra.
And the label announced that it had signed two new organists: Arsene Siegel and Tommy Fairclow. The company got right down to work, recording both of them at United Broadcasting in April 1950. How many releases Arsene Siegel got we don't know, but it appears that 4 of his sides were included in a 10-inch LP during the company's waning days. Siegel was half French and half German. Born in Lyon, France, he was originally trained as a pianist. He immigrated to the United States, studying music in Chicago and playing the organ in silent movie theaters, and became a citizen in 1926. He played the organ in several of the big theaters in Chicago, also spending some years in Detroit. When Rondo signed him, he was in residence at the Chicago Theater. Though he played pop tunes nightly and allegedly had more than 1000 of them in his active repertoire, Siegel was a very different kind of organist from Ken Griffin: he favored the mighty Wurlitzer, with its wide array of sounds, and in the 1940s he published several Classical compositions for organ, piano, or alto saxophone. In 1955, Siegel, who by then was working for radio station WBKB, recorded a 12-inch LP for a local hi-fi label, Replica Records out of Des Plaines, Illinois. The label's proprietor, Bill Huck, had built a studio in his garage, then acquired two used Wurlitzer theater organs, taken them apart, and recombined them into one monster instrument. The spacious recording Siegel got on Replica 513 bore little resemblance to the direct-to-the-board sound that Griffin favored. Another Bill Huck recording, Replica 201 (also from 1955), included three of Siegel's compositions. "Pasquinade," a 6-minute piece from 1946 for alto saxophone and piano, was performed by Michael Mangus and Rudy Wagner. Wagner also played the Scriabinesque "Mirage," a 1944 composition for solo piano. Finally, the piano duo of Vincent Micari and Vera Gillette performed the 10-minute four-movement Windy City Suite from 1946. A little later, Siegel made at least one single for the eccentric Fortune operation out of Detroit.
Rondos by Tommy Fairclow are a little easier to find. What was probably his first release, on Rondo 232, was reviewed in Billboard on August 19 of that year (p. 35). Of "Beautiful Ohio," the reviewer's blunt assessment was "Fairclow apparently represents Rondo's bid to build another Ken Griffin. Guy has the same feel for time and melody but hasn't the crisp phrasing of Griffin." "State Fair Polka" ("neatly punched out") got a somewhat more favorable treatment: "Could pick up coin in the Midwestern polka-schottische belt." The company stayed with Fairclow for nearly three years: Rondo 247 caught a review in Billboard on February 28, 1953 (p. 95). The take-away was more positive this time, but Fairclow couldn't shake his reputation as a replacement player: "an organ solo reminiscent of the work which Ken Griffin used to do for this same label. The market for this kind of wax is always there." Fairclow eventually shared a 10-inch LP (RLP 42) with Arsene Siegel.
Rondo actually reached its peak for output in July 1950, when it briefly branched off a 49 cent budget line called Rolin. Rolin debuted with three releases, one by the Max Gordon Trio, one by the Misses Noller and Straub, and one by the François Charpin Trio (Billboard, July 8, 1950, p. 15). While the others had been out on Rondo before, the Charpin single, consisting of two tunes from the movie The Third Man, had initially appeared in France on Selmer 521—Rondo was hoping to compete with big-selling renditions already out on London and other labels. Rolin would need its own distributor network; when launched, it had just J. F. Bard, for the territory around Chicago. We doubt that it ever acquired further distibutors, and so far as we know it would never add a fourth release. When inflation began to bite, and the majors upped the price on their singles from 79 to 85 cents in December 1950, Rondo made the same move—and cut Rolin. (See Billboard, December 23, 1950, p. 34.)
The same story covered Rondo's plans to release 10-inch LPs from masters obtained from Pacific, a label headquartered in Paris, "which the firm exchanged for distibution of Rondo masters abroad." (This wasn't new news, as Rondo and Pacific had been working together for more than 2 years. Maybe it was a way, rather, of saying that Selmer wasn't delivering as expected.) "First two feature Gabor Radics, gypsy orkster, currently in Buenos Aires [...] and also masters by Armand Bernard's semi-classical ork." A 10-inch LP by Radics was duly released as RLP-39; Bernard's, mostly consisting of Strauss waltzes, followed on RLP-40. In fact, Rondo had had its mitts on a bunch of Bernard sides since 1948. There may have been coordinated Rondo singles by these artists, though we have yet to spot them. Billboard further noted that Rondo had made Esquire its British distributor. Whether any British distribution ever took place is another matter (Rondo did release a single that had been recorded in England). This was the last story to mention any expansion projects.
The same issue of Billboard presented, as a quick item in its Detroit news, an announcement that Marguerite Colbert, a third organist newly signed to Rondo, had signed a personal management deal. The item (December 23, 1950, p. 17) refers to her new release on Rondo 241. She got at least one more, on Rondo 243; she did not end up getting an LP.
A sign of how things were starting to go was Rondo's decision to record a Chicago-based singer named Anne Covette, who was probably brought to the company by LeRoy High, the composer of the songs she sang. High paid for an ad in Billboard (December 9, 1950, p. 27) announcing her release (no number on it yet, but with "Cowboy's Santa Claus" as one of the sides, it must have been timed for Christmas). Rondo never advertised it in Billboard, and Billboard didn't review it.
On January 6, 1951, a story on the merger of two New York-based record distributors casually mentioned that the combined entity, Douglas-Bruce, would be handling Rondo (Billboard, January 13, 1951, p. 14). The "addition" of Bruce as a New York distributor had gotten its own casual mention in the story for May 20, 1950. Of course, this meant that Rondo had shut down its own New York office. The last of the Ken Griffins to get reviewed in the trade magazine was Rondo 223 ("Put Your Arms around Me Honey" b/w "Margie")—see Billboard for March 24, 1951 (p. 36). Rondo also put out 224, 225, and 227 on Griffin, with unknown release dates.
In May 1951, Rondo recorded at least one side by Bill Walker and his combo. (We say one side, because the flip, featuring a vocal group, has a matrix number that is not part of the United Broadcasting series. It may be from another source entirely, or may be the product of dubbing the vocals somewhere else over an instrumental track made at UB.) At the time, Walker, who was born in River Forest, Illinois, in 1917, was a staff musician for WGN, playing piano; he'd previously been with WIND, gotten one his songs ("Half a Heart") recorded by Ken Griffin for Rondo, and scored his own ultra-obscure session with Aristocrat. In 1951 he was also leading a band that played the Pump Room at the Ambassador Hotel, plus a few country club dances. Walker was never dependent on commercial recordings for income. On leaving WGN, he went into producing music for commercials, becoming an extremely successful composer of jingles. Some of his music for commercials and promotional films was so well-regarded that it was released on a couple of LPs.
Another May 1951, Rondo 261 featured Chuck Cabot and his Orchestra. Chuck Cabot was born Carlos Guillermo Cascales in Querétaro, Mexica, on May 16, 2015. His family moved to the United States in 1919 and he grew up in Southern California, where he played on the USC football team alongside Jackie Robinson. He started his band in 1937, and kept it going on into the 1950s. The band was a big draw at its peak, but never relied much on commercial recordings; the only others we know of were done in 1944-1945 for the Los Angeles-based Atomic label and just from the titles were heavy on the schmaltz (though we do admit to curiosity about Atomic 1001A, "Psychopathic Sally from the San Fernando Valley").
Rondo 261 was the work of a pop big band; the only interesting point is that Johnny Richards (Juan Manuel Cascales, Chuck's older brother) was the arranger. Neither the tunes nor the vocalists have much to say for themselves.
The matrix numbers are from a CC series presumably controlled by Cabot himself, who we assume was based in Southern California at the time. We wonder how many other latter-day Rondos were likewise acquired from outside producers.
Around 1960, Chuck Cabot became a booking agent. His clients included The Coasters and the Rolling Stones (on their first West Coast tour). He died in Santa Monica, California on December 27, 2007. (See http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/latimes/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=100377200#fbLoggedOut)
Around this same time, the company picked up two sides by Jack Teter, a veteran musician who had enjoyed a surprise hit in 1949-1950. We really do mean veteran: Teter was the only Rondo artist to have recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, for Paramount/Broadway—the now fabled operation closed in 1932. And we do mean surprise. Based in Milwaukee since 1929, Teter had signed with James Martin's new Sharp label in April 1949, and scored a massive hit with his first release in 17 years, "Johnson Rag" (which had to become part of a reissue deal between Sharp and London to achieve sufficient distribution). After two years making jazzy or Western Swing-inflected renditions of 1920s songs with his trio, Teter became available when in April 1951 when his contract with Sharp expired. He apparently picked up with a minuscule Chicago-based label called Radiant that drew most of its talent from Wisconsin. Rondo acquired both sides of 290 from Radiant, a fact duly noted on the labels. We have not encountered a release of the Teter on Radiant, but it is one of the most poorly documented of all Chicago indies from the period (1950-1952). It's possible that Rondo bought the masters outright as part of a bigger package, or arranged some kind of swap: we do know that Radiant's roster of Wisconsin polka bands included Gene Heier's, and Heier masters could easily have traveled in either direction. Teter made just two further recording sessions after this outing, in 1952 and 1953. Both were for a microscopic Milwaukee-based company called Demo: two sides from 1952 would reissued on Chance and two from 1953 on Brunswick.
Some of Rondo's expansion projects had performed poorly. The Rolin subsidiary was stillborn (we have yet to see a Rolin 78 or 45 on the used market); despite the artistic value, it's doubtful that the company made a nickel off its 1550 series. One also wonders how much it pulled in from its Gabor Radics LP. Lots of Radics was out there for American labels to license; on April 26, 1952, Billboard announced (p. 26) that Savoy would be putting out 3 different 10-inch LPs by the Radics band. But Rondo hadn't taken on the huge commitments that abruptly crushed Vitacoustic and Sonora. The company just kept receding.
Rudy Plocar was back. A grateful company reissued all of his old sides and gave him two 10-inch LPs, but put out just 4 new recordings from him. Plocar's 1949 band still carried 5 horns, but the accordion heard on his November 1947 sessions was gone, and he had a new drummer given to employing cymbal crashes. "Chicago Polka" had an ensemble vocal in English. So far as we know, Rondo 611 and 612 from the 1949 session were his last singles, and just one of the four sides was selected for his second LP. The highest number we've spotted in the 550 series was 643, for another Bernie Roberts single. While polka releases continued, they became more and more obscure, and other material got mixed into the 550 series. Overall, the pace of new releases decelerated.
After 1950, Billboard no longer ran stories about Rondo (the company was downgraded to occasional mentions in record reviews, song charts, and stories about distributors.) Judging from a Rondo 78 sleeve that we have located, printed toward the end of 1951, the company was now putting its commercial focus on 10-inch LPs (see the list in Appendix D). A few of these featured material recently acquired, such as sides by Gabor Radics's Orchestra, or by the Harmony Hawaiian Quartet. But most were retrospective. By the end of 1951, Elmer Ihrke had been featured on three LPs (one shared with the Misses Noller and Straub), Rudy Plocar had released a second compilation, and Olive Mason (see below) had gotten in on the act. The company had no fewer than 20 LPs in circulation.
Two of the LPs, recorded toward the end of 1949 and released early in1950, came out on an instructional subsidiary called Accompadisc (for whose products Rondo charged higher prices). These were "music minus one" compilations of piano accompaniments for songs. Accompadisc ALP-1 consisted of light classical selections such as "Indian Love Song"; the pianist, H. B. Moss, had previously guested on celeste at a couple of Ken Griffin outings. ALP-2 was a much more serious affair: four lieder by Schubert and six by Brahms, with Alexander Kipnis producing. Rondo extended the concept to dance accompaniment records, though so far as we know these were never compiled on LPs. Begining in late 1951, Rondo repackaged some old material (Ken Griffin playing waltzes) with some new items (Maxham's Folk Orchestra demonstrating German dances) into a series of Rondo Folk Dance (RFD) singles. If all of these were released as planned, there were 10 RFDs.
After leaving Rondo, Elmer Ihrke would concentrate on teaching and on publishing music for the Hammond organ. A quick search at a used book site (http://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/Elmer%20Ihrke) will turn up a bunch of music collections for various models of Hammond organ, published between 1954 and 1961, with Elmer A. Ihrke credited as the arranger. Some of his arrangements were being republished in organ music anthologies well into the 1970s. Elmer Ihrke died in 1979.
When Rudy Plocar made his last sides for Rondo, the Wisconsin polka band scene had hit its commercial peak. Decline quickly set in. Plocar made 12 sides for the Polkaland label, then based in Sheboygan, in 1952 (a later date has been incorrectly attributed to these, because Polkaland went through a second wave of releases in 1955, then a third wave around 1960, and many of the Plocars were held till later). Four sides were made by a band that used just three horns (one trumpet, two trumpets doubling on clarinets), along with tuba and drums, and relied on a solo accordionist to fill out the sound. The other 8 used a lineup that Plocar was more accustomed to: two trumpets, one trumpet doubling clarinet and saxes, two clarinets doubling saxes, piano, tuba, and drums. These were his last studio recordings, though some airchecks also survive from the period.
Through 1953, though he was making noises about leaving two years earlier, Plocar's former employer Lawrence Duchow was still ensconced at RCA Victor; since the end of the war, his group had gradually grown in size, adopted a virtual Swing band sound with blended trumpet and sax sections, and added a crooner and a girl singer to do numbers in English (including the occasional novelty item). In 1954, Duchow was recording for the much smaller Potter label, headquartered in his home town, but he seems to have tolerated this reduction in circumstances for just one year. As rock and roll was gathering force, he disbanded. The last newspaper advertisements for the Duchow band ran in February 1955. Within a few months, various musicians were being identified in advertisements as former Red Ravens. Duchow eventually sold his band book and the rights to the Red Raven name. In September 1958, reconstituted Red Ravens were appearing under the leadership of one Les Palmer; the advertisement declared that Lawrence Duchow was on an "extended vacation." In 1960, the neo-Ravens were being led by Jay Wells. Moving to California, Lawrence Duchow started a successful supermarket coupon brokerage before his death in 1972.
Plocar's other ersthwile employer, Romy Gosz, was without a recording contract for a couple of years after Mercury dropped him. He returned to the studio for Bill Putnam's Universal label in 1949, and kept on recording into the 1960s, now for Polkaland and Potter.
Rondo did return to a couple of its other polka bands; both Gene Heier and Bernie Roberts got further releases in the 600 series, though without reliable indications of studio and date we are not sure how many of these sides were newly recorded.
Other material started getting folded in: Rondo 628, recorded by RCA Victor and mastered by Modern Recording Service shortly after President Truman relieved General MacArthur of his command in April 1951, featured drummer Booker T. Washington reciting a patriotic song by cornet player and jazz record store owner Seymour Schwartz. Schwartz had briefly operated his own record label in the last quarter of 1950, but it was on hiatus by this time. Washington did the number as a monologue over backing from a Dixieland band, which was billed only as the "Pacific Sextette." The other side was "America, I Love You," an instrumental on a patriotic theme by the harmonica-playing Mulcay family; this did double duty, also appearing on Rondo 624 with a flip by the Mulcays. Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay had been a Sonora act, but we have not yet found any reissues of their Sonora sides on Rondo. The Mulcays subsequently recorded for some small labels of their own.
Gene Heier, who by this time was playing country club dances, would also record for Radiant in 1952 (a really tiny operation, based in Chicago; it's possible that some of his Radiant sides ended up back with Rondo). He also recorded for the inevitable Polkaland. Gosz and Heier later made a joint appearance on an "all star" polka LP, done in Milwaukee for King Records for February 1963. The LP was produced very cheaply and featured cut-down versions of the different performers' signature tunes, but it gave Gosz and Heier an opportunity to work with polka stars from other regions such as Louis Bashell and Frankie Yankovic, along with several stalwarts of the Milwaukee scene. Romy Gosz died in 1966.
From 1954 through 1963, Bernie Roberts would record singles for another little label called Pageant, out of Juneau, Wisconsin; in 1961, some of these were collected on an LP. Further into the 1960s he made a couple more LPs for labels like Recard that sold them on late-night cable TV. In 1972, he disbanded. Bernie Roberts spent the next 27 years at race tracks in California, Colorado, and the Midwest, as a harness horse trainer, owner, and driver. He settled in Garden Grove, California, and died in Anaheim on October 5, 2004 (see the Bernie Roberts obituary at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.music.polkas/056fTiullpg).
Pete Ochs continued to lead his band, run his music store, and train youth bands, but he made no commercial recordings after 1952. When Ochs died in 1984, he was commemorated with a locally produced LP reissue of his Rondo, Tell, and Pfau sides—pointedly not including his rendition of "More Beer!". Alice Kusek remained on the scene, contributing several lead vocals in Polish and one in English to a 1964 LP by a Polish-style band from the Chicago area called the Hi-Notes.
While Rudy Plocar's bands kept working the familiar venues and he kept running the Shoto Gardens, in 1954 he lost some of his real estate in the Shoto area when it was sold at auction to satisfy a court judgment against him. It is said that he suffered disabling injuires in an auto accident; we suspect that this happened in late 1959, because by the end of that year he had given up his ownership interest in the Shoto Gardens, and from 1960 to 1964, the Manitowoc newspaper wouldn't give him a single mention. Plocar returned to a lesser degree of activity in the second half of the 1960s, but as the bars and taverns in Manitowoc increasingly booked rock and pop bands, it was often for other leaders. In 1970, his second wife Joni died, aged just 41. In 1971, Plocar made his last advertised appearance, as a featured player with another band. An era was ending: the Wayne Johnson band had formerly been led by the Doleysh Brothers, who, even more formerly, had played in Rudy Plocar's band. Rudy Plocar died on May 17, 1972, in the Veterans Administration hospital in Hines, Illinois, west of Chicago. He was buried in Manitowoc.
In 1952, Rondo made its last significant pickup when it signed a Country band known as Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers. Back in 1938, Tom C. "Stubby" Fouts (born in rural Indiana on November 24, 1918) dropped out of Central Indiana University and started a band. The Six Hoosiers landed a radio gig with WDAN in Danville, Illinois, which must not really have wanted to host Hoosiers; in 1940 the station held a contest to rename them. "Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers" brought some lucky contestant $100. The Danville gig lasted 18 months, whereupon the Buccaneers moved to a much larger station, WLW, out of Cincinnati, which for many years was a major venue for Country and Westeran artists. In 1944, the group joined the US Navy Entertainment Division. Returning from their overseas tours, the Buccaneers took up again with WLW. In 1949, the Buccaneers moved their base of operations to Chicago, where they appeared regularly on WLS, a station with a powerful signal then known as The Voice of the Prairie Farmer. The Buccaneers recorded for Majestic in 1946 and 1947. When Majestic folded in 1949, they signed with Decca. Rondo was able to acquire their services after the Decca contract lapsed.
The Buccaneers were celebrated for their broad comedy routines, which incorporated a tuned hat rack and a guitar made out of a toilet seat, amply supplemented with squeezehorns and such. Along with some standards and some mainstream Country numbers, they recorded novelty tunes like "Laff It Off" and "Terrible Terry the Termite." During the Majestic years, the novelties were featured; for Decca, the Buccaneers' records turned sappier, and the band began emphasizing religious numbers, some solemn and some humorous. The 5 of them were said to be able to play 15 different axes. Captain Stubby was known for singing in multiple registers, from a high falsetto to a basso profondo; he was also in charge of the novelty instruments. The group's other members during their affiliation with Rondo were Dwight E. "Tiny" Stokes (born November 11, 1920 in Springfield, Missouri; string bass, lead tenor vocal), John "Sonny" Fleming (guitar and banjo), Tony Walberg (accordion, piano), and Jerry Richards (clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, ocarina). During their tenure at WLS, the Buccaneers recorded a jingle for Roto-Rooter; millions of radio listeners and TV watchers would eventually hear Fouts intoning "Away go troubles down the drain," in the same cavernous basso he'd employed on such numbers as "Noah Was the Man" ("Oh, my good Lord, didn't it rain").
Captain Stubby and crew were responsible for at least four Rondo releases, numbered 299 through 302. We have heard Rondo 299 and 300, which came out in July 1952. Rondo wanted the Buccaneers to record sentimental songs, continuing the trend when the group was with Decca. Rondo 299 (which also got a Canadian release—now with a silver on dark blue label) paired "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" with (what else?) still another version of "You Can't Be True Dear." Tiny Stokes was entrusted with the sap. On Rondo 300, "Yearning" gets a little perkier than its flip, and the Captain works in a little hat-rack, but when the tempo picks up the singers pogo right on top of the beat. In September 1952, "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" was included in Billboard's chart of Top Ten Songs. Captain Stubby's version, on Rondo 299, was duly cited next to some better-known renditions. Ken Griffin's version on Columbia was one of many competitors with better distribution. On February 28, 1953, Billboard reviewed Rondo 301, still another Stubby offering. By now, it must have been clear that Captain Stubby wasn't going to be the big seller Rondo was hoping for.
According to Bill Daniels, Rondo 303 struggled out the door in April 1953. We wonder (not having seen a copy) whether that, too, was a Captain Stubby. That same month, the company revealed that it still had a pulse; Rondo was included in the roster of labels handled by Diamond Record Distributing Company in Los Angeles (Billboard, April 11, 1953, p. 142). By September or October 1953, their contract with Rondo evidently having run out, Stubby and the Buccaneers had moved off to Mercury, recording one single of their own and backing a pop vocalist named Lola Dee on another.
Rondo signed at least one more artist, a flashy pianist named Ronnie Orland. Evidently, he was expected to occupy the niche once held by Jimmy Blade and later by Olive Mason. For some reason, copies of Orland's single on Rondo 304, "Blind Mice BoogIe" b/w "Ronnie's Boogie," have turned up in Japan. Orland played solo and had a load of technique but from his playing on Rondo 307, his only single that we have managed to locate, he cannot be described as a jazz artist. A sign that Rondo was winding down: after 7 years of red labels with designated A and B sides, Rondo 304 and 307 sport a blue label with designated 1 and 2 sides (well, a designated 3 side on 307, but we take that for a misprint). A third Orland single, "Jean" b/w "Hawaiian War Chant Boogie," has been reported, but we still need details on it.
We figure that the last Rondo in the main 100 series carried a release number in the low 300s. Rondo 305, a polka-flavored pop outing by Carmen Vincent and his Orchestra, also carried the 1 and 2 side designations. As did Rondo 309, by an organist (and Selmer Clavioline player) named Bob Kames, which has the highest release number we have seen so far. Meanwhile, the last 550-series Rondo that we have spotted, Rondo 643 by Bernie Roberts, also designated the sides as 1 and 2.
For 18 months, not a peep was heard in the pages of Billboard. Finally on November 27, 1954 came the obituary; the trade paper announced that the company had been sold. Julius F. Bard was no longer in the picture; the Billboard article (from the December 4 issue) reporting the transaction referred exclusively to Nick Lany. The deal didn't come out of the blue; Lany told the magazine that he had notified Rondo's distributors several weeks earlier.
It was the Griffin catalogue that enabled the company to limp along after he left, then found it a buyer. Record Corporation of America had gotten its start by engulfing and devouring a big chunk of Sonora; now it was absorbing the entirety of Rondo (except for such leased items as the Don Pablos, which returned to their original owners; some of the Don Pablos would reappear on Latin American, which stayed active into the 1950s). The Eli Oberstein Rondo would keep Griffin's EPs on the list and recycle a bunch more of his music on new 12-inch Rondo-lette LPs. Rondo 10-inch LPs that Oberstein thought he could make a few dollars on were recycled with new numbers on his Royale imprint: for instance, Royale 18110 used the same master as Rondo's Gabor Radics offering, with RLP-39 crossed out in the trail-off vinyl on each side. But would anyone have bought a record company for Max Gordon's back catalogue?
The Buccaneers remained in Chicago after Rondo was sold. They lasted just one year with Mercury, but enventually got the call to record a 12-inch LP of polkas and another of square dances for Columbia. In 1959, the Buccaneers would cut a well-known rendition of the Chicago White Sox fight song. Fouts, Stokes, and Richards worked with different guitarists and accordion players through the late 1960s, and Fouts continued in radio and TV into the 1970s. Tiny Stokes died on January 12, 1999, and Tom Fouts, after making a valedictory Roto-Rooter commercial, on May 26, 2004.
Barely visible, amid all of this swell and subsidence, was a second entry into the rhythm and blues market. In February 1949, Rondo relaunched the 1550 series. Rondo 1557 and 1558 were newly recorded for the company in Chicago. The others were reissues. In October 1948, Rondo bought 80 masters from the defunct Sonora label (Billboard, October 23, 1948, p. 41), including the sides used on Rondo 1553 through 1556. Though no releases came out of it until early in the next year, the Sonora deal is best understood as one of the company's efforts to expand its artist roster and find releasable masters during the second Petrillo recording ban.
Sonora was one of the larger independents in the postwar era. Not a startup, but a division of Sonora Radio and Television Corporation, which in some form had been around since 1900, it opened for business in August 1942; its headquarters were initially in Chicago's Merchandise Mart, moving in September 1943 to 325 North Hoyne Street. Until November 1943, when the American Federation of Musicians began making new contracts with record companies, it was restricted to reissuing previously recorded masters. Even after starting to make its own recordings, in February 1944, it was an album-only operation until October 1945. And while the company's headquarters were in Chicago, its pressing plant complex was located in Meriden, Connecticut, and the bulk of its recording was done in New York City. Only after making the jump into the singles market would Sonora make any recordings that would be of interest to an outfit like Rondo.
On October 20, 1945, Billboard announced that "Sonora Yens Pops, Too." "Up to now confined to albums, Sonora aims to take full advantage of its radio and tele backing and make a play for single-disk selling" (p. 20). The 3000 pop series was launched in November 1945 with a Christmas record by Dick Todd and Mark Warnow, and the H 7000 Hillbilly series started out with a single by Fred Kirby, who broadcast regularly over station WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sonora's peak year for recording was 1946, when it cut more than 300 masters. In the Fall of 1946, Sonora began signing rhythm and blues artists for its new 100 series. The company continued at a slightly slower pace from January through May 1947, cutting somewhere over 100 more sides, but abruptly quit recording after that. How much profit Sonora was making in 1946 we don't know; it was competing on price, offering its 10-inch 78s at 50 or 53 cents each, when the industry standard was 79 cents.
In January 1947, Sonora announced that it would be rolling out new budget lines, to be priced at 39 cents. Such plans were met with incedulity from competitors; prevailing opinion in the industry was that Sonora's cost structure wouldn't allow it to make money on such releases. Nonetheless, in February, Sonora rolled out a budget pop series (the 2000s), along with a budget R&B series (the 500s) and a budget Country series (the H 6000s). The 500s and H 6000s were folded up after two releases each, but the company kept the 2000 series going for several months. The budget series took the existing Sonoran label design (gold print on a burgundy background) and substituted a black background.
The black-label releases probably weren't making any money for the company. And the pop series relied heavily on sweet bands, in a year (1947) when big bands of every type were being shut down. Even worse, the company was experiencing labor problems at Reko-Plastik, another pressing plant in Meriden that the company had acquired in November 1946. In May 1947, the company offered the pressing plant workers 20% raises that it obviously couldn't cover; in short order, it raised retail prices on both red and black-label singles, wound up its black-label series altogether, stopped booking recording sessions, and scheduled vacations for so many workers that its pressing plants stopped running during the summer. Sonora's last two album releases came out in mid-October; by the end of November, Billboard was quoting bandleaders who had left Sonora for other companies. In February 1948, Sonora made a last, feeble effort to test-market a single, from an album it could no longer afford to release; by May 1948, the record company was officially defunct, its pressing plants under the control of Eli Oberstein, and its masters in the hands of two former executives, Milt Benjamin and Marie Reubens.
Sonora reorganized in 1949 and limped on for a few more years, selling radio and TV sets and staying as far away as possible from the music business. The company went under for the last time in 1957.
Meanwhile, three companies ended up taking over Sonoran masters: Varsity, Savoy, and Rondo.
Of the vulture companies, Varsity was the most important, because it got Reko-Plastik along the masters. Varsity was owned by Eli Oberstein, who had worked for RCA Victor in the 1930s, left to start his own Varsity label in 1939, then shut it down in 1941 as World War II loomed, apparently dealing both masters and shellac allotments (under wartime rationing) to Sonora, among other companies. When recording resumed, he returned to RCA Victor, but still harbored ambitions to run his own company. In July 1948, he resurrected Varsity, now headquartered in Meriden, Connecticut. He bought 250 Sonoran masters and reissued them on Varsity for 39 cents a record. He also remaindered unsold Sonora albums and released Varsity versions with the same cover art and album numbers. At leat 50 sides released on Varsity 78-rpm singles were of Sonoran origin; when 10-inch LPs came in, Oberstein recycled the Sonora albums as cheap LPs on his Royale label, later on his Allegro label.
In August 1948, Herman Lubinsky, proprietor of Savoy and recent acquirer of Regent, announced that he, too, had bought a large number of Sonoran masters. Over time, labels controlled by Lubinsky would reissue material by the inevitable Bob Stanley, as well as a Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay album, and a collection by Joe Biviano. But Sonora's H 7000 Country series artists would not have interested Lubinsky. And here's a puzzle: Although Savoy was a major player in the jazz market, and a moderately significant R&B contributor, Lubinsky either wasn't offered most of Sonora's jazz and R&B masters—or he passed on them.
An August 1948 article in Billboard declared that Lubinsky had obtained (and already released) "the old Lang Thompson waxing of You Darlin', the sleeper recently revived via exhumation of the Ben Selvin record of the 1920's." Here the story gets really twisted. On July 31, Billboard had announced "Rondo and Regent to Serve "Darlin'" on Thompson Platter" (p. 19, story dated July 24). Thompson had led a sweet band from 1934 to 1947, using "You Darlin'" as his theme song, and, after being downsized, was working as a band booker in Chicago. He was puzzled to hear of the reissues, because he'd recorded the tune in 1941 for ... Varsity, which in those days was owned by ... Eli Oberstein. Herman Lubinsky wouldn't say where the side came from, but Rondo reported getting it from Sonora. And Milton Benjamin, who, along with his wife Marie Reubens, had taken control of what remained of Sonora's music operation, acknowledged recently selling 26 Lang Thompson masters. Apparently, then, Oberstein unloaded the masters to Sonora, which so far as we know never used them, Sonora went under, then Benjamin sold all 26 to Lubinsky and one to Rondo. (One has to wonder whether Oberstein managed to sell masters to Sonora only to buy them back later for less than Sonora had paid him.) On Regent, the coupling was another Lang Thompson side. On Rondo, it was the last usable Ken Griffin instrumental during the recording ban, a 1947 recording of his "Bumble Bee on a Bender."
After Varsity and Savoy completed their swoops and their side deals, there were leftovers. Rondo was able to hook the Lang Thompson side in July and pick up another 80 items in October. The masters that changed hands in October represented around 12% of the defunct label's own recording. A few substantial jazz performances were included in the deal with Rondo, and a few serious contenders in the "race" market.
Rondo reportedly also wanted some of Sonora's "folk" catalogue—the Billboard story mentions Jesse Rogers, the Moore Sisters, and Jimmy Mulcay among the acts whose masters were included in the transaction. But so far we have found two Rondo releases that derive from the Sonora H 7000 series: Rondo 501 by the Carolina Playboys and Rondo 252 by Jesse Rogers. Rondo started a 500 series for Country, but we have seen evidence of just this one release. What might have been a second Country series started at 250 and ended at 252; besides the Stu Davis, there were two singles newly recorded in Chicago by Dusty Rivers and the Rangers. Everything else by Jesse Rogers ended up on Varsity. Rondo would release two sides by Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay later on, but these were not from Sonora; it eventually fell to Regent to reissue their Sonora album.
Bob Stanley's was the only Mickey Mouse band mentioned in news about the deal. And we've never seen a Rondo reissue of Bob Stanley, who became a pillar of the Varsity 100 and 500 series, and was featured a little later on Regent 45s. Such luminaries as Saxie Dowell, who sprinkled lightly comic numbers in with the syrup, were passed over (when Sonora began to falter, Vitacoustic signed Dowell, only to fold in its turn before releasing anything on him). The same went for the radio and hotel bands led by Bob Chester, George Towne, and Mark Warnow, and the slightly jazzier Jerry Wald aggregation. Light classics by pianist Pauline Alpert drew no interest; neither did Roy Smeck's Hawaiian records.
Whereas it didn't matter whether Lani McIntire's Aloha Musicians or Noy Gorodinsky's Gypsy Ensemble or Roy Smeck's Hawaiian band or various offerings by D'Artega's Orchestra sounded good to Rondo; Eli Oberstein had already grabbed them up. (Around a year later, Rondo would acquire some Hawaiian music from another source; it had already swapped international rights to some of its polka masters for an LP by a Gypsy orchestra.) Oberstein has gotten his tentacles on Enric Madriguera's album, but Rondo already had Don Pablo; two albums by Bob Stanley's alter ego, Stanislaw Mroczek, had gone the same way, but with its access to the polka bands of northern Illinois and eastern Wisconsin, Rondo probably felt no need for them.
Unquestionably the biggest jazz name in the Sonora catalogue was Coleman Hawkins, the father of the tenor saxophone. Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1904, Hawk had been a prominent contributor since 1920, when he broke in with Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds, and after a brilliant career with Fletcher Henderson's band, a sojourn in Europe, and a triumphant return to the United States in 1939, was still at the peak of his powers as jazz underwent the Swing to Bop transition. As the World War II recording ban lifted, Hawk recorded for any label that would make him a decent offer; among these were indies of varying stature such as Asch, Signature, Apollo, Regis, and Joe Davis. Even though Sonora was a medium-sized company in 1946, landing him was quite a coup.
The company recorded Hawkins and band in August or September 1946, not in December as stated in Lord's Jazz Discography. Hawk's combo included alto saxophonist Porter Kilbert, who joined the Red Saunders band in New York, then went on the road with Saunders shortly after Saunders recorded behind Big Joe Turner for National on October 11 and 12. Sonora 3027 was advertised in the October 26, 1946 issue of Billboard, and both of Hawk's Sonora releases showed up in the company's ad in the November 2, 1946 issue.
Sonora recorded Snub Mosley's jump band in November 1946 and, on a second occasion, early in 1947. It recorded a vocal-instrumental group called the Velvetones, in one session in the summer of 1946 and a second in the early part of 1947; the sides chosen for release by Rondo came from the second session.
We might expect the R and B sides by Dud Bascomb, Eddie Barefield, and Clyde Bernhardt to be interest but Rondo didn't get around to them. Rondo was unmoved even by jazzy accordionist Joe Biviano, whose releases appeared first in the 1000s and later in the 3000s. Biviano's Rhythm Sextet featured four accordions, guitar, and bass; how could Rondo pass that up? Another 100 series act that Rondo skipped over was the Jim Jam piano trio (the Loumell Morgan trio using a pseudonym), which Sonora may have recorded in Chicago.
In the first half of 1946, Sonora had put out sides by a big band led by quirky composer Raymond Scott (probably obtained through the services of his older brother, Mark Warnow; Scott's real name was Harry Warnow). But Scott most likely paid for the recording sessions, whose matrix numbers were not in Sonora's main series, and took back the masters when the company folded.
Billboard reviewed Rondo 1553 through 1556 in its "race" section on February 26, 1949, indicating that the series got its launch early in the year. In other words, most of the 1550s were released before the company's next slew of Ken Griffin records, first advertised in the issue March 5, 1949.
To supplement the reissues, Rondo recorded a nomadic pianist and singer named Johnny Perry, who doesn't seem to have stayed in Chicago all that long, but rounded up some top local talent to accompany him.
Snub Mosley (tb, slide-sax, voc); Bob Carroll (tp); Scoville Brown (cl, as); Don Abney (p); Abie Baker (b); Tommy Benford (d)
New York City, November 1946
|1959-1||You and the Devil||Sonora 500-A|
|1960-1||Snub's Boogie||Sonora 501-B, Rondo 1553|
|1961-2||Hinkty Man||Sonora 500-B|
|1962-1||Blues at High Noon||Sonora 501-A, Rondo 1553|
Lawrence Leo "Snub" Mosley was a veteran jazz musician when he cut these sides. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 29, 1905, he played trombone in his high school band, then spent the years from 1926 to 1937 touring with the bands of Alphonse Trent, Jeter-Pillars, Claude Hopkins, Fats Waller, and Louis Armstrong. In 1937, he settled in New York City, where he led jump bands. As commemorated in his number "The Man with the Funny Little Horn," he invented a hybrid instrument, the slide saxophone, that attached the mouthpiece from the latter to the slide apparatus of the trombone. He made his Sonora recordings toward the end of 1946, after three sessions for Decca (1940-1942). He subsequently recorded for Penguin (1949) and for British Columbia (1959). His final sessions were done in England for Pizza Express (1978). After suffering a stroke in January 1981, Snub Mosley died at his home in Harlem on July 21, 1981.
The Sonora 500 series was meant to be the budget, black-label, counterpart to the 100 red-label series. It didn't go far, so Mosley ended up getting it all to himself (the same thing happened to the black-label Country series, the H6000s; it never got beyond two releases by an old-timey duo called Jerry and Sky). Their numbers in Sonora's main matrix series indicate that the Mosley sides were cut a month or two after the Coleman Hawkins session, and a short while after Ray Anthony's first session (1917 through 1920, dated November 1946 in Lord's Jazz Discography, but actually from October; Anthony sides were being advertised in Billboard in November). We've listed all four, even though we know of just two being reissued on Rondo. (We do still kind of wonder whether there was a Rondo 1552, but if there ever was, it could have been released in 1946.)
Snub Mosley got a second session, in early 1947. It used to be thought that nothing had been released from it. Indeed, two sides that finally showed up on a 1987 LP from Whiskey Women and ... were said to be unreleased. It turns out, however, that after Sonora gave up on the black-label 500 series Mosley got a release on red-label Sonora 110. This must be very rare, but a copy has turned up in the collection of Tom Hustad. Mosley also got a release on Sonora 111; we have no idea who owns a copy of that one.
We drew the session personnel from Lord's Jazz Discography. He merely gives 1946 as the date, and does not mention the Rondo reissue.
Enoch Martin (p, arr, baritone lead); Madison Flanagan (maracas, tenor lead); "Pop" Willie (b, bass/baritone); Sam Rucker (g, baritone).
New York, c. February 1947
|2035-1||Ask Anyone Who Knows||Sonora 2014-A|
|2036-1||I Want Some Bread, I Said||Sonora 2014-B|
|2037-1||Can You Look Me in the Eyes||Sonora 2015, Rondo 1554|
|2038-2||Don't Bring Me No News||Sonora 2015, Rondo 1554|
The Velvetones were a vocal/instrumental group from Newark, New Jersey. They had previously recorded in January 1946 for the small New York-based company Coronet.
From its first session for Sonora, which took place around June of 1946, the group released two singles in the red-label series, Sonora 3010 and 3012. The second session led to two releases in the new black-label series, Sonora 2014 in May 1947. This was followed by Sonora 2015 in September 1947, as the label was emitting its last gasps. Marv Goldberg in his article on the group (http://www.uncamarvy.com/Velvetones/velvetones.html) supplies the history of the group's sessions, and the personnel.
The other two sides from this Velvetones session are listed for completeness. We have found no evidence that Rondo used them. We further note that Sonora 2014, despite being a late black-label release, is much easier to find than Sonora 2015—or Rondo 1554.
Coleman Hawkins (ts); Theodore "Fats" Navarro (tp except *); J. J. Johnson (tb except *); Porter Kilbert (as except *); Hank Jones (p); Milt Jackson (vib except %); Curly Russell (b); Max Roach (d).
New York, September 1946
|1857-1||I Mean You (Monk)%||Sonora 3027-B, Rondo 1555|
|1858-1||Bean and the Boys|
|1858-2||Bean and the Boys||Sonora 3024-B, Rondo 1556-A|
|1859-1||You Go to My Head (Gillespie-Coots)*||Sonora 3027-A, Rondo 1555|
|1860-1||Cocktails for Two (Johnston-Coslow)*||Sonora 3024-A, Rondo 1556-B|
The entire session is shown, including a first take of "Bean and the Boys" that Lord's Jazz Discography says was used on some copies of Sonora 3024; we would like confirmation that it was released at all. (Again, Lord does not mention the reissues on Rondo.) "Bean and the Boys" on Rondo 1556-A is clearly marked as take 2, and the same is the case on the copies of Sonora 3024 that we have seen. We doubt the Rondo reissues are common, but a copy of Rondo 1555 is in the collection of Tom Hustad.
Hawk's Sonora session was eventually bought up by Prestige, from whom we are not sure; the sides have appeared on Coleman Hawkins LPs on Prestige and Milestone.
See above for the correct session date.
Johnny Perry is a shadowy, nomadic figure in rhythm and blues. He played piano, later switching to organ, and led bands. He also sang; judging from his vocals on the Rondo session, his thin tenor voice was not his main musical asset. The session for Rondo was his first as a leader, and he didn't stick around town after cutting it. In 1952, his band was briefly mentioned in Billboard as it played a string of one-nighters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia (November 22, 1952, p. 46); the blurb said Perry was a Rondo artist (well, he had been), also connecting him with a label called Rich-R-Tone (that part is a head-scratcher, because Rich-R was a bluegrass specialist). During 1953 and 1954, Perry recorded in New York City for Rama, Jubilee, and Atlas. Around 1960, he made one single for Cherokee in Nashville. In 1968, he resurfaced in New York City, and in 1969-1970, now going as "Blues Boy" Perry, he was apparently quartered in Los Angeles.
Johnny Perry (p, voc); Hobart Dotson (tp); H. Morton (as); E. Parker McDougal (ts); Ernest Ashley (eg); Wilbur Ware (b); Charles Williams (d).
United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, September or October 1949
|UB9-1191R||Tails and Limas||Rondo 1557-A|
|UB9-1192R||Doggin' Me Blues (Holmes-DuPree)||Rondo 1557-B|
|UB9-1193R||J. P. Boogie||Rondo 1558|
|UB9-1194R||Got Good News for Ya, Baby (Holmes)||Rondo 1558|
Other than Perry's piano, the draw here is one hell of a Chicago-based lineup, duly listed on the Rondo labels. There has never been a reissue of these sides, despite their historical importance: Among other things, it was E. Parker McDougal's first recording session, and he got solo space on it.
As could be surmised from the foregoing, scarcely anything else on Rondo had a smidgen of jazz interest. The company did record instrumental combos outside the polkasphere, including a couple of pianists with rhythm. Rondo, it turns out, also acquired the services of an organ trio. But listeners in search of an interesting pre-Jimmy-Smith experience will be disappointed. The Max Gordon Trio combined organ, accordion, and guitar. They were not the first to do this; their model was a group called The Three Suns that enjoyed major commercial success in the mid and late 1940s. Still—unless someone decides to combine accordion, hurdy-gurdy, and tromba marina—it might just be the worst sounding ensemble ever conceived.
The Trio recorded four sides for Sonora in November 1946; the company released two singles (Sonora 3032 and 3035) in January 1947. On acquiring them in 1948, Rondo apparently skipped Sonora 3032, which had a novelty vocal on "Managua Nicaragua," and reissued Sonora 3035 as Rondo 180; with "Caravan" and "Lullaby of the Leaves" as the titles, this was as close to jazz as the Gordons got. The Max Gordon Trio recorded an entire album for Sonora around May 1947; it was released in December 1947, as the company was in its final throes. Rondo reissued six of the eight sides as Rondo 193, 194, and 195, then followed up with 6 newly recorded Gordon singles in the 100 series. In December 1949, the company announced that its fourth long-player, RLP-29, was by the Gordon Trio; the LP had probably been released in October, using mostly Sonoran material. The trio recorded at least one more time for Rondo in 1950, and was additionally elected to provide a release for the gone-before-you-know-it budget label, Rolin.
There is one significant exception: the quartet led by a pianist named Olive Mason. Hardly a thing is known about her; we've been able to turn up ads for a handful of club appearances. There is circumstantial evidence that she was originally from Texas and may have used a married name, Olive Floyd, before taking up residence in Chicago. In May 1946, she was booked as one of three acts performing nightly at Cowboy's Lounge, 1207 West 69th Street in Chicago. Billed in the ad as the "First Lady of Swing," she was written up in a blurb on the same page as the "First Lady of Song." She presumably was expected to sing a few standards and take requests while performing. Because she sang and played piano on her club gigs, she was identified as a "cocktail single" when Rondo signed her (Billboard, April 9, 1949, p. 46).
The evidence of Rondo 181 proves that she was a significant addition to the company's roster. Olive Mason first recorded for Rondo around April 1, 1949; the April 9 item in Billboard said Nick Lany of Rondo had recorded her "last week." (Her Rondo 182 was reviewed in Billboard on May 14, 1949, p. 124). All of her records were included in the main 100 series.
Judging from what we have been able to hear, Olive Mason had rock-solid technique and admired Fats Waller as well as Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. And the company hired jazz musicians for her sessions. For instance, Earl Backus's guitar solo is a significant addition to "Sunday."
Mason's first two releases, Rondo 181 and 182, followed the first new Ken Griffin releases (Rondo 186 and 187) but preceded the flood that followed after he signed a new one-year contract with Rondo in late February 1949.
It's true that Rondo put a singer named Johnny Hill, who was on call to soup up Ken Griffin sides, on her first session. Hill is squarish but doesn't discredit himself on "Sunday." Mason's second record featured two new songs that the company wanted to promote: "Who Do You Think You Are?" was roundly panned by the Billboard reviewers, who thought little of the composition; "No, No Nora," a tune they liked better, was faulted for its vocal harmony passages. (There are two quick stretches of ensemble vocal on "Sunday." Although they inflict no real harm, Rondo left the side off its Olive Mason LP.) Today Rondo 181 is the second-easiest Olive Mason single to locate; Rondo 182 is extremely rare.
Olive Mason (p); Earl Backus (eg); H. Siegel (b); M. Lishon (d); Johnny Hill (voc on *).
United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, c. April 1, 1949
|UB9383||After You've Gone (Layton-Creamer)||Rondo 181-A, Rondo RLP-37|
|UB9385||Sunday (Miller-Conn-Styne-Krueger)*||Rondo 181-B|
|Who Do You Think You Are?||Rondo 182|
|No, No Nora||Rondo 182|
Rondo wisely quit with the song-plugging, giving Mason an all-instrumental follow-up. This took place in the summer of 1949, after Rondo had started going to RCA on a regular basis. When Rondo got around to putting out its Olive Mason LP, it bypassed every item with any vocalizing on it, leaving just one usable track from her first session session.
Olive Mason (p); Earl Backus (eg); H. Siegel (b); M. Lishon (d).
RCA Victor Studio, Chicago, c. August 1949
|D9CB-1120-1||Mason's Boogie (Mason)||Rondo 200-A, Rondo RLP-37|
|D9-CB-1121-1||I Got Rhythm||Rondo 201-A, Rondo RLP-37|
|D9CB-1123-1||On the Sunny Side of the Street (McHugh-Fields)||Rondo 200-B, Rondo RLP-37|
Three of the four sides from the second session would later be chosen for the LP. Rondo 200 and 201 were issued on 78 with the later Rondo label design: medium red background with six stripes in silver. Rondo 200 was first advertised in Billboard on September 3, 1949 (p. 35); Rondo 201 was advertised in Billboard on November 12, 1949 (p. 40). "Mason's Boogie" is a powerhouse performance in the genre, with a surprise stride interlude. "Sunny Side" is in the Fats Waller idiom. Earl Backus gets two guitar solos; his sessions with Olive Mason allowed him to show off his jazz chops.
On January 27, 1950, the 45 rpm release of "Mason's Boogie" was advertised as a new arrival at Porter's Music Store in Lima, Ohio (Lima News, p. 13).
In March 1950, Olive Mason, now billed as "Queen of the Boogie Players," was holding down a gig at Sharkey's in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
An advertisement for Kuras Furniture Appliances Music in Ludington, Michigan (Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8), mentions "Mason's Boogie" on 45 but put it under a newer release, "Boogie on the Humoreseque" b/w "Angry." This and its mate on Rondo 220 definitely came from a third session.
Olive Mason (p); poss. Buddy Shaw (cl -1); unidentified (b); unidentified (d).
Chicago, February or March 1950
|Boogie on the Humoresque||Rondo 219, Rondo RLP-37|
|Angry||Rondo 219, Rondo RLP-37|
|Liza||Rondo 220, Rondo RLP-37|
|Lady Be Good||Rondo 220, Rondo RLP-37|
Mason's last two singles for Rondo are hard to find nowadays. Having finally latched onto a copy of Rondo 219, we know that she did not record with the same rhythm section as her first two sessions. On "Boogie on the Humoresque," there are just bass and drums, both so recessed that she could have done the number as a solo. Dvorak's Humoresque was a popular light classic, in the repertoire of many jazz pianists as well; Art Tatum played it. "Angry" brings bass and drums a little closer to the mike, adding a clarinetist who sounds like Buddy Shaw, from the Gene Colin session made shortly before this one. We're still looking for Rondo 220, both sides of which are probably also Swing material.
What happened to Olive Mason after her third session, we have no idea. Nightclub pianist and singer Kim Martell (who was active in the 1960s and 1970s) stated in an interview that she was borin in Chicago, that her mother was named Olive Mason and had played piano with Stan Kenton and Paul Whiteman—also that she had a brother whose last name was Floyd. There are still many loose ends. In any event, the company thought enough of her work to put 8 sides on a 10-inch LP, which appeared in 1951. So far as we know, they've never been released in any other form. All 12 of her known sides are of legitimate reissue interest.
In the Fall of 1949, Bard and Lany developed an interest in a musician named Gene Colin, about whom we know absolutely nothing, except that he played the electric guitar and sang. It further appears that Colin, left to his own devices, would have recorded vaguely 1920s style jazz—but he wasn't left to his own devices very often.
Colin's first session for the label was laid down at United Broadcasting in September 1949, with a quartet led by one R. Hoylman. Only two sides are known to have been released from it, on Rondo 207, in October or early November 1949 (the record was originally advertised as Rondo 202, apparently by mistake, and attributed to "Jean" Colin). There is more emphasis on Colin's singing and less on his guitar playing than would have been ideal, making "Johnson Rag" a lot cornier than it had to be. The incentive for recording "Johnson Rag" was the recent release of the venerable rag with words by veteran guitarist and singer Jack Teter on another small Chicago label called Sharp, which opened for business on May 1, 1949 (Billboard, April 30, 1949, p. 17); the record proved so lucrative that Sharp licensed it to London Records in September and by November it had cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard pop charts. (Billboard reviewed Rondo 207 on November 26, 1949, p. 164, accurately indicating that "Johnson Rag" was a cover of Teter's version; it referred to "Side by Side" as "another corn-fed razzmattazz etching."). The drummer, M. Lishon, had also appeared on Olive Mason's first two sessions.
R. Hoylman, p; Gene Colin, eg, voc; G. Ryan, b; M. Lishon, d.
United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, September 1949
|UB9-1151||Johnson Rag (Hall-Kleinkauf)||Rondo 207-A|
|UB9-1152||Side by Side (Woods)||Rondo 207-B|
The personnel appears on the original Rondo labels. The United Broadcasting matrix numbers are consistent with a recording date in September 1949.
Hoylman did not reappear on Rondo, unless he provided uncredited accompaniment to someone, but Colin was brought back for a second outing, at the very end of 1949 or the beginning of 1950. The new group, with Colin himself identified as the leader, was more jazz-oriented, but the repertoire decidedly mixed.
Gene Colin (eg, voc); Buddy Shaw (as -1, cl); Paul Gordon (b); Maurie Laurie (d).
Universal Recording, Chicago, between November 1949 and February 1950
|217-A||Too Thin Polka||Rondo 217-A|
|217-B||My Date Book Is Open||Rondo 217-B|
|218-A||Shut Up||Rondo 218-A|
|218-B||Someday Sweetheart -1||Rondo 218-B|
Again, the personnel is drawn from the labels—to Rondo 217, in this case. We have confirmation that Rondo 218 was released, but have not seen a copy so far.
Rondo had for some reason recently committed itself to an "A and B" policy, instead of using informative matrix numbers. But all four sides from this session are on two 78-rpm lacquers from Universal Recording (with the 100 E. Ohio address on the stick-on labels). The typed matrix numbers are in Rondo's A and B series, except they are off by one: "Too Thin Polka" b/w "My Date Book Is Open" are labeled R216-A and R216-B, and the remaining lacquer shows R217-A and R217-B. Someone at Universal wasn't reckoning with the Max Gordon 78 on Rondo 216, or Rondo reshuffled the numbers prior to release.
"Too Thin Polka" is a corny novelty, though Buddy Shaw works some Polish-polka skirl into the clarinet part. "My Date Book Is Open" is, again, focused on the novelty vocal, rather sappily fitted to a twenties-style tune. We've listed the Colin Quartet here because of "Shut Up," a good old-fashioned low-down blues better suited to the leader's vocal abilities, and "Someday Sweetheart," a classic ballad with tremendous alto saxophone work by Shaw (he sounds like a swinging Frankie Trumbauer) and a nice guitar solo by Colin.
Colin might have been better served had Rondo decided to cut back on the vocals, as it had done with Olive Mason after her initial outing. So far as we know, these six sides are his entire recorded legacy.
In March 1950, not long after the second Gene Colin session and the last by Olive Mason, Ken Griffin's contract came up for renewal—and he signed with Columbia. During the period when Rondo was frantically searching for a replacement, the company recorded one 4-tune session by a full-bore Dixieland band. The leader was drummer Danny Alvin, who had some standing in traditional jazz; he'd accompanied Sidney Bechet on a session for Blue Note in 1946. For the session, the company returned to United Broadcasting, whose output was starting to slow by this time.
Danny Alvin (d, dir); Jack Ivett (cnt); Jimmy James (tb); Jug Berger (cl); Charlie Spero (ts); Mel Stitzel (p); Jim Lannigan (tuba); Lola Ameche (voc).
United Broadcasting Studio, Chicago, May 11, 1950
|UB50-513||The Bucket Song (Short-Harold) [LA voc]||Rondo 235-A|
|UB50-514||Lassas [sic] Trombone||Rondo 236-B|
|UB50-515||Red Pepper Rag||Rondo 235-B|
|UB50-516||Maple Leaf Rag (Joplin)||Rondo 236-A|
The session information is drawn from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, except Lord renders the singer's names as "Love" Ameche. She would reappear on some Mercury releases in the first half of the decade. Rondo 235 and 236 were singles (probably both 78 and 45 rpm) released around June 1950.
The session featured a couple of veterans of the traditional jazz scene in Mel Stitzel (who had worked with Jelly Roll Morton on arrangements in the mid 1920s) and Jim Lannigan. Jimmy James and Jug Berger were active on the Dixieland scene at the time; they would resurface a few months later with the Jimmy James Jas Band, which cut four sides in the loft of Seymour's Record Mart. Charlie Spero was originally a Swing musician; he was on the October 13, 1946 concert at the Civic Opera House, as a member of Paul Jordan's 10-piece ensemble, but did not appear on Jordan's 1946 recordings for Gold Seal.
We don't entirely get the impetus behind the session. It might have been sheer desperation. But it's true that other Chicago indies were trying out Dixieland at the time. Premium had recorded a Miff Mole group at United Broadcasting a couple of months earlier. Seymour would open with the Jimmy James session a few months later. And, of course, Jazz Ltd. had put out 4 releases featuring different leaders during the previous year and would cut another session in 1951. Rondo, however, was not aiming at the same market segments as any of these competitors.
To our definitely fallible knowledge, this was the company's last attempt to record jazz.
Danny Alvin remained in Chicago. His only other recording as a leader would be an LP done in 1958 for Stepheny, a company based in Evanston, Illinois; at the time. he was operating his own club. With the exception of trombonist Floyd O'Brien, whose recording career went back to the early 1930s, the other musicians on the Stepheny date were less famous Dixieland specialists.
Overall, Rondo's efforts in the jazz and R&B markets barely tweaked the company's trajectory. They were consequences, not causes of its temporary wealth and fame. Because the Rondo 550 and 100 series have still not been fully documented, we don't know exactly how many singles the company released during its Chicago years, but there must have 200 at least. The items we have listed in detail here add up to 16 releases, contributing less than 10% of Rondo's total output, and, we may be sure, way under 10% of the company's sales. We've gone to the trouble here because of their musical interest. We hope collectors will be able to sift more of these items out from the Ken Griffins, and that some reissue effort may eventually ensue.
See Bryon Young's Web page (http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/Bryan%20Young%20Page.htm) for a load of interesting details about Ken Griffin's recordings, including a rundown of the lawsuit over "You Can't Be True, Dear," which dragged out until December 1956—after the organist had died, Broadcast had gone out of business, and Rondo had new owners.
The Ken Griffin Memorial page (http://www.theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/) reproduces his obituary in the Aurora, Illinois, Beacon-News.
And see Mike Kredinac's Web pages for a photo of Rondo 1557 (http://www.nugrape.net/mike2.htm) along with R&B releases on many other labels.
|Matrix Number||Release Number||Artist||Title||Recording Date||Release Date|
|Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Cherry Polka||June 1946||Summer 1946|
|UB 2145||550-B||Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Clairene Waltz||June 1946||Summer 1946|
|Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Barbara Polka||June 1946||Summer 1946|
|UB-2143||551-B||Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Homecoming Waltz||June 1946||Summer 1946|
|UB-2147||552-A||Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Prune Song (Svestkova Alej)||June 1946|
|UB-2149||552-B||Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Julida Polka [Bohemian Vocal]||June 1946|
|Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Helena Polka||June 1946|
|UB-2148||553-B||Rudy Plocar's “All Veterans” Orchestra||Clarinet Polka||June 1946|
|UB 2146||554-A||Rudy Plocar's Veteran Orch.||Grey Mare Polka||June 1946||March 1947|
|Rudy Plocar's Veteran Orch.||Champagne Polka||June 1946||March 1947|
|Rudy Plocar's "All Veterans" Orchestra||Unita Polka||November 1946|
|UB-2775||555-B||Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Evening on the Lehigh (Waltz)
(Jak Szybko Mijaja Chwile)
|Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Monopol Polka||November 1946|
|UB-2776||556-B||Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Clarinet Laendler No. 3||November 1946|
|Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Rainbow Polka||November 1946|
|UB-2777||557-B||Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Swedish Waltz
(Livet i Finskogarna)
|UB-2774||558-A||Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Springtime Polka||November 1946||July 1947|
|UB-2778||558-B||Rudy Plocar's All Veteran Band||Twilight Waltz||November 1946||July 1947|
|559||Rudy Plocar||Svestkova Alej [Bohemian Vocal]|
|UB21316||560-A||Bellini Accordion Orchestra||Margherita Waltz||June 1947||Summer 1947|
|UB21317||560-B||Accorionette [sic] Ensemble||Waltz Allegro||June 1947||Summer 1947|
|UB-21319||561-A||Accordionette Ensemble||Wisconsin Waltz||June 1947||Summer 1947|
|UB 21318||561-B||Accorionette [sic] Ensemble||Babbling Brook Polka||June 1947||Summer 1947|
|UB-21376||563-A||Jožka Cigaňsko Orš.||Hop, Hop, Hop (Slovenské čárdáš)||July 1947||Summer 1947|
|UB-21379||563-B||Jožka Cigaňsko Orš.||Anička Dušička (Slovenské čárdáš)||July 1947||Summer 1947|
|UB-21482||565-A||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||My Swiss Girl (Waltz)||August 1947|
|Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Have a Drink, Polka||August 1947|
|UB-21480||566-A||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||I Still Want You (Waltz)||August 1947|
|Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Rain, Rain, Polka||August 1947|
|Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Picnic in the Woods||August 1947|
|UB-21487||567-B||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Blue Eyes (Waltz)||August 1947|
|Rudy Plocar||Rock & Rye Polka|
|568||Rudy Plocar||Spring Clover Polka|
|1001-A||569-A||Swiss Family Fraunfelder||Herd Song||Fall 1947|
|1001-B||569-B||Swiss Family Fraunfelder||Garibaldi (Schottisch)||Fall 1947|
|UB 21736||570-A||Swiss Family Fraunfelder||The Milkmaid||c. October 10, 1947||c. November 1947|
|UB21738||570-B||Swiss Family Fraunfelder||Yodel Polka||c. October 10, 1947||c. November 1947|
|UB 21737||571-A||Swiss Family Fraunfelder||The Cuckoo (Waltz)||c. October 10, 1947||c. November 1947|
UB 21739 on label
|571-B||Swiss Family Fraunfelder||Yodel Laendler||c. October 10, 1947||c. November 1947|
|572||Rudy Plocar||Swiss Boy||c. October 22, 1947||c. November 1947|
|572||Rudy Plocar||My Swiss Girl||c. October 22, 1947||c. November 1947|
|UB-21850||573-A||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Beer Barrel Polka||c. October 22, 1947|
|UB-21852||573-B||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||At the Spring [Bohemian Vocal]||c. October 22, 1947|
|UB-21918||575-A||J. Perush and His Tavern Band||Cleveland Waltz (Clevelandski Valcek)||c. October 30, 1947|
|UB-21913||575-B||J. Perush and His Tavern Band||Short Snort Polka (Mali Nocek)||c. October 30, 1947|
|UB-21956||578-A||Śpiewa [Vocal]: Alicia Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Dwanaście Listeczków—Walczyk||c. November 4, 1947||c. December 1947|
|UB-21957||578-B||Śpiewa [Vocal]: Alicia Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Piękny Twój Wianek Mirtowy—Walc||c. November 4, 1947||c. December 1947|
|UB-22093||582-A||Gene Heier's Orchestra with electric Accordion||Whose Girl Are You? (Waltz)||c. November 17, 1947|
|UB-22051||582||Gene Heier's Orchestra with electric Accordion||Hopeless Polka||c. November 13, 1947|
|UB-22052||583-A||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Masons Waltz||c. November 13, 1947|
|UB-22054||583-B||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Lehigh Valley Polka||c. November 13, 1947|
|UB-22053||584-A||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Tululu (Waltz)||c. November 13, 1947|
|UB-22094||584-B||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Heier Polka||c. November 17, 1947|
|UB-22125||586-A||Sung by Alan De Witt with Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||A Sailboat in the Moonlight||c. November 20, 1947|
|UB-22119||586-B||Sung by Alan De Witt with Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||I Still Want You||c. November 20, 1947|
|UB-22124||587-A||Gesang: Jolly Franzl mit Rudy Plocar's Orchester||Tante Anna||c. November 20, 1947|
|Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Die Dorfmusik (Polka)||c. November 20, 1947|
|Rudy Plocar||Wisconsin (Jolly Coppersmith) Polka||June 1948|
|UB22122||588||Rudy Plocar||Silver Lake Waltz||c. November 20, 1947||June 1948|
|Rudy Plocar||Beer Bucket Polka||1948|
|589||Rudy Plocar||The Lumber Auction (Laendler)||1948|
|590-A||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Polska Marysia | Walczyk||December 1948|
|UB-22029||590-B||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Iskiereczki Ognia | Krakowiak||c. November 11, 1947||December 1948|
|591||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Przez Litewski Lan (The Suitor) (Waltz)||December 1948|
|591||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Kochalam Cie Jasiu (I Love You, Johnny)||December 1948|
|UB-22033||593-A||Śpiewają [Vocals]: Alicja Kusek | Kazimierz (Casey) Stefaniak | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Marysiu Moja Marysiu||c. November 11, 1947||1948|
|UB-22034||593-B||Śpiewa [Vocal]: Kazimierz (Casey) Stefaniak | Ork. F. Przybylskiego||Hej Zachuczały Góry-Polka||c. November 11, 1947||1948|
|UB-22462||594-A||Steve Adamczyk, his clarinet, and his Polish Hungry Five||Concertina Polka||c. December 27, 1947||December1948|
|UB-22460||594-B||Steve Adamczyk, his clarinet, and his Polish Hungry Five||Jolly Drinker—Oberek (Wesoly Pijak)||c. December 27, 1947||December 1948|
|UB-22463||595-A||Steve Adamczyk, His Clarinet, And His Polish Hungry Five||Hungry Five (Pięciu Glodnych)||c. December 27, 1947|
|UB-22461||595-B||Steve Adamczyk, His Clarinet, And His Polish Hungry Five||Billy Goat Polka (Polka Koziola)||c. December 27, 1947|
|597||Joziu Durlak||Siedziala na Studzience (At the Well)||December 1948|
|597||Joziu Durlak||Oj Ja Se Chipiec Gipki (I'm a Go-Getter)||December 1948|
|126-A||599-A||Pete Ochs' Orchestra||Snow Waltz||December 1948||1949|
|599-B||Pete Ochs' Orchestra||Linden Polka||December 1948||1949|
|600-A||Featuring The Payson Sisters | Jolly Franzl | Rudy Plocar's Orch.||More Beer!||*vocals overdubbed c. November 1948||November 1948|
|UB22122||600B||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Silver Lake Waltz||c. November 20, 1947||November 1948|
|601-A||Pete Ochs' Orchestra||More Beer!||December 1948||January 1949|
|601-B||Pete Ochs' Orchestra||Juke Box Jingle||December 1948||January 1949|
|UB-9446||605-A||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Fr. Przybylski i Jego Orkiestra||Ach Wroccie Mlode Lata (Memories of Bygone Days)||early 1949||1949|
|605-B||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Fr. Przybylski i Jego Orkiestra||early 1949||1949|
|UB9-1147||607-A||Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians||Jolly Musicians Polka||September 1949||October 1949|
|UB9-1150||607-B||Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians||Juneau Park Schottische||September 1949||October 1949|
|UB9-1149||608-A||Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians||Broke but Happy - Polka||September 1949||November 1949|
|UB9-1148||608-B||Bernie Roberts and his Jolly Musicians||St. Paul Waltz||September 1949||November 1949|
|C-754||610-A||Jimmy Nejedlo and His Orchestra||American Girl Polka|
|C-753||610-B||Jimmy Nejedlo and His Orchestra||Firemen's March|
|611-A||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra | Sung by Ensemble||Chicago Polka||late 1949||late 1949|
|611-B||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Innocence Waltz||late 1949||late 1949|
|612-A||Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Herr Schmidt-Finger Tanz||late 1949||late 1949|
|Rudy Plocar's Orchestra||Josephine Polka||late 1949||late 1949|
|UB50-656||619-A||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Pauline Polka||June 1950||prob. 1950|
|UB50-657||619-B||Gene Heier's Orchestra||North Woods Waltz||June 1950||prob. 1950|
|UB50-658||620-A||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Playtime Polka||June 1950||prob. 1950|
|UB50-659||620-B||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Sugar Loaf Waltz||June 1950||prob. 1950|
|Featuring the Mulcay Trio (Jimmy, Mildred, and Helen)||America, I Love You||April 1951||1951|
|624-B||Featuring the Mulcay Trio (Jimmy, Mildred, and Helen)||Beer Beer Beer||April 1951||1951|
|625-A||Bernie Roberts and his Orchestra||A Beer, A Sandwich and You||prob. September 1949||1951|
|625-B||Bernie Roberts on the accordion and his Orchestra||Clarinet Polka||prob. September 1949||1951|
|628-A||Vocal by Booker T. Washington | Played by Pacific Sextette||General Mac Will Never Fade Away||April 1951||1951|
|Featuring the Mulcay Trio (Jimmy, Mildred, and Helen)||America, I Love You||April 1951||1951|
|637-A||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Black Jack Polka|
|637-B||Gene Heier's Orchestra||When You Return Laendler|
|643-1||Bernie Roberts and His Orchestra||Honey Bee Waltz||1953 or 1954|
|643-2||Bernie Roberts and His Orchestra||Moonlight and Roses||1953 or 1954|
|Matrix Number||Release Number||Artist||Title||Recording Date||Release Date|
|Noller-Straub Duo||Kitten on the Keys||late June 1946||August 1946|
|Noller-Straub Duo||Nola||late June 1946||August 1946|
|101||Noller-Straub Duo||Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2||late June 1946||July 1946|
|101||Noller-Straub Duo||Emperor Waltz||late June 1946||July 1946|
|Noller-Straub Duo||In an 18th Century Drawing Room||late June 1946||prob. September 1946|
|Noller-Straub Duo||Coffee Time||late June 1946||prob. September 1946|
|103||Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano||Goofus||August 1946|
|103||Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano||Homecoming Waltz||August 1946|
|1097||104-A [first]||Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano||Stumbling||July 1946||September 1946|
|1066||104-B [first]||Noller-Straub Duo | Hammond Organ and Piano||Copenhagen||late June 1946||September 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||Waiting for the Robert E. Lee||September 1946||November 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||Canadian Capers||September 1946||November 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||Elmer's Tune||September 1946||November 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||Doll Dance||September 1946||November 1946|
|Elmer Ihrke||Parade of the Wooden Soldiers||August 1946||1946|
|Elmer Ihrke||Dancing Tambourine||1946||1946|
|Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes||O Come Ye Merry Gentlemen | Adeste Fideles||September 1946||November 1946|
|Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes||Silent Night||September 1946||November1946|
|Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes||It Came upon a Midnight Clear||September 1946||November 1946|
|Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes||Hark The Herald Angels Sing | Away in a Manger||September 1946||November1946|
|Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes||The First Noel | Holy Night||September 1946||November 1946|
|Elmer Ihrke at the Organ with Chimes||Little Town of Bethlehem||prob. September 1946||November 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||After You've Gone||September 1946||December 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||Andalucia [sic]||September 1946||December 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||12th Street Rag||September 1946||December 1946|
|Jimmy Blade's Music||Cuban Pete||September 1946||December 1946|
|1097||112||Marsh McCurdy - Hammond Organ | Bob Peary - Piano||Stumbling||July 1946||November 1946|
|1066||112||Noller-Straub Duo | Hammond Organ and Piano||Copenhagen||late June 1946||Novemer 1946|
|113||Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Organ and Celeste||Wedding of the Painted Dolls||December 1946|
|113||Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Organ and Celeste||Glow Worm||December 1946|
|114||Marsh McCurdy Organ and Pauline Lamond Piano||Sunrise Serenade||December 1946|
|114||Marsh McCurdy Organ and Pauline Lamond Piano||Beguine||December 1946|
|115||Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Organ and Celeste||Deep Purple||December 1946|
|115||Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg Organ and Celeste||La Golondrina||December 1946|
|1147||120-A [1946 version]
|Organ, Chimes and Celeste Played by Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg||Jingle Bells||October 1946||November 1946|
|1107||120-B [1946 version]
|Elmer Ihrke||Parade of the Wooden Soldiers||August 1946||November1946|
|1147||120-A [1947 version]
|Organ, Chimes and Celeste Played by Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg||Jingle Bells||October 1946||1947|
|1126||120-B [1947 version]
|Organ and Chimes played by Elmer Ihrke||Silent Night||September 1946||1947|
|1126||120 [last version]
|Elmer Ihrke||Silent Night||September 1946||1947|
|UB8161||120 [last version]
|Elmer Ihrke||Little Town of Bethlehem||prob. September 1946||1947|
|121||Elmer Ihrke's Empire Trio||Easter Parade||March 1947|
|121||Elmer Ihrke's Empire Trio||3 O'Clock in the Morning||March 1947|
|Cosmo Teri | Organ & Chimes||Santa Claus Is Coming to Town||August 1947||November 1947|
|Cosmo Teri | Organ & Chimes||Winter in Wonderland [sic]||August 1947||November 1947|
|U-936||127-A||The Rondoliers with Elmer Ihrke at the Organ||Gold Star Mothers (Hymn)||September 1947||early 1948|
|U-937||127-B||The Rondoliers with Elmer Ihrke at the Organ||The End of a Perfect Day||September 1947||early 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||You Can't Be True Dear||September 1947||April 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Cuckoo Waltz||September 1947||April 1948|
|Ken Griffin||Donkey Serenade||September 1947||May 1948|
|Ken Griffin||Ciribiribin||September 1947||May 1948|
|Ken Griffin||Doodle-Ee-Do (on 78)
Doodle Doo Doo
|September 1947||prob. May 1948|
|Ken Griffin||American Patrol||September 1947||prob. May 1948|
|U-891||131-A||Elmer Ihrke at the Organ and Chimes||Rock of Ages - Abide with Me - Doxology||August 1947||1948|
|131-B||Elmer Ihrke at the Organ and Chimes||Softly and Tenderly - Just as I Am||1948|
|132||Elmer Ihrke||In the Garden - The Old Rugged Cross||1948|
|132||Elmer Ihrke||What a Friend We Have in Jesus - I Need Thee Every Hour||1948|
|U-888||133-A||Elmer Ihrke at the Organ and Chimes||God Be with You till We Meet Again - Jesus Savior, Pilot Me||August 1947||1948|
|133-B||Elmer Ihrke at the Organ and Chimes||Blessed Assurance - I Love to Tell the Story||1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Polka Pops||June 1947||June 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Casey Jones||June 1947||June 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Every Little Movement||June 1947||June 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Valencia||June 1947||June 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||If I Had You||June 1947||June 1948|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Little Brown Jug||June 1947||June 1948|
|Organ, Chimes, and Celeste Played by Elmer Ihrke and Skip Berg||Jingle Bells||October 1946||1948|
|Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes||White Christmas||1946||1948|
|Elmer Ihrke At the Organ||Parade of the Wooden Soldiers||September 1946||1948|
|Elmer Ihrke | Organ and Chimes||March of the Toys||1946||1948|
|UB8569-3-1||143-A||Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman||Cuckoo Bird Waltz||*vocal added 1948||1948|
|UB8568-3-2||143-B||Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman||Every Little Movement||*vocal added 1948||1948|
|145||Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal by Raquel||The Walter Thornton Rhumba||1948|
|145||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Serenade to a Flower||1948|
|US 1092 (label)
08 1092-1 (shellac)
|146-A||Lang Thompson and His Orchestra | Vocal by Lang Thompson||You Darlin'||1941||July 1948|
|UB 21352-M||146-B (78)
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Bumble Bee on a Bender||prob. July 1947||July 1948|
|147||The Wagners||Johnson Rag|
|147||The Wagners||Lazy River|
|111J||149-A||Vocal Oklahoma | Oklahoma & The Westerners||Bessie Cut Your Toe Nails|
|141-H||149-B||Oklahoma with The Westerners||Rosebud Boogie|
|150||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp||If I Had You||*vocal added 1948||October 1948|
|150||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp||Brown Jug Polka||*vocal added 1948||October 1948|
|151||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Red Wing||1948|
|151||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Michigan Moon||1948|
|1789A||152-A||Vocal by Geo. Sikes Trio with Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||I Want a Girl||1948|
|1788B||152-B||Bob Turner and his Electric Guitar with Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Sweet Georgia Brown||1949|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||Maria Elena||1948|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||Green Eyes||1948|
|Vocal by Bunny Paul with Don Pablo's Orchestra||La Rosita||1948|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||Estrellita||1948|
|156||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Make Believe||1948|
|156||Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Bunny Paul||Mickey||1948|
|157||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Sentimental Journey||December 1948|
|157||Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Bunny Paul||Long Time No See||December 1948|
|158||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Josephine||March 1949|
|158||Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Bunny Paul||I Kissed You First||March 1949|
|159||Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Lolita Lopez||Dark Eyes||1948|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||La Golondrina||1948|
|U911-3||160-A||Jack Carroll with Bill McRae's Orchestra||Sleepy Town||September 1947||October 1948|
|907||160-B||Jack Carroll with Bill McRae's Orchestra||Time to Dream||September 1947||October 1948|
|161-A||The Four Dukes with Jimmy DeLand||Paddy Murphy's Wake||1948|
|15445A||161-B||The Four Dukes||When Irish Eyes Are Smiling||1948|
|162||Elton Adams and His Blue Ridge Mountaineers||Philipino Waltz||1948|
|162||Elton Adams and His Blue Ridge Mountaineers||Silver Bells||1948|
|163||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Indian Love Call||1948|
|163||Don Pablo's Orchestra | Vocal: Lolita Lopez||Cielito Lindo||1948|
|U-1188||164-A||George Olsen's Orchestra | Vocal: Betty Norman & Trio||Down among the Sheltering Palms||November 1948|
|U-1027||164-B||George Olsen's Orchestra | Vocal: Betty Norman||I'm Headin' for a Shotgun Weddin'||November 1948|
|165-A||Bob Turner and his Electric Guitar with Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Darktown Strutters Ball||1948|
|165-B||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Barbara Polka||1948|
|1787B||168-A||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Old Dan Tucker||1948|
|1787A||168-B||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Snow Deer||1948|
|1785A||169-A||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Gray Eagle||1948|
|1785B||169-B||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Pulling the Bow||1948|
|1784A||170-A||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Stony Point||1948|
|1784B||170-B||Charlie Jones and his Kentucky Corn Crackers||Ida Red||1948|
|174||The Four Dukes||Row Row Row||1948|
|174||The Four Dukes||Wagon Wheels||1948|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||Mercury Waltz||1948|
|176||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Words of Love||1948|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||La Borrachita (I'll Never Love Again)||July 1949|
|Don Pablo's Orchestra||Bonita Rumba||July 1949|
|18-B||178-A||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Nite of Romance (Noche de Ronda)||1948|
|1B-762||178-B||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Begin the Beguine||1948|
|179||Lloyd Webb with the Payson Sisters and Tibor Fejer at the piano||Gypsy Serenade||January 1949|
|179||Lloyd Webb with the Payson Sisters and Tibor Fejer at the piano||You Can Die from a Broken Heart||January 1949|
|1963-2||180-A||The Gordon Trio||Caravan||November 1946||c. January 1949|
|1964-1||180-B||The Gordon Trio||Lullaby of the Leaves||November 1946||c. January 1949|
|Olive Mason At the Piano||After You've Gone||c. April 1, 1949||April 1949|
|UB9385||181-B||Sung by Johnny Hill | Olive Mason, Piano||Sunday||c. April 1, 1949||April 1949|
|182||Olive Mason At the Piano | Vocal Johnny Hill||Who Do You Think You Are||c. April 1, 1949||April 1949|
|182||Olive Mason At the Piano | Vocal Johnny Hill||No No Nora||c. April 1, 1949||April 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Yes Sir, That's My Baby||June 1949||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Love Was the Cause of It All||c. June 1949||Late 1949|
|184-A||Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra||Galway Bay||January 1949||February 1949|
|184-B||Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra||My Cathedral||January 1949||February 1949|
|185||Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra||Forever and Ever||1949||1949|
|185||Fran Allison with Eddie Ballantine's Orchestra||I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry||1949||1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||You You You Are the One||Late 1948||February 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Five Foot Two||Late 1948||February 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||You're My Love Song||Late 1948||March 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||The Miller's Daughter||Late 1948||March 1949|
|188-A (78 and 45)
|Ken Griffin at the Organ with The Cosmopolitans||Lady of Spain||February 1949||April 1949|
|188-B (78)||Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans | Sung by: Eddie Vand||The Shades Are Down on Cobble Street||February 1949||April 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans||Neapolitan Nights||Late 1948||April 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ with the Cosmopolitans||After the Ball||Late 1948||April 1949|
|190||Lloyd Webb, Vocal||Whose Girl Are You?||March 1949|
|190||Gene Heier's Orchestra||Westphalia Waltz||March 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||The Wedding of Lilli Marlene||July 1949||August 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Someday||July 1949||August 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||By the Waters of Minnetonka
By the Waters of the Minnetonka [later pressings]
|June 1949||July 1949|
|D9-CB-1053-1||192-B||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Hill||Beautiful Wisconsin||June 1949||July 1949|
|Max Gordon Trio||Memories||c. May 1947||1949|
|Max Gordon Trio||Carolina in the Morning||c. May 1947||1949|
|Max Gordon Trio||Marie||c. May 1947||1949|
|Max Gordon Trio||My Little Girl||c. May 1947||1949|
|Max Gordon Trio||Whispering||c. May 1947||1949|
|Max Gordon Trio||Button Up Your Overcoat||c. May 1947||1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ | Celeste: H. Moss||Ting-A-Ling (The Waltz of the Bells)||1949||May 1949|
|D9CB 1001||196-B||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Hill||You Didn't Want Me When You Had Me||c. April 1949||May 1949|
|Ken Griffin At the Organ | Celeste: H. Moss||The Skaters Waltz||c. April 1949||June 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ | Celeste: H. Moss||Take Me Out to the Ball Game And The Band Played On||c. April 1949||June 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Souvenir Waltz||June 1949||Summer 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Ti Pi Tin||June 1949||Summer 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||College Medley | Notre Dame - Wisconsin - Maine - Illinois - Georgia||July 1949||September 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi||July 1949||September 1949|
|1050-A||Ken Griffin at the Organ with St. Nicholas Boys' Choir||Little Prayers for Little People Part 1 Prayers 1-8||Late 1949|
|1050-B||Ken Griffin at the Organ with St. Nicholas Boys' Choir||Little Prayers for Little People Part 2||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ (Bells & Celeste)||Jingle Bells||c. August 1949||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes)||Oh Christmas Tree!||c. August 1949||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes)||Hark the Herald Angels Sing||c. August 1949||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ (Chimes)||It Came upon a Midnight Clear||c. August 1949||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Up on the House-Top||c. August 1949||Late 1949|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Winter Wonderland||c. August 1949||Late 1949|
|Olive Mason At The Piano||Mason's Boogie||c. August 1949||September 1949|
|Olive Mason At The Piano||On the Sunny Side of the Street||c. August 1949||September 1949|
|Olive Mason At The Piano||I Got Rhythm||c. August 1949||November 1949|
|D9CB-1121-1||201-B||Olive Mason At The Piano||Yesterdays||c. August 1949||November 1949|
|202-A||Bill Snary with The High Steppers Trio||You're Going to Be Mine||Fall 1949|
|202-B||Bill Snary with The High Steppers Trio||Love in the Fall||Fall 1949|
|UB9-1074||203-A||The Max Gordon Trio | Vocal by Karen Ford||The Century Waltz||July-August 1949||October 1949|
|UB9-1112-2||203-B||The Max Gordon Trio with Barney Bones||Toot-Toot-Tootsie||August 1949||October 1949|
|UB9-1075||204-A||Max Gordon Trio | Vocal by Karen Ford | Max Gordon: Organ Arnie Erickson: Guitar Ben Kay: Accordion||You're Too Dangerous, Cherie||July-August 1949||Late 1949|
|The Max Gordon Trio||Wild Honey||July-August 1949||Late 1949|
|UB9-1142||206-A||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Sung by Karen Ford and Bill Snary||Our Christmas Waltz||September 1949||November 1949|
|UB9-1143||206-B||Ken Griffin at the Organ||Star of the East||September 1949||November 1949|
|UB9-1151||207-A||Hoylman Quartet | Vocal by: Gene Colin | R. Hoylman: Piano, Gene Colin: Guitar, G. Ryan: Bass, M. Lishon: Drums||Johnson Rag||September 1949||October 1949|
|UB9-1152||207-B||Hoylman Quartet | Vocal by: Gene Colin | R. Hoylman: Piano, Gene Colin: Guitar, G. Ryan: Bass, M. Lishon: Drums||Side by Side||September 1949||October 1949|
|Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||Ulili Hula (Hula Chant)|
|Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||Luana|
|Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||On the Beach at Waikiki||Late 1949|
|Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||Kuu-Ipo-I-Ka-Hee-Pue-One (Sweethearts from the Sea)||Late 1949|
|Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||South Sea Moon||Late 1949|
|Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||Aloha-Oe||Late 1949|
|EO-CX-656 [45 rpm]||211-A||Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||Malahini Mele (Song of the Strangers)||Late 1949|
|EO-CX-657 [45 rpm]||211-B||Harmony Hawaiian Quartet||Ke-Ahi-Kuu-Ipo (Love's Fire)||Late 1949|
|212||Ken Griffin at the Organ||Santa's Coming||Late 1949||December 1949|
|212||Ken Griffin at the Organ||Merry Christmas||Late 1949||December 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Sentimental Me||Late 1949||December 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||My Blue Heaven||Late 1949||December 1949|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Tiger Rag||Late 1949||January 1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Till We Meet Again||Late 1949||January 1950|
|D9CB2216-1||215-A||Martha Lou Harp | Vic Anthony | Vocal with Orchestra Directed by Dan Mendelssohn||Sentimental Me||c. November 1949||December 1949|
|D9CB2215-1||215-B||Martha Lou Harp and The Carolers | Vocal with Orchestra Directed by Dan Mendelssohn||Little Pink Toes||c. November1949||December 1949|
|216-A||The Max Gordon Trio||Back Home Again in Indiana||1950|
|216-B||The Max Gordon Trio||You Bring Out The Love in Me||1950|
|217-A||Gene Colin's Quartet | Vocal by Gene Colin | Buddy Shaw: Clarinet, Gene Colin: Guitar, Paul Gordon: Piano, Maurie Laurie: Drums||Too Thin Polka||1950|
|217-B||Gene Colin's Quartet | Vocal by Gene Colin | Buddy Shaw: Clarinet, Gene Colin: Guitar, Paul Gordon: Piano, Maurie Laurie: Drums||My Date Book Is Open||1950|
|218||Gene Colin's Quartet||Shut Up||1950|
|218||Gene Colin's Quartet||Someday Sweetheart||1950|
|Olive Mason At The Piano||Boogie on the Humoresque||February or March 1950||April 1950|
|Olive Mason At The Piano||Angry||February or March 1950||April 1950|
|Olive Mason At The Piano||Lady Be Good||February or March 1950||April 1950|
|Olive Mason At the Piano||Liza||February or March 1950||April 1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Half a Heart||February 1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Under a Red Umbrella||February 1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Music Music Music!||March 1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Jumping Beans||March 1950|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Put Your Arms around Me Honey||January or February 1950||March 1951|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Margie||March 1951|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Wabash Blues||January 1950||1950|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Stardust||January 1950||1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Liebestraum||February 1950||May 1950|
|Ken Griffin at the Organ||Bayadere||January 1950||May 1950|
|226||Tommy Carlyn and his Orchestra | Vocal by DeLoris Randall & Carlyn's Quartette||I'd've Baked a Cake||March 1950|
|226||Tommy Carlyn and his Orchestra||March 1950|
|227||Ken Griffin At The Organ||Tea for Two|
|Ken Griffin At The Organ||Miss You|
|Arsene Siegel At The Organ||Gold and Silver Waltz||April 1950||1950|
|Arsene Siegel At The Organ||Nights of Gladness||April 1950||1950|
|Tommy Fairclow At The Organ||State Fair Polka||April 1950||August 1950|
|UB 50-453||232-B||Tommy Fairclow At The Organ||Beautiful Ohio||April 1950||August 1950|
|233||The Songsmiths||Old Injun Trail in the Valley||April 1950|
|233||The Songsmiths||Dancing with You||April 1950|
|UB50-462||234-B||The Songsmiths | Accompanied by Charlie Agnew's Orch.||Ida||April 1950||c. June 1950|
|UB50-460||234-A||The Songsmiths | Accompanied by Charlie Agnew's Orch.||Sunshine Song (Smile Till the Sun Comes Through)||April 1950||c. June 1950|
|UB50-513||235-A||Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland | Vocal Refrain by Lola Ameche||The Bucket Song||May 11, 1950||c. June 1950|
|UB50-515||235-B||Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland||Red Pepper Rag||May 11, 1950||c. June 1950|
|UB50-514||236||Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland||Lassas Trombone [sic]||May 11, 1950||c. June 1950|
|UB50-516||236||Danny Alvin's Kings of Dixieland||Maple Leaf Rag||May 11, 1950||c. June 1950|
|UB-50-608||237-A||Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra||Someone Stole My Heart||June 1950|
|UB-50-609||237-B||Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra||Lost and Gone||June 1950|
|238||Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra||No One to Love||June 1950||July 1950|
|238||Vocal by Bob Long | Accompanied by His Orchestra||Waltzing with Tears in My Eyes||June 1950||July 1950|
|UP 2284-1||239A||The Cherokees with Frank Baron's Orchestra||Let's Do It Again||[England]||August 1950|
|UPC 2285-2||239B||The Cherokees with Frank Baron's Orchestra||Say Oo La La, Oui Oui||[England]||August 1950|
|241||Marguerite Colbert At The Organ||You Tell Me Your Dreams and I'll Tell You Mine||December 1950|
|241||Marguerite Colbert At The Organ||Home||December 1950|
|UB50-855||243-A||Marguerite Colbert At The Organ||Stormy Weather||August 1950|
|UB50-858||243-B||Marguerite Colbert At The Organ||Linger Awhile||August 1950|
|245||Tommy Fairclow At The Organ||Poor Butterfly|
|245||Tommy Fairclow At The Organ||Weeping Willow Trees|
|247||Tommy Fairclow At The Organ||Rosalie||February 1953|
|247||Tommy Fairclow At The Organ||Have You Ever Been Lonely||February 1953|
|UB 45 260A [sic, 45 rpm]||260-A||Sung by: Melody Five | Music by Bill Walker Ensemble||Home in Dear Old Wisconsin||1951|
|UB51-239||260-B||Bill Walker Ensemble||Billy Bock Polka||May 1951||1951|
|3CC-102-7||261-A||Vocal by Gene Schiller and Ensemble with Chuck Cabot's Orchestra||Ella with the Polka-Dot Umbrella||May 1951|
|CC-5-3||261-B||Vocal by The Encores and Ensemble with Chuck Cabot's Orchestra||Just Go on Your Own Merry Way||May 1951|
|UB51-265||265-A||Johnny Hill with Caesar Giovanni's Orchestra||Be Careful||1951|
|E1-KB-1684||290||Jack Teter Trio | Sung by Jack Teter||Jig-a-Long Joe||c. May 1951||1951|
|E1-KB-1687||290||Jack Teter Trio | Sung by Jack Teter||Baby Talk||c. May 1951||1951|
|299-A||Captain Stubby And The Buccaneers Featuring Tiny Stokes||Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart||1952||July 1952|
|299-B||Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Featuring Tiny Stokes||You Can't Be True Dear||1952||July 1952|
|300-A||Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Featuring the Buccaneer Trio||Yearning (Just for You)||1952||July 1952|
|300-B||Captain Stubby and The Buccaneers Featuring the Buccaneer Trio||If You Would Only Be Mine||1952||July 1952|
|301||Captain Stubby and His Buccaneers||The Knockin' Song||February 1953|
|301||Captain Stubby and His Buccaneers||Every Time You Leave||February 1953|
|302||Captain Stubby and His Buccaneers||Forever with You||February 1953|
|302||Captain Stubby and His Buccaneers||I'll Never Tell||February 1953|
|304-1||Ronnie Orland At The Piano||Blind Mice Boogie||c. January 1954||February 1954|
|304-2||Ronnie Orland At The Piano||Ronnie's Boogie||c. January 1954||February 1954|
|305-1||Carmen Vincent and his Orch. Featuring Joe Buck on the accordion | Vocal by Carmen Vincent||Wonderful Wisconsin||prob. 1953|
|305-2||Carmen Vincent and his Orch. Featuring Joe Buck on the accordion | Vocal by Carmen Vincent and The Versal-Aires||Hey Hey Polka||prob. 1953|
|307-1||Ronnie Orland At The Piano with rhythm||Bumble Boogie||c. January 1954|
|307-3 [sic!]||Ronnie Orland At The Piano with rhythm||Back of the Yards||c. January 1954|
|309-1||Bob Kames at the organ and clavioline with rhythm|
|309-2||Bob Kames at the organ and clavioline with rhythm||Alexander's Ragtime Band|
|Matrix Number||Release Number||Artist||Title||Recording Date||Release Date|
||Carolina Play Boys||It Takes a Long Tall Brown Skin Gal|
||Carolina Play Boys||Baby You Gotta Quit That Noise|
|UB9713||250-A||Dusty Rivers and the Rangers||Wheelwright Boogie||c. May 1949|
|UB9715||250-B||Dusty Rivers and the Rangers | Vocal by "Speedy" Ross||I Don't Know Where I Go But I'm Goin'||c. May 1949|
|UB9714||251-A||Dusty Rivers and the Rangers | Vocal by "Speedy" Ross||Hongkong Blues||c. May 1949|
|UB9716||251-B||Dusty Rivers and the Rangers | Vocal by: The Rangers Trio||Kentucky Means Paradise||c. May 1949|
|Stu Davis and Orchestra | Vocal by Stu Davis||I Can Beat You Doin What You're Doin to Me [sic]||September 1946|
|Stu Davis and Orchestra | Vocal by Stu Davis||Land, Sky and Water||September 1946|
|255-A||Dick Brown||That Little Girl||October 1949|
|255-B||Dick Brown||What Have You Done to My Heart||October 1949|
We had previously listed just Rondo 501 here. However, the presence of another Sonora-derived single (Rondo 252), the 1949 recording dates on Rondo 250 and 251, and the advertised 1949 release date for Rondo 255 suggest that for some reason the company switched the numbering on its Country series.
|Matrix Number||Release Number||Artist||Title||Overdubbed on||Recording Date||Release Date|
|228-A||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal by Jerry Wayne||You Can't Be True Dear||Rondo 128-A||March 1948|
|228-B||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal by Jerry Wayne||Doodle Doo Do||Rondo 130-A||March 1948|
|328-A||Ken Griffin: (Orgel) | Gesang: Jolly Franzl||Du Kannst Nich Treu Sein||Rondo 128-A|
|328-B||Ken Griffin: (Orgel) | Gesang: Jolly Franzl||Komm' in Meine Liebeslaube||Rondo 135-A|
|UB 8776||428-A||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek akomp. Ken Griffin na organie||Niewiernym Jestes (You Can't Be True Dear)||Rondo 128-A||April 1949|
|UB 8777||428-B||Śpiewa: Alicja Kusek | Rudy Plocar i jego orkiestra||Dziadunio Polka (Clarinet Polka)||Rondo 553-B||April 1949|
|UB8569-3-1||143-A||Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman||Cuckoo Bird Waltz||Rondo 128-B||1948|
|UB8568-3-2||143-B||Ken Griffin At the Organ | Vocal Johnny Knapp & Marian Spelman||Every Little Movement||Rondo 135-A||1948|
|150||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp||If I Had You||Rondo 137-A||October 1948|
|150||Ken Griffin at the Organ | Vocal: Johnny Knapp||Brown Jug Polka||Rondo 137-B||October 1948|
|600-A||Featuring The Payson Sisters | Jolly Franzl | Rudy Plocar's Orch.||More Beer!||Rondo 589||December 1948|
|600-B||Rudy Plocar's Orch.||Silver Lake Waltz||Rondo 588||December 1948|
|283||Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill and Karen Ford||Yes, Sir, That's My Baby||Rondo 183-A|
|283||Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill||Love Was the Cause of It All||Rondo 183-B|
|287||Ken Griffin | Vocal: Johnny Hill and Karen Ford||You're My Love Song||Rondo 187|
|287||Ken Griffin||The Miller's Daughter||Rondo 187|
|292-A||Ken Griffin||By the Waters of the Minnetonka||Rondo 192-A||August 1949|
|Ken Griffin||Beautiful Wisconsin||Rondo 192-B||August 1949|
|298||Ken Griffin | Vocal: Bill Snary with the Songsmiths||Souvenir Waltz||Rondo 198-A|
|298||Ken Griffin||Ti-Pi-Tin||Rondo 198-B|
|421-A||Ken Griffin At the Organ Featuring The Songsmiths||Under a Red Umbrella||Rondo 221-B||1950|
|221-A||421-B||Ken Griffin At the Organ||Half a Heart||Rondo 221-A||1950|
Notes on Appendix C: These records with overdubbed vocals are listed in the chronological order of the original instrumental releases from which they were derived. Where no vocal credits are included, that side of the record was carried over as an instrumental.
The discerning reader will note the absence of vocal credits on both sides of Rondo 292. That's because, for some reason, Rondo put out 192 with a vocal on "Beautiful Wisconsin"—which sounds as though Johnny Hill and Ken Griffin were actually in the studio at the same time—then put the instrumental version out on 292. (The rationale for the switch has proven elusive.)
There are two known Rondos that overbub a vocal over something besides a Ken Griffin organ solo. While the A side of 428 is yet another version of "You Can't Be True, Dear," side B has Alicja Kusek's vocals dubbed on top of a polka from Rudy Plocar's first session for the label.
The second dub, also over a Rudy Plocar recording, came about during a long-forgotten music business frenzy. In October 1948, "More Beer!" (a good-timey polka with words in English) found some traction commercially. Not long after the original version came out on Manhattan Records, a small label based in St. Louis (Billboard, November 6, 1948, p. 43), a bunch of competitors wanted in on the action. Before November was out, RCA Victor was offering a Lawrence Duchow rendition with vocals by one Johnny Olsen. By December, Dana, a polka specialist label, had its own version out by Walter Ziemba. So Rondo took Rudy Plocar's November 1947 recording of the "Beer Bucket Polka," as recently released on Rondo 589 (the C strain had become the tune to "More Beer!"), trimmed off the first presentation of the A strain (so listeners wouldn't have to wait so long for the words to start), and overdubbed lead vocals by Jolly Franzl (who had been previously entrusted with vocals in German and English) with backing by the Payson Sisters. The resulting souped-up version, on Rondo 600, reused the instrumental recording of "Silver Lake Waltz" (originally on Rondo 588) for a flip. As with the Ken Griffins so modified, overdubbing vocals wasn't considered a violation of the Musicians Union recording ban.
Not to be outdone, in January 1949 Rondo would roll out a second version of "More Beer!" by Pete Ochs (Rondo 601, advertised in Billboard on January 22, 1949; see our 550 series listing). Whether this was freshly recorded for Rondo with vocals, or had undergone doctoring, we are not in a position to say (the Plocar rendition is a little easier to find today). Plocar and Ochs were facing well distributed competition, and not just from Duchow; in early January Decca released a version by the Andrews Sisters, recorded in late December 1948, which soon reached the pop charts. In July 1949, Decca's Coral subisidiary was offering still another "More Beer!" by the Ames Brothers. By the the middle of 1950, the wave had subsided. An advertisement for Lawrence Duchow's RCA Victor releases (Billboard, August 12, 1950, p. 36) showed two-thirds of them as available on 78s and 45s. "More Beer!" was among the lower-priority disks, available only on 78 rpm. As late as 1954, however, Chance would release another rendition, by the BEL Trio from Milwaukee.
|LP Number||Artist||Title||Release Date|
|RLP-24||Organ and Chimes [Elmer Ihrke, Cosmo Teri, Ken Griffin]||Merry Christmas Melodies||1953 or 1954|
|RLP-25||Ken Griffin||At the Organ||July 1949|
|RLP-26||Elmer Ihrke||Christmas Carols (Organ and Chimes)||October 1949|
|RLP-27||Ken Griffin||The Wizard of the Organ||October 1949|
|RLP-28||Rudy Plocar||Polka Parade||October 1949|
|RLP-1010||Ken Griffin (Organ and Chimes)||Merry Christmas||November or December 1949|
|RLP-29||Max Gordon Trio||December 1949|
|RLP-30||Hawaiian Harmony Quartet||Songs from the Islands||1950|
|RLP-31||Jimmy Blade||Jimmy Blade's Music||1950|
|RLP-32||Don Pablo's Orchestra||Music of the Americas||April 1950|
|RLP-33||Ken Griffin||At the Organ||1950|
|RLP-34||Ken Griffin||The Wizard of the Organ||1951|
|RLP-35||Elmer Ihrke||The Golden Album of Hymns||1951|
|RLP-36||Elmer Ihrke and the Noller-Straub Duo||At the Organ||1951|
|RLP-37||Olive Mason||At the Piano||1951|
|RLP-38||Ken Griffin||The Wizard of the Organ||1951|
|RLP-39||Gabor Radics & His Orch.||Gypsy Music||1951|
|RLP-40||Armand Bernard Orchestra||Viennese Varieties||1951|
|RLP-41||Rudy Plocar||New Polka with Plocar||1951|
|RLP-42||Tommy Fairclow — Arsene Siegel||Organ Favorites II||1952|
|RLP-43||Ken Griffin||Wizard of the Organ on Rondo Records||1952 or 1953|
|RLP-44||Ken Griffin||Wizard of the Organ on Rondo Records||1952 or 1953|
|CLP-1||Children's Long Playing Record||1950 or 1951|
|ALP-1||H. B. Moss, Piano | Produced by Maestro Dino Bigalli||For Tenor and Soprano||1950|
|ALP-2||Dr. Otto Herz, Piano | Produced by Alexander Kipnis||For Baritone and Mezzo Soprano||1950|
Some Notes to Appendix D: As with most small record companies at the time, Rondo's 10-inch LPs generally reissued tracks that the label had already put out on singles. We have indicated on our 100 and 550 series lists which items were later released on LPs.
The exceptions, to our present knowledge, are RLP-39, Gypsy Music by Gabor Radics and RLP-40, Viennese Varieties by Armand Bernard; complete track listings for all 4 LPs are on a late 1951 Rondo sleeve in Robert L. Campbell's collection. And an advertisement for RLP-42 on the back of another LP in Robert L. Campbell's collection lists "State Fair Polka," which we know is by Tommy Fairclow, "Blue Skirt Waltz" and "Honeymoon Waltz," which appear to be by Tommy Fairclow, "Claire de Lune" and "Narcissus," which look like Arsene Siegel material, and "Gold and Silver" and "Nights of Gladness," which definitely are. Every individual track on these albums probably first appeared on a Rondo single, even if we haven't located it yet. On the other hand, we are reasonably sure that the two Accompadisc LPs, both of which were announced in January 1950, used material that was not released on singles.
Meanwhile, we assume that all 6 tracks on CLP-1 had previously been released on singles, but we have not tried to chronicle the Rondo RC series.
Every side out of the 46 included in the first 6 Ken Griffin LPs is on our list of the 100 series (Appendix B), as is every side on the Jimmy Blade LP and every side on the Olive Mason LP. There is just one track on the Max Gordon LP not presently listed in the 100s, and we know that it was released on Rolin. We are reasonably sure that every Elmer Ihrke track on his his two solo LPs and his other two shared LPs made a previous appearance in the 100 series. (For instance, RLP-24, which Ihrke shares with Cosmo Teri and Ken Griffin, supplements the 6 Teri and Ihrke tracks in the 78-rpm album R-1004 with one other Ihrke track, previously released on Rondo 109 and 120, and one side from Ken Griffin's 78-rpm album R-1010). We can now confirm that RLP-30, by the Hawaiian Harmony Quartet, consisted on Rondo 208, 209, 210, and 211. On the back of RLP-28, as released in 1949, the statement is made that "All these selections [on RLPs 25, 26, and 27] are also available singly—(on 78 rpm records)." And every track on the 2 Rudy Plocar LPs is included in our 550 series listing (Appendix A).
Ken Griffin's last two LPs, RLP-43 and 44, are different animals. Not one of RLP-43's 8 tracks was released while he was still under contract with Rondo. The titles are "Twelfth Street Rag," "The Whistler and His Dog," "Humoresque," "Santa Lucia," "Prune Song," "Sentimental Journey," "Freight Train Boogie," and "La Paloma." Between his return to the studio toward the end of 1948 and his departure from Rondo in March 1950, Griffin was recording at a much faster pace than even Rondo's aggressive release schedule could support. Some of these titles may, of course, have appeared on singles, as yet undocumented, between 1951 and 1953.
The same goes for RLP-44. What appears to be the label's very last LP consists of "Heavenly Hawaii," "Cielito Lindo," "Serenade," "Beer Barrel Polka," "Funiculi, Funicula," "La Golondrina," "Dark Eyes," and "Barcarole."
On the 17 4-track Griffin EPs released by Rondo, just 1 track out of the first 32, "Lorelei Waltz" on EPR-4, is not on our 100 series list (nor is it any of his 7 known LPs). EPR-11 includes "12th Street Rag" and "Prune Song" from RLP-43. EPR-12 includes "The Whistler and His Dog" and "La Paloma," as on RLP-43. EPR-13 has "Humoresque" and "Freight Train Boogie"; EPR-14 "Santa Lucia" and "Sentimental Journey." The last four EPs correspondingly duplicate the contents of RLP-44. The couplings are "Heavenly Hawaii" and "Cielito Lindo" from EPR-15; "Beer Barrel Polka," and Schubert's "Serenade" from EPR-16; "Funiculi, Funicula" and "La Golondrina" from EPR-17; and "Dark Eyes" and "Barcarole" from EPR-18.
RLP-25 was announced in Billboard; a later story, dated October 22, 1949, declared that Rondo had 4 LPs out; and four of the first six were listed in a small Rondo advertisement in the same trade paper on December 10, 1949. The back liner to RLP-29 (released December 1949) refers to RLPs 25, 26, 27, 28, and 1010. The release date on the Don Pablo comes from an ad for Kuras Furniture Appliance and Music store in Ludington, Michigan; it is listed among several "New LP 33 1/3 RPM Records" (Ludington Daily News, April 14, 1950, p. 8). Although the numbering might lead one to believe that RLP-24 was the first venture into the medium, the only copy we have seen looks like a 1953 or 1954 release. RLP-24 uses a red Rondo label in the standard 10-inch LP size, not the green 78-rpm style label that the company had otherwise relied on (even on its last two Ken Griffin LPs, RLP-43 and 44).
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