Introducing Joseph C. Smith

For you lovers of physical media, we want to tell you that our next CD, Dan W. Quinn’s Anthology: The King of Comic Singers, 1894-1917, will be released next Tuesday, June 16, 2015. It’s a beautiful digipak edition with a 52-page color booklet that will be offered at a discounted price for the first couple of weeks, so strike while the fire’s hot!

Our next project, slated for later this summer, is Songs of the Night, a two-CD overview of Joseph C. Smith and His Orchestra. With 47 songs from 1917 through 1925 provisionally lined up, this represents about a third of Smith’s complete recordings.

Joseph C. Smith

Joseph C. Smith (Archeophone Records collection)

Smith is one of those guys that we regularly get requests for. Fans who love the dance music of the 1910s and 1920s regard him as one of the most seminal figures of the American dance scene—a consummate professional and an innovator at the same time, one whose time in the spotlight was too brief, owing to the winds of fickle postwar fancy.

As our notes writer, Ryan Barna, explains in his essay, Smith moved away from the sound of military-style dance bands and introduced smaller ensembles, allowing for a more intimate sound. Several other “firsts” for which Smith was responsible include the following, in Ryan’s words:

  • He was the first known artist to release commercial recordings of Cole Porter and George Gershwin songs
  • He was the first known dance band leader to introduce individual soloists
  • He was the first bandleader to include “orchestrated” jazz in his recordings, before Paul Whiteman became famous for them
  • He had the first best-selling records of instrumentals that would become frequent standards for future bands, including “Hindustan,” “Rose Room,” “Alice Blue Gown,” and “Three O’clock in the Morning”
  • He was one of the first to highlight a) the saxophone, and b) two pianists on dance records on a regular basis
  • He was the first to release a fox trot record with a vocal refrain, and the first bandleader to feature vocal refrains regularly
  • He was the first bandleader to feature Harry Raderman’s influential “laughing trombone” style on record
  • His band included important, early musicians and future bandleaders in his recordings, such as George Hamilton Green, Harry Raderman, Teddy Brown, William Bergé , Harry Akst, and Rudy Wiedoeft

It’s been hard to find out much about Smith’s biography, but Ryan has got many new discoveries to help flesh out the man. As for our selections, they go from Smith’s first recording, “Money Blues,” all the way to his (apparent) last one, “I Like You Best of All,” made in Montreal for the Victor company of Canada and never released in the States. Along the way, we’ll include all the band’s biggest hits, such as “Missouri Waltz,” important innovations like “Yellow Dog Blues” and “Smiles,” the one disc Smith made for Columbia, “Caliococo” and “When You Come Back,” and even a few of his Brunswick sides, such as “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” and “Stella.”

We’re excited about Smith’s story and sounds and hope you are as well!

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