Smith Arrives!

It’s new-release Friday and the beginning of Archeophone’s Fall Sale. Be sure to pick up your copy of our new double-CD set, Songs of the Night by Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra, and grab those other items you’ve been eyeing. Everything is at least ten percent off.

For today’s blog, let’s celebrate by taking a good look at Smith’s band—literally. Admittedly, the print size of a standard CD-sized booklet means we can’t always print album art as big as we’d like. So we thought it would be nice to blow up the size of some Smith catalog pictures for you to examine.

Here’s the first time Smith’s band was pictured in a record-company catalog supplement, from Victor’s June 1917 “New Victor Records.” The studio lineup at this time consisted of two violins, cello, string bass, bass clarinet, cornet, trombone, piano, and traps—but we see no bass clarinet here, suggesting it was added only for recording purposes. The string bass provided a lovely foundation for the music, but it did not record especially well, so the bass clarinet was used to help out. Smith stands in the middle, holding his violin and bow. That’s probably Hugo Frey at the piano. (click photos to enlarge)

On to Columbia. Smith’s Orchestra made only two sides for the company, waxed in November 1917, and released in March 1918. Here’s the supplement for disc # A2460, advertised together with an issue by W. C. Handy’s Orchestra of Memphis. Obviously, this is the same picture as Victor used, only it’s been 1918-style-photoshopped to remove the background—and the piano.

Smith’s first records on Brunswick came to market in late 1922 and early 1923. Here’s a supplement from September 1923 picturing the band, advertised along with dance offerings from the orchestras of Isham Jones, Bennie Krueger, Carl Fenton, and the Cotton Pickers. The outfit has ballooned to eleven men! Notice the addition of an extra violin and another cello. Brunswick session files do not survive, so we don’t know the exact instrumentation on any of the records. But the audible evidence suggests a similar orchestration to Smith’s other records—just with more of the same. The string bassist is clearly the same guy from the other photos, and there may be other holdover musicians here. Hard to tell for sure from these old halftone reproductions.

The larger band in this last supplement photo is the same one pictured in the beautiful portrait adorning the cover of the CD—graciously provided by Jerry Singer, grandson of Louis Goodwin, the pianist who replaced Hugo Frey in the ensemble. Thanks to Jerry and his mother, Dawn, for their help with the project. And thanks to Ryan Barna for his outstanding research and liner notes!


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