Guest blog by Colin Hancock
The six sides recorded by Gus Haenschen’s Banjo Orchestra in 1916 are rare—very rare. In fact, before The Missing Link project was compiled, chances are no one had heard all six of them since they were first released. Gus himself stated that he never personally owned copies of the discs, and the Haenschen family currently doesn’t own any copies either. Only around 200 of each title were pressed in the first place, and it took locating them to realize just how rare they really are.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch June 27, 1916
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)
June 1917 Victor supplement (Archeophone Records Collection)
Band close up in June 1917 Victor supplement (Archeophone Records Collection)
Taxi, by Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra (Ryan Barna Collection)
In our last installment, we gave you a taste of what is coming on our double-CD overview of the career of bandleader Joseph C. Smith and his Plaza Hotel outfit. Today we’re publishing the full playlist and giving you one of the songs that didn’t make the final cut.
Smith made his first recordings on September 25, 1916—four tracks, two of which were issued and two that were rejected. Both of the accepted takes are here, 10-inch “Money Blues” and 12-inch “Songs of the Night.” Then, in January 1917, he began a rigorous recording schedule that, with the exception of the first few months of 1918, didn’t let up until March 1922. Then he jumped labels and had sporadic recording dates through about March 1925, his final session.
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 (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.