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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Bobby Smith & Orchestra - Jazz At The Apollo

Side 1:
01. Tippin' In
02. Station Break
03. After Hours
04. Bess Boogie
05. Dash Hound Boogie
06. Blue Keys
07. Flip A Coin
08. Cinder Bottom

Side 2:
01. Buffalo Nickel (part 1)
02. Desert Night
03. Danny Boy
04. Skippin' And Hoppin'
05. Night Watch
06. Tread Lightly
07. Lightfoot
08. Don't Shake Those Hips At Me

Download from here:

Good collection of small group jazz / boogie / jump by alto sax man, composer and arranger Bobby Smith. This was a spin-off project from the Erskine Hawkins big band, the Smith group consisting entirely of Hawkins band members. It wasn't a breakaway group as the musicians continued to play with and record with the parent big band while the small group acted as house band for Apollo Records of New York.

Bobby Smith was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1907. Born into a musical family, he learned piano, drums and saxophone. While on tour with Banjo Bernie's band he found himself stranded in
Florida. This turned out to be a career defining stroke of fortune, for he then joined the Original Sunset Royal Serenaders with whom he stayed for nearly ten years. When trombonist and singer Doc Wheeler took over as band leader the outfit was renamed Doc Wheeler and his Sunset Orchestra under which name the band recorded for the Victor subsidiary label Bluebird in late 1941 / early 1942.

Among the sides recorded were a Bobby Smith / Cat Anderson composition, "How 'Bout That Mess" and a Bobby Smith arrangement of Jesse Stone's "Sorghum Switch", a number which would be revived in the R&B years as "Cole Slaw" by Frank Culley, Louis Jordan and Jesse Stone himself. Also noteworthy is the version of "Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well" recorded by the band in March 1942, more than two years before the Lucky Millinder / Wynonie Harris version.

Somewhere around 1943 or 1944 Bobby moved over to the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, a much better established band which had enjoyed long residencies at the Savoy Ballroom (often side by side with the Chick Webb Orchestra) and a long series of hit recordings, including the original version of "Tuxedo Junction", "Whispering Grass" and "Don't Cry Baby." The Sunset Orchestra seems to have been a source of musicians for the Hawkins band, for among the musicians who made the transition were Ace Harris, who replaced Avery Parrish (composer of "After Hours") on piano, guitarist Leroy Kirkland, trumpeter Jimmy Harris and drummer Joe Murphy.

Bobby composed one of Erskine Hawkins' biggest hits, "Tippin' In" which was an R&B number one in 1945 and which was revived twice more by Bobby and the small group on Apollo - in the 1950 instrumental version on this LP and in a vocal version by The Larks in 1954 with the Smith band providing accompaniment.

The Bobby Smith Orchestra recorded under their own name for Apollo between 1949 and 1954, as well as accompanying acts like blues shouter Eddie Mack and the top notch bluesy vocal group The Larks. The latter recorded the superb B Side of "Little Side Car" with Bobby - "Hey Little Girl" which is one of my favourite R&B records

This LP features sides from the 1949 - 1950 Apollo sessions, plus both sides of two singles for Apollo subsidiary Ruby which Bobby recorded with Sam "The Man" Taylor in 1951. This was something in the way of a reunion, for Sam was a fellow graduate of The School Of Cool aka The Sunset Orchestra.

Recommended further listening is the Delmark CD "That's For Sure!" which has 22 sides recorded by The Bobby Smith Orchestra between 1949 and 1954. From the mastertapes!

Information sources - Dave Penny: notes to "Jazz At The Apollo" and to the CD "Erskine Hawkins Jukebox Hits 1940-1950" (Acrobat). Stanley Dance: notes to the Delmark CD "That's For Sure!"


bulldogUK said...

Thank you ... glad you never went away .. you had us worried for a while.

boogiewoody said...

Nah, you can't keep a good man down!


Bill S. said...

Thanks for this. I've always loved the Hawkins band and its members' side projects and post-Hawkins work. I made a point of picking up ALL the French "Classics" chronological CD's of Hawkins because other than a few hits like "Tuxedo Junction" and "After Hours," most of Hawkins band recordings have not been reissued often. Looking forward to listening to this after work tonight!

boogiewoody said...

Cheers Bill. I only ever bought one of the Chronological Classics CDs of Erskine Hawkins - 1946-1947. I also bought the Acrobat CD Erskine Hawkins Jukebox Hits 1940-1950 which is excellent.

I'm sure I have some vinyl though ...


phipps11 said...

Hot stuff!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Glad to see you decided to hang around!

I too am anonymous.

george said...

Many thanks, boogiewoody!

Daddy Cool said...

Great item on an often overlooked artist.

A couple of points (nit picking!)
1) Ruby was a subsidiary of Anchor in Newark - not Apollo
2) I know Dave Penny put the Ruby's at 1951 but they're actually 1953 recordings. Billboard mentions Ruby 101 at least three times between January and April 1954.
3) His Acrobat CD "Tippin' In" (ACMCD4202) is probably also worth a mention. It has 28 tracks although 12 of those have Bobby backing other artists - Willie Bryant, Eddie Mack, Bob Range and The Larks. ALL of the tracks are available on the Delmark CD you mention plus a couple of other Delmark CDs for the tracks by the other artists.

I sympathise with your problems with the 'pirates' but I can't come up with anything constructive to do about them - I certainly haven't/won't buy from them. I imagine that the time they put into their 'companies', setting up the web sites - printing the CDs & inserts on demand (I can't see them having a pile of Buster Brown, etc. sitting waiting to pop into the envelope) is not rewarded with a decent hourly return and eventually they'll pack it in.
I think they'll remain a thorn in people's sides (the purchasers - I wouldn't be happy to receive a home-made CD for my money - as well as the real copyright owners) for a while until they decide to get out of the bedroom and do a real job. I suspect it isn't worth the copyright owners spending time and money pursuing them when they are unlikely to have any assets to pay fines, etc.

I hope you continue with the site and if it was just you writing plus photos and screen shots that's fine by me.

Daddy Cool said...

Just found this which will probably interest you.
No Bobby Smith but lots of other Apollo cats.


boogiewoody said...

Thanks for the additional info and corrections, Daddy Cool. Especially regarding the Ruby releases. Afraid I wasn't thorough enough to check back in Billboard on the Ruby releases, so thanks for that.

Billboard is the go-to online resource for checking original release dates. I understand there is a project running to digitize Cashbox magazine which will provide more data for the R&B era.

I haven't come across anyone offering blog albums for sale on CD yet, just mp3 downloads and streaming.

Thanks for the info on further CDs with Bobby Smith interest. I didn't know about the Acrobat one. I did cut the post short and left out info of other CDs I have, including an Acrobat CD of Erskine Hawkins' hits, a Blue Moon CD of Eddie Mack and a Westside CD of the Larks.

Crispy said...

The Cats Meow Baby- thank you for keepin' the great groove fest going here! As I said this is one of the best blogs around-Cheers!

boogiewoody said...

Cheers Crispy. I,ve taken a break from blogging - but it's only temporary. I'll be back in a few days time.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much

Gerard Herzhaft said...

Would it be possible to re-up this one? Thanks for your always great posts!

boogiewoody said...

New Mega link now up on the post, Gerard.


Gerard Herzhaft said...

Thanks a lot boogiewoody! Great blog!