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: American Music, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 313-351 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3052602 . Accessed: 09/05/2012 09:01
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From 1929 until 1940 New Orleans-born trumpet player Don Albert (1908-80) led a jazz band based in San Antonio, Texas, known first as "Don Albert and His Ten Pals" and later as "Don Albert and His Music, 'America's Greatest Swing Band."' Within jazz historiography it has been categorized as one of the numerous "territory bands" that emerged in the south-central United States during the 1920s and 1930s. The history of the territory bands is complex and by no means completely understood. The earliest studies of the territory bands of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri (the region known to jazz historians as "the Southwest") by Franklin Driggs, Ross Russell, and Gunther Schuller vary in their assessments of the importance of these groups. Russell offers the most dismissive evaluation.' In his view, although some of these ensembles included at one time or another a player who would later have a distinguished career in one of the celebrated national bands, the territory bands themselves did little to merit closer attention, since they rarely toured, made few if any recordings, and thus apparently had limited influence on jazz history. To Russell, these groups, presumably consisting largely of local performers as well as "random barnstorming musicians who drifted into the area," were essentially "large frogs in small ponds." He goes on to assert that almost all territory bands failed in their attempts to reach a larger audience, "destroyed by their own ambitions and the many uncertainties and frustrations of show business."2 ChristopherWilkinson, an associate professor of music history at West Virginia University,is currentlyworking on a monograph on the life of Don Albert. His most recent publication, "TheInfluence of West African Pedagogy upon the Education of New Orleans Jazz Musicians," BlackMusic Research Journal14, no. 1 (Spring 1994), is devoted to another phase of Albert's life.
American Music Fall 1996 @ 1996 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
More recent research has demonstrated the significant impact some of these bands had on popular music in the period between the two world wars. Although in the 1920s the music played by various groups reflected the influence of distinctive combinations of musical traditions indigenous to the territory in which each resided, by the early 1930s, in part reflecting the culturally homogenizing influence of the newly emergent mass media of radio and recordings, regional styles yielded to a national style of jazz, which in various ways retained elements of the formerly regional practices while transcending the boundaries that had divided the territories in which they had developed.3 Evidence of the territory bands' role in the development of big-band jazz challenges the earlier view that territory bands resembled minorleague baseball teams: collections of seemingly randomly selected players of decidedly mixed abilities, some with talent that would eventually allow them to move up to organizations having national reputations, others on their way down from earlier fame to future obscurity, and still others who had reached the pinnacle of success merely by being a part of these ensembles. In truth all national bands began life as territory bands and acquired their elevated status through a combination of their own collective talents and the increasingly powerful music industry, with its "complex series of alliances and partnerships" among booking agents, recording companies, radio stations and networks, the corporate sponsors of broadcasts, owners of hotels and nightclubs, and the American Federation of Musicians.4 This collection of capitalistic enterprises appears to have changed the environment in which jazz was created and performed during the 1930s. According to Thomas J. Hennessey, "After 1929, the national nature of the band business and the pressures of the Depression squeezed most regional styles out of existence." By the summer of 1935, when Benny Goodman's triumph at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles "officially" ushered in the swing era and established jazz as the prevailing style of American popular music for a decade, the transformation was complete.5 The history of Don Albert's band is one of a band that was formed at the beginning of this period of transformation and that broke up in 1940, the midpoint of the swing era. It is a history shaped by two seemingly contradictory forces. The more apparent force was the power of the music industry's complex alliances to regulate, and in this instance frustrate, the ambitions of a band that often found itself on the fringes of the industry's ever-expanding domain. The less apparent force was that of this band's popularity, particularly with black audiences, despite the absence of support from the music industry. The reputation of Albert's band cannot be measured by the number
A National Band from the Southwest
of recordings made-there were only eight--or by the amount of coverage in the mainstream press-the attention paid Albert by whiteowned newspapers and magazines was negligible. Instead it is documented in the black press of the period and demonstrated by the numerous and extensive tours undertaken between 1931 and 1940. The memories of Albert and a number of associates have provided corroborating evidence of the documented record of his achievement. Thus the history of Albert's band contradicts certain assumptions about the territory bands' place in the hierarchy of jazz ensembles during the 1930s. It also calls into question the premises on which that hierarchy appears to have been founded. The first premise is that one may fairly evaluate the quality of these bands on the basis of their often limited number of recordings. The second assumption derives in part from the first: given the limited number and, at times, uneven quality of the recorded performances, these territory bands must have had fundamental artistic limitations that account for their failures to make names for themselves in the major centers of jazz, such as Kansas City or New York. The third assumption, and perhaps the most significant, is that the fate of these bands was largely within their own control, and thus their failures were their own responsibility. This assumption ignores the reality that the majority of the territory bands (almost all of which were black) faced daunting barriers created to maintain racial segregation that severely inhibited or even totally blocked their access to white audiences, whose attention may be presumed to equal national recognition. It also ignores the fact that, as the 1930s unfolded, the music industry's increasing control of performance opportunities required the support and intervention of various gatekeepers, almost all of whom were white. All these assumptions have obscured the significant reputation that Don Albert's band earned as a result of its work in locations far removed from the "small pond" of the Southwest. Newly discovered documents reveal that this band enjoyed considerable fame within African America during much of its existence. Although initially confined to the Southwest, its reputation would eventually extend across the eastern half of the country as a consequence of countless performances throughout twenty-four of the continental states. This evidence not only challenges the prevailing view that the Don Albert Orchestra was merely another territory band of the 1930s but also supports the conclusion that for a period in the later 1930s, at the beginning of the "official" swing era, it acquired the status of a national band within the African American community. In 1908 the leader of this band was born Albert Anit6 Dominique in the area known as the Seventh Ward, the principal Creole community of New Orleans. As a youth Don Albert, as he later renamed him-
9 Contrary to Russell's generalization concerning the personnel of territory bands." began its eleven-year existence with the following personnel: Don Albert trumpet and leader Hiram Harding trumpet Frank Jacquet trombone Herbert Hall baritone and alto saxophones. having heard him perform with Floyd's band. gave Albert a thousand dollars to form a group to play engagements during the Texas State Fair. which he later described as "the raggediest and worst place" in the Central Track area of downtown Dallas. known as "Don Albert and His Ten Pals. at the age of eighteen. The band. studied with several master musicians from the Creole community. His experience with members of Troy Floyd's band. most of whom apparently played only by ear. he employed musicians working in New Orleans who either were known to him from his youth or had established reputations there subsequent to his departure in 1926. including "Papa" Louis Tio and Milford Piron. clarinet Louis Cottrell Jr. was undoubtedly a major factor in his .7 Shortly thereafter Albert met Alphonso Trent. From the ages of fourteen to eighteen Albert played sporadically with various bands both in and around New Orleans." that is. Of more immediate importance to Albert's career was his developing friendship with Trent's first trumpet player. tenor saxophone and clarinet Arthur Derbigny alto saxophone and clarinet Al Freeman Jr.6 In September 1926. which was based in San Antonio. The exception was trumpet player Hiram Harding of Dallas. which would last from October 12 to 27. the preeminent black bandleader not only in Dallas but of the entire Texas-Arkansas-Oklahoma region in the late 1920s. at the end of 1926 Albert was hired as lead trumpet player in Troy Floyd's band.316 Wilkinson self. Albert did not hire local talent-not even raiding Troy Floyd's band in the process of forming his own. He had been hired to play in the house band of a bar called the Tip Top. In August 1929 an investor named Bernard Goldberg. Chester Clark. able to read music. With one exception. piano Ferdinand Dejan banjo tuba Henry Turner drums Albert Martin vocals Sidney Hansell Interviews with Albert suggest that he placed great importance on his sidemen being "finished musicians. Thanks to Clark's assistance and advice. he left New Orleans for Texas with two other young musicians.8 He remained with Floyd for almost three years.
west to South Dakota. even in its extreme youth. we had to have some music. or 45 percent of its existence. north to upstate New York. That his fledgling band was hired for an extended engagement suggests that Albert probably capitalized on a reputation earned in San Antonio during his three-year stint as lead trumpet with Floyd. playing a repertory of head and stock arrangements. In the course of these journeys the band played in cities and towns from Texas to Florida. the final tour ending four months before the group broke up in 1940. The band traveled every year but one during its existence. What is known is that shortly after the conclusion of the state fair. The Ten Pals also moved there. as well as in all the states between. having bought a second-hand bus with savings from the tips they earned from playing requests.12 The Ten Pals remained at Shadowland until May 1931. Nonetheless. they left on the first of what would ultimately be twelve tours. a roadhouse on the outskirts of San Antonio. several gaps in the newspaper record. "because the band formed so quickly. the group went to San Antonio and became the house band for a nightclub known variously as the Chicken Plantation or the Chicken Shack and run by a man named Raul Estes. and Pittsburgh and in small towns such as Thomasville. Moreover.10As he later recalled. The Chicken Plantation went out of business early in 1930 when Estes apparently decided to take a job at Shadowland. replacing Troy Floyd's band. they played for dancing every night and also backed touring singers and dance teams occasionally engaged to perform there. Evidence preserved in contemporary newspapers reveals that during its ten-year-andeight-month life. Georgia." The "music" was a collection of stock arrangements given Albert by the leader of a band of white musicians performing at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. the band was on the road the equivalent of at least four years and ten months. each of a month or more.A National Band from the Southwest 317 decision to return home to find players. Detroit. It played in the major cities of New York. and back down again to Texas. suggest the possibility of still other tours besides those it has been possible to document. finished musicians would be easy to find in New Orleans. the longest lasted more than a year. This conservative estimate does not include short out-of-town engagements that the band played while it was ostensibly resident in San Antonio. Although the shortest of these trips lasted only two or three weeks. . his band must also have demonstrated that it could provide the kind of music sufficient to the purposes of this club's proprietor. The presence of reading musicians was therefore obviously essential to the band's initial success. when. Chicago." The early months of the band's history have been difficult to reconstruct.
however. Little Rock. The fact that only two months later the Defenderwould print news of the Ten Pals in a form that suggests Albert or an associate was the source of information lends credence to this idea. a bandleader and columnist for the Chicago Defender. Its first tour came at a time when. West Virginia. There's more money on the road and in barnstorming. I mean big bands are now taking to the road rather than hold one stand indefinitely. North Carolina. and high school gymnasiums. each covered extensively in the local press. and Miami. The obvious reason touring became attractive was money. It was dominated by extended residences in Little Rock and Oklahoma City. it has not been possible to corroborate them through advertisements or articles in local newspapers. Bands. Although they had obviously been planning to tour for some time (otherwise why save tip money to buy a bus?). Radio has so popularized good music that the smaller towns want and are willing to pay to hear good bands in person.15 . told Franklin Driggs. That the band toured was typical of all bands during the 1930s. Reports in the national black newspapers (and subsequent recollections in oral histories) indicate that the Ten Pals also played in cities in Tennessee and Louisiana.14 The Ten Pals' first tour began in May 1931 and concluded in early December of the same year. and Beckley. Not only did it play for dances in hotel ballrooms.. and they cut us down to three nights a week. "we left the Shadowland when things got bad during the Depression. baritone saxophonist with the band. and range of travels. another factor may have played a role in initiating the band's first tour at this time.. New Orleans. As Walter Barnes.318 Wilkinson Rocky Mount. Consideration of three will suffice. since taken together they provide evidence of the band's growing popularity. many bands were beginning to travel in search of new audiences. among other cities. has the extent of the travels of the Albert band been documented. types of performances. Years later Herbert Hall. In addition to the attraction of making more money through traveling. nightclubs. but at times it provided stage shows for movie theaters and toured with entertainers. evidence suggests.. In later years the band took its own troupe of entertainers on tour. including those in San Antonio. Barnes's words may have provided further encouragement. noted in March 1931: "Times have changed-and how. When the opportunity presented itself. the band broadcast over local radio stations. Detailed discussion of every tour is not necessary to demonstrate the widespread activity of this band." Three nights was half the length of what had earlier been their normal workweek. Only recently."13 Only two months later the Ten Pals were on tour for the first time. Although there is little reason to doubt these reports. even in onenight jumps.
2.but apparently they included towns in Oklahoma. It returned to perform from ca. Tourno. It returned to perform from Sept. because there are gaps in the record of the band's movements. 3. an article on the entertainment page of the San Antonio Register reported that the band had performed "a concert engagement" at Fisk University during the course of this tour. Little Rock. It has not been possible to determine precisely when this occurred. Thus dashed lines Figure 1. Fisk University in Nashville (see site 4 on map). 24. Aug. The band returned to San Antonio before Dec. On December 4. 1. May 11 to ca.for Little Rock.A National Band from the Southwest 319 The absence of such "on-site" verification is especially frustrating in the following instance. San Antonio.16 The extent and direction of this tour is illustrated by the map in figure 1. . 4 until sometime after Sept. More often.:band departed on May 11. 1931. dashed lines indicate possible routes between documented performancesites. Oklahoma City. as well as locations in Louisiana. 21. 22 to ca. Sept. 4. Subsequentroutes and sites cannot be fully documented. 3.Ark.:band in residence from May 14 to July 12. )37~-~ n// 1' --C rl 4 r Key: lines indicate documented routes. however. where this can be documented. 1931. available information has not permitted such precision. December 3.:band in residence from July 13 to ca. 4. Aug. In this (and in subsequent maps in this article) the precise sequence of the band's travels from one town to the next is shown by solid lines. Okla. this may have been one of the earliest concert performances of jazz to take place at a college or university. 1931.Ark. If the Register's story is accurate. Tex. 1931. 1 of the Don Albert band .
clarinet alto saxophone tenor saxophone piano banjo tuba string bass drums vocals The increase in the band's size was apparently gradual and was accompanied by some turnover in personnel. and it listed the band's personnel. Until his band developed a greater reputation. the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender. Newspapers. Texas."'18The ensemble now consisted of the following musicians: Don Albert Hiram Harding Frank Jacquet Herbert Hall Philander Tiller Louis Cottrell Jr." It gave an address where Albert might be reached. the band was reportedly contracted to play for a chain of movie theaters in eastern Oklahoma after its departure from Oklahoma City. the Ten Pals had become a twelve-piece band. Ferdinand Dejan Henry Turner Jimmie Johnson Albert Martin Anderson Lacey trumpet trumpet trombone baritone and alto saxophones. but the locations of those theaters remain elusive. Albert's band first received notice in the Chicago Defender on May 16. Al Freeman Jr. presumably in hopes of generating more engagements.320 Wilkinson indicate possible connections between known performance sites. the brief article noted that the Ten Pals had "just completed a two-year contract at the Shadowland club of San Antonio. At one point on this first tour. thus probably telephoned to the paper by Albert or an associate. these individuals were essential for securing engagements outside San Antonio. One of the earliest . played major roles in making the band known to readers far from the Southwest. it may reasonably be assumed that the band traveled elsewhere for brief engagements or stopped en route to a documented location to perform. The content of the newspaper coverage of the Ten Pals offers important insight into two institutions that contributed significantly to the band's fortunes: the black press and the booking agent. revealing that since its founding nineteen months earlier. Working with agents represented Albert's first contact with the music industry. particularly two of the nation's leading black papers. 1931. and are working a temporary engagement in Little Rock.17 Much later Albert recalled that during this period the band was often billed as "Don Albert and His Ten Pals-All Twelve of Them. Datelined Little Rock. near the beginning of its first tour. Where these occur.
but by September 1931 he too had departed.Hiram Harding.A National Band from the Southwest 321 known photographs of the band was taken probably in the second half of 1930 (fig. according to Albert. to be replaced by Sam Birt. Don Albert and His Ten Pals.. (It should be noted that Johnson also represented Figure 2. Herbert Hall. IV ?*( V ~ -3ANY " . Don Albert is seated. Included were Sidney Hansell. and bass player Jimmie Johnson (second from the right). a major source of its later popularity. Hansell. Jimmie Johnson. had already left the band and returned to New Orleans by the time the first tour began. Not included was the tuba player. a new member of the band. His charts helped to free the Ten Pals from the conventional stock and head arrangements on which they had depended and contributed to the formation of the band's own sound. Sidney Hansell. Frank Jacquet. Derbigny's successor was Philander Tiller of Little Rock. along with alto saxophonist Arthur Derbigny (standing on the extreme left). the band's first singer (third from the right). ca. Louis Cottrell Jr. From the collection of Christopher Wilkinson.. it introduced the string bass to Texas jazz. late 1930. Henry Turner. who apparently missed the photo session. who was also the first of what ultimately became a total of six player-arrangers in the band.20 Bass player Jimmie Johnson's arrival not only enlarged the band. and Arthur Derbigny. From left to right: Ferdinand Dejan. 2).Al FreemanJr. Albert Martin.19 Anderson Lacey succeeded Sidney Hansell as vocalist.
23 By this time Don Albert had apparently hired his first manager and publicist. Examined . Bryant is mentioned in a Pittsburgh Courier article dated July 22 that indicates that not only had the band "opened for an indefinite run" at the Showboat but it was "booked through Arkansas and Tennessee for the next three months. it was playing there at a nightclub called the Showboat.322 Wilkinson a link to the earliest years of jazz history. James B.27 At first glance the geographical range of this tour seems to support Ross Russell's view that.)21 During their almost two-month stay in Little Rock. like all territory band leaders. as well as at the Arkansas Movie Theater. Bryant of Little Rock. as well as half-hour broadcasts on a local radio station three evenings a week. the Black Dispatch. 1931. At the theater they performed on at least one occasion in May between screenings of the feature film The Way of All Men.25 Where else the band may have played that month is unclear. 1931.. the Ritz Ballroom and Forest Park. As a young man he had performed with Charles "Buddy" Bolden in what many regard as the prototypical New Orleans jazz band. It reportedly toured Oklahoma on the "Majestic Movie Theater Circuit. Holder's Casa Loma Orchestra at an amusement park called Willow Beach (near Little Rock) on August 22. the band went to Oklahoma City. Don Albert and His Ten Pals broadcast at least two half-hour programs from the studios of radio station KLRA and played in two different nightclubs. In an article in the local African American newspaper. which goes to prove its extraordinary ability.22 Departing from Little Rock shortly after July 12. Albert presided over an organization of merely regional significance. for which Bryant was probably responsible. would include "a battle of music" with T." traveled to Tennessee to play the Fisk University "concert."24 Those bookings." and then passed through Louisiana before returning to San Antonio and Shadowland for a thirteen-week engagement. starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Possibly as early as July 13. Having read the announcement of a contest to identify "America's most popular orchestra" in the Pittsburgh Courierof August 8. Bryant wrote a letter promoting the Ten Pals that received "special mention" in the August 22 issue of the newspaper. but early in September Bryant arranged for it to return to the Showboat in Oklahoma City for a six-week engagement. The Ten Pals occasionally performed in Oklahoma City at two other venues.."26 It is difficult to trace the band's precise movements after its second departure from Oklahoma City. presumably on nights when the Showboat was closed. we learn that the band (now billed as "the South's Greatest Dance Orchestra") was so popular that it found itself "unable to accept all invitations extended it.
evidence of its ability both to develop and to maintain a following beyond southwest Texas. among them Troy Floyd. having made debuts in both Little Rock and Oklahoma City. Contrary to Russell's generalization that territory bands avoided competition from similar ensembles. playing six nights per week. who later wrote a letter to the newspaper challenging Albert's band to a "Musical Contest at any time and place so designated by them so as to let the public know and decide whether or not they have at last had a treat as advertised by them at their recent dance at the Recreation Center. Little Rock and Oklahoma City had their own local bands. Don Albert showed no interest in playing the role of "the large frog in the small pond" of San Antonio."28 The Easter morning dance had an unusual consequence. the view that this band stayed in its territory might be valid. The "Breakfast Dance Xmas Morning" was announced both in an advertisement in the San Antonio Register and in a short article entitled "Local Orchestra Gives Xmas Dance. home of Walter Page's Blue Devils. it once again became the establishment's house band. Additionally the band was later reengaged in both communities. they could not agree on the winner. a fact that contradicts Russell's suggestion that territory bands stayed close to home. He was willing to battle T. obviously another "battle. including dances held on Christmas and Easter morning. we read that the Albert "played to a crowded house Easter morning [and] created quite a furore in musical circles by his wonderful showing. At that time the Blue Devils were in decline. however. the same evidence points to other conclusions." in the Register of April 1. Three local musicians acted as judges. Equally apparent is that. partly because of the perilous economy of the early years of the depression and partly because of the periodic "raids" on its personnel by Bennie Moten of Kansas City. Back in San Antonio the band had its thirteen-week contract at Shadowland extended to six months. that was not the case." did not occur until June 22. however. Under the headline "Don Albert's Dance Brings a Challenge. but after hearing each band perform several numbers. At the same time it played engagements in downtown San Antonio for the black community. Holder's band in Little Rock and for a time was resident in Oklahoma City. Obviously this tour was no overnight "run-out" from San Antonio to one or more nearby communities. If this had been the Ten Pals' only tour or if all subsequent travels had been limited to states adjacent to Texas. the Ten Pals were later hired in each town to play extended engagements. Although the Ten Pals "ren- . The audience was invited to make a decision." The contest.A National Band from the Southwest 323 more closely. 1932." The reporter noted that a number of musicians from other local bands attended the performance.
"33 As evidence of the desire to expand its reputation.32 The new label has added significance in that it seems to reflect the band's growing ambitions to create a national audience for itself through tours that took it farther and farther from the south-central part of the country. Albert's band battled other groups on later occasions as well." which suggested that the term was new to at least some of his audience in 1932. Although it has not been possible to document precisely where the band . the day after its "defeat" by Floyd's band. Albert asserted that on one occasion his band battled Count Basie's. trumpeter Alvin Alcorn. then Albert is correct." He would always assert that he was the first to identify the music he played as "swing. each in a different city." It was typical for bands to be paid a percentage of the establishment's receipts. The demonstration that followed the completion of this number lasted fully ten minutes." the Floyd band's subsequent performance "was greeted with such hearty and deafening applause that the music was completely drowned out. By February 1934 the band was being billed as "Don Albert and His Music: America's Greatest Swing Band. He claimed that at first he was asked whether his was "America's Greatest String Band. Contests with other bands were also noted in various newspaper reports.30 On June 23. The larger the crowd." If one believes that the terms swing and the swing era became part of the American vernacular only after Benny Goodman's triumph at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles in August 1936. 1932. the Ten Pals departed for a two-month trip that began with engagements in Lake Charles and New Orleans and proceeded to various sites in Mississippi.324 Wilkinson dered a number that met with a roaring applause. Albert stated that although the ostensible purpose of such contests was to determine which of the competing groups was superior. In one instance. during the course of a tour in 1938. where it performed in at least two venues. the more money would be made."29 In an interview in 1969 with Richard Allen. By August 19 the band had returned to San Antonio and to Shadowland. its first foray into the Midwest. an event also recalled by one of his sidemen. early in September 1933 the band departed on a three-week tour that took it first to Little Rock.31 Sometime during this period Albert began to refer to his group as "America's Greatest Swing Band. where it played for a little more than fourteen months. and then north to towns in Illinois and Missouri. the virtue of these "battles" was that they were "one way of enticing the public in. until Troy Floyd was ushered to the platform and declared winner. Albert's band reportedly engaged in a series of battles with the Hartley Toots Orchestra from Miami.
indicates that this trip included an engagement at a nightclub in Harlan. Illinois. . Arkansas. instead of taking the usual ninety minutes to stow their equipment and themselves aboard the band's bus. Albert "Fats" Martin. This tour began late in March 1935. and then turned north.34 After wintering at Shadowland. although contrary to its usual policy. and Mississippi. and it may have played in Carbondale. and Savannah. almost certainly it stopped (and perhaps played) in Kirksville. Detroit.35 The slogan "America's Greatest Swing Band" was emblematic of Albert's dreams of making it to the top. Missouri. or Jimmy Lunceford. 3). as well. What happened during the course of that odyssey illustrates the obstacles to national fame facing bands aspiring to reputations comparable to those of. No documentation provides precise information on its route until it turns up at the Cafe Vendome in Buffalo." In the afternoon before that engagement began. heading east along the Gulf Coast to Florida. Kentucky. as well as in the greater New York area. discovered that the venue served as the local headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. After playing engagements in Valdosta. Not surprisingly. An account in the Chicago Defender of September 22. the band crisscrossed the region. the band's drummer. The band left Texas. playing engagements in Buffalo. New York. North Caromay lina. Count Basie. the band left town in May 1934 on a tour of Alabama.A National Band from the Southwest 325 went in that region.37 Having reached the north-central United States. Before the tour ended in March 1936. the Albert band had traveled through fourteen states (see fig. Macon. A five-week tour beginning at the end of January and ending early in March 1935 took the band to New Orleans.36 One stop have been at a dance hall just outside Rocky Mount. the year in which Benny Goodman's rise to fame would introduce the swing era for most Americans. after which it returned to Buffalo and. Georgia. It was a hit at Detroit's Greystone Ballroom sometime in late June or early July. Given that the band played in certain cities more than once. Louisiana. from mid-July through Labor Day. where the band played for a dance that was part of a local festival known as the "June-Germans. Duke Ellington. the band played every song requested that night (whether the musicians knew it or not). and Pittsburgh. and the band's sixth tour represented the bandleader's most ambitious effort to reach that goal. Andy Kirk. say. for a week or more when its bus broke down. In several instances engagements lasted several weeks. it no doubt found appreciative audiences in more than one place. in early May it made its way out of the South. 1934. an eastern Kentucky coal-mining town. They then packed up and were on the road within half an hour of finishing the engagement. as well as to towns in Mississippi and Alabama.
Fla. 1.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Fla. 14. 28-May 4.: band stopped here and may have performed ca. 2. St. 28May 4. N. 4. Fla. 8.326 Wilkinson Figure 3. March 5. Fla. or early May. W. 11. or early May. 6. Ga. Tour no. 7. or early May. Va. Tampa. or early Oct. 22 for Florida. a concert. March 22. 13. Pensacola. Buffalo.: band visited sometime during late Apr. 12. N. Fla. and West Virginia during the balance of Sept. Rocky Mount.C. Ga. Augustine.: band visited sometime during late Apr. It returned there in late Oct. 18.to eight-week engagement at the Vendome Ballroom. Pennsylvania. Savannah.: band may have played at the Greystone Ballroom during Sept. 6 of the Don Albert band . to ca. 2. Mich.: band played in the Charleston Armory for the "Homecoming Dance Classic" on Nov. San Antonio. 1936.: band visited sometime during late Apr.: band performed for a radio broadcast on the Million Dollar Steel Pier on Apr. West Palm Beach. Fla. Valdosta. 1-4. Miami. Charleston. dashed lines indicate possible routes between documented performance sites. 3. tt S10 1/ 7C 3 5 Key: lines indicate documented routes.: band departed Mar. 5. or early May. or early May. Ga. Fla.: band performed a single engagement ca. 15. Tex. the band was to have begun a tour of Ohio. following a football game between West Virginia State College and Bluefield State College. Petersburg.: band may have played during this tour for the "June-Germans" festival at the headquarters of the local Ku Klux Klan. Sept.: band performed sometime during the week of Apr. Following this engagement. Apr.: band played a six. St.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Macon. May 9. 1935. 9. 10. and a dance) during the week of Apr. Detroit. Orlando.Y. starting perhaps as early as July 7-13 and concluding after Labor Day. 2.: band played three engagements in one day (a broadcast. .
38 Later it made a successful debut in Pittsburgh. as a result. Theirs is the soft wail and chant of slave days brought up to a '35 standard. N. 1935." Feb. 18. On November 2. healthy. and Pittsburgh were hospitable. 1936..are a sight to behold. The band missed contracted engagements in Akron. and Pittsburgh. the band played for a dance held in conjunc- ..Y.Pa. 1.:band played at the Golden Dragon on "LundiGras. peppy. Their arrangements are all original. And when they "go to town. 2.. you said it.that the band had established itself as one of the major bands of the period. and most optimistic. 17. Glens Falls. the night before the band opened in Pittsburgh. as do assessments of the band's performances published in various newspapers. proclaimed: Folks. this band is the answer to a jaded public's prayer! Fifteen men. Theirs is the music of Dixie in modern tempo.: band debuted at the Pythian Temple on Nov. Beckley. Nunn.. so help me. Upstanding examples of the race at its youngest.. it may have played other engagements in the greater New Yorkarea during this period. 26. N. brought back by popular demand. They swing sweet.W. Albert did not overlook smaller communities where single engagements were available.A National Band from the Southwest 327 16. .." you'll get dancing feet.:band and Cooper's Revue performed at a local theater from Nov. 20..J... 27 through early Dec..with haunting refrains and muted cadences that tear you apart. and they know what they are doing. It returned to San Antonio shortly before Mar. William G. Va.. 19. Having tracked the progress of Albert's band during the course of this tour. It returned there on Jan.5. . the Courier'sentertainment editor and probable author of the review. Pittsburgh. they play music which reaches the soul.. to make up for an engagement missed on Nov. the paper printed a glowing review of the band's Pittsburgh debut in its edition of November 9. Detroit.. New Orleans.. played an extended engagement at the Cafe Vendome. 16 until at least Nov. 15. Swing music.. finest. Ohio.who can play. clean.La.39 Although Buffalo. 1935.. 28. Newark.:band rehearsedwith the RalphCooper troupe from Nov. Thanksgiving night.:band performed at the Rose Garden Inn on Nov. 1936. I'm telling you. Pa.. They swing hot. where it might have been heard by booking agents from New York City. DO play and put their whole hearts and souls into their work. which suggests . 3. The Pittsburgh Courier seems to have been one of its strongest supporters during this period. It returned to the Greystone Ballroom in October. Both the extended and the return engagements testify to the band's popularity in several northern cities. . virile.. and how with a seven-piece brass section and a background of an exceptional reed section like you've never heard before.
to arrange engagements during his various tours. and regular-has been booked for a return engagement at Pythian Temple in the biggest holiday attraction of the year because hundreds of peo- .M. as well as his own ingenuity. given the state of the highway system during that period (particularly in the Appalachians). to 3:00 A. after which the band departed for a nonstop drive to New York City. the major ambition of the entire band. Up to this point Albert had relied on a succession of managers from various parts of the South and Midwest ("territory managers. after its success in Pittsburgh. possibly Brunswick. who was with a company named Associated Orchestras Corporation of America. according to Albert-was to break into the musical world of New York City.40 The principal goal of this tour-indeed. had become the band's personal manager. following its football victory over Shaw University from North Carolina. Prior to beginning this tour (as early as March 1935). on November 15. another black college. sponsored by Bluefield State Teachers College. record contracts negotiated. which. 1935.328 Wilkinson tion with a football game between West Virginia State College and Bluefield State Teachers College in Charleston. at Newark's Paramount Theater. 1935. and national management obtained. must have been quite an ordeal for bus and passengers alike. a man named Al Travers. signed a contract for the band to return to Pittsburgh and play on Thanksgiving night.41 By October 17. Travers had arranged for Albert to sign one contract to appear at the Club Continental in Newark. 1935. In addition Travers.43 The band rehearsed with Cooper in Newark throughout the second half of November. Two weeks later. where large audiences might be found. following up on the band's success in Pittsburgh early that November.. and another to make four recordings early in November for an unnamed company. in anticipation of the Paramount engagement. November 29.M. slim handsome. New Jersey. "Don Albert's Music" played for a dance held at the Rose Garden Inn in Beckley. the show was supposed to go on tour.42 The 700-mile "jump" from Beckley to New York on November 15 was required to get the band to Newark to begin rehearsals for a revue staged by the showmanimpresario Ralph Cooper that was tentatively scheduled to open on Friday. and undoubtedly as a result of positive response in Charleston. after opening. West Virginia. West Virginia. The dance lasted from 10:00 P." in other words). the state's two black institutions of higher education. That the enormous success of an earlier engagement prompted a return is indicated by the Pittsburgh Courier in its announcement of November 16. 1935: "Don Albert 'master of 'em all' when it comes to swing bands is coming back to Pittsburgh! Dixie's dashing idol-tall.
Drawing on information provided by a New York correspondent for the Courier.""44 Taking advantage of the proximity of the two towns.. now. and for Promoter Bob Ellis at Pythian Temple in this city the next night. November 27th. Travers assertedthat the problem was caused largely by the fact that Cooper's revue unexpectedly moved its opening date up a week.100 people turned out in Pittsburgh.. Ohio. you're riding for a fall!"45 Serious damage had been done to the band's reputation." which spelled out the magnitude of what was clearly a catastrophe for Albert's professional reputation and the band's prospects. The band did not show up to play either engagement. We Think. Albert's failure to appear either in Akron or in Pittsburgh infuriated William G. Nunn." Nunn went on to reveal that he was also aware that Albert (or Travers. on Wednesday. As far as Nunn was concerned. who accepted complete responsibility for what happened. Brooks in Akron.who wrote an article entitled "Don Albert!-You Made a Grievous Mistake. Albert had a duty to explain his conduct to his fans and to compensate both Ellis and Brooks for their losses. On behalf of "the dance people in both towns you disappointed. You're too fine a fellow.Nunn further reported that Cooper's company and Albert's band had gone to upstate New York.. shoddy. and a crowd of more than 1. but Mr. friend of mine.00 from Bob Ellis. Instead it continued to rehearse with Ralph Cooper's company of dancers and other entertainers. although no longer in anticipation of opening in Newark on November 29 because of a last-minute change of plans. And if you keep up what you're doing. on Wednesday midnight. Brooks had sold over 600 ADVANCE SALE tickets in Akron. don't cause your public and your friends to lose faith in you by cheap. Ohio. to let the influence of unscrupulous promoters ruin you. the night before the Pittsburgh performance.. and changed the location of the performances to upstate New York. The December 14 issue of the Pittsburgh Courier carried a story based on a letter of explanation and apology sent to Nunn by Travers. to November 22. on Albert's behalf) had requested and received an advance of $75. Perhaps you didn't know it . chiseling tricks." Nunn closed with the following admonition: "And in the future. of the Pittsburgh Courier. in Disappointing Dance Crowds. Now Cooper's revue was to open on November 22 in a theater in Glens Falls in upstate New York.A National Band from the Southwest 329 ple who thrilled to his music upon his first appearance here have been shouting his praises from the house-tops. underhand." Nunn went on to say that a prompt and candid explanation was called for because "You knew weeks ago that you were booked to play for Booker T. Brooks for the band to perform in Akron. November 27. Travers also signed a contract with a local agent named Booker T. . After chastising the bandleader for "a contemptuous trick.
it apparently returned to Pittsburgh only once as well. until March 5. Travers claimed. 1936. it is obvious that this marked the end of Travers's affiliation with Don Albert. perhaps best known as Louis Armstrong's manager. 1936. In closing Travers wrote of Albert's disappointed fans: "They have a right to be angry. I take the blame. Undoubtedly Glaser could have provided Albert with the benefit of his contacts with the larger and potentially more lucrative white venues that were otherwise closed . beginning in 1935 managed a number of bands for the Rockwell-O'Keefe agency. and was thus prevented from playing in the North. he became the victim of unidentified associates of Cooper's who convinced him not to leave the revue stranded in northern New York while the band jumped back to Akron and Pittsburgh to play the Thanksgiving-week engagements."46 From subsequent documents and Albert's own recollections. It is also apparent that this debacle marked a turning point in his band's history. But please ask them not to blame Don.48 There was. given the available evidence it seems clear that he was far less expert (and possibly less principled) than was Glaser." In addition Travers maintained that after the show was moved to Glens Falls. nor does it appear to have occurred to him that neither Brooks nor Ellis might have been interested in any such substitutions. when it returned from its longest tour to play for hometown fans at the Avalon Grill in San Antonio. Almost a year elapsed before Albert was able to resolve matters with Booker T. The Pittsburgh Courier of February 8. He's too fine a fellow. however.330 Wilkinson When that occurred. carried a notice addressed to Albert and asking him to get in touch immediately with Joe Glaser in New York or William Nunn at the newspaper. and now that the damage has been done I'm working to do all I can to rectify my mistake. and after a "make-good" engagement at the Pythian Temple on January 1. and that would not be until Memorial Day 1939. of which he was a loyal member. during which time the bandleader was reportedly suspended from the American Federation of Musicians.49 Glaser. Although nothing is known of Al Travers's prior experience as manager of a band.47 From its engagement in Pittsburgh on January 1. 1936. Brooks. Only once more would it venture into New York City. one further consequence of its abortive New York sojourn. who had been managing various nightclubs as well as the careers of jazz and blues musicians both in Chicago and New York since the 1920s. the movements of the Don Albert Orchestra are lost to view. "I had every intention of notifying Brooks and Ellis of the contemplated substitution of bands. Nowhere did Travers identify the band or bands he proposed to send to Akron or Pittsburgh in lieu of Albert's. This notice suggests that Glaser wished to offer his services to Albert.
as his entry in that roster demonstrates."52 What Albert did not assert. Whether Glaser's management would have been beneficial is uncertain. but like other bandleaders of the period. So I disagreed with puttin' 'em on the side. but Henry Turner's tuba was playing second trombone parts-indeed. In his later years Albert stated that one of the worst mistakes he made as bandleader was to decline Glaser's offer because his terms seemed unacceptable. essentially Glaser proposed to reduce the band to its original size. Albert by this time spent most of his time "fronting" the band rather than playing in it.A National Band from the Southwest 331 to African Americans by the racial segregation of that time."53 Another problem for Albert was that Glaser apparently planned to demand a guaranteed fee for the band's services. "You'd be criticized-a band with 10 pieces. I just wanted them to reap the benefits of what we were really going to get into . otherwise the people wouldn't come out. 14. If Albert's recollections were correct.. it can't be good. 15 men-five brass and four reeds. clarinet alto saxophone James Taylor Glenn Lloyd piano and arranger Ferdinand Dejan guitar Jimmie Johnson string bass Albert Martin drums Merle Turner vocals The presence of four trumpets in a fourteen-piece band might have seemed excessive to Glaser. To have both a tuba and a string bass might also appear redundant. 1935. but what Harold Holmes.. he was doubling on valve trombone. Albert resisted. You had to have 12. later citing loyalty as his motivation: "I had an idea that these guys started with me and I. this big time.. I wanted them in the band whether or not."' Glaser wanted Albert to reduce the size of the ensemble from fourteen players to ten or eleven.. The people were used to good music. the price of Glaser's services was more than Albert was prepared to pay. At first glance a list of the personnel published in the Pittsburgh Courier on November 9.50In any case. Albert had always . tenor saxophone Herbert Hall baritone and alto saxophones. would recollect in 1961 was that by the mid1930s. a later sideman of his. might seem to suggest the logic of such a proposal: Don Albert trumpet Alvin Alcorn trumpet Billy Douglas trumpet Hiram Harding trumpet Frank Jacquet trombone Turner tuba and valve trombone Henry Louis Cottrell Jr.
What will never be known. Following a month's rest after the long eastern tour. which might be as much as 70 percent. so we didn't think too much about the money. no available evidence suggests that he ever considered an immediate benefit of affiliating with Glaser: a rapid resolution of his troubles with the American Federation of Musicians. Albert. it would have been doomed. We all were. We had what was left.56 As much as one can see the legitimacy of Albert's concerns. was apparently convinced that Glaser's approach could invite financial ruin if no engagements were found at venues willing to pay his price. of course. Albert was undoubtedly skeptical. however large those proceeds might be. Although discussions between Albert and Glaser may have lasted from late February until April 1936. is whether Albert's band could have prospered financially with Glaser in charge of its bookings. recalled in his later years: "People may wonder if we were exploited by agents. he closed the only door to national management his band would ever receive.. Having just come through the ordeal caused by Al Travers. when Albert declined Glaser's offer. in which each performer received an equal share of the money from the night's proceeds as his wage. early in April . He may have also realized that Glaser's management would have increased still further the band's overhead expenses. Like most black bands of the period that were not affiliated with one of the major booking agencies. If Harold Holmes's memories were correct. As Andy Kirk. particularly after the events of November 1935." Glaser did manage.332 Wilkinson accepted a percentage of the receipts of each engagement. Albert's was a "commonwealth" band. Glaser got his cut. Given his experience and influence.. But we were happy to be playing. freeing Albert from both the stigma of the union's censure and the constraints that the censure had imposed on the band's movements. "The Clouds of Joy. the territory bookers got their cut. whose band. when 70 percent of a night's receipts in many towns in the deep South might allow each musician little more than a day's meal money.54 Glaser's approach was typical of of the booking agencies' practices."55 Albert apparently thought a great deal about the money and decided he could do better on his own. a survivor of the rough-and-tumble music business of the darkest days of the depression. As subsequent events would prove. In contracts. Glaser undoubtedly could have expeditiously arranged for the band to perform in Akron for Booker Brooks. Albert kept two shares to cover both his labor and the band's expenses. so that the larger sums to be charged the nightclubs and dance halls where the band played might not have necessarily translated into significantly larger pay envelopes for the musicians. Albert ultimately declined Glaser's offer.
Albert's was reportedly the first black band to play there. Louisiana. and Mississippi. by extension. Ohio. In an interview conducted by Lawrence Brown around 1984. however." as well as "Deep Blue Melody" and "Rockin' and Swingin'. quite possibly the union forbade it. the band was paid twenty dollars per number. when the band was playing in Little Rock. which informed readers of the band's southern travels and reminded them. including an extended engagement as the house band not at Shadowland but rather at a nightclub for whites in the center of the city known as the Olmos Dinner Club. and West Virginia. We had been playing these arrangements a long time. however. that Al Travers was no longer representing the band.59 No evidence suggests that this tour took place.60 By July the Albert band was back in San Antonio. he recalled: "The recordings we made in San Antonio in 1936 were all done in the morning. Recording in a room at the Bluebonnet Hotel." In addition there were charts of two lesser-known compositions: "Tomorrow" and "True Blue Lou. Kentucky."62 Although few in number. where it would stay until the beginning of February 1937. 1936. playing in New Orleans and Little Rock. If saxophonist Herbert Hall's memories are correct. Evidence that he was still working under a cloud may be found in articles published in the Pittsburgh Courier." "Liza. apparently at Albert's insistence.A National Band from the Southwest 333 1936 the band traveled to Arkansas." and "On the Sunny Side of the Street. and we just ." which was to include towns and cities in Indiana. Pennsylvania. It had several jobs. among other cities. these recordings reveal that Albert's band had a variety of arrangements and approaches to performance-qualities that undoubtedly made it popular with the discerning audiences and critics it had encountered on its major eastern tour.58 By the middle of May 1936.57Such a tour was possible because the American Federation of Musicians was a negligible force in the South and thus could not interfere with Albert's performances in that region. quite possibly fulfilling the contract Travers had negotiated during the band's residence in the New York City area. on November 18. The pieces included the band members' arrangements of three well-known standards: "The Sheik of Araby. "You Don't Love Me. the overall impact of the band's collective style. there were three pieces written by band members: the band's theme song. who has guaranteed a two-week tour of the district. the sides inevitably distort the character of the original charts and.61 It was during the course of this extended residence in San Antonio." Finally. that the Don Albert Orchestra made what turned out to be its only records: eight sides for Brunswick's Vocalion label. it was reported that Albert was being approached by "a prominent Pittsburgh booker.
performs each line of the original text. Baby") and scat syllables as well. phrasing. The singer. features Douglas singing in an obvious imitation of Louis Armstrong's vocal style."63 None of the available testimony concerning the selected pieces indicates that their selection was dictated by the Vocalion representatives who recorded the band. one apparently associated with certain vaudeville comedy acts.] Band (vocal response) [with no pants on] [with no pants on] [with no pants on] [with no pants on] According to Albert. Florida. Each of the treatments of the other two popular songs. At night when you're asleep. Toward the end of the arrangement his trumpet solo pays further homage to the master in its attacks. after which members of the band respond with the line "with no pants on. [etc. only "Liza" is performed in an instrumental arrangement. Of the three standards in the collection." displays a novel character no doubt appealing to live audiences." Although this results in a seemingly innocent exchange for the first two lines. In 1959 it would be praised by Franklin Driggs." by trumpet player Billy Douglas. eight. Some of our arrangements might take seven.334 Wilkinson went in and recorded them. "The Sheik of Araby" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street. what might be termed a mildly salacious effect is achieved by the end of the second couplet: Turner (vocal solo) I'm the Sheik of Araby. so we had to cut some of them down so the time would be about three minutes. thus one may reasonably conclude that Albert and his sidemen chose what they regarded as the best (and possibly most popular) music for their recording debut." Nine years later Albert McCarthy would echo Driggs's appraisal. In the case of "The Sheik of Araby. or even ten minutes.65 The arrangement of "On the Sunny Side of the Street. who asserted that apart from Harry Carney. Merle Turner. and place- . Your love belongs to me." the arrangement uses a calland-response treatment of the lyrics. on one occasion when they were broadcasting from a radio station in Pensacola. there were few proficient players of this seemingly unwieldy instrument. I will creep.64 Another notable part of this performance follows the vocal and a short transition by the brass: Herbert Hall's sixteen-measure solo on baritone saxophone. of Duke Ellington's orchestra. and there is little doubt that he would have cut Carney to ribbons in a duel. they were cut off the air by the station's engineer in the midst of performing this chart. Douglas is fairly effective in imitating Armstrong's improvisation of a new melody for the song and throws in the occasional interjection ("Oh. Into your tent. "Hall's work must be regarded as outstanding.
played in the manner of Arthur Whetsol. The story behind the Ellington-like sound of "Deep Blue Melody" is noteworthy for what it reveals about the band's intention to draw on Ellington's style for certain works of its own. I intended to send Deep Blue Melody to Duke Ellington. introduces and closes the piece. Comparing "The Sheik of Araby" and this composition.. but in general staying in the background. Alvin Alcorn's muted solo. The arrangements of "The Sheik of Araby" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" consist of sections of either eight. The entire arrangement is dominated by the smooth.and who was the band's principal arranger between 1934 and 1938. have observed that some of Albert's performances seem particularly indebted to the sound of other. among them Gunther Schuller. one hears Albert's band explore a wide range of emotions. particularly Ellington's but also Jimmy Lunceford's. an up-tempo dance tune that would have appealed to the lindy hoppers for whom the band played in Texas and elsewhere. Hiram Harding offers a "growl" trumpet solo a la Bubber Miley. a pair of chords there. This arrangement becomes more complex as the piece moves toward its climax. the arrangement of the standard "Liza" seems more conventional. was surely one of the band's crowd pleasers.66 The Ellington sound is most prominent in two arrangements: "Rockin' and Swingin'" and "Deep Blue Melody. following Harold "Dink" Taylor's alto saxophone solo emulating Johnny Hodges. Al Freeman Jr. Several commentators. "Rockin' and Swingin"' was probably the most technically demanding of the arrangements. Glenn's piano style honors the Duke's. The mood of "Deep Blue Melody" is quiet and introspective. by trombonist William "Geechee" Robinson. It pays its respects to the ..A National Band from the Southwest 335 ment of notes.. with a series of shorter solos and sectional material performed in a rapid-fire exchange. but Don Albert's band played it over. alternating with solos of comparable length backed by the rhythm section. ending with a short ascending unaccompanied solo that climaxes on the final chord. mellow sound of the reeds and muted brass. particularly in the sections where the saxophones play in a fast-moving chordal texture. more famous bands. This arrangement was by pianist Lloyd Glenn.."67 Glenn's composition is replete with allusions to Ellington's style and his sidemen's sounds." The first of these.or sixteen-measure duration. and Don liked it so much he persuaded me to keep it and record it with the band at the Vocalion session in 1936. In contrast to Glenn's original composition. punctuating a phrase with a rapidly ascending scale here. each passage features either the reeds or the brass. who had joined the band in 1934 as successor to its first pianist. Glenn later stated that he had written the chart "with the Ellington band in mind.
On another occasion Don Albert took credit for the song. Of the remaining three sides. Its origins are somewhat uncertain. and fourth phrases of the first statement of this thirty-two bar song are each divided in half: the saxophones present the ascending first four measures. A moderate-tempo foxtrot. but for reasons to be explained later.and trombonist Geechee Robinson. they should not be mistaken for the band's entire repertory or approach to performance. Douglas reversed the presentation for the second statement: brasses play first and are answered by the reeds. at one time a trombonist in Alphonso Trent's orchestra and a friend of Albert's. the muted trumpet playing by Alvin Alcorn.68The first. Like that of "Rockin' and Swingin'." also known by the alternative title "True. and other sources suggest that it was a collaboration between Albert and one or more of his sidemen. and section work by the reeds. with Hall playing the bridge.336 Wilkinson sound of the Lunceford band in its distribution of material between the reeds and brass. Saxophonists Dink Taylor and Herbert Hall present the melody the third time." with its promise of better days to come." the text of "Tomorrow. and the brasses answer with the descending second half of each phrase.. who arranged the song. . is most reflective of the times in which the band was at work. After Merle Turner's presentation. second. In this instance he improvises on the bridge material." the first merits particular attention for several reasons. it is dominated by vocalist Merle Turner. after which Turner returns to sing the bridge and last phrase." was the band's theme song and thus was routinely played at the beginning and end of engagements. the chart is dominated by solo work by trumpeter Billy Douglas. Taken as a whole. "You Don't Love Me. "Liza" is perhaps the "sweetest" arrangement of all the recordings. brief solo passages are divided among the players. Herbert Hall recalled that it was written expressly for the band by Lawrence "Snub" Moseley. saxophonists Dink Taylor and (briefly) Louis Cottrell Jr." and "True Blue Lou. Later.69 Arranged by Lloyd Glenn. the recordings introduce the listener to a variety of arrangements and to the qualities of the featured soloists. including one by tenor saxophonist Louis Cottrell Jr." the tempo of this piece is appropriate to the lindy hop rather than the foxtrot. The third phrase (the bridge) is played by Billy Douglas. They may be best understood as a showcase of the Don Albert band. They also reveal that the band had a number of fairly gifted players and was well disciplined. Apart from the lyrics of "On the Sunny Side of the Street. "You Don't Love Me." "Tomorrow.
and the number of contemporary reviews few. there is one piece of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the band's reputation . recordings were released according to a timetable set by the recording company's executives.in advance of a series of engagements the band played in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras festivities of February 1937. this sentence does indicate that these recordings were neither totally ignored nor scorned. Albert did feel that the recordings themselves were representative of the band's sound since they were based on arrangements by his sidemen. In September 1937 Leonard Feather devoted his column in Melody Maker to a review of the recordings of "this surprisingly brilliant combination" and gave particular attention to the band's performance of "The Sheik of Araby. which contemporary critics and fans clearly enjoyed. Its effectiveness could be quickly measured in terms of the numbers who subsequently appeared to hear the band live. however. and Albert's control of the choice of music played was virtually complete." Although hardly a penetrating evaluation. Apparently in his experience recordings were not the way to build an audience. Of the electronic media then available. in all probability between January and March or April 1937."72 Although Albert's perception of the recordings' impact may have been limited. Paul Eduard Miller wrote almost in passing.A National Band from the Southwest 337 When these recordings were released. even if a particular broadcast brought no revenue. In the final section of a review of a number of recordings published in Down Beat for May 1937. it seems clear that so few recordings could hardly be described as representative of the band's entire repertory or of its distinctive style. although they are the only historical evidence of its sound and style. "Don Albert's two recordings should make you sit up and take notice. By contrast.7' The first evidence of the recordings' release appeared in a caption for a photograph of Albert published in the Louisiana Weekly. the number of copies and the extent of their distribution were likewise beyond the musicians' control. they were paired as follows:70 Vocalion 3401 True Blue Lou/Rockin' and Swingin' Vocalion 3411 Don't Love Me Sheik of Araby/You Deep Blue Melody/ Vocalion 3423 On the Sunny Side of the Street Vocalion 3491 Liza/Tomorrow In his later years Albert did not appear to perceive these recordings as contributing significantly to the band's reputation. Given his accounts of the racially and geographically varied audiences for whom the band played. radio was his preference.
C. at first Taylor improvised an accompaniment. the tours lasting. What little evidence there is of this tour suggests that Albert had no better luck this time than he had when he first came east in 193536. but later two of his mentors. In addition it began to experience a more rapid turnover in personnel than had previously been the case. The second of these tours is of interest because it appears to have included a period of residence in Philadelphia of possibly six months' duration. and undoubtedly both the band and its leader hoped that this occasion might be the opportunity at last to break into the big time. reporting that Albert's band was "doing dance dates in New Jersey. If so. Those who left may have sensed better opportunities in other organizations or tired of being on the road for extensive periods. Inasmuch as the recordings had been released early in 1937. The band's period of near-exile in San Antonio seemed to have resulted in its being marginalized. D. Some would quit without giving appropriate notice. The Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender carried identical stories in mid-June 1937. Albert recalled that many of the new players caused problems because they seemed less committed to the band's fortunes. In all the band was away from home for all but one of those thirty-six months. It seems reasonable to suppose that the recordings caught on elsewhere as well. and others borrowed money without bothering to repay it. and New York. was called on by various singers working in his hometown of Washington. in the year prior to his departure for college in the fall of 1938. Harold Francis and Norma Shephard. Taylor's recollection suggest that they rather quickly attracted the attention of musicians and audiences in the African American community of the nation's capitol. three months."75 . in order. "You Don't Love Me. and three months. although his ambitions were not frustrated by the misdeeds of managers.338 Wilkinson was enhanced by the discs' distribution. provided him with a more polished version of the song's harmonies. if not forgotten. by those in the Northeast." Unacquainted with the recording.73 Nevertheless things had changed for the band as a result of Albert's experience with Al Travers and his decision not to accept Glaser's offer of management. By now the music industry's organization of big band music was so extensive that lack of representation by one of the major booking agencies meant that there was little hope of the band penetrating the market in the Northeast. two weeks. twelve months.74 From February 1937 until April 1940 the band toured five times. to accompany their performances of the band's theme song. this would represent the second time that Albert's band had penetrated the Northeast. Pianist Billy Taylor. especially in New York. sixteen months. PennsylThere is no additional coverage of the band vania. Several apparently had drug and alcohol problems as well..
Late in 1937. Fuoria was the owner of a club on South Rampart Street in New Orleans called the Tick Tock Tavern.000 capital invested in our . but when they started back south I quit. the saxophonist. denying that the band had ever folded and asserting: "All of the bunch are still with us. pianist and one of the most talented arrangers in the band. 1938. Here's hoping she's wrong for once. but as I couldn't see any future in it.A National Band from the Southwest 339 for another four months. and we are still going over big. for in January 1938 Celeste Allen's column in the San Antonio Register included this statement: "Dame Rumor has it that Don Albert and his world's greatest swing band are on the verge of a crackup. Harold Holmes. one of the founding members of the group and an occasional arranger. the same column mentioned that Lloyd Glenn. We stayed in and around Philadelphia for about six months.77 Edwin Fouria. after the ill-fated residence in Philadelphia. had quit and returned to San Antonio. Indeed. On the side he formed the Crescent City Attraction Company and apparently became Albert's manager through this company. in charge. night clubs. Albert stated in 1969 that the band did in fact fold and that only a loan of several thousand dollars from a friend in New Orleans named Edwin "Beansie" Fouria allowed him to start it up again.Albert addressed (contrary to his later memories) the rumor to which Celeste Allen had drawn attention in his column. Occasionally he would leave the band for several weeks at a time in search of jobs. Albert took charge of finding engagements for the band. The band wasn't getting any place. by the end of 1938 Hall had rejoined Albert's band. We have had about $10. Glenn was not the only one to quit the band around this time. Word of this near disaster must have reached San Antonio. leaving Louis Cottrell Jr. Unlike Glenn's departure. Herbert Hall." As if to confirm the seriousness of the situation. aided by Frank Jacquet and "Fats" Martin. probably as a consequence of either an insufficient number of engagements or inadequate receipts from the dates it did play. left the band in Cincinnati to take a job for several months in Jimmy Watkins's band in Pittsburgh before joining Shudina Walker's band. which was based in Cleveland. bass player in the band (beginning perhaps during the course of this tour) praised the band but also implied that it never found a niche in the Northeast: "I liked the Albert band and could have been loyal to it. would later have even closer connections with the band. who had come to Albert's aid in 1938."76 Lacking a professional manager. the band nearly collapsed. there was no point in staying. Albert would later recall that he kept the band going principally to pay off the loan from his new backer. In an article published in the January 29. and the best dance halls. even though we played good jobs-colleges. Hall's was not permanent. issue of the Pittsburgh Courier. Even that did not ensure success.
Galveston. 8. La. It also performed at the Blue Moon Night Club on June 3." Not surprisingly the band's first engagement after this announcement was at the Tick Tock Tavern. Tex. the band played in unknown sites in Oklahomauntil ca.La. the group covered welltraveled routes in the Southeast. Tex. 3.340 Wilkinson band. 1939. . Fla. May 28 for Tulsa. Tex. 30 3132 22 19 3 21 219 I 19 Key: lines indicate documented routes. Okla.78 The most extended tour of the band's final years began on May 29. Oklahoma City. 4. 1. 10 of the Don Albert band. July 20. Brenham.:band performed ca. and we are ready to continue our march through the United States. 2. to ca. This was the band's tenth tour.:band played on "SplashDay. 7." 5. Fort Worth.:band performed at Liberty Park on July 24 for the crowning of "MissMiami. Tour no. as part of Mardi Gras. The length of engagements varied from one-nighters in numerous towns to a threeFigure 4.Okla. After these engagements. September 25. 4). New Orleans. 1938. Tulsa. 1938. dashed lines indicate possible routes between documented performancesites. San Antonio. June 10.:band played at the Shrine Ballroomon May 30.:band performed at the Crystal Palace on May 29 and again on June 5.:band departed ca. Miami. Accompanied now by a troupe of dancers and other entertainers. Lafayette.Tex. 9. and it also reached into new regions of the Midwest (see fig. beginning on January 30. May 28.:band played at the TickTockTavernon July 17. 6.:band performed on June 17-18. in Tulsa.Okla."June 20. 1938. as well as new locations.: band performed on June 19.
A National Band from the Southwest 341 10. Georgia. 32. 33. possibly at the Savoy Ballroom.: after Miami the band reportedly played engagements here (dates unknown). Macon. Ill. Ill. and possibly as far west as Sioux Falls. Tenn.: after Lakeland the band reportedly played an engagement here (dates unknown). Ga. Ohio: band performed on May 30.: band played an extended engagement at the Club Plantation from Jan. 19. Fla. Springfield. Tenn. 25.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. 16. 16. Oct. 1939. Sept. 28. Ky.: after Miami the band reportedly played engagements here (dates unknown). 29. Ill.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug.: after Lakeland the band reportedly played an engagement here (dates unknown). 4. Tampa. in a battle with the Kentucky State Collegians. Ga. and again on Nov. 21. St.: band performed once (sometime in late Sept.: band battled the Sunset Royal Orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom on May 29.: band performed at Douglass High School. Louisville. 11. 26. 15.: band battled the Hartley Toots's Orchestra at the Silver Streak Ballroom on Aug. Ohio: band performed at the East Market Gardens on Dec. It returned there on Nov. Mich.: band performed on Aug. S. 17. after which its whereabouts are unknown until early Aug.: band may have performed here on Aug. Memphis. 30. 10.: band engaged for two weeks at the Sunset Terrace from Aug.). 28-31. 14 and again on Aug. 16. Columbus.: after Miami the band reportedly played engagements here (dates unknown). after which its whereabouts are unknown until it returned to San Antonio (no later than Sept. Miss. 22 until the club closed on Apr. Dayton. 25. Galesburg. Fla. 21. 1939. 18. 1939). Iowa. 24. and Tennessee included the aforementioned series of battles between Albert's band and the Florida-based band led by Hartley Toots. 19. A brawl occurred. Aug. 6.: band played a two-week engagement at the Villa Valencia from Aug. Ohio: band played an extended engagement at the Merry-GoRound from ca. 27. Lakeland. 25. Fla. 8-14). 14. Ala.: band performed for the Colonels Ball on May 5 and returned to play at the Iroquois Club from June 1-3.80 . Indianapolis. 34. Mo. 28 to Sept. May 18. Knoxville. 18. West Palm Beach.: band performed on Aug. Pittsburgh. Ocala.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. May 8 to ca. Akron. Savannah. 3 to Aug. Fla. 20. It returned to Indianapolis to play one week at the Red Gables Inn from Oct. after which it reportedly played a series of one-night engagements that took it through Illinois. 11. 24-30. Ga. Dak. 27. 13. Ga.: band performed once (probably ca. Chicago. Nashville. 9. Orlando. 15. Tenn. Detroit. Opelika. band members were arrested and fined on Aug. 5. Missouri. 23.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. Fla. or early Oct. 22. Atlanta.79 Jobs in Alabama. Youngstown. Ind.: band performed at the Castle Ballroom ca. The band reportedly passed through Chicago ca. 17. Pa. month contract at the Club Plantation in Detroit from January 22 to April 16. 31. 23. 12. Louis. Thomasville.
A dance at a black high school was broken up when a patron picked a fight with Tom Johnson. Accommodations and meals were not always easily obtained. possibly traveling as far as eastern South Dakota. packing up. Albert usually took the initiative in securing accommodations and meals for his band. only then was it clear the gun was not loaded. and getting on the road for the next engagement. were arrested and taken to police headquarters. Albert's band not only maintained a following throughout extensive portions of the eastern United States but also found new audiences. after the band's departure from Springfield and before its eventual return to San Antonio. 1938." The price he paid for allegedly being "a smart nigger from New York" included having a service revolver pointed at his head as the officer pulled the trigger six times.84 Founded at the start of the depression when its leader was only twenty-one years old. At one point Albert's life appeared to be in danger when he did not address one of the officers as "Sir. it had lasted not quite eleven years. including Albert. South Dakota. and the second between August 19 and September 26. As the musicians were continually reminded.83 After two more trips to various Texas towns and to New Orleans. announced that the rooms had already been reserved for another party. on seeing the rest of the musicians enter the establishment.81 Despite the setbacks that Albert had experienced. on August 9.who by then had departed for his home in New Orleans. which usually minimized discriminatory treatment. regardless of where the band worked. Available reports indicate that the band continued to tour the Midwest during both periods. this tour demonstrated that even without a white manager to open doors to establishments otherwise closed to black bands.. By a combination of hard work and (mostly) good fortune it had weathered the economic un- .82 Because he was very light-skinned. and its arrival in Springfield. 1939.342 Wilkinson Two large gaps appear in the newspaper record of this tour: one from June 3 to August 3. in September 1940 the Don Albert orchestra broke up. the tenor saxophonist and successor to Louis Cottrell Jr. after Albert had reserved seven rooms in a hotel for his band. Georgia. Not so in Sioux Falls. between the band's departure from Louisville. Illinois. during the third month of this tour. performing. By far the worst incident occurred in Thomasville. a number of the band members. The cost of maintaining this reputation was largely paid for in the physical toll of spending day after day riding the bus and night after night setting up. Jim Crow attitudes commonly associated with the South were to be found north of the Mason-Dixon Line as well. In the melde that followed. the proprietor. Kentucky. The police blamed the band for the brawl and confiscated the night's proceeds. The band spent that night on the bus.
inasmuch as only .A National Band from the Southwest 343 certainties of the 1930s. blacks were the first to be pushed out. During October. After the first week Albert had received 3. regardless of their talents.900 votes. "At a time when the swing industry was glutted with more bands than it could profitably sustain. he was aware that many bands broke up in 1940. Although the band had experienced a fair amount of turnover during its tenyear-plus history.800 votes. Herbert Hall. In the fall of 1940 both the Chicago Defenderand Pittsburgh Courierran contests to determine the most popular band of the year. Ellington's. which had been the downfall of many other bands of the time.450. with the Defender announcing that his 101. now ranked thirty-third. Hiram Harding. five."86 Albert's sense that economically bad times were returning may have described circumstances in the Southwest territory to which his final tour took him. Calloway's. while Basie led the contest with 9. Late in September the Defenderinvited readers to vote for any of thirty-eight bands on its list. Frank Jacquet. had 11. Allen in 1973. but the fact that his was by no means the only band to fold was due to other than regional factors. Evidence of this loyalty may be seen in the personnel list for the band's final year. The contest ended the following week. At the end of the month Ellington led with 61. How many votes Albert ultimately received is unknown. even though it no longer existed. One month later. who shared Albert's dream of making it to the big time. One key element of the band's early success was surely the loyalty of several founding members. and Lunceford's among them. November. captured the marketplace. David Stowe has stated that by 1940 the popularity of swing among whites had led to the formation of numerous white bands that. while Albert. on November 2. Ellington led with 23. were still members when the band folded: Ferdinand Dejan. as well as Albert's devotion to making music and entertaining audiences. although dropping his ranking to forty-four. Others on the list included the best-known bands of the periodBasie's. while Albert's total had risen to 43. He did identify two reasons for the demise of organizations other than his in an interview with Richard B. as is demonstrated by somewhat unusual evidence of its continuing popularity. the available evidence shows that of the original Ten Pals.910 votes. and Albert Martin."87 Despite the seemingly anticlimactic end to the Don Albert Orchestra. they weren't in demand.740 votes had won Ellington the contest. one of which was Don Albert's orchestra. in addition to Albert. and early December the votes came in.600 votes and was ranked thirtieth. as well as bands of lesser reputation.85 Although Albert never spoke of the end of his band in terms of larger economic forces. stating.010 votes. its reputation lived on. "because the Depression was almost coming back.
and not in New York City or Kansas City. based solely on the eight recordings of 1936.000 votes were listed in the final tally. We do know that he received at least the 43.450 votes listed the week before and perhaps more. hard-swinging outfit. in effect a white "gatekeeper" to the performing and recording opportunities that could have contributed significantly to an enduring reputation. when it initiated its own popularity contest several weeks later. Albert was unwittingly able to demonstrate what self-reliance and seemingly boundless energy and commitment-the only alternative strategy open to black musicians of his day-could produce by way of a following among those who wished to listen and dance to jazz of the swing era. in Gunther Schuller's words. they provide one of the few measures of the contemporary reputations of jazz bands during the swing era. the view.91Having rejected the services of Joe Glaser. indicated both by the number of repeat engagements and the number of extended engagements in cities and towns far removed from the band's home in Texas. the Pittsburgh Courier published a story about the rumor that the band had folded. typical of mid-1930s provincial Texas jazz.88 The significance of the results of this contest lies not only in the respectable number of votes cast in support of Albert's band but also in the fact that those votes began to come in more than two months after the band had broken up and continued to do so for more than two months thereafter. By contrast. merely a "coarse. In the absence of more reliable means."90It is impossible that a band with such presumed limitations could have established and maintained the extensive following that has been documented. The band's extensive tours and sustained reputation within African America during the 1930s lends credence to the idea that for the several years between its sixth tour (1935-36) and its tenth tour (193839). that it was. it never let on. 1940. The evidence documenting the number and extent of the band's tours and the depth of its appeal. In this instance the results support evidence from other sources. If the Defender knew that the band no longer existed.344 Wilkinson bands with more than 50. however. Don Albert and His Ten Pals began life at what might . it was recognized in the black community as a national band. particularly the testimony found in newspaper coverage of the popularity of the Don Albert orchestra in a region far removed from what might otherwise be presumed to be its own territory. on October 17. where practically all other name bands resided when not on the road. even though it was based in San Antonio. Albert received only a handful of votes and was dropped from the contest after a month. Texas. makes untenable the view that Don Albert's band was merely a territory band living an isolated existence. Not surprisingly.89 Obviously such contests are highly subjective.
Don Albert." in The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz. with additional support from the Office of Academic Affairs. I would also like to thank the staff of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. 1923-1929" (From Jazz to Swing. see also Thomas J. 6. Hennessey. Stowe in "The Incorporation of Swing. Thomas J. Driggs. McCarthy. Ross Russell. Nat Hentoff and Albert J. Pearson Jr. an NEH travel to collections grant. Hennessey. ed. saying that if his student could get work as a trumpet player. Jazz Style in Kansas City. "The Territory Bands. Don Albert was hired by the owner of the Tip Top on the recommendation of the leader of a New Orleans band passing through Dallas en route to an engagement in El Paso." in Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest. Tulane University). 3. 54. Goin' to Kansas City. Bruce Boyd Raeburn. esp." Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America. University of Missouri-Kansas City). According to banjo player John Henry Braggs. "The Rise of the National Bands. 4. 44-66. Hennessey discusses the six territories into which the African American community was divided during the 1920s in "Territory Bands. 242-317 (New York: Oxford University Press." they traveled over a large part of that world and for a time made a significant impact on a major part of its audience. Braggs identified the man simply as "Pajeaud. "The Big Bands. and idem. I wish also to acknowledge with gratitude the valuable suggestions made by Bruce Raeburn and Thomas J. but as "America's Greatest Swing Band. 17." perhaps the trumpet player and bandleader Willie Pajeaud (1895- . 1987). 1968). 53-65 and 66-73 (Berkeley: University of California Press. in which Albert played while still a student of Milford Piron. interview with Paul Crawford. 103-21). 279-317. 2. 1. 1959). Hennessey. 7. Hennessey. 1989)." in Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development." and "More Territorial Bands. 1977 (Western Historical Manuscript Collection. From Jazz to Swing. "Territorial Bands. 770-805 (New York: Oxford University Press. "Kansas City and the Southwest. Mass. 1994). a steamship on Lake Pontchartrain. 1929-1935. The standard literature on this subject includes Franklin S. The growth of the music industry and its increasing control over the fortunes of musicians and bands during the 1930s is discussed by David W. NOTES I gratefully acknowledge support of this research by an NEH summer stipend. a fellowship from the West Virginia Humanities Council. June 6.. 94-140 (Cambridge. 11. 1971). three West Virginia University development grants. 1930-1945. To this list may be added Nathan W. Bands included Bill Phillip's Brass Band." and he summarizes the causes of this transformation of American culture in "TerritoryScuffles. Finally." From Jazz to Swing.: Harvard University Press. 191-230 (New York: Rinehart. and a West Virginia University faculty senate research grant.. he did not need any additional lessons." in Jazz:New Perspectiveson the History of Jazz by Twelveof the World's ForemostJazz Critics and Scholars. interview with Howard Litwak and Nathan W. 1914-1923. 1961 (Hogan Jazz Archive. 1994). 122-39. curator. I wish to thank Brett Scott for his careful attention to the preparation of the three maps. 1890-1935 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Gunther Schuller. Apr. Piron terminated Albert's lessons. Russell. 5. Albert also played for Armand Piron on the Susquehanna. Pearson Jr. Music in American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. For its unfailing interest and assistance.A National Band from the Southwest 345 be regarded as a perimeter of the jazz world. From Jazz to Swing: African-American Jazz Musicians and Their Music. Don Albert. and Thomas J. West Virginia University.
"Don Albert Rose to Swing Leadership after Start with Troy Floyd. see also Herbert Hall. 1931. 1970): 18-25. 10. 130. The following secondary sources also address Albert's association with Troy Floyd. one of whom may have sent word to the newspaper of the band's travels to Arkansas." IAJRC Journal 22. interview with Litwak and Pearson. p. Dec. Both strategies were reportedly reliable and inexpensive means of attracting an audience (Albert. Albert. 5. p. In addition to the personnel list printed in the Chicago Defender of May 16. 18. Dec. 15. see also Don Albert and Herbert Hall. Feb. 1980 (Institute of Texan Culture)." Storyville 31 (Oct.346 Wilkinson 1960). Jan. no. 9. 1931. 1949): 3-4. 30. 1977. Apr. During the period of the state fair a band identified simply as "The Harris Orchestra" was playing at the Adolphus." Chicago Defender. 1931. trombonist William "Geechee" Robinson.To publicize his band in smaller communities. 2. "Don Albert. and Aug. 1980. 17. interview with Richard B." see Scott DeVeaux. Aug." Chicago Defender. p. Putnam's. Jan." Jazz Journal 11. with Litwak and Pearson. Aug. three additional lists appeared during the course of this tour: one each in the Defender's issues of July 25. Lawrence Brown. Albert. 23. 1980. 5. 17. 4. 103. 1931. Apr. p. Driggs. 1 (Jan. 1978-the latter with Herbert Hall. 1980. 1. Orin Blackstone. 5. see John Henry Braggs. 15. Pittsburgh Courier. At the end of the tour the San Antonio Register published a roster on Dec. interview with Litwak and Pearson. Don Albert. 11. three black newspapers covered its activities fairly consistently: the Chicago Defender. interview with Allen. Throughout the history of the band. 1 (Spring 1989): 6-29. p. 4 (Fall 1989): 1-6. It has been difficult to establish the identity of the bandleader who provided Albert with his first book. Walter Barnes. 26. 8. 1978 (Hogan Jazz Archive). from as early as Jan. but I have been unable to establish the name of its leader (Dallas Morning News. 17. interviews with Allen. Albert. 5 (July 1959): 4-6. 1931. and with Sterlin Holmesley. 1977). Jan. 12. "Don Albert and His Ten Pals. no. Apr. 19. Albert. In truth the band's "stand" at Shadowland was closer to fourteen months. 15. Allen. interview with Holmesley. and San Antonio Register. 2. 15. 1958)." Jazz Monthly 5. 1930 to May 1931. Aug. 2 (Feb. 16. Don Albert. 1980 (Institute of Texan Culture). 20. Concerning the possible significance of the Fisk University "concert." Playback 2. 14). 30. "A Biography of Herbert Hall. interview with Richard B. and with Holmesley. Allen. interview with Sterlin Holmesley. but with varying degrees of completeness and accuracy: Dick Allen. "Don Albert's Pals End 2 Years Stand. 10. Albert McCarthy. interview with Sterlin Holmesley. See also Frank Driggs. 1977. 1974). 4. 5. Franklin S. p. . Oct. 1969. 3. 1978. The other arrangers included. Big Band Jazz (New York. San Antonio). and Sept. no. and with Holmesley. Where possible he would broadcast a short performance on the local radio station to announce a forthcoming engagement. 10. 1931. at different times. baritone saxophonist Herbert Hall. Aug. interview with Litwak and Pearson. 15. no. 13. 17. Apr. Apr. "San Antonio Jazz: Don Albert. 1935-1945. trumpeter Billy Douglas. Most extensive coverage was provided by the Courier. p. "Hittin' the High Notes. no. 4. p. May 16." American Music 7.Mar. and another in the Pittsburgh Courier of July 25. "The Emergence of the Jazz Concert. sec. 1969 (Hogan Jazz Archive). 1929. 1977. Albert would send placards and business cards to the local promoter to display in the community. 1980 (Institute of Texan Culture. 17. 1978 (Hogan Jazz Archive). 3. 1977. see also Albert's interview with Litwak and Pearson. 17. The fact that the Defender reported the start of the band's first tour suggests the possibility that it was read by Albert or other band members. 5.-Nov. Jan. interview with Richard B. 14. Allen. and pianists Lloyd Glenn and Jay Golson (Albert. 8.
" San Antonio Register. 18. 8. Three days later another advertisement announced that . 1978). p. 6 and 7. The scope of this tour was announced in the San Antonio Register. "for the past week music lovers have been given their share of the best music one should desire by Don Albert and His Ten Pals styled as America's greatest swing band. 1931. p. 1931. p. p. it became typical during the 1930s for movie houses to engage touring bands for short periods of time. Mar. 1931. See Donald M. 1. p. Sept. 28. 22. the pride of New Orleans and San Antonio. 10. 8. 1990 (Hogan Jazz Archive).' are appearing at the Shadowland Nightclub." San Antonio Register. 4. Dec. America's greatest swing band. interview with Allen. 1905. The first notice of this new title appeared in the San Antonio Register. 3. 31. 9. p." Jack Ellis's Chicago Defender column "The Orchestras" for June 24. 30. 17. 1932. 31"). 6. 1931. Sept. with a photo of Albert (bearing the caption "Don Albert's Ace Band to Tour East Coast" and the date "San Antonio. 1931. 2. during the course of a review of a recent dance date by Jones Hall Jr. 1933. 20. Hennessey. 5. Albert later entertained him and two of his associates at the home of a mutual acquaintance. Sept.] Jan. 1. Aug. 2. 29. 19 respectively. According to Thomas J. Advertisements in the Arkansas Democrat for Aug. 7. taken ca. An advertisement in the Arkansas Democrat. Alma Williams. "Don Albert and His Ten Pals Return." Pittsburgh Courier. Dec. p. 1932. Jimmie Johnson was the bass player in the only known photograph of the Bolden Band. 24. and Aug." Pittsburgh Courier. Armstrong's band had played an engagement in Oklahoma City on Sept." 33.A National Band from the Southwest 347 21. respectively. The article on the Easter dance appeared in the San Antonio Register. 2. 23. 2. which began.Aug. July 24. Mar. 32. 1938. Advertisement in the Daily Oklahoman(Oklahoma City). 1935. 19. Albert made the claim that his was the first band in Texas to use string bass in its rhythm section in 1978 (Albert and Hall. The running battle with the Hartley Toots Orchestra was first announced in the article "Don Albert Declares War on Hartley Toots. 128)." Pittsburgh Courier. Fletcher and Cab Take Lead in Courier Contest." OklahomaCity BlackDispatch. p. "Don Albert and Pals in West. 1931. Advertisements appeared in the Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock) at least once a week from May 11 to July 12. p. 27. 1933." starring Constance Bennett. June 24. 3. sec. according to critics and music lovers who really know. Allen." Pittsburgh Courier. "Don Albert Fetes Louis Armstrong. Dec. In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Bryant's letter is mentioned at the conclusion of a report on the band contest headlined "Duke.[. noted that "Don Albert and orchestra. 22. 22. p.. p. 1931. 6. announced a performance at the Rialto Movie Theater between screenings of the film "Bed of Roses. Feb. is the ace band of the Southwest.July 25. Aug. 6. 2. p. and Aug. 1969. The band's departure and return were noted in the San Antonio Register of June 24. "Don Albert and His Music. 1938. 1931. and Christopher Wilkinson. Further reference to this appeared in the article "Don Albert Draws 'Em in Miami. 6. 5. p.July 23. 30. Tex. p.Apr. 25. A major article. The advent of sound films had led in many instances to the demise of the pit orchestras that previously had accompanied silent films and vaudeville acts (From Jazz to Swing. The advertisement for the Christmas dance and an article concerning the dance appeared in the San Antonio Register. 12. sec. 12. see also Alvin Alcorn. 1. 26. commonly referred to as 'America's greatest swing band. p. 21. 11. p. begins. 1932. interview with Allen. sec. interview with Richard B. 1932. p. 1978). Albert. p. 24. 5. 1933. on pp. 1931. The contest between Albert's and Floyd's bands was reported under the headline "Troy Floyd Victorious in Tilt with Don Albert. Marquis. 1933. 17. 34. 21. In addition several references to the band's broadcasts were printed in the "KLRA Radio Program" schedule found also on the newpaper's entertainment pages." Pittsburgh Courier.
1934. sec. 43. reported that "efforts are being made to have New York booking agents review the band while they are playing this spot. in a telephone interview with me." Pittsburgh Courier. 2." Pittsburgh Courier. and by Albert in his interview with Litwak and Pearson. sec. 2. 1934. Dec. sec. p. p. and Nov. The trip from Beckley to New York City was discussed in Albert's interview with Holmesley. p. 1935.June 24 and Sept. 6. 23. formerly of that city. sec. 7. Apr. "Don Albert. 15. 1980. 2. Mississippi. . 1992. 2. 1935.. sec." 37. Who Found Stars at Apollo's Amateur Nights. 22. p. Mar. p. 2. B. the Pittsburgh Courier." in the San Antonio Register. Louisiana Weekly (New Orleans). p. sec. Oct.] May 9. The tour to New Orleans." 39. The band's movements during this period were noted in various issues of the Chicago Defender. 1980. see "Ralph Cooper. Travers's name first appears in connection with Albert's band in an article in the Chicago Defender.348 Wilkinson "Don Albert and His Orchestra.K. 2. 14. 1. 46. 1935. sec. 16. Information provided in the article "Don Albert. According to a story dated "Savannah. 1935. 1935. Master of 'm All When It Comes to Swing Bands. p. p. p. Portions of the first of these two tours are documented by articles in the Arkansas Democrat. and Feb. p. The dance in Charleston. p. Va. Dec. 2. 7.Oct. sec. 38. 6. 2. was advertised in the West Virginia Weeklyon two occasions: Oct. 26. Pittsburgh Courier. 23. 1977. the Chicago Defender. Kentucky" (Chicago Defender. 7. In his column "The Orchestras" Jack Ellis reported. 6. 45. Dies. sec. 4. 2. 1935. and Dec. p. 6." published as "Don Albert. p.Dec. Hailed by Dixie Radio Announcer as Sweetest Orchestra" in the Pittsburgh Courier on May 11. 1935. interview with Holmesley. 6. Apr. in his middle to late eighties. 3. 1934. the band performed three times in Macon: "a radio concert.. Jan. and in the Pittsburgh Courier. 2. 2. 1934. and Oct. May 18." would be performing at the Rainbow Garden (Arkansas Democrat. a concert and a dance were the pieces de resistance. 25. July 26. 1935. 6. and Sarah Vaughan among them. Harlan. 9. 1935. sec. p. 1935. Swinging North on Record Breaking Dance Tour. Ga. May 5. 4. which introduced numerous black entertainers to the public. p. 15. America's Greatest Swing Band.Nov. 22. sec. The dance in Beckley. p." Pittsburgh Courier. Albert. 1935.Nov. 11. Ella Fitzgerald. sec. 2. 2. 7. p. Ralph Cooper. sec. p. Aug. Back at Temple on Thanksgiving. p. p. in Disappointing Dance Crowds." Pittsburgh Courier. 22. p. 26. 44.'" Pittsburgh Courier. 1935. Billie Holiday. 10. 1992. sec. 2. 47. 41. 6. 14. and San Antonio Register published between Feb. 23. 1935. 6. 2 and May 11. We Think. William G. 1935. 1935. had a multifaceted career in show business but is perhaps best known as the founder and master of ceremonies of the Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. 1992. The incident in Kirksville was described by Louise Smith. p. 2. 1935. sec. 1935. 2. p. p. and Mar. Feb. "Don Albert's Band Ranks with the Nation's Best. 36. p. Sept. 19. Harriet Calloway at Temple. "Don Albert!-You Made a Grievous Mistake. 12. sec. 42. Jan. 19. 29. "Don Albert and his boys are doing theirs at Harlan's night club. 6). Nunn. W. 40. 1935. 15. 8. 8. and Alabama is documented in articles and advertisements published in the Louisiana Weeklyof Feb. 9. 6. p. 2. 24. An article entitled "Don Albert 'Sends 'Em' in Buffalo. 8).[. 1935. The resolution of this matter was reported in the article "Don Albert Gets O. Aug. 1935. 1935. Mar. 17. 35. 7. who died on Aug. 2. 1935. sec." New YorkTimes. Sept." PittsburghCourier. 1935. 1. 1934. 2. "'Don and I Were Tricked'-Travers Claims. 16. and in an article on Nov. Va. 10. See issues of the Pittsburgh Courier for July 20. 7. W. see also the Pittsburgh Courier. 1935. "The race" was the period's conventional term for African Americans.Nov. and the San Antonio Register. 6. was announced in the Beckley Post-Herald in an advertisement on Nov. 9. "Don Albert's Band Scheduled for 'Big Time.
Allen that Travers disappeared after the debacle (Don Albert." Pittsburgh Courier. Stowe in "The Incorporation of Swing. 1980. 6. interview with Holmesley. . 1936: "Don Albert. 3.. interview with Holmesley." practices of the band were recalled in interviews with three of its members: Albert. Warns Promoters to Book Dates Only through Him" (sec. Michigan American Music series (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. which during the 1930s had important financial benefits for the local at a time when many of its former members had quit. 58.. 2. p. interview with Richard B. 7. 2. 1936. 15. May 16. 1929-1935. May 27.interview with William Russell. 1972 [Hogan Jazz Archive]). 6). 123-30." San Antonio Register. who handles Louis Armstrong" (Pittsburgh Courier. 1961): 24. interview with Holmesley. and Wilkinson. 1994): 123-35. 50." Pittsburgh Courier." Swing Changes. 48. May 2. 2. 57. June 1941. "Harold Holmes: His Story Told to John Norris.4 (Aug. Andy Kirk. Jan. more briefly. 7. 1936.A National Band from the Southwest 349 from Union. Williams. 11.Apr. . Jan. Stowe. "One hears that Don Albert. Swing Changes.Mar. sec. recalled that "during the Depression.. 28. by Thomas J. Aug. 1936. p... Hall. 72-82." Storyville 160 (Dec. and. long since one of Alamo City's favorite ork leaders. 28. See also the column written by H. 6). Jan. sec. 1980.Apr. Packing 'Em in on Tour of Dixie. 15. 2. Hennessey in "The Rise of the National Bands." From Jazz to Swing. 53. Twenty Years on Wheels. An at times lurid account of the character and career of Joe Glaser appears in Ernie Anderson's memoir "Joe Glaser and Louis Armstrong. 1936. 1990. p." Pittsburgh Courier. Feb. p.. 54. 1936. The most insightful contemporaneous description of the economics of the big bands in the second half of the 1930s was written by Irving Kolodin: "The Big Band Business. 59." Coda 4."' "It is alleged that the orchestra might be booked by Joe Glaser. 1936. Floyd Ward entitled "San Antonio. 100-107. sec. p. it was jus'. . 1980." Harper's Magazine. The most complete account of his memories of Glaser's proposal appears in Albert's interview with Holmesley. Allen. "Notice! Don Albert. 52. no. According to the article "Don Albert Is Riot at Texas 'Spot. 15. 56. [it] looked like the Union had lost its prestige an' members had gotten out. 2. 1989)." or "cooperative.received a very RIOTOUS welcome last evening when the populace turned out in large numbers to greet him on his first return engagement" (see the society column "Jo' Jottings. 8). p. sec. Mar. Louis Cottrell Jr. pp. 23. Albert. The proposed tour was discussed in an article headlined "Effort Being Made to Get Don Albert into Mid-West for Fifteen-Day Dance Tour. mostly Don Albert's Band an' one or two others that kept the thing on balance an' that kept 'em going through that time" (Louis Cottrell Jr. for many years the local's president and formerly tenor saxophonist with the Don Albert orchestra. The role of managers and booking agencies in shaping the careers of bands in the 1930s has most recently been assessed by David W. 100-101. and Alcorn. 6. Part 1: Early Days. For a brief discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the cooperative approach in the face of the rising power of "celebrity bandleaders" and growing influence of the music industry.'" More explicit reference is made in the headline to an article carried in the Pittsburgh Courier. interview with Allen. p. Years later Albert suggested to Richard B. Nov. 8. 2. The "commonwealth. 1936.Mar. see David W. Albert was one of the few dues-paying members of New Orleans Local 496 of the American Federation of Musicians. . 5. 25. Passing reference to the consequences of the Travers episode was made in the article "Don Albert Is Riot At Texas 'Spot. sec. 18. 51. In New Orleans the band played during Mardi Gras in February and returned to play at the Golden Dragon Supper Club on Easter Sunday of that year (Louisiana Weekly. 93-94. Feb. 1980. 1961 [Hogan Jazz Archive])." Pittsburgh Courier. p. 4). 55. 49... as told to Amy Lee.
Jan. "Don Albert." Down Beat. Albert. 1937): 2." Storyville 78 (Aug. 18). Louisiana Weekly. 1961): 24-25. telephone interviews with Christopher Wilkinson. 7). 1969. 1937. 2. 7). 17. p. no. 14. May 27 and Sept. Albert. 30. "Don Albert is Back in the East. 1938." Melody Maker 13. Apr. (New Rochelle." "On the Sunny Side of the Street." San Antonio Register. 68. See also Leonard Feather. 67. 17. Specialist on Swing. Albert. 1936." particularly in connection with its arrangements of "Deep Blue Melody" and "Rockin' and Swingin"' (The Swing Era. 1937.350 Wilkinson 60. p. 1995. 27. "Feather Forecast and News: Mystery of Pantless Sheik. 1977. 17. 15. interview with Litwak and Pearson. p. "Sharps and Flats. 1990). 30. 61. 15. 1978): 222. Roger D. 1968). no. interview with Holmesley. 5. 5 (July 1959): 5. Jan. Miller's "review" appeared in his article "New Records Feature Good Solos and Ensemble Playing. Its engagement at the Olmos Dinner Club was reported in the article "Don Albert and His Band Get Call to Play in Swankiest Night Club In 'Lone Star State'" (Pittsburgh Courier." Coda 4. 75. 63. Kinkle. Mar. N. 1 (Jan. 76. 4. The Complete Encyclopediaof Popular Music and Jazz.Nov. 69. 1969. 1937. Driggs's opinion was echoed by Albert J. it was learned from the leader himself. p. 29." Pittsburgh Courier. 1938. 45. 4 (Aug.Feb. "Dapper Don Albert. 77. 11. Jan. see also Albert. sec. interview with Litwak and Pearson. Lawrence Brown.Feb. who was suspended from the Musicians' Union a few months ago has been reinstated. Apr. telephone interview with Christopher Wilkinson. Schuller claimed that the band "went all out to emulate Ellington. 21. 224 (Sept. 384. 64. 71. however (Pittsburgh Courier.-Sept. 1991.: Arlington House. Apr. 73." Jazz Journal 11." and "The Sheik of Araby" are cited in Richard Crawford and Jeffrey Magee's Jazz Standards on Record. . 69. In the article "Brunswick Talent Scout Signs Don Albert to Year's Recording Contract. 4 vols. p. Franklin Driggs. "A Biography of Herbert Hall. 21. interview with Allen. "San Antonio Piano Man. p." Jazz Monthly 5. after matters with an Ohio promoter were straightened out satisfactorily" (Pittsburgh Courier. sec. 1937. interview with Allen. 799). 65. 1980.Nov. and with Holmesley. 7. 2. Has New Booking Tieup. 20. The announcement of Albert's reinstatement in the American Federation of Musicians makes clear that he was denied opportunities to perform in the North until he resolved matters to the union's satisfaction: "Dance fans north of the Mason and Dixon line may soon hear Don Albert's swing band again. Albert discussed his enthusiasm for Ellington's sound and his delight in his band's ability to emulate it in two separate interviews given during the final years of his life (see Albert.Y. no. Don." Pittsburgh Courier. Don Albert. Albert's recordings of "Liza. see also Celeste Allen. 30. 1900-1950. Apr. 6. 1977.June 19. Jan. 1936. Dec. Eric Townley. 17. Franklin Driggs. 1977. see also "Don Albert Is Swinging along Eastern Coast. 7.June 19. 1980). even in a nearplagiaristic [emphasis added] fashion. 1992). interview with Christopher Wilkinson. 62. as well as Herbert and Annie Lou Hall. 1958): 10. Billy Taylor. Sept. 1974). p. McCarthy et al. 1900-1942: A Core Repertory (Chicago: Center for Black Music Research. Trumpet player and sideman Alvin Alcorn later claimed that the band never broke up until Albert finally dissolved it in 1940 (Alvin Alcorn. 78. 70. no. Albert. "Herb Hall: An Interview. 74. 72." guitarist Ferdinand Dejan indicated that all eight sides were to be released. 17. John Norris. 58. 1977. this did not apparently happen all at once. in Jazz on Record: A Critical Guide to the First 50 Years:1917-1967 (London: Hanover House." Chicago Defender. 4. interview with Litwak and Pearson. 28. p. Dec. p. 66. interview with Litwak and Pearson. May 1937." Storyville 113 (June-July 1984): 187. "Harold Holmes: His Story. 4: 2258-59.
" Pittsburgh Courier. p. The band's demise was announced in a brief article headlined "Don Albert's Band Broken Up. describes engagements in Louisville prior to the Kentucky Derby and in Pittsburgh on Memorial Day 1939. see also his interview with Holmesley." San Antonio Register. The Swing Era. p. June 10. Schuller. and Aug." Pittsburgh Courier. 2. interview with Christopher Wilkinson. 1940. 1977. 1939. interview with Richard B. 1939. 1939. 9. See also "Don Albert's Contract Is Lengthened." which began by stating: "According to unconfirmed information. 21. p. 20. 88. 1991. 1939. Aug. Stowe.Aug. 5. p. 18." Nov. 1938. 28. "Don Albert Seeking Some New Band Men. Don Albert. The incident in Thomasville was extensively covered in the Pittsburgh Courier in the article "Don Albert Band Members Beaten in Georgia. 19. 1939." Pittsburgh Courier. 20. 6. Apr. Rumor. p." Pittsburgh Courier. This paper's band contest was announced in the article "Courier'sNational Contest Starts Moving. 1. Albert's name disappeared (along with those of other bands receving fewer than 130 votes) from the list of contestants published in the paper's "All American Band Standing. 152).Oct. 798. 1938. 83. 1940. 1939.Nov. 1969. Advertisements in the Illinois State Register. 20.Jan. 30. 15. 21. 91. 17. p. Albert. "Don Ameche Sang with Don Albert's Orchestra. p. Aug. and with Litwak and Pearson. Dec. interview with Litwak and Pearson. 1940. Celeste Allan mentioned receiving a postcard from Albert. Albert. 14. See also n. 20. who was then passing through Chicago (San Antonio Register. interview with Allen. p. Apr. Photograph with the caption "Don Albert Swings Out at Detroit's Club Plantation. 2. 18. p. 21. 30. reveal that the engagement was in fact only two weeks long.Feb. 10. 22. p. p. 122. 81. 9. 1973. 20." Dec. Williams. Dec." Nov. p. 89. See "Don Albert Draws 'Em in Florida" and "Hartley Toots in Mid-West. p. Jan. 20. 2. 7). 1940. 85. 1939. 86. 3. Will Tour Kentucky and Tennessee. Illinois. Aug. Sept. "Four Reasons Why Detroit's Club Plantation Is Leapin'. p. 1939." Pittsburgh Courier. Mar. 30. Not surprisingly the coverage in the Thomasville Times-Enterpriseof Aug. p.Jan. 82. 5. 21." Pittsburgh Courier. interview with Allen." Oct. 9. "Duke Ellington Regains Lead in Number 1 Band Poll. 21. and the Michigan Chronicle." Pittsburgh Courier. p." Pittsburgh Courier. "Number 1 Band Contest Closes on December 2." Pittsburgh Courier. principally with Litwak and Pearson. 1940. Celeste Allan referred to Albert's "ex-gang" in his column "Sharps and Flats. 1939. 29. and Apr. 30 for other references. 10." Pittsburgh Courier. 20. 84.A National Band from the Southwest 351 79. Jan. 20. 5. 20. Dec. Swing Changes. Allen. 7. 1940. 20. 80. 19. p. 17. 1940. p. 1940. and Alcorn. In his "Sharps and Flats" column. ." See Albert." Aug. 1939. 87.Mar. 5. 1977. 1977. May 27. p. 1939. was limited to a single sentence: "More than a dozen other negroes were also arrested last night and hauled to the barracks in the 'black maria' when police broke up a free-for-all fight reported to have occurred at a dance at a colored school house here. 7. 17. 90. "Don Albert Swings Out at the Club Plantation. mentions the fact that the band was in the early weeks of a projected three-month engagement at the Villa Valencia in Springfield. 20. 1938. and "Duke Ellington Is Number One Band of the Year. Apr. Mar. 20. 1980. interview with Allen. Don Albert and his famous swing orchestra have reached the parting of the ways. 1969 (Hogan Jazz Archive). and Wilkinson. p. The following articles published in the Chicago Defender provide an overview of the contest: "The Year's Number 1 Band Contest. Albert discussed memories of traveling to South Dakota in several interviews. This conclusion represents an elaboration of Hennessey's assessment (FromJazz to Swing. p. Kenneth Dominique. 1990.