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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-
having heard him perform with Floyd's band. studied with several master musicians from the Creole community. 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. Chester Clark. From the ages of fourteen to eighteen Albert played sporadically with various bands both in and around New Orleans. 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. clarinet Louis Cottrell Jr. Of more immediate importance to Albert's career was his developing friendship with Trent's first trumpet player. he left New Orleans for Texas with two other young musicians. He had been hired to play in the house band of a bar called the Tip Top. The exception was trumpet player Hiram Harding of Dallas. which would last from October 12 to 27. In August 1929 an investor named Bernard Goldberg. gave Albert a thousand dollars to form a group to play engagements during the Texas State Fair. the preeminent black bandleader not only in Dallas but of the entire Texas-Arkansas-Oklahoma region in the late 1920s." 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. Thanks to Clark's assistance and advice. at the age of eighteen." that is.9 Contrary to Russell's generalization concerning the personnel of territory bands. With one exception. tenor saxophone and clarinet Arthur Derbigny alto saxophone and clarinet Al Freeman Jr. which was based in San Antonio. Albert did not hire local talent-not even raiding Troy Floyd's band in the process of forming his own. known as "Don Albert and His Ten Pals.8 He remained with Floyd for almost three years. was undoubtedly a major factor in his . at the end of 1926 Albert was hired as lead trumpet player in Troy Floyd's band.7 Shortly thereafter Albert met Alphonso Trent. which he later described as "the raggediest and worst place" in the Central Track area of downtown Dallas.6 In September 1926. including "Papa" Louis Tio and Milford Piron. most of whom apparently played only by ear. The band.316 Wilkinson self. able to read music. His experience with members of Troy Floyd's band.
as well as in all the states between. The Chicken Plantation went out of business early in 1930 when Estes apparently decided to take a job at Shadowland. "because the band formed so quickly. finished musicians would be easy to find in New Orleans. The presence of reading musicians was therefore obviously essential to the band's initial success. they played for dancing every night and also backed touring singers and dance teams occasionally engaged to perform there. a roadhouse on the outskirts of San Antonio. and Pittsburgh and in small towns such as Thomasville. suggest the possibility of still other tours besides those it has been possible to document. Evidence preserved in contemporary newspapers reveals that during its ten-year-andeight-month life. This conservative estimate does not include short out-of-town engagements that the band played while it was ostensibly resident in San Antonio. The band traveled every year but one during its existence. we had to have some music. or 45 percent of its existence. playing a repertory of head and stock arrangements. they left on the first of what would ultimately be twelve tours. the final tour ending four months before the group broke up in 1940. the longest lasted more than a year. It played in the major cities of New York." The early months of the band's history have been difficult to reconstruct. Georgia. .A National Band from the Southwest 317 decision to return home to find players. his band must also have demonstrated that it could provide the kind of music sufficient to the purposes of this club's proprietor. Nonetheless. west to South Dakota. 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. Detroit.12 The Ten Pals remained at Shadowland until May 1931. Moreover. several gaps in the newspaper record." 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. even in its extreme youth.10As he later recalled. replacing Troy Floyd's band. 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. The Ten Pals also moved there. the band was on the road the equivalent of at least four years and ten months. north to upstate New York. Although the shortest of these trips lasted only two or three weeks. each of a month or more. In the course of these journeys the band played in cities and towns from Texas to Florida. having bought a second-hand bus with savings from the tips they earned from playing requests. when. What is known is that shortly after the conclusion of the state fair. Chicago. and back down again to Texas.
told Franklin Driggs. "we left the Shadowland when things got bad during the Depression.. Radio has so popularized good music that the smaller towns want and are willing to pay to hear good bands in person. since taken together they provide evidence of the band's growing popularity. a bandleader and columnist for the Chicago Defender.318 Wilkinson Rocky Mount. 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. has the extent of the travels of the Albert band been documented. In addition to the attraction of making more money through traveling. noted in March 1931: "Times have changed-and how. baritone saxophonist with the band. and range of travels.14 The Ten Pals' first tour began in May 1931 and concluded in early December of the same year. including those in San Antonio." Three nights was half the length of what had earlier been their normal workweek. many bands were beginning to travel in search of new audiences. and they cut us down to three nights a week. 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.. nightclubs. I mean big bands are now taking to the road rather than hold one stand indefinitely. In later years the band took its own troupe of entertainers on tour. Years later Herbert Hall. even in onenight jumps. it has not been possible to corroborate them through advertisements or articles in local newspapers. There's more money on the road and in barnstorming. but at times it provided stage shows for movie theaters and toured with entertainers. Not only did it play for dances in hotel ballrooms. and Beckley. another factor may have played a role in initiating the band's first tour at this time. That the band toured was typical of all bands during the 1930s. Its first tour came at a time when."13 Only two months later the Ten Pals were on tour for the first time. North Carolina. As Walter Barnes. Although there is little reason to doubt these reports. Only recently. types of performances.. each covered extensively in the local press. and Miami. West Virginia.15 . It was dominated by extended residences in Little Rock and Oklahoma City. the band broadcast over local radio stations. Although they had obviously been planning to tour for some time (otherwise why save tip money to buy a bus?). New Orleans. however. among other cities. Barnes's words may have provided further encouragement. Detailed discussion of every tour is not necessary to demonstrate the widespread activity of this band. The obvious reason touring became attractive was money. and high school gymnasiums. evidence suggests. When the opportunity presented itself. Little Rock. Bands. Consideration of three will suffice.
It returned to perform from Sept. dashed lines indicate possible routes between documented performancesites. however. Tourno.Ark. It has not been possible to determine precisely when this occurred. On December 4. 1931. as well as locations in Louisiana. December 3. Okla. 1931.:band in residence from May 14 to July 12. Subsequentroutes and sites cannot be fully documented. If the Register's story is accurate. 1 of the Don Albert band . available information has not permitted such precision.Ark. 3. .:band in residence from July 13 to ca. this may have been one of the earliest concert performances of jazz to take place at a college or university. Thus dashed lines Figure 1. Aug. 1931.16 The extent and direction of this tour is illustrated by the map in figure 1. Aug. 4 until sometime after Sept.A National Band from the Southwest 319 The absence of such "on-site" verification is especially frustrating in the following instance.but apparently they included towns in Oklahoma. 4. It returned to perform from ca. 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. Oklahoma City. More often. 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. The band returned to San Antonio before Dec. Sept. because there are gaps in the record of the band's movements. 1931. May 11 to ca. 24. 4. 2. 21. San Antonio. Fisk University in Nashville (see site 4 on map). 3. where this can be documented. Tex.:band departed on May 11.for Little Rock. 1. Little Rock. 22 to ca. )37~-~ n// 1' --C rl 4 r Key: lines indicate documented routes.
Ferdinand Dejan Henry Turner Jimmie Johnson Albert Martin Anderson Lacey trumpet trumpet trombone baritone and alto saxophones. these individuals were essential for securing engagements outside San Antonio. Working with agents represented Albert's first contact with the music industry. Until his band developed a greater reputation. presumably in hopes of generating more engagements. the brief article noted that the Ten Pals had "just completed a two-year contract at the Shadowland club of San Antonio.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. Texas. Al Freeman Jr. revealing that since its founding nineteen months earlier."'18The ensemble now consisted of the following musicians: Don Albert Hiram Harding Frank Jacquet Herbert Hall Philander Tiller Louis Cottrell Jr. but the locations of those theaters remain elusive. the Ten Pals had become a twelve-piece band.320 Wilkinson indicate possible connections between known performance sites." It gave an address where Albert might be reached. At one point on this first tour. 1931. Albert's band first received notice in the Chicago Defender on May 16. 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. the band was reportedly contracted to play for a chain of movie theaters in eastern Oklahoma after its departure from Oklahoma City. the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender. and it listed the band's personnel. 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. One of the earliest . Datelined Little Rock. Where these occur. played major roles in making the band known to readers far from the Southwest. particularly two of the nation's leading black papers. near the beginning of its first tour. thus probably telephoned to the paper by Albert or an associate. Newspapers. and are working a temporary engagement in Little Rock.
Hiram Harding. From the collection of Christopher Wilkinson.19 Anderson Lacey succeeded Sidney Hansell as vocalist. Sidney Hansell. Derbigny's successor was Philander Tiller of Little Rock.. 2). Frank Jacquet. Included were Sidney Hansell.20 Bass player Jimmie Johnson's arrival not only enlarged the band. From left to right: Ferdinand Dejan. Not included was the tuba player. and Arthur Derbigny. the band's first singer (third from the right). a major source of its later popularity. (It should be noted that Johnson also represented Figure 2. Hansell. a new member of the band. Herbert Hall. Louis Cottrell Jr. ca. Don Albert is seated. Henry Turner. according to Albert. 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. along with alto saxophonist Arthur Derbigny (standing on the extreme left). Don Albert and His Ten Pals. to be replaced by Sam Birt. but by September 1931 he too had departed. who was also the first of what ultimately became a total of six player-arrangers in the band.Al FreemanJr. late 1930. it introduced the string bass to Texas jazz. Jimmie Johnson. had already left the band and returned to New Orleans by the time the first tour began. and bass player Jimmie Johnson (second from the right). IV ?*( V ~ -3ANY " . who apparently missed the photo session. Albert Martin..A National Band from the Southwest 321 known photographs of the band was taken probably in the second half of 1930 (fig.
23 By this time Don Albert had apparently hired his first manager and publicist. it was playing there at a nightclub called the Showboat. 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.)21 During their almost two-month stay in Little Rock. the Black Dispatch. Bryant of Little Rock. for which Bryant was probably responsible.22 Departing from Little Rock shortly after July 12. the band went to Oklahoma City. At the theater they performed on at least one occasion in May between screenings of the feature film The Way of All Men.322 Wilkinson a link to the earliest years of jazz history. starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr."26 It is difficult to trace the band's precise movements after its second departure from Oklahoma City. which goes to prove its extraordinary ability.27 At first glance the geographical range of this tour seems to support Ross Russell's view that. as well as half-hour broadcasts on a local radio station three evenings a week. Albert presided over an organization of merely regional significance. 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. Bryant wrote a letter promoting the Ten Pals that received "special mention" in the August 22 issue of the newspaper. James B. The Ten Pals occasionally performed in Oklahoma City at two other venues. Examined . It reportedly toured Oklahoma on the "Majestic Movie Theater Circuit." and then passed through Louisiana before returning to San Antonio and Shadowland for a thirteen-week engagement. presumably on nights when the Showboat was closed. as well as at the Arkansas Movie Theater. like all territory band leaders. 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. but early in September Bryant arranged for it to return to the Showboat in Oklahoma City for a six-week engagement. the Ritz Ballroom and Forest Park. 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. 1931. would include "a battle of music" with T.25 Where else the band may have played that month is unclear.." traveled to Tennessee to play the Fisk University "concert.."24 Those bookings. As a young man he had performed with Charles "Buddy" Bolden in what many regard as the prototypical New Orleans jazz band. 1931. In an article in the local African American newspaper. Holder's Casa Loma Orchestra at an amusement park called Willow Beach (near Little Rock) on August 22.
the view that this band stayed in its territory might be valid. home of Walter Page's Blue Devils." The reporter noted that a number of musicians from other local bands attended the performance. it once again became the establishment's house band. Although the Ten Pals "ren- . a fact that contradicts Russell's suggestion that territory bands stayed close to home. Additionally the band was later reengaged in both communities. The audience was invited to make a decision. including dances held on Christmas and Easter morning. 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. Under the headline "Don Albert's Dance Brings a Challenge. He was willing to battle T.A National Band from the Southwest 323 more closely. but after hearing each band perform several numbers. among them Troy Floyd. Obviously this tour was no overnight "run-out" from San Antonio to one or more nearby communities." The contest. the same evidence points to other conclusions. we read that the Albert "played to a crowded house Easter morning [and] created quite a furore in musical circles by his wonderful showing. obviously another "battle. If this had been the Ten Pals' only tour or if all subsequent travels had been limited to states adjacent to Texas. Little Rock and Oklahoma City had their own local bands. Contrary to Russell's generalization that territory bands avoided competition from similar ensembles. the Ten Pals were later hired in each town to play extended engagements. Holder's band in Little Rock and for a time was resident in Oklahoma City. having made debuts in both Little Rock and Oklahoma City. 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. Back in San Antonio the band had its thirteen-week contract at Shadowland extended to six months. they could not agree on the winner." in the Register of April 1. 1932. that was not the case. At the same time it played engagements in downtown San Antonio for the black community. evidence of its ability both to develop and to maintain a following beyond southwest Texas. however. 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. 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. Three local musicians acted as judges." did not occur until June 22. At that time the Blue Devils were in decline. playing six nights per week. Equally apparent is that. however.
the virtue of these "battles" was that they were "one way of enticing the public in."29 In an interview in 1969 with Richard Allen. an event also recalled by one of his sidemen. trumpeter Alvin Alcorn. then Albert is correct." He would always assert that he was the first to identify the music he played as "swing. Albert stated that although the ostensible purpose of such contests was to determine which of the competing groups was superior." It was typical for bands to be paid a percentage of the establishment's receipts. early in September 1933 the band departed on a three-week tour that took it first to Little Rock. Albert asserted that on one occasion his band battled Count Basie's. and then north to towns in Illinois and Missouri.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. He claimed that at first he was asked whether his was "America's Greatest String Band. By February 1934 the band was being billed as "Don Albert and His Music: America's Greatest Swing Band. Albert's band reportedly engaged in a series of battles with the Hartley Toots Orchestra from Miami. where it played for a little more than fourteen months.324 Wilkinson dered a number that met with a roaring applause.30 On June 23. Although it has not been possible to document precisely where the band .31 Sometime during this period Albert began to refer to his group as "America's Greatest Swing Band. The larger the crowd. until Troy Floyd was ushered to the platform and declared winner. the more money would be made. In one instance. The demonstration that followed the completion of this number lasted fully ten minutes." which suggested that the term was new to at least some of his audience in 1932. Albert's band battled other groups on later occasions as well. By August 19 the band had returned to San Antonio and to Shadowland. where it performed in at least two venues."33 As evidence of the desire to expand its reputation. 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. during the course of a tour in 1938." the Floyd band's subsequent performance "was greeted with such hearty and deafening applause that the music was completely drowned out. its first foray into the Midwest." 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. Contests with other bands were also noted in various newspaper reports. each in a different city. the day after its "defeat" by Floyd's band. 1932.
No documentation provides precise information on its route until it turns up at the Cafe Vendome in Buffalo. the band left town in May 1934 on a tour of Alabama.37 Having reached the north-central United States. and the band's sixth tour represented the bandleader's most ambitious effort to reach that goal. A five-week tour beginning at the end of January and ending early in March 1935 took the band to New Orleans. as well as to towns in Mississippi and Alabama. Before the tour ended in March 1936. an eastern Kentucky coal-mining town. This tour began late in March 1935. the band's drummer. instead of taking the usual ninety minutes to stow their equipment and themselves aboard the band's bus. after which it returned to Buffalo and. Detroit. and Mississippi.35 The slogan "America's Greatest Swing Band" was emblematic of Albert's dreams of making it to the top. playing engagements in Buffalo. discovered that the venue served as the local headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan.A National Band from the Southwest 325 went in that region. Andy Kirk. where the band played for a dance that was part of a local festival known as the "June-Germans.36 One stop have been at a dance hall just outside Rocky Mount. and then turned north. What happened during the course of that odyssey illustrates the obstacles to national fame facing bands aspiring to reputations comparable to those of. and Pittsburgh. Missouri." In the afternoon before that engagement began. the Albert band had traveled through fourteen states (see fig. the band played every song requested that night (whether the musicians knew it or not). The band left Texas. heading east along the Gulf Coast to Florida. the year in which Benny Goodman's rise to fame would introduce the swing era for most Americans. and it may have played in Carbondale. In several instances engagements lasted several weeks. as well. Louisiana. Kentucky. as well as in the greater New York area. and Savannah. 3). for a week or more when its bus broke down. . Illinois. Not surprisingly. North Caromay lina. in early May it made its way out of the South. Albert "Fats" Martin. After playing engagements in Valdosta. Duke Ellington. it no doubt found appreciative audiences in more than one place. 1934.34 After wintering at Shadowland. from mid-July through Labor Day. Count Basie. although contrary to its usual policy. indicates that this trip included an engagement at a nightclub in Harlan. Georgia. Arkansas. the band crisscrossed the region. 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. or Jimmy Lunceford. Macon. New York. almost certainly it stopped (and perhaps played) in Kirksville. An account in the Chicago Defender of September 22. say. They then packed up and were on the road within half an hour of finishing the engagement.
1935. West Palm Beach. Fla.: band may have played during this tour for the "June-Germans" festival at the headquarters of the local Ku Klux Klan. and a dance) during the week of Apr. following a football game between West Virginia State College and Bluefield State College. Miami. or early May. starting perhaps as early as July 7-13 and concluding after Labor Day. 6. March 22. Petersburg. Apr. the band was to have begun a tour of Ohio. 22 for Florida. Buffalo. Macon.: band played three engagements in one day (a broadcast. 5.: band stopped here and may have performed ca. Tex. or early May. May 9. It returned there in late Oct. 28May 4. 6 of the Don Albert band . Ga. Pensacola. Fla. Ga. St. tt S10 1/ 7C 3 5 Key: lines indicate documented routes. 11.: band departed Mar. 2. .326 Wilkinson Figure 3.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Fla. Orlando. 1. N. 7. March 5.to eight-week engagement at the Vendome Ballroom. 14. or early Oct. 28-May 4. a concert. 12. dashed lines indicate possible routes between documented performance sites. or early May.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Va. or early May. Fla.: band played a six. 13. Pennsylvania.: band performed a single engagement ca. Fla. or early May. 15. Savannah.: band performed for a radio broadcast on the Million Dollar Steel Pier on Apr. 2. 3. 1-4. Mich. 1936. Fla. Following this engagement.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Detroit.C. San Antonio. St.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Sept. Rocky Mount. Ga. Tour no. 18. 2.Y.: band may have played at the Greystone Ballroom during Sept. Valdosta. Tampa. and West Virginia during the balance of Sept. Charleston.: band performed sometime during the week of Apr.: band visited sometime during late Apr. Fla. 9. 8. Augustine. W. 10.: band played in the Charleston Armory for the "Homecoming Dance Classic" on Nov. to ca. N. 4.
..38 Later it made a successful debut in Pittsburgh.39 Although Buffalo.. 1936.. 1935." Feb. Albert did not overlook smaller communities where single engagements were available.." you'll get dancing feet. Beckley. and Pittsburgh were hospitable. N.J.. They swing sweet.. 20..A National Band from the Southwest 327 16... to make up for an engagement missed on Nov. Glens Falls.. they play music which reaches the soul.. . New Orleans. Theirs is the soft wail and chant of slave days brought up to a '35 standard. brought back by popular demand. N.W. Having tracked the progress of Albert's band during the course of this tour. Both the extended and the return engagements testify to the band's popularity in several northern cities. They swing hot. Theirs is the music of Dixie in modern tempo. Pa. 17. which suggests .. Detroit.with haunting refrains and muted cadences that tear you apart. Thanksgiving night. The band missed contracted engagements in Akron. It returned to the Greystone Ballroom in October. Newark. played an extended engagement at the Cafe Vendome.. the band played for a dance held in conjunc- .: band debuted at the Pythian Temple on Nov. peppy. the paper printed a glowing review of the band's Pittsburgh debut in its edition of November 9. 28.Y. Nunn. It returned to San Antonio shortly before Mar. And when they "go to town. clean. you said it. as a result. where it might have been heard by booking agents from New York City.:band played at the Golden Dragon on "LundiGras. proclaimed: Folks. Ohio.5. and how with a seven-piece brass section and a background of an exceptional reed section like you've never heard before. and most optimistic.who can play. 1936. as do assessments of the band's performances published in various newspapers. so help me. it may have played other engagements in the greater New Yorkarea during this period. finest... William G.. 3. I'm telling you. 16 until at least Nov. healthy. 27 through early Dec. 18. and they know what they are doing. 2.. 1935. 1.that the band had established itself as one of the major bands of the period. the night before the band opened in Pittsburgh. It returned there on Jan. Pittsburgh. Va. .La.are a sight to behold. and Pittsburgh. Their arrangements are all original.:band rehearsedwith the RalphCooper troupe from Nov. Upstanding examples of the race at its youngest.Pa. the Courier'sentertainment editor and probable author of the review. this band is the answer to a jaded public's prayer! Fifteen men. DO play and put their whole hearts and souls into their work. 26. On November 2. 15.:band and Cooper's Revue performed at a local theater from Nov. The Pittsburgh Courier seems to have been one of its strongest supporters during this period. Swing music.:band performed at the Rose Garden Inn on Nov. virile. 19..
signed a contract for the band to return to Pittsburgh and play on Thanksgiving night. who was with a company named Associated Orchestras Corporation of America. record contracts negotiated. The dance lasted from 10:00 P. 1935. "Don Albert's Music" played for a dance held at the Rose Garden Inn in Beckley. after opening. slim handsome. In addition Travers. following its football victory over Shaw University from North Carolina. to 3:00 A. 1935. following up on the band's success in Pittsburgh early that November. 1935: "Don Albert 'master of 'em all' when it comes to swing bands is coming back to Pittsburgh! Dixie's dashing idol-tall. and another to make four recordings early in November for an unnamed company. on November 15. New Jersey. and undoubtedly as a result of positive response in Charleston.M.M. Up to this point Albert had relied on a succession of managers from various parts of the South and Midwest ("territory managers. That the enormous success of an earlier engagement prompted a return is indicated by the Pittsburgh Courier in its announcement of November 16. a man named Al Travers.41 By October 17.. November 29. West Virginia.43 The band rehearsed with Cooper in Newark throughout the second half of November. sponsored by Bluefield State Teachers College. Two weeks later.328 Wilkinson tion with a football game between West Virginia State College and Bluefield State Teachers College in Charleston. 1935. as well as his own ingenuity. which. in anticipation of the Paramount engagement. given the state of the highway system during that period (particularly in the Appalachians). and national management obtained. possibly Brunswick. Travers had arranged for Albert to sign one contract to appear at the Club Continental in Newark. the major ambition of the entire band.40 The principal goal of this tour-indeed. Prior to beginning this tour (as early as March 1935). after its success in Pittsburgh. West Virginia. after which the band departed for a nonstop drive to New York City. and regular-has been booked for a return engagement at Pythian Temple in the biggest holiday attraction of the year because hundreds of peo- ." in other words). where large audiences might be found. to arrange engagements during his various tours. had become the band's personal manager. the show was supposed to go on tour. at Newark's Paramount Theater.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. the state's two black institutions of higher education. according to Albert-was to break into the musical world of New York City. must have been quite an ordeal for bus and passengers alike. another black college.
on Albert's behalf) had requested and received an advance of $75.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. to November 22. the night before the Pittsburgh performance. November 27. Travers also signed a contract with a local agent named Booker T. although no longer in anticipation of opening in Newark on November 29 because of a last-minute change of plans. chiseling tricks. and a crowd of more than 1. now. shoddy. Brooks for the band to perform in Akron. On behalf of "the dance people in both towns you disappointed. who accepted complete responsibility for what happened. As far as Nunn was concerned.100 people turned out in Pittsburgh. Nunn. Perhaps you didn't know it ." which spelled out the magnitude of what was clearly a catastrophe for Albert's professional reputation and the band's prospects. Drawing on information provided by a New York correspondent for the Courier." Nunn went on to reveal that he was also aware that Albert (or Travers. And if you keep up what you're doing. Ohio. Brooks in Akron." Nunn closed with the following admonition: "And in the future... but Mr. Albert's failure to appear either in Akron or in Pittsburgh infuriated William G. . The December 14 issue of the Pittsburgh Courier carried a story based on a letter of explanation and apology sent to Nunn by Travers." 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 had sold over 600 ADVANCE SALE tickets in Akron. to let the influence of unscrupulous promoters ruin you. After chastising the bandleader for "a contemptuous trick. you're riding for a fall!"45 Serious damage had been done to the band's reputation.. The band did not show up to play either engagement. friend of mine. November 27th.Nunn further reported that Cooper's company and Albert's band had gone to upstate New York. Albert had a duty to explain his conduct to his fans and to compensate both Ellis and Brooks for their losses..""44 Taking advantage of the proximity of the two towns.who wrote an article entitled "Don Albert!-You Made a Grievous Mistake. on Wednesday midnight. Instead it continued to rehearse with Ralph Cooper's company of dancers and other entertainers. in Disappointing Dance Crowds. and for Promoter Bob Ellis at Pythian Temple in this city the next night. You're too fine a fellow. We Think. Now Cooper's revue was to open on November 22 in a theater in Glens Falls in upstate New York. of the Pittsburgh Courier. on Wednesday. and changed the location of the performances to upstate New York.00 from Bob Ellis. don't cause your public and your friends to lose faith in you by cheap. Ohio. Travers assertedthat the problem was caused largely by the fact that Cooper's revue unexpectedly moved its opening date up a week. underhand.
1936. one further consequence of its abortive New York sojourn. it is obvious that this marked the end of Travers's affiliation with Don Albert. "I had every intention of notifying Brooks and Ellis of the contemplated substitution of bands.330 Wilkinson When that occurred. Travers claimed. This notice suggests that Glaser wished to offer his services to Albert.49 Glaser. it apparently returned to Pittsburgh only once as well. 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 . I take the blame. given the available evidence it seems clear that he was far less expert (and possibly less principled) than was Glaser. Nowhere did Travers identify the band or bands he proposed to send to Akron or Pittsburgh in lieu of Albert's. 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. He's too fine a fellow.48 There was. perhaps best known as Louis Armstrong's manager. however. and was thus prevented from playing in the North. when it returned from its longest tour to play for hometown fans at the Avalon Grill in San Antonio. and that would not be until Memorial Day 1939. 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. the movements of the Don Albert Orchestra are lost to view. Although nothing is known of Al Travers's prior experience as manager of a band. It is also apparent that this debacle marked a turning point in his band's history."46 From subsequent documents and Albert's own recollections. The Pittsburgh Courier of February 8. during which time the bandleader was reportedly suspended from the American Federation of Musicians. 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. 1936. Brooks. In closing Travers wrote of Albert's disappointed fans: "They have a right to be angry. 1936. nor does it appear to have occurred to him that neither Brooks nor Ellis might have been interested in any such substitutions." In addition Travers maintained that after the show was moved to Glens Falls. until March 5. and now that the damage has been done I'm working to do all I can to rectify my mistake. But please ask them not to blame Don. Only once more would it venture into New York City. and after a "make-good" engagement at the Pythian Temple on January 1. Almost a year elapsed before Albert was able to resolve matters with Booker T. of which he was a loyal member.47 From its engagement in Pittsburgh on January 1. beginning in 1935 managed a number of bands for the Rockwell-O'Keefe agency.
"53 Another problem for Albert was that Glaser apparently planned to demand a guaranteed fee for the band's services. a later sideman of his. the price of Glaser's services was more than Albert was prepared to pay. but like other bandleaders of the period. 1935.. later citing loyalty as his motivation: "I had an idea that these guys started with me and I.. it can't be good. otherwise the people wouldn't come out. Whether Glaser's management would have been beneficial is uncertain. 14. Albert had always ."52 What Albert did not assert. The people were used to good music. So I disagreed with puttin' 'em on the side. 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.50In any case.A National Band from the Southwest 331 to African Americans by the racial segregation of that time. Albert by this time spent most of his time "fronting" the band rather than playing in it. "You'd be criticized-a band with 10 pieces. To have both a tuba and a string bass might also appear redundant. I wanted them in the band whether or not. 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. but Henry Turner's tuba was playing second trombone parts-indeed. 15 men-five brass and four reeds. You had to have 12. but what Harold Holmes. essentially Glaser proposed to reduce the band to its original size. 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. Albert resisted."' Glaser wanted Albert to reduce the size of the ensemble from fourteen players to ten or eleven. I just wanted them to reap the benefits of what we were really going to get into . tenor saxophone Herbert Hall baritone and alto saxophones. would recollect in 1961 was that by the mid1930s. he was doubling on valve trombone. If Albert's recollections were correct. At first glance a list of the personnel published in the Pittsburgh Courier on November 9. this big time. as his entry in that roster demonstrates...
332 Wilkinson accepted a percentage of the receipts of each engagement. Following a month's rest after the long eastern tour. Having just come through the ordeal caused by Al Travers. so we didn't think too much about the money. Albert kept two shares to cover both his labor and the band's expenses. the territory bookers got their cut. Albert was undoubtedly skeptical. Albert ultimately declined Glaser's offer. when Albert declined Glaser's offer. Glaser undoubtedly could have expeditiously arranged for the band to perform in Akron for Booker Brooks. early in April . freeing Albert from both the stigma of the union's censure and the constraints that the censure had imposed on the band's movements. was apparently convinced that Glaser's approach could invite financial ruin if no engagements were found at venues willing to pay his price. "The Clouds of Joy. Glaser got his cut. whose band.54 Glaser's approach was typical of of the booking agencies' practices... 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. In contracts. recalled in his later years: "People may wonder if we were exploited by agents. Albert. a survivor of the rough-and-tumble music business of the darkest days of the depression. it would have been doomed. Albert's was a "commonwealth" band."55 Albert apparently thought a great deal about the money and decided he could do better on his own. As subsequent events would prove. We all were. But we were happy to be playing. What will never be known. however large those proceeds might be. 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. 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. is whether Albert's band could have prospered financially with Glaser in charge of its bookings. Although discussions between Albert and Glaser may have lasted from late February until April 1936. he closed the only door to national management his band would ever receive. As Andy Kirk. Given his experience and influence. which might be as much as 70 percent. Like most black bands of the period that were not affiliated with one of the major booking agencies. We had what was left. particularly after the events of November 1935. He may have also realized that Glaser's management would have increased still further the band's overhead expenses. If Harold Holmes's memories were correct." Glaser did manage.56 As much as one can see the legitimacy of Albert's concerns. of course. in which each performer received an equal share of the money from the night's proceeds as his wage.
apparently at Albert's insistence. however. It had several jobs. playing in New Orleans and Little Rock. Kentucky. and Mississippi. and West Virginia. which informed readers of the band's southern travels and reminded them. who has guaranteed a two-week tour of the district." In addition there were charts of two lesser-known compositions: "Tomorrow" and "True Blue Lou."62 Although few in number. the sides inevitably distort the character of the original charts and.61 It was during the course of this extended residence in San Antonio. that the Don Albert Orchestra made what turned out to be its only records: eight sides for Brunswick's Vocalion label. among other cities.58 By the middle of May 1936. 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. he recalled: "The recordings we made in San Antonio in 1936 were all done in the morning. In an interview conducted by Lawrence Brown around 1984. If saxophonist Herbert Hall's memories are correct." "Liza. 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.60 By July the Albert band was back in San Antonio. Ohio. The pieces included the band members' arrangements of three well-known standards: "The Sheik of Araby.A National Band from the Southwest 333 1936 the band traveled to Arkansas. quite possibly fulfilling the contract Travers had negotiated during the band's residence in the New York City area." Finally. by extension.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. it was reported that Albert was being approached by "a prominent Pittsburgh booker. that Al Travers was no longer representing the band. 1936. however. "You Don't Love Me. when the band was playing in Little Rock. there were three pieces written by band members: the band's theme song. Albert's was reportedly the first black band to play there." and "On the Sunny Side of the Street. the band was paid twenty dollars per number. and we just . We had been playing these arrangements a long time. Evidence that he was still working under a cloud may be found in articles published in the Pittsburgh Courier." as well as "Deep Blue Melody" and "Rockin' and Swingin'. Recording in a room at the Bluebonnet Hotel. Louisiana. the overall impact of the band's collective style.59 No evidence suggests that this tour took place. on November 18." which was to include towns and cities in Indiana. quite possibly the union forbade it. where it would stay until the beginning of February 1937. Pennsylvania.
and there is little doubt that he would have cut Carney to ribbons in a duel. I will creep. phrasing. Some of our arrangements might take seven. At night when you're asleep. [etc. Your love belongs to me. so we had to cut some of them down so the time would be about three minutes. Baby") and scat syllables as well. they were cut off the air by the station's engineer in the midst of performing this chart. "Hall's work must be regarded as outstanding." Nine years later Albert McCarthy would echo Driggs's appraisal." displays a novel character no doubt appealing to live audiences. 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.334 Wilkinson went in and recorded them. of Duke Ellington's orchestra.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. eight. Merle Turner." by trumpet player Billy Douglas." the arrangement uses a calland-response treatment of the lyrics.65 The arrangement of "On the Sunny Side of the Street. "The Sheik of Araby" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street. Each of the treatments of the other two popular songs. on one occasion when they were broadcasting from a radio station in Pensacola. one apparently associated with certain vaudeville comedy acts. after which members of the band respond with the line "with no pants on.] Band (vocal response) [with no pants on] [with no pants on] [with no pants on] [with no pants on] According to Albert. Into your tent. there were few proficient players of this seemingly unwieldy instrument. features Douglas singing in an obvious imitation of Louis Armstrong's vocal style. Florida. The singer." Although this results in a seemingly innocent exchange for the first two lines. 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. and place- . Douglas is fairly effective in imitating Armstrong's improvisation of a new melody for the song and throws in the occasional interjection ("Oh.performs each line of the original text. Of the three standards in the collection. In 1959 it would be praised by Franklin Driggs. or even ten minutes. only "Liza" is performed in an instrumental arrangement."63 None of the available testimony concerning the selected pieces indicates that their selection was dictated by the Vocalion representatives who recorded the band. who asserted that apart from Harry Carney. In the case of "The Sheik of Araby. Toward the end of the arrangement his trumpet solo pays further homage to the master in its attacks.
66 The Ellington sound is most prominent in two arrangements: "Rockin' and Swingin'" and "Deep Blue Melody. punctuating a phrase with a rapidly ascending scale here. by trombonist William "Geechee" Robinson. each passage features either the reeds or the brass. alternating with solos of comparable length backed by the rhythm section.. Al Freeman Jr. Comparing "The Sheik of Araby" and this composition. the arrangement of the standard "Liza" seems more conventional. This arrangement was by pianist Lloyd Glenn. but Don Albert's band played it over. an up-tempo dance tune that would have appealed to the lindy hoppers for whom the band played in Texas and elsewhere. who had joined the band in 1934 as successor to its first pianist. mellow sound of the reeds and muted brass. but in general staying in the background. ending with a short ascending unaccompanied solo that climaxes on the final chord. It pays its respects to the . more famous bands. particularly Ellington's but also Jimmy Lunceford's. "Rockin' and Swingin"' was probably the most technically demanding of the arrangements. The arrangements of "The Sheik of Araby" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" consist of sections of either eight. This arrangement becomes more complex as the piece moves toward its climax. played in the manner of Arthur Whetsol. particularly in the sections where the saxophones play in a fast-moving chordal texture. one hears Albert's band explore a wide range of emotions. Several commentators. I intended to send Deep Blue Melody to Duke Ellington. Alvin Alcorn's muted solo. following Harold "Dink" Taylor's alto saxophone solo emulating Johnny Hodges.A National Band from the Southwest 335 ment of notes. and Don liked it so much he persuaded me to keep it and record it with the band at the Vocalion session in 1936. Glenn later stated that he had written the chart "with the Ellington band in mind. Glenn's piano style honors the Duke's. with a series of shorter solos and sectional material performed in a rapid-fire exchange.." The first of these. 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..or sixteen-measure duration."67 Glenn's composition is replete with allusions to Ellington's style and his sidemen's sounds. In contrast to Glenn's original composition. have observed that some of Albert's performances seem particularly indebted to the sound of other. a pair of chords there. among them Gunther Schuller. The mood of "Deep Blue Melody" is quiet and introspective. was surely one of the band's crowd pleasers. Hiram Harding offers a "growl" trumpet solo a la Bubber Miley.. introduces and closes the piece. The entire arrangement is dominated by the smooth.and who was the band's principal arranger between 1934 and 1938.
the muted trumpet playing by Alvin Alcorn. "You Don't Love Me. they should not be mistaken for the band's entire repertory or approach to performance." also known by the alternative title "True.336 Wilkinson sound of the Lunceford band in its distribution of material between the reeds and brass. and section work by the reeds. Herbert Hall recalled that it was written expressly for the band by Lawrence "Snub" Moseley." with its promise of better days to come. Saxophonists Dink Taylor and Herbert Hall present the melody the third time.. 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. saxophonists Dink Taylor and (briefly) Louis Cottrell Jr. after which Turner returns to sing the bridge and last phrase." the tempo of this piece is appropriate to the lindy hop rather than the foxtrot.68The first. After Merle Turner's presentation. Taken as a whole. is most reflective of the times in which the band was at work. and other sources suggest that it was a collaboration between Albert and one or more of his sidemen. In this instance he improvises on the bridge material. brief solo passages are divided among the players. it is dominated by vocalist Merle Turner. Like that of "Rockin' and Swingin'. at one time a trombonist in Alphonso Trent's orchestra and a friend of Albert's. second. A moderate-tempo foxtrot." the first merits particular attention for several reasons. the recordings introduce the listener to a variety of arrangements and to the qualities of the featured soloists. . "Liza" is perhaps the "sweetest" arrangement of all the recordings. Douglas reversed the presentation for the second statement: brasses play first and are answered by the reeds.and trombonist Geechee Robinson. who arranged the song." was the band's theme song and thus was routinely played at the beginning and end of engagements. Later. with Hall playing the bridge. They may be best understood as a showcase of the Don Albert band." and "True Blue Lou.69 Arranged by Lloyd Glenn. They also reveal that the band had a number of fairly gifted players and was well disciplined. The third phrase (the bridge) is played by Billy Douglas. but for reasons to be explained later. On another occasion Don Albert took credit for the song." "Tomorrow. the chart is dominated by solo work by trumpeter Billy Douglas. Of the remaining three sides. including one by tenor saxophonist Louis Cottrell Jr. and the brasses answer with the descending second half of each phrase. Apart from the lyrics of "On the Sunny Side of the Street. "You Don't Love Me. Its origins are somewhat uncertain." the text of "Tomorrow.
Paul Eduard Miller wrote almost in passing. "Don Albert's two recordings should make you sit up and take notice. 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. recordings were released according to a timetable set by the recording company's executives. Given his accounts of the racially and geographically varied audiences for whom the band played. Apparently in his experience recordings were not the way to build an audience. even if a particular broadcast brought no revenue. Of the electronic media then available. Its effectiveness could be quickly measured in terms of the numbers who subsequently appeared to hear the band live. however. it seems clear that so few recordings could hardly be described as representative of the band's entire repertory or of its distinctive style. this sentence does indicate that these recordings were neither totally ignored nor scorned." Although hardly a penetrating evaluation. Albert did feel that the recordings themselves were representative of the band's sound since they were based on arrangements by his sidemen. and the number of contemporary reviews few. in all probability between January and March or April 1937. By contrast. there is one piece of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the band's reputation . and Albert's control of the choice of music played was virtually complete. although they are the only historical evidence of its sound and style.in advance of a series of engagements the band played in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras festivities of February 1937. 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."72 Although Albert's perception of the recordings' impact may have been limited. In the final section of a review of a number of recordings published in Down Beat for May 1937.A National Band from the Southwest 337 When these recordings were released. radio was his preference. the number of copies and the extent of their distribution were likewise beyond the musicians' control. which contemporary critics and fans clearly enjoyed.7' The first evidence of the recordings' release appeared in a caption for a photograph of Albert published in the Louisiana Weekly.
In all the band was away from home for all but one of those thirty-six months. and three months. in order. was called on by various singers working in his hometown of Washington. If so. three months. Albert recalled that many of the new players caused problems because they seemed less committed to the band's fortunes. Pianist Billy Taylor. It seems reasonable to suppose that the recordings caught on elsewhere as well. PennsylThere is no additional coverage of the band vania. this would represent the second time that Albert's band had penetrated the Northeast. Those who left may have sensed better opportunities in other organizations or tired of being on the road for extensive periods.C. and others borrowed money without bothering to repay it. but later two of his mentors. to accompany their performances of the band's theme song. The Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender carried identical stories in mid-June 1937. 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.74 From February 1937 until April 1940 the band toured five times." Unacquainted with the recording. by those in the Northeast. in the year prior to his departure for college in the fall of 1938. sixteen months. Several apparently had drug and alcohol problems as well. "You Don't Love Me.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. at first Taylor improvised an accompaniment."75 . D.338 Wilkinson was enhanced by the discs' distribution. 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. Inasmuch as the recordings had been released early in 1937. if not forgotten. and undoubtedly both the band and its leader hoped that this occasion might be the opportunity at last to break into the big time. The band's period of near-exile in San Antonio seemed to have resulted in its being marginalized. especially in New York. twelve months. although his ambitions were not frustrated by the misdeeds of managers. 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. provided him with a more polished version of the song's harmonies. the tours lasting.. reporting that Albert's band was "doing dance dates in New Jersey. In addition it began to experience a more rapid turnover in personnel than had previously been the case. Some would quit without giving appropriate notice. and New York. Harold Francis and Norma Shephard. 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. two weeks.
Hall's was not permanent. after the ill-fated residence in Philadelphia. Even that did not ensure success.A National Band from the Southwest 339 for another four months. pianist and one of the most talented arrangers in the band. Harold Holmes. one of the founding members of the group and an occasional arranger. the same column mentioned that Lloyd Glenn. Late in 1937. and the best dance halls. Glenn was not the only one to quit the band around this time. aided by Frank Jacquet and "Fats" Martin. Here's hoping she's wrong for once. Indeed. who had come to Albert's aid in 1938. Unlike Glenn's departure. which was based in Cleveland. Occasionally he would leave the band for several weeks at a time in search of jobs. but when they started back south I quit. and we are still going over big. Albert would later recall that he kept the band going principally to pay off the loan from his new backer. On the side he formed the Crescent City Attraction Company and apparently became Albert's manager through this company. Albert took charge of finding engagements for the band. there was no point in staying. 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. We have had about $10. Fuoria was the owner of a club on South Rampart Street in New Orleans called the Tick Tock Tavern. the band nearly collapsed. 1938."76 Lacking a professional manager. Word of this near disaster must have reached San Antonio." As if to confirm the seriousness of the situation. denying that the band had ever folded and asserting: "All of the bunch are still with us. leaving Louis Cottrell Jr. even though we played good jobs-colleges. We stayed in and around Philadelphia for about six months.Albert addressed (contrary to his later memories) the rumor to which Celeste Allen had drawn attention in his column. 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. by the end of 1938 Hall had rejoined Albert's band. night clubs. had quit and returned to San Antonio. the saxophonist. In an article published in the January 29. Herbert Hall. would later have even closer connections with the band. 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.77 Edwin Fouria.000 capital invested in our . issue of the Pittsburgh Courier. but as I couldn't see any future in it. The band wasn't getting any place. 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. probably as a consequence of either an insufficient number of engagements or inadequate receipts from the dates it did play. in charge.
Brenham. 1.:band performed at Liberty Park on July 24 for the crowning of "MissMiami. May 28. May 28 for Tulsa." 5. 2. Tex. 3. After these engagements. Tex. . 1938. Tulsa." Not surprisingly the band's first engagement after this announcement was at the Tick Tock Tavern.:band performed on June 17-18.:band played on "SplashDay.Okla. Galveston. Oklahoma City. the band played in unknown sites in Oklahomauntil ca. 30 3132 22 19 3 21 219 I 19 Key: lines indicate documented routes. 1938.78 The most extended tour of the band's final years began on May 29.:band performed at the Crystal Palace on May 29 and again on June 5.:band departed ca. 1938. La. Fla.340 Wilkinson band. It also performed at the Blue Moon Night Club on June 3. Accompanied now by a troupe of dancers and other entertainers. September 25. 10 of the Don Albert band. as part of Mardi Gras.:band played at the Shrine Ballroomon May 30. dashed lines indicate possible routes between documented performancesites. Tour no. Tex. and we are ready to continue our march through the United States. Miami."June 20. 8. 1939. 7. Fort Worth.Tex. The length of engagements varied from one-nighters in numerous towns to a threeFigure 4.La. Lafayette. June 10. 6. Okla. and it also reached into new regions of the Midwest (see fig. This was the band's tenth tour.:band played at the TickTockTavernon July 17. 4. New Orleans. 9. the group covered welltraveled routes in the Southeast.:band performed ca. beginning on January 30. to ca. San Antonio. in Tulsa.: band performed on June 19. July 20. 4).Okla. as well as new locations.
9. Dak. Mich.). Indianapolis. Pittsburgh.: band played a two-week engagement at the Villa Valencia from Aug. 16. after which its whereabouts are unknown until it returned to San Antonio (no later than Sept. Ga.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. Iowa. 14. 27. 33. and Tennessee included the aforementioned series of battles between Albert's band and the Florida-based band led by Hartley Toots.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. after which its whereabouts are unknown until early Aug. 25.: band performed at the Castle Ballroom ca. 19. Tenn. 31. 6.: band performed once (sometime in late Sept. Fla. Atlanta. S. Knoxville. in a battle with the Kentucky State Collegians. Lakeland. A brawl occurred.: band may have performed here on Aug. Georgia.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. Aug. Sept. 8-14). and again on Nov. 32. Fla. Ky. Tenn. Ill. Ga. May 8 to ca. 21. 16. Oct. after which it reportedly played a series of one-night engagements that took it through Illinois. Mo.: band performed for the Colonels Ball on May 5 and returned to play at the Iroquois Club from June 1-3. and possibly as far west as Sioux Falls. 10. Ga.: band engaged for two weeks at the Sunset Terrace from Aug. Savannah. 15.: band performed on Aug.: after Miami the band reportedly played engagements here (dates unknown).: band played an extended engagement at the Club Plantation from Jan. 1939. Springfield. Galesburg. 30. May 18.: band battled the Hartley Toots's Orchestra at the Silver Streak Ballroom on Aug. Nashville. Missouri. 20. 24. 4. Miss. 24-30. Ohio: band performed on May 30. 22 until the club closed on Apr. 18. 25.: band performed at Douglass High School. Memphis. Thomasville.: Albert and Toots battled on Aug. Louisville. 25. 17. 28 to Sept. month contract at the Club Plantation in Detroit from January 22 to April 16. Louis.A National Band from the Southwest 341 10. 14 and again on Aug. 22. 27. 18. 23.: after Miami the band reportedly played engagements here (dates unknown). Ala. Ohio: band performed at the East Market Gardens on Dec. Youngstown. Fla.: band performed once (probably ca. Macon. Ohio: band played an extended engagement at the Merry-GoRound from ca. 28. Fla. Tenn.: after Lakeland the band reportedly played an engagement here (dates unknown).: band battled the Sunset Royal Orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom on May 29. 23. It returned there on Nov. Akron. Fla. Ill. Tampa. 26. 21. 12. 11. 3 to Aug. Ocala. Pa. 13. Orlando. It returned to Indianapolis to play one week at the Red Gables Inn from Oct. 11. Ga.: band performed on Aug.: after Miami the band reportedly played engagements here (dates unknown). Detroit. or early Oct. 28-31. band members were arrested and fined on Aug. 34. Ind. Dayton.80 .79 Jobs in Alabama. 17. 1939). 16. Opelika.: after Lakeland the band reportedly played an engagement here (dates unknown). 29. West Palm Beach. 1939. 15. The band reportedly passed through Chicago ca. possibly at the Savoy Ballroom. 5. St. Ill. Columbus. Chicago. 19.
Albert usually took the initiative in securing accommodations and meals for his band. the tenor saxophonist and successor to Louis Cottrell Jr. Available reports indicate that the band continued to tour the Midwest during both periods. regardless of where the band worked. Kentucky. The police blamed the band for the brawl and confiscated the night's proceeds. Accommodations and meals were not always easily obtained. including Albert. a number of the band members. only then was it clear the gun was not loaded. 1938. and its arrival in Springfield. and the second between August 19 and September 26. on August 9. this tour demonstrated that even without a white manager to open doors to establishments otherwise closed to black bands. and getting on the road for the next engagement. Georgia. it had lasted not quite eleven years. Illinois. Albert's band not only maintained a following throughout extensive portions of the eastern United States but also found new audiences. were arrested and taken to police headquarters. In the melde that followed." 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. At one point Albert's life appeared to be in danger when he did not address one of the officers as "Sir. between the band's departure from Louisville. A dance at a black high school was broken up when a patron picked a fight with Tom Johnson. which usually minimized discriminatory treatment.82 Because he was very light-skinned. on seeing the rest of the musicians enter the establishment. performing.83 After two more trips to various Texas towns and to New Orleans. 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. By far the worst incident occurred in Thomasville.. after the band's departure from Springfield and before its eventual return to San Antonio.81 Despite the setbacks that Albert had experienced. By a combination of hard work and (mostly) good fortune it had weathered the economic un- . after Albert had reserved seven rooms in a hotel for his band. 1939. The band spent that night on the bus. announced that the rooms had already been reserved for another party. South Dakota. As the musicians were continually reminded. Not so in Sioux Falls. in September 1940 the Don Albert orchestra broke up.who by then had departed for his home in New Orleans.342 Wilkinson Two large gaps appear in the newspaper record of this tour: one from June 3 to August 3. during the third month of this tour.84 Founded at the start of the depression when its leader was only twenty-one years old. possibly traveling as far as eastern South Dakota. Jim Crow attitudes commonly associated with the South were to be found north of the Mason-Dixon Line as well. packing up. the proprietor.
600 votes and was ranked thirtieth. its reputation lived on. as well as bands of lesser reputation. At the end of the month Ellington led with 61. "At a time when the swing industry was glutted with more bands than it could profitably sustain. Although the band had experienced a fair amount of turnover during its tenyear-plus history.740 votes had won Ellington the contest. During October. Ellington's."87 Despite the seemingly anticlimactic end to the Don Albert Orchestra. in addition to Albert. one of which was Don Albert's orchestra. although dropping his ranking to forty-four. November. Calloway's. Allen in 1973. while Albert's total had risen to 43. One month later. The contest ended the following week. He did identify two reasons for the demise of organizations other than his in an interview with Richard B. Late in September the Defenderinvited readers to vote for any of thirty-eight bands on its list. Herbert Hall. captured the marketplace.910 votes. the available evidence shows that of the original Ten Pals. inasmuch as only . Ellington led with 23. had 11. as well as Albert's devotion to making music and entertaining audiences. Hiram Harding. Others on the list included the best-known bands of the periodBasie's. Evidence of this loyalty may be seen in the personnel list for the band's final year. and Lunceford's among them. on November 2.900 votes. they weren't in demand.A National Band from the Southwest 343 certainties of the 1930s. and Albert Martin. One key element of the band's early success was surely the loyalty of several founding members.800 votes. stating.010 votes."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. now ranked thirty-third. regardless of their talents. and early December the votes came in. he was aware that many bands broke up in 1940. "because the Depression was almost coming back. who shared Albert's dream of making it to the big time. even though it no longer existed. blacks were the first to be pushed out. while Albert. five. as is demonstrated by somewhat unusual evidence of its continuing popularity. After the first week Albert had received 3. were still members when the band folded: Ferdinand Dejan.85 Although Albert never spoke of the end of his band in terms of larger economic forces. while Basie led the contest with 9. which had been the downfall of many other bands of the time. but the fact that his was by no means the only band to fold was due to other than regional factors. David Stowe has stated that by 1940 the popularity of swing among whites had led to the formation of numerous white bands that. In the fall of 1940 both the Chicago Defenderand Pittsburgh Courierran contests to determine the most popular band of the year. Frank Jacquet. with the Defender announcing that his 101.450. How many votes Albert ultimately received is unknown.
even though it was based in San Antonio. the view. that it was. on October 17.89 Obviously such contests are highly subjective. it never let on. Don Albert and His Ten Pals began life at what might . Texas. where practically all other name bands resided when not on the road. 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. The evidence documenting the number and extent of the band's tours and the depth of its appeal. based solely on the eight recordings of 1936. Albert received only a handful of votes and was dropped from the contest after a month. and not in New York City or Kansas City. In the absence of more reliable means. however.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. the Pittsburgh Courier published a story about the rumor that the band had folded.000 votes were listed in the final tally. typical of mid-1930s provincial Texas jazz. it was recognized in the black community as a national band. they provide one of the few measures of the contemporary reputations of jazz bands during the swing era. hard-swinging outfit.91Having rejected the services of Joe Glaser. in effect a white "gatekeeper" to the performing and recording opportunities that could have contributed significantly to an enduring reputation. If the Defender knew that the band no longer existed. merely a "coarse."90It is impossible that a band with such presumed limitations could have established and maintained the extensive following that has been documented. We do know that he received at least the 43. 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.344 Wilkinson bands with more than 50. 1940. in Gunther Schuller's words. makes untenable the view that Don Albert's band was merely a territory band living an isolated existence. In this instance the results support evidence from other sources. Not surprisingly. 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). 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. when it initiated its own popularity contest several weeks later. By contrast.450 votes listed the week before and perhaps more.
Apr. Nat Hentoff and Albert J. 4. Jazz Style in Kansas City. From Jazz to Swing: African-American Jazz Musicians and Their Music." Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America. ed. Pearson Jr." perhaps the trumpet player and bandleader Willie Pajeaud (1895- . 1968). I wish also to acknowledge with gratitude the valuable suggestions made by Bruce Raeburn and Thomas J. curator. Pearson Jr." in Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest. "Territorial Bands. According to banjo player John Henry Braggs.. Hennessey.. I would also like to thank the staff of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. 770-805 (New York: Oxford University Press. 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. June 6. an NEH travel to collections grant. 17. Music in American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 5. 122-39. Gunther Schuller. interview with Paul Crawford. Thomas J. 1959). Braggs identified the man simply as "Pajeaud. 279-317. 1890-1935 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Albert also played for Armand Piron on the Susquehanna. 2. Don Albert. and Thomas J. 1930-1945. he did not need any additional lessons. Bruce Boyd Raeburn. Piron terminated Albert's lessons. Mass. Hennessey. 7. 1989). I wish to thank Brett Scott for his careful attention to the preparation of the three maps. 1961 (Hogan Jazz Archive. From Jazz to Swing. esp." in Jazz:New Perspectiveson the History of Jazz by Twelveof the World's ForemostJazz Critics and Scholars. "The Rise of the National Bands. 11. Finally. NOTES I gratefully acknowledge support of this research by an NEH summer stipend. 1994)." and "More Territorial Bands. but as "America's Greatest Swing Band. 1977 (Western Historical Manuscript Collection. Goin' to Kansas City. 54. For its unfailing interest and assistance. a steamship on Lake Pontchartrain. Hennessey. University of Missouri-Kansas City). 242-317 (New York: Oxford University Press.: Harvard University Press. Stowe in "The Incorporation of Swing. 1994).A National Band from the Southwest 345 be regarded as a perimeter of the jazz world. 1. and a West Virginia University faculty senate research grant. 191-230 (New York: Rinehart." in The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz. West Virginia University. Bands included Bill Phillip's Brass Band. 94-140 (Cambridge. Driggs. To this list may be added Nathan W. with additional support from the Office of Academic Affairs. Russell." in Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development. see also Thomas J. 1971). 103-21). saying that if his student could get work as a trumpet player. a fellowship from the West Virginia Humanities Council. "The Big Bands. 6. McCarthy." they traveled over a large part of that world and for a time made a significant impact on a major part of its audience. Tulane University). 1923-1929" (From Jazz to Swing." From Jazz to Swing. 1929-1935. 3. The standard literature on this subject includes Franklin S. Hennessey discusses the six territories into which the African American community was divided during the 1920s in "Territory Bands. Don Albert. 1914-1923. in which Albert played while still a student of Milford Piron. 53-65 and 66-73 (Berkeley: University of California Press. 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." and he summarizes the causes of this transformation of American culture in "TerritoryScuffles. Ross Russell. three West Virginia University development grants. 44-66. Hennessey. "Kansas City and the Southwest. and idem. "The Territory Bands. 1987). interview with Howard Litwak and Nathan W.
no. See also Frank Driggs. Driggs. Don Albert." Storyville 31 (Oct. Walter Barnes. "Don Albert and His Ten Pals. three black newspapers covered its activities fairly consistently: the Chicago Defender. and San Antonio Register. 4. 1931. Albert. no. interview with Litwak and Pearson. p. Jan. 15. 1931. 20. Oct. Aug. 11. Aug. 1 (Spring 1989): 6-29. 1978 (Hogan Jazz Archive). see also Don Albert and Herbert Hall. 1977. . 5. "Hittin' the High Notes. no." see Scott DeVeaux. interview with Sterlin Holmesley. 13. "San Antonio Jazz: Don Albert. 8. Apr. and pianists Lloyd Glenn and Jay Golson (Albert. Jan. Pittsburgh Courier. 1930 to May 1931. baritone saxophonist Herbert Hall. 1977. 1935-1945. interviews with Allen. The following secondary sources also address Albert's association with Troy Floyd. Big Band Jazz (New York. Albert would send placards and business cards to the local promoter to display in the community. Allen. 17. Albert. 17. Apr. 18. p. see John Henry Braggs. 8. 10. and another in the Pittsburgh Courier of July 25. p. 1969 (Hogan Jazz Archive). 5. Aug. 1949): 3-4. with Litwak and Pearson. trumpeter Billy Douglas. 19. At the end of the tour the San Antonio Register published a roster on Dec. Feb. 1977)." Chicago Defender. one of whom may have sent word to the newspaper of the band's travels to Arkansas. In addition to the personnel list printed in the Chicago Defender of May 16. 1977. San Antonio). Jan. Albert. 1931. 4 (Fall 1989): 1-6. 5. interview with Allen. 2. interview with Sterlin Holmesley. 1980 (Institute of Texan Culture). 1. see also Albert's interview with Litwak and Pearson. Concerning the possible significance of the Fisk University "concert. 10.To publicize his band in smaller communities. "Don Albert. Apr. Jan. 1980. 15. 23. from as early as Jan. In truth the band's "stand" at Shadowland was closer to fourteen months.-Nov. Most extensive coverage was provided by the Courier. Lawrence Brown. During the period of the state fair a band identified simply as "The Harris Orchestra" was playing at the Adolphus. and Sept. p. 14). and with Sterlin Holmesley." Jazz Journal 11. 1980. sec. Aug. 17. interview with Litwak and Pearson. Both strategies were reportedly reliable and inexpensive means of attracting an audience (Albert.Mar. 30. and Aug. 17. 3. Orin Blackstone. 1970): 18-25. 103. Apr. p. 1931. Franklin S. interview with Richard B. "A Biography of Herbert Hall. 2 (Feb. 17. 4. 10. Allen. 12. 1978-the latter with Herbert Hall. 1929. 1978 (Hogan Jazz Archive). Dec. "The Emergence of the Jazz Concert. Throughout the history of the band. 4. 1977. 1 (Jan. Albert McCarthy. interview with Litwak and Pearson. at different times. 1980 (Institute of Texan Culture). trombonist William "Geechee" Robinson. "Don Albert Rose to Swing Leadership after Start with Troy Floyd. interview with Richard B." American Music 7. but with varying degrees of completeness and accuracy: Dick Allen. May 16. 1958). Where possible he would broadcast a short performance on the local radio station to announce a forthcoming engagement. 26. no. 5 (July 1959): 4-6. 2. 15. Albert. but I have been unable to establish the name of its leader (Dallas Morning News. p." IAJRC Journal 22. It has been difficult to establish the identity of the bandleader who provided Albert with his first book. three additional lists appeared during the course of this tour: one each in the Defender's issues of July 25. 1978. Putnam's. 16. interview with Holmesley. Apr. 1931. and with Holmesley. 1980 (Institute of Texan Culture. 5. see also Herbert Hall. 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. Allen. The other arrangers included. 15. 15. 1980. 3.346 Wilkinson 1960)." Chicago Defender. no. 9. 130. Don Albert. interview with Richard B. 30. 5." Playback 2. "Don Albert's Pals End 2 Years Stand. 1931. p. 1969. Dec. p. 14. 17." Jazz Monthly 5. 1974). and with Holmesley.
In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. noted that "Don Albert and orchestra. "Don Albert and Pals in West. Dec. p." San Antonio Register. 1933. 20. announced a performance at the Rialto Movie Theater between screenings of the film "Bed of Roses. "Don Albert and His Ten Pals Return. 2. 12. 6. 5. p. 19 respectively. according to critics and music lovers who really know. 1978). Albert later entertained him and two of his associates at the home of a mutual acquaintance.. Aug. Alma Williams. 5. 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 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. 8." Pittsburgh Courier. Three days later another advertisement announced that . Dec. 2. 29. p. Jimmie Johnson was the bass player in the only known photograph of the Bolden Band.July 23. 1938. 1990 (Hogan Jazz Archive). 1931. Advertisements in the Arkansas Democrat for Aug. The running battle with the Hartley Toots Orchestra was first announced in the article "Don Albert Declares War on Hartley Toots. 24. 6. 1969. 31"). p. 17. 22. 17. 1931. The article on the Easter dance appeared in the San Antonio Register. p. 4. June 24. 1932. 27. 10. 1905. p. 11. sec. 1931. 18. 1935. Tex. 1933.] Jan. 12. 23." starring Constance Bennett. The first notice of this new title appeared in the San Antonio Register." San Antonio Register. 1933. and Christopher Wilkinson. 1. 1932. Feb. p.A National Band from the Southwest 347 21." Jack Ellis's Chicago Defender column "The Orchestras" for June 24." OklahomaCity BlackDispatch. p. respectively. see also Alvin Alcorn. during the course of a review of a recent dance date by Jones Hall Jr. 21. p. 22. 1. See Donald M. Marquis. "Don Albert and His Music. 128). 5. Albert." Pittsburgh Courier." Pittsburgh Courier. Allen. sec. Armstrong's band had played an engagement in Oklahoma City on Sept. p. 1931. 1931. interview with Allen.July 25. July 24. 28. 3. Further reference to this appeared in the article "Don Albert Draws 'Em in Miami. 2. 3. 1932. Aug. Advertisement in the Daily Oklahoman(Oklahoma City). Fletcher and Cab Take Lead in Courier Contest. 25. p. The scope of this tour was announced in the San Antonio Register. 1931. 24. The advertisement for the Christmas dance and an article concerning the dance appeared in the San Antonio Register. interview with Allen. 21. 1933. 1932." Pittsburgh Courier. 34. 2. and Aug. 1938. "Don Albert Fetes Louis Armstrong. 6 and 7. Dec. Hennessey. A major article." 33. 1978). is the ace band of the Southwest. Mar. 31. 9. p. 32. p.Apr. and Aug. Advertisements appeared in the Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock) at least once a week from May 11 to July 12. 6.' are appearing at the Shadowland Nightclub. America's greatest swing band. p. 19. commonly referred to as 'America's greatest swing band. 30. p. Sept. p. which began. 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.[. 8. 1931. 7. 1. 1931. 22.Aug. Mar. p. 1931. interview with Richard B. begins. with a photo of Albert (bearing the caption "Don Albert's Ace Band to Tour East Coast" and the date "San Antonio. An advertisement in the Arkansas Democrat. on pp. The band's departure and return were noted in the San Antonio Register of June 24. 30. sec." Pittsburgh Courier. Sept. Sept. According to Thomas J. Bryant's letter is mentioned at the conclusion of a report on the band contest headlined "Duke. 6. 2. the pride of New Orleans and San Antonio. taken ca. 26. The contest between Albert's and Floyd's bands was reported under the headline "Troy Floyd Victorious in Tilt with Don Albert. "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. it became typical during the 1930s for movie houses to engage touring bands for short periods of time. p.
An article entitled "Don Albert 'Sends 'Em' in Buffalo. 15.. 6). Aug. 10. see also the Pittsburgh Courier.Nov. 2. 43.Oct. 26. 2. p. 22. Oct. 1934.] May 9. and Dec. 6. sec. 19. The incident in Kirksville was described by Louise Smith. 7. 7. p. 1935. The dance in Charleston. and Alabama is documented in articles and advertisements published in the Louisiana Weeklyof Feb. Dec. Billie Holiday. Travers's name first appears in connection with Albert's band in an article in the Chicago Defender. p. p.Nov. 46. 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. In his column "The Orchestras" Jack Ellis reported. 2. 1992. 2. 23. 4. William G." 37. 6. and by Albert in his interview with Litwak and Pearson. The tour to New Orleans. 6. May 5.K. Sept. Ella Fitzgerald. Feb. p. in his middle to late eighties. 14." in the San Antonio Register. 9. who died on Aug. and Mar. 7. 2. 1935. We Think. 40." Pittsburgh Courier. 8). "'Don and I Were Tricked'-Travers Claims. and in the Pittsburgh Courier. 1935. 24. 1935. p. 1935. sec. 2. and Nov. 1935. p. sec. Who Found Stars at Apollo's Amateur Nights. which introduced numerous black entertainers to the public. 1935. 1935. 2. reported that "efforts are being made to have New York booking agents review the band while they are playing this spot. p. Louisiana Weekly (New Orleans). p. 17. sec. 23. sec. formerly of that city. W. Apr. p. 2. America's Greatest Swing Band. 1980. . was advertised in the West Virginia Weeklyon two occasions: Oct. 1935. was announced in the Beckley Post-Herald in an advertisement on Nov. According to a story dated "Savannah. 25. 2. 1935. 22. 8. July 26." PittsburghCourier. and in an article on Nov. 38. in Disappointing Dance Crowds. 35. 1935. 2. 1935. 14.June 24 and Sept. "Don Albert.'" Pittsburgh Courier. p. The trip from Beckley to New York City was discussed in Albert's interview with Holmesley. 1934. The dance in Beckley. 1935. p. p. 12. 9. 1980. 2. 2. and the San Antonio Register. 1935. Jan." New YorkTimes. 11. 7. Mississippi. 3. 6. and Feb. sec. Mar. in a telephone interview with me. p. Mar.Nov. sec. "Don Albert!-You Made a Grievous Mistake. sec. 1934. 1934. Albert. 1. 1935. 47. 2. sec. B.Dec. p. and Oct. p. p. 4. 2. 1977. "Don Albert's Band Scheduled for 'Big Time. p. Dec. "Don Albert's Band Ranks with the Nation's Best. 6. and San Antonio Register published between Feb." Pittsburgh Courier. 1935. 29. 1934. 23. see "Ralph Cooper. 2. the Pittsburgh Courier. 15. Aug. Ga. 2. 8. 6. 16. sec. sec. p. 6. 1. 44. 2. 1935. p. 2 and May 11. Ralph Cooper. 1992. sec. 2. Master of 'm All When It Comes to Swing Bands. Sept. Nunn. 15." published as "Don Albert. p. The band's movements during this period were noted in various issues of the Chicago Defender. The resolution of this matter was reported in the article "Don Albert Gets O. 1992. 6. Harriet Calloway at Temple. 1935. a concert and a dance were the pieces de resistance. Harlan. sec. sec. 19. 1935. Jan. 41. 7. 6. 7. p.. the Chicago Defender. Information provided in the article "Don Albert. Pittsburgh Courier. Va. 1935. sec. "Don Albert and his boys are doing theirs at Harlan's night club. 42. sec. Apr. W. See issues of the Pittsburgh Courier for July 20. Back at Temple on Thanksgiving. Dies. 1935. sec. interview with Holmesley. 1935. 10. Swinging North on Record Breaking Dance Tour. p.[. p. 1935. "The race" was the period's conventional term for African Americans." Pittsburgh Courier. May 18. Kentucky" (Chicago Defender. Hailed by Dixie Radio Announcer as Sweetest Orchestra" in the Pittsburgh Courier on May 11. the band performed three times in Macon: "a radio concert. 6. and Sarah Vaughan among them." Pittsburgh Courier. Portions of the first of these two tours are documented by articles in the Arkansas Democrat.348 Wilkinson "Don Albert and His Orchestra. Va. 9. 1935. 22. 2. 26. p. p. 36." would be performing at the Rainbow Garden (Arkansas Democrat. 45. 16." 39.
sec. more briefly.. sec. May 16. Allen that Travers disappeared after the debacle (Don Albert. 6). 1936." Storyville 160 (Dec. p. 2.. 2. p. Floyd Ward entitled "San Antonio. 55. 54. Nov. 57. 1961): 24. 56. sec. 100-107. 1980. sec. [it] looked like the Union had lost its prestige an' members had gotten out." Coda 4. 58. 6). 1936. 1961 [Hogan Jazz Archive]). Feb. 50. interview with Holmesley. who handles Louis Armstrong" (Pittsburgh Courier. An at times lurid account of the character and career of Joe Glaser appears in Ernie Anderson's memoir "Joe Glaser and Louis Armstrong. 15.Apr. Swing Changes. 2. See also the column written by H. by Thomas J. 5. 123-30. 23. June 1941. 1936. interview with Allen. 11. recalled that "during the Depression.. "Harold Holmes: His Story Told to John Norris. which during the 1930s had important financial benefits for the local at a time when many of its former members had quit."' "It is alleged that the orchestra might be booked by Joe Glaser. 51. . Warns Promoters to Book Dates Only through Him" (sec. 72-82. p. "Notice! Don Albert. The role of managers and booking agencies in shaping the careers of bands in the 1930s has most recently been assessed by David W. 49. Williams." or "cooperative. 52. 15. 93-94. Albert was one of the few dues-paying members of New Orleans Local 496 of the American Federation of Musicians. . Stowe. . 7. long since one of Alamo City's favorite ork leaders." practices of the band were recalled in interviews with three of its members: Albert. 1972 [Hogan Jazz Archive]). Stowe in "The Incorporation of Swing.Mar. 6. Years later Albert suggested to Richard B. ." Pittsburgh Courier. see David W. 53. 4). According to the article "Don Albert Is Riot at Texas 'Spot.. p." Harper's Magazine. 28. 59. interview with Holmesley. May 27. "One hears that Don Albert. p. 1936. 100-101. 6. and Wilkinson. The "commonwealth." Swing Changes. Albert. for many years the local's president and formerly tenor saxophonist with the Don Albert orchestra. Louis Cottrell Jr. 1929-1935. May 2. 1936. Jan. 2. Twenty Years on Wheels. 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. Michigan American Music series (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Hennessey in "The Rise of the National Bands. p. 15.. 1980." San Antonio Register. Mar. 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.4 (Aug. 18. 7. 1980. no.interview with William Russell. interview with Richard B. 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. 3. Jan. p. Jan.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. and. Packing 'Em in on Tour of Dixie. Aug. Passing reference to the consequences of the Travers episode was made in the article "Don Albert Is Riot At Texas 'Spot.A National Band from the Southwest 349 from Union. and Alcorn. Allen. 2. interview with Holmesley. 8. Part 1: Early Days. The most complete account of his memories of Glaser's proposal appears in Albert's interview with Holmesley. 48. The proposed tour was discussed in an article headlined "Effort Being Made to Get Don Albert into Mid-West for Fifteen-Day Dance Tour. 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. 1980. sec.. 1936. Hall. 8)." Pittsburgh Courier. 2. 1989).Mar. 25." From Jazz to Swing. Andy Kirk. pp.Apr. it was jus'. 28. as told to Amy Lee..'" More explicit reference is made in the headline to an article carried in the Pittsburgh Courier. 1936." Pittsburgh Courier." Pittsburgh Courier. 1936: "Don Albert. 1994): 123-35.. p. Feb. 1990.
-Sept. Apr. Has New Booking Tieup. p. Billy Taylor. Specialist on Swing. 5 (July 1959): 5. 1968). Schuller claimed that the band "went all out to emulate Ellington. p. in Jazz on Record: A Critical Guide to the First 50 Years:1917-1967 (London: Hanover House. and with Holmesley. Trumpet player and sideman Alvin Alcorn later claimed that the band never broke up until Albert finally dissolved it in 1940 (Alvin Alcorn." Jazz Monthly 5. 14. Albert. Jan. Albert. 1969. Jan. 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. 77. Driggs's opinion was echoed by Albert J. telephone interviews with Christopher Wilkinson. 11.June 19. Franklin Driggs. 1969.350 Wilkinson 60. p. 5. 21. 72. 63. 1980). Franklin Driggs. "Don Albert is Back in the East. interview with Allen. interview with Holmesley. Miller's "review" appeared in his article "New Records Feature Good Solos and Ensemble Playing. In the article "Brunswick Talent Scout Signs Don Albert to Year's Recording Contract. Apr. after matters with an Ohio promoter were straightened out satisfactorily" (Pittsburgh Courier. 71. The Complete Encyclopediaof Popular Music and Jazz. 78. McCarthy et al. . 4 vols. however (Pittsburgh Courier. telephone interview with Christopher Wilkinson. 30. interview with Litwak and Pearson. Apr. "Harold Holmes: His Story. Albert. even in a nearplagiaristic [emphasis added] fashion. 30. Eric Townley. 21. 1961): 24-25. 1 (Jan. Louisiana Weekly. 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." Chicago Defender. 1977. Don. 1937. 17. 1977. 7. Lawrence Brown. 58. p. 45. see also Albert. 68. "Feather Forecast and News: Mystery of Pantless Sheik. no.Nov. it was learned from the leader himself. 1990). 1978): 222. 2. as well as Herbert and Annie Lou Hall. p." and "The Sheik of Araby" are cited in Richard Crawford and Jeffrey Magee's Jazz Standards on Record. p. 1900-1942: A Core Repertory (Chicago: Center for Black Music Research. 74. sec. 30." Melody Maker 13. 17. Apr. "Don Albert. 1977.: Arlington House. Dec. (New Rochelle. no. no. 224 (Sept. 7. 65.Feb. 1995. 27. 15. 69." "On the Sunny Side of the Street. Albert. interview with Litwak and Pearson. 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. 384. N. "San Antonio Piano Man." Storyville 113 (June-July 1984): 187. 6. 4 (Aug. May 1937. 4. p. Jan. 1992)." Jazz Journal 11. 1980. May 27 and Sept." Coda 4. "Dapper Don Albert. 4: 2258-59. 1938. 4.June 19. Kinkle. See also Leonard Feather. 1977. this did not apparently happen all at once. 1937): 2.Y. 20. 1937. Sept. 61. see also Celeste Allen. 67. 28.Feb. 1937. Mar. 15. 17. Roger D. interview with Litwak and Pearson. 1936. John Norris. 1938. 1958): 10. see also "Don Albert Is Swinging along Eastern Coast. "A Biography of Herbert Hall. 7). 29. 64. 69. 1937. 62." Down Beat. "Sharps and Flats. 7)." Pittsburgh Courier. 1936. p. Jan." guitarist Ferdinand Dejan indicated that all eight sides were to be released. no. 17. 1991. 73. 66. p. Don Albert. interview with Litwak and Pearson. interview with Christopher Wilkinson.Nov. Dec. Albert's recordings of "Liza. who was suspended from the Musicians' Union a few months ago has been reinstated." Storyville 78 (Aug. "Herb Hall: An Interview." particularly in connection with its arrangements of "Deep Blue Melody" and "Rockin' and Swingin"' (The Swing Era. interview with Allen. 1900-1950. 70." San Antonio Register. 1974). 2. sec. 799)." Pittsburgh Courier. 75. 76. 17. 18).
20. June 10. 6.Oct. "Duke Ellington Regains Lead in Number 1 Band Poll. 28. "Don Albert Seeking Some New Band Men. and Wilkinson. 1977. p. 2. "Four Reasons Why Detroit's Club Plantation Is Leapin'." Aug. 18. 1977." Nov. 21. 20. 22. 91. and with Litwak and Pearson. who was then passing through Chicago (San Antonio Register. 3. describes engagements in Louisville prior to the Kentucky Derby and in Pittsburgh on Memorial Day 1939. p. Schuller. Dec.Jan. 88. 1939. 20. 1939. 1991. p. "Don Albert Swings Out at the Club Plantation. Apr.Feb. 85.Mar. 17. interview with Litwak and Pearson. See "Don Albert Draws 'Em in Florida" and "Hartley Toots in Mid-West. 81. Aug. Celeste Allan mentioned receiving a postcard from Albert. p. 1939. 29. 1938. Albert discussed memories of traveling to South Dakota in several interviews. The incident in Thomasville was extensively covered in the Pittsburgh Courier in the article "Don Albert Band Members Beaten in Georgia. The Swing Era. 1940. 1980." Pittsburgh Courier. Illinois. 20." Nov. and "Duke Ellington Is Number One Band of the Year. 1990. p. "Number 1 Band Contest Closes on December 2. 9. 9. In his "Sharps and Flats" column. This conclusion represents an elaboration of Hennessey's assessment (FromJazz to Swing. 82. and the Michigan Chronicle. 21. 30. 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). Photograph with the caption "Don Albert Swings Out at Detroit's Club Plantation. 20. 7. 1940. 80." Dec. and Alcorn. Allen. 17. This paper's band contest was announced in the article "Courier'sNational Contest Starts Moving. The band's demise was announced in a brief article headlined "Don Albert's Band Broken Up. p. Celeste Allan referred to Albert's "ex-gang" in his column "Sharps and Flats.Nov. 20." Pittsburgh Courier. 1940. Jan. 5. 7)." Pittsburgh Courier. interview with Allen. 798. 30." San Antonio Register. interview with Allen. Advertisements in the Illinois State Register. p. May 27. Mar. 20. Jan." Pittsburgh Courier.Aug. Albert. 5. Aug. p. 1. p. 122. 18. 10. Albert." Pittsburgh Courier. Kenneth Dominique. 1938. 14. Dec. Apr. 21.A National Band from the Southwest 351 79. 20. 21. 1977. Swing Changes. interview with Christopher Wilkinson. 17. interview with Allen. Will Tour Kentucky and Tennessee. 20. p. 2. Don Albert and his famous swing orchestra have reached the parting of the ways. mentions the fact that the band was in the early weeks of a projected three-month engagement at the Villa Valencia in Springfield. 20. 1940. 1939. Aug. "Don Ameche Sang with Don Albert's Orchestra. and Aug. 1939. p. 7. Mar. p. interview with Richard B." See Albert. see also his interview with Holmesley." Pittsburgh Courier. 5.Jan." Oct. 21. 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. Sept. 20. 5. 30 for other references." Pittsburgh Courier. p." Pittsburgh Courier. 1939. 90. 89. See also n. 1939. p. 1940. 1969 (Hogan Jazz Archive). 19. Rumor. 1938. The following articles published in the Chicago Defender provide an overview of the contest: "The Year's Number 1 Band Contest. p. reveal that the engagement was in fact only two weeks long. 2. p. 15. 1939. 84. Don Albert. p. Williams. 1939. 10. 83. 30. See also "Don Albert's Contract Is Lengthened. 20." Pittsburgh Courier. Not surprisingly the coverage in the Thomasville Times-Enterpriseof Aug. 1973. Apr. p. 19. p. 86. Stowe. p. 9. principally with Litwak and Pearson. p. 1939." which began by stating: "According to unconfirmed information. 1939. 1940." Pittsburgh Courier. 1940. 1969. 1940. 87. . and Apr. Dec.
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