Six....Er, Three Minutes With Satch: Ain't Misbehavin' / There Was Nothing Else To Do

In the last two days, we listened to Armstrong's star ascend as he tackled four songs from the score of Connie's Hot Chocolates, each one simultaneously issued by Tommy Rockwell on OKeh's respective pop and race series.

But as Armstrong continued his busy summer doubling at the Hudson Theater on Broadway and at Connie's Inn in Harlem, Rockwell called him back to the studio on August 23, 1929 to once again spice up a date featuring OKeh's featured pop singer, Seger Ellis, whom we heard last week. The song? "Ain't Misbehavin'" of course. It was a shrewd move to have Armstrong participate in this cover of his big hit, even though he is far from heavily featured.

In fact, his biggest impact might just have come in the form of his presence. Ellis's verse and first chorus are painful. Yes, there's a quaint charm to this style of singing but wow, is it out-of-date considering what Armstrong did on the same song for the same label in the same season of the same year. (If anyone out there has ever seen me lecture, one of my go-to bits is to compare Armstrong's vocal to Ellis's vocal, breaking it down, 8 bars at a time. It never fails to elicit laughter.)

But as I learned this week from listening to my pals Colin Hancock and Matt "Fat Cat" Rivera on WKCR, Ellis was a helluva barrelhouse pianist so the man could swing a bit. And in his vocal reprise, perhaps inspired by Armstrong staring at him, he does take some liberties with the melody, showing that he, too, was paying attention to what the young trumpeter was doing. It wouldn't take long before Ellis was completely overshadowed, not only by Armstrong, but also Bing Crosby.

For whatever reason, Armstrong was only used on "Ain't Misbehavin'." Three days later, Ellis returned to the studio to cut "There Was Nothing Else To Do" with a trumpet player who is definitely not Armstrong. For the sake of completeness, I'm including the links to both sides, which was released on the pop series, of course, OKeh 41291. But this will be the last time for a while that we hear Armstrong in the role of a sideman. Come back tomorrow as a glorious run of late 1929 recordings will commence!

Seger Ellis (voc), Louis Armstrong (tp), Tommy Dorsey (tb), Unknown (ts), Jimmy Dorsey (as), Joe Venuti (vln), Arthur Schutt (p), Eddie Lang (g), Unknown (b), Stan King (d).
OKeh recording session - New York City, NY August 23, 1929

Unknown backing band.
OKeh recording session - New York City, NY August 26, 1929


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