Six Minutes With Satch: Rockin' Chair / Sweethearts on Parade

The goal of this series has been to cover these Louis Armstrong 78s in the order of their original release. However, I'm going out of order today to keep matters a little more on the chronological side because, as promised, today's record is something of an anomaly.

On December 23, 1930, Louis and Les Hite's Orchestra entered OKeh's Los Angeles studio to record three songs. OKeh already recorded three songs with Armstrong in October and found use for the spare song combining Louis's "Body and Soul" with Duke Ellington's "Ring Dem Bells," as discussed yesterday. But after the December session, OKeh took the extra song....and simply shelved it.

And what a song to shelve! "Sweethearts on Parade" was best known as a big hit on the Columbia label for Louis's "inspirators," Guy Lombardo's orchestra. You can listen to Lombardo's version here (vocal by Carmen Lombardo, who co-composed it):

Louis heard Lombardo perform it in Chicago in 1928 and in a 1971 conversation with Zutty Singleton, recalled that they used to do it with Carroll Dickerson's group at the Savoy in Chicago in late 1928 and early 1929. Thus, after so many brand new pop songs, "Sweethearts on Parade" represents another example of Louis finally recording something he had been playing for a few  years and most likely polished and perfected on the bandstand.

Still, Armstrong's "Sweethearts on Parade" has the power to take one's breath away, especially that final break, where, prodded by Lionel Hampton's drum accents, Armstrong takes off with the "High Society" piccolo part (later immortalized by Charlie Parker on "Ko Ko") and launches into a double-timed run that my friend, historian Allen Lowe, has correctly identified as a true "birth of bebop" moment. But for whatever reason, OKeh chose not to release "Sweethearts on Parade" in 1930....or anytime at all.

Flash forward to 1932. Louis has been named the biggest selling recording artist in the country and has become an integral part of not only OKeh's roster, but also Columbia, the major label who served as OKeh's "parent." In  1932, Armstrong found himself in the middle of a war for his recording contract between Columbia/OKeh and RCA Victor. While he stayed out of the recording studio for nine months--and out of the country for four--Columbia, wanting to keep "new" Armstrong releases coming out steadily, dug into their holdings and finally released "Sweethearts on Parade" as Columbia 2688-D, one of the label's new Royal Blue discs. Thanks to my pal Michael Steinman for sending along this 1932 recording that Columbia made for its dealers, all about the blue series, Armstrong being the only African American named on the disc:

The choice of a flip side was interesting one. Without anything else in the can, Columbia chose to reissue Armstrong's 1929 recording of "Rockin' Chair." It makes sense given that what started as something of a throwaway in the studio, a last-minute recording of a new Hoagy Carmichael composition, had become one of Armstrong's best-known live features, one that was regularly featured on his live broadcasts in California and Chicago. "Rockin' Chair" was originally issued on OKeh's race series so now it finally received a pop release in 1932, cementing it as a song that would remain associated with Armstrong until his final performances in 1971.

That ends two days of unique entries in this series but we still have two more days this week to cover Armstrong's final four 1930-1931 California sides....don't miss 'em!
Louis Armstrong (tp, voc), Otis Johnson, Henry “Red” Allen (tp), J.C. Higginbotham (tb), Albert Nicholas, Charlie Holmes (as), Teddy Hill (ts), Luis Russell (p), Will Johnson (g), Pops Foster (b),
Paul Barbarin (d, vbs), Hoagy Carmichael (voc).
OKeh recording session - New York City, NY December 13, 1929

Louis Armstrong (tp, voc), McClure Morris, Harold Scott (tp), Luther Craven (tb), Les Hite (as, cond), Marvin Johnson (as), Charlie Jones (cl, ts), Henry Prince (p), Bill Perkins (g), Joe Bailey (b), Lionel Hampton (d, talk).
OKeh recording session - Los Angeles, CA December 23, 1930

YouTube links:


Popular Posts